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A Day in a Queer Life in the U.S.: A Trans Man on Love and Marriage

04/18/2013 11:09 am ET | Updated Feb 02, 2016
  • Mitch Kellaway Transgender writer, editor and independent researcher
Mitch Kellaway

2013-04-18-MitchandJocelyn.jpg"Would you rather get a same-sex marriage or a straight one? Or what about a ceremony with no legal strings attached?" My partner Jocelyn and I silently pondered my question as we strolled hand-in-hand down the street. Despite our penchant for a good game of 20 Questions, my stumper wasn't just a way to pass the time. This was a moment of foreshadowing for our not-too-distant future.

Today, I am a queer transgender man planning my wedding to a queer cisgender woman.

Back on that spring afternoon, we were merely discussing a happy hypothetical. We were still months away from surprising each other with rings, having both secretly planned proposals in the same special spot.

To be frank, I wasn't sure my question even had a legal leg to stand on. I still don't know if a transgender person with, say, an "F" on their birth certificate and an "M" on their driver's license can choose which one defines their marriage. Nevertheless, with weddings looming so large in cultural conversations about queerness, it at least seemed pertinent to wonder. In fact, I quite liked the thought that I could make a political statement if I took the road less travelled.

To take a step back, two years earlier we had just met. I was immediately drawn to Jocelyn by her style, her humor and her cute nose -- and by a shared belief that the medical-legal complex should have no part in defining our private identities. We flirted by trading impassioned speeches against the system. We texted daily, excited to learn about each other's mundane happenings as only a new couple can be. Along the way we fell in love.

It is no coincidence that two people assigned "female" at birth share such a deep understanding of each other's hearts. At the same time, we delight in how far our gendered destinations have diverged. Nowadays, I cheer her ongoing reclamation of all things fabulous and femme. In turn, we celebrate my waxing and waning masculinities.

Jocelyn and I have become used to new beginnings. While gender change is among them, it hardly overshadows other early-adult milestones. I changed jobs. She graduated from college. I began writing. We picked a grownup apartment together. We put time into family get-togethers and weekend trips.

All throughout the ensuing disappointments and joys, we have been reconfiguring our senses of selfhood and couplehood. I took my evolving gender from the warm comfort of our home to public realms of the social, legal and medical -- and I'm so ready for the next big step of marriage.

That first night I looked into my lover's eyes and told her that I was poised to begin a lifelong process of physical and emotional transformation, I was also asking her to change her life with mine. When she placed a ring on my finger and asked me to marry her, she did the same. We both accepted.

Of course, with welcome changes came previously unknown fears. This was not the fear so many of my transgender peers are unfairly forced to bear. I know this, and I am aware of how narcissistic this must sound to my queer brothers and sisters to whom being true to oneself means literally risking one's safety and health.

Yet the pounding in my heart was real as I lay awake before sleep overtook my anxiety. The pounding gave way to sweats in the company of queer friends, which gave way to long-pent-up tears as I sat in my therapist's chair. I thank my lucky stars every day that those adrenaline kicks and choking sobs were not due to matters of life and death.

But man, did my heart ache to think that the world would see me as heterosexual. See Jocelyn as heterosexual. Depending on a given day or situation, it still stings.

Unearthing my manhood is an experience I wouldn't trade for anything. I hold dear the insights I've gained from living in two genders. If I had been able to transition in a vacuum, I might have felt able long before being liberated through the unconditional love of a partner.

However, my roll was slowed when I considered the unasked-for privileges I would inevitably receive when I passed full-time as a man. Being the unwilling subject of assumptions I once proudly, defiantly lived outside of feels heavy. Yet I benefit from it, in small, everyday ways, and even more so as I make monumental decisions about my future.

So, even as I write this, I grit my teeth knowing that the state has already tipped my hand. Practically speaking, my original question of "straight, same-sex or neither?" is moot. A concern for safety, usually relegated to the background in my daily life of relative socioeconomic freedoms, has suddenly come into focus.

I will use whatever advantages I have to ease it, as anyone would. A marriage that becomes invalid when I cross state borders is not one I can accept if I have the choice, should something endanger Jocelyn's health while she is far from me.

That is frustrating. I can't shake it. I just take solace that the "F"s and "M"s on my identifying paper trail remain forever entangled. They are a testament to the pleasing messiness of a life drawn outside the lines. Jocelyn is joining her life to that tumultuous, ecstatic gender history, and I am so very glad. In moments of distress, I look to the comfort of her steady gaze and the touch of her loving hand as she caresses my hard-won 5-o'clock shadow.

"A Day in a Queer Life" is an ongoing blog series that documents the unique struggles, joys, triumphs, setbacks, hopes and desires of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people living in one of the six countries currently featuring a HuffPost site (Canada, France, Italy, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States). Each week a different blogger from one of these countries shares his or her personal story and perspective on what life is like wherever he or she resides. Want to share your own story? Write us at gayvoices@huffingtonpost.com to find out how you can take part in "A Day in a Queer Life."

Read previous entries in "A Day in a Queer Life":

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