10 December 2012

Relationships Lost By The Lost Generation

A post from Feministe that recently came my way highlighted an aspect of life for the Lost Generation of Transgenders.

During the time in question--roughly from the time The Transsexual Empire was published until transgender movements were revived (and new ones, particularly for female-to-male transgenders, were begun) in the 1990's, many of us entered into long-term relationships or, at least, relationships we or our partners hoped or planned on being long-term.

Many of us married members of the "opposite" gender from the ones to which we were assigned at birth--that is to say, the gender of our mind and spirit.  Others entered into partnerships of one kind or another, and even had children, but never had the ceremony or got the license.  And then others among us were in relationships with people of the genders in which we were living at the time.

Some of us remained in those relationships for years, or even decades.  In addition to having children, some of us bought houses, started businesses and did any number of other things married couples do.  Some of us even changed careers or other aspects of our lives in order to be with our partners, or they did the same for us.

A few of us (I am not among them) are still in those relationships.  Some are living as siblings or roommates; a fortunate few have spouses or partners who accomodated to the new circumstances of the relationship.  Those partners, whether or not they voiced it, realized that they were in love with the person, not his or her gender.

Unfortunately, not all partners saw their love that way.  Many women base their relationships on the manliness of the man, and many men base their feelings on the womanliness of the woman.  Other men and women simply cannot cope with the fact that they loved people who are of their own gender.  The last relationship I had before I started my transition ended for that very reason.

Sometimes, when we "come out" to our partners or spouses, we are accused of having lied to them when we met.   Some may indeed have practiced such a deception.  More of us (I include myself), however, simply could not articulate, with the language available to us and in cultural climate that surrounded us, exactly how we felt.  During the age of the Lost Generation of Transgenders, most people--even LGBT people and those who could accept us--still thought of gender more or less the way people did at the time Christine Jorgensen had her surgery.  Some of us thought we couldn't be trangendered because we weren't gay or even bisexual; given the ideas we had, we could not reconcile, the fact that we were never attracted to someone of the gender to which we were assigned at birth with our knowledge of our true genders, and our love for someone who was of that gender in body as well as in mind and spirit.  And if we didn't have the knowledge and language to explain it, how could our partners or anyone else understand it?

So, many of us were in relationships that neither we nor our partners could understand.  Some of our friendships and business relationships, and even ones with family members, were based on their and our then-limited understanding of our gender identities and sexualities.  In fact, most people--include yours truly--conflated one with the other.  As a result, we not only lost those marriages and partnerships into which we entered; we also lost relationships with friends, family members and professional colleagues or business associates.  

Those relationships are among the casualties, if you will, of the Lost Generation of Transgenders.  I can understand why someone whose spouse says, after a number of years of marriage, that he or she feels he is trapped in the wrong body would feel betrayed, duped or simply angry:  They feel that the assumptions and beliefs on which they based their lives with the other person were false, and--to use a cliche--that the ground has been knocked out from under them. On the other hand, I also understand (perhaps too well) why we asked those people to become our spouses and partners.  Some of us were indeed desperate and hoped that being in a relationship with someone of the "opposite" gender would extinguish our feelings of having bodies that didn't express our true gender identities.  Others simply loved the people they married, even if they couldn't understand how or why.  (Some would argue that true love is that way in any event.)  I don't think many of us deliberately deceived our partners.  However, they may always feel as if we have.  And that may be one of the more damaging legacies of having to be part of the Lost Generation of Transgenders.