This essay was originally printed in The Fem Literary Magazine in May 2015.
I’ve recently learned that the inverse of transgender is cisgender. Until a few months ago, I didn’t know there was such a distinction, and learning about cisgender makes me happy and sad; happy because now I have the vocabulary to speak and write more eloquently about being trans* or not, and sad because now there is just one more label used to describe a person. Honestly, I’m torn about this discovery. It makes me feel like everything has to bagged and tagged until everyone is isolated and alienated.
When I was 16, I thought I was a lesbian.
Because I was attracted to butch women.
I’m girly/femme, and loved the masculine/feminine balance. However, now I’m 27 and have realized over the last few years that I’m not a lesbian. That identity doesn’t fit me. It’s too restrictive, and forces me to attempt reconciliation of aspects about myself that can’t be easily negotiated. I’ve also realized that it’s not butch lesbians I’m attracted to—it’s FTMs, or female-to-male trans*. I love trans* men of all shapes and sizes, and upon this realization I’ve started identifying as queer. I love the inclusivity of queer and don’t feel tied down by the restrictions of so-called “mainstream identities.” My sexuality is fluid and my relationship is an indicator of that fluidity.
My spouse is pre-op FTM. We’ve been together for almost 9 years—got married in 2013—and I can’t see my life without him in it. People in our lives, namely my parents, have a hard time adjusting to the change of pronouns. Though to be fair, I still find myself falling into that cycle of using the wrong descriptors. I know in my heart that Glo (nickname) / Paul (real name) is a man. I don’t have to be reminded—I get it. That’s one reason I fell in love with him.
I watch him go through the trials of body dysphoria every day and all I can do is be supportive, reminding him that I love him for him, and that his body is just the smallest fraction of what I love. Glo has an established career, we own our home, we have a family, and we both know that it’s just the beginning for us. Then when you pan-out, there is a whole other world out there. Kids, and I mean kids, are killing themselves because of the world. They are so shortsighted that it’s impossible for them to see a life outside of the hatred that plagues their young lives. They get it from all sides: the Christian Right promotes hatred and misinformation, the LGBTQ community displaces them, their parents aren’t accepting, and their friends don’t understand. The community for queer and trans* people seems sparse and distant, and the lack of support keeps many of us in the closet, or in a perpetual state of self-loathing.
How can we, as a community, make any internal progress when our brothers and sisters put each other down? Mainstream media plays a large part in the idea that it’s straights against gays by perpetuating heteronormativity, but they have it all wrong. It’s really gays versus queers. The LGBTQ community can be extremely segregated, and oftentimes it seems like you have to align yourself with one side or the other—the gays, the lesbians, or the queer/trans* folk. The media only takes notice when a teen commits suicide because of the hate and fear that comes with being an out trans* person. Then everyone is on the bandwagon, rallying to support the community. No one raises an eyebrow when trans* people are alive and crying out for help. It’s only in death that their lives seem to matter. To the heteronormative world, trans* people are an anomaly, something in such stark contrast with their own lives that its novel. Inside the LGBTQ community, trans* people don’t fit in because they aren’t one way or another. The media portrays the community as an accepting, equality seeking bunch, but the truth is, the LGBTQ community is just as vicious, if not more so, than its straight counterpart. The blurring of gender and sexuality sees the same types of phobias and biases within the community as it does outside.
I’ve seen how trans* women and men are discriminated against by gays and lesbians because of what they have below the waist. A trans* woman is not a real woman because she may still have a penis, while a trans* man is not a real man because he doesn’t have a penis. Our culture is so fixated on gender binary that it’s hard to see past the socially acceptable gender lines and accept a person for who they are, rather than what they have down there.
Even though the last two years have been absolutely Earth shattering concerning LGBTQ rights, with the legal system finally stepping up for our team, transphobia is still rampant among both the LGBTQ and hetero communities, and from my perspective, it always gets swept under the rug.
I see it every day.
Glo is out, it’s no secret, but because Glo is pre-op, he won’t use the men’s room in public. It’s not because he’s shy, it’s because he fears that passing isn’t enough, and knows that he runs the risk of being beaten or even worse, raped. It’s a sick-sad truth of the world, and because we live in the Deep South, the problem with acceptance is exacerbated.
Something’s got to give.
Trans* people need all of the love and support they can get. Living day-to-day in a body that doesn’t reflect how you feel can often lead to a routine of self-loathing or suicidal depression. I can only imagine the mental gymnastics that trans* people go through every day. I’m fortunate that I can look in the mirror and see someone staring back at me that I love. I love my curves. I love my breasts. I love my vagina. I even love my chubby belly andfat thighs as I call them—I embrace my womanhood.
People say that women go through Hell to shape their bodies to be more desirable by using Spanx and other flattering undergarments, but these methods are next to nothing when you consider what a trans* person (especially pre-op) goes through just to feel comfortable enough to go out in public.
On a daily basis, I observe Glo’s routine:
Layer after layer of compression and cotton to hide his chest, and that’s just his top half.
The battle for equality is still a battle. Every day the trans* community is at war—with the media, their community, and their bodies, and until they are afforded the respect, love, and equality they deserve the war will rage. Every day gets a little bit better, and every day more people are seeing that differences aren’t a bad thing. Still, it seems that people have forgotten that equality and fair treatment starts at home. The legalities of equality can only go so far. Then it’s up to the rest of the community to make the right decisions. Lesbians, gays, bisexuals, trans*, and queers everywhere need to understand that we’re all in this together. It’s not us against them. It’s us against us—and it has to stop. The LGBTQ community has to remember that the L and G aren’t the only letters in our queer alphabet.
 It is important to note that Glo has given me explicit consent to write about him and our life together from my perspective. I am not outing him because he is out and proud, nor am I attempting to speak for all trans* people.
Caseyrenée Lopez is a queer writer living with her queer family in Deep South, USA. She is a poet, editor, and student who loves cookies, coffee, & Promised Land chocolate milk. She is the founding editor of Crab Fat Literary Magazine and the publisher for Damaged Goods Press. Her recent work has appeared in The Fem, Fuck Fiction, The Outrider Review, Visceral Uterus, Crack the Spine, and Foliate Oak. She is working on her Master’s degree and has hopes for a Ph.D. in the near future.