An intimate relationship, defined as an interpersonal relationship that involves physical and/or emotional intimacy; physical intimacy is characterized by friendship, platonic love, romantic love, or sexual activity, is something that many people, both cisgender and transgender, participate in during their lifetimes; therefore, it only makes sense that Trans Bodies Trans Selves includes a chapter addressing such.
Relationships, especially those considered to be intimate, often involve the navigation of many aspects, from emotional to physical, and everything in between. Identifying as transgender adds another variable to one’s dating life, which therefore has the potential to complicate things; however, it is neither positive nor negative.
It simply is a fact that must be addressed. “For those of us who are dating or would like to be dating, there are many steps to finding the types of relationships we desire… We may need to learn new ways of interacting in dating cultures as we transition and figure out with ourselves how to approach disclosing our trans status to potential partners,” (Erickson-Schroth, 2014, p.
335). Chapter sixteen opens with a discussion of intimacy and dating, yet the first major section is entitled “Loving Our Bodies”, which is crucial to the beginning of a healthy relationship: first with oneself, and then with another.
Erickson-Schroth’s (2014) publication stated the following: One of the first issues we often confront as trans people is our self-esteem and our sense of our attractiveness. Having a trans body is not seen as the norm, and we sometimes internalize society’s judgments about our bodies and see our trans identity as a negative aspect of ourselves.
It can be difficult to allow ourselves to seek out the partners we desire if we do not see ourselves as attractive.
If we enter into a relationship without a healthy self-image, that relationship is starting at a disadvantage. Communicating to a partner that we are ashamed of ourselves or that we are not worthy of love can make those of us who are hoping to start healthy relationships with us feel uncertain about how to treat us. (p. 335).
The following sections of the chapter include topics such as finding potential partners, “trans-attracted partners”, dating other trans people, dating within queer communities, having multiple partners, deciding not to be sexual, intimate partner violence as well as disclosure while dating and a multitude of other important topics that are not often addressed.
The section that resonated most with me was entitled, “Effects of Gender Norms and Socialization on Dating,” and truly opened my eyes to how heteronormativity and society’s rigid gender roles influence the behavior of those in all relationships, of course focusing on trans intimate relationships in this case. “For instance, transmasculine people may start to find that our partners expect us to initiate more in the relationship, from being the one to ask someone else on a date to initiating sexual intimacy,” (Erickson-Schroth, 2014, p. 340). As gender is entirely a societal construct, it’s fascinating how trans individuals, as well as gender fluid individuals and the rest, find themselves only feeling validated in their identified gender once they adopt the stereotypical norms that perhaps mock a heterosexual relationship. In addition, I believe it is crucial to note that the Erickson-Schroth also included the concept that, “transfeminine people may notice that others expect us to take up less space in conversations or that other people may invade our personal space more often,” (pp. 340). While these behaviors and assumed personas may be minor or major, it is critical to the health of the relationship to be aware of these roles and not to feel constrained by societal norms, especially within an intimate relationship as a trans individual. My research and readings in Trans Bodies Trans Selves opened my eyes to the privilege that I have in my intimate relationships; I brought up in our reading group discussions that as appearing (and identifying) as cisgender, I have the potential to date (unknowingly), transphobic individuals, not that I would tolerate such. In addition, I do not have to worry about disclosing much more than my bisexuality, which still has its ripples. Again, in our discussion, someone pointed out that transgender individuals must strategically plan their disclosure, and whether or not they choose to tell a potential partner at their first encounter, or after growing close with one another, has its respective repercussions. In my experience, it is easiest for me to disclose my sexuality upfront to weed out any biphobes or homophobes.
Erickson-Schroth’s (2014) publication stated the following: “For many of us, our identity as trans is just as large a part of our core being as our gender identity, and it may be very important to us that a potential partner understand our trans identity and experiences. We may be left feeling that a part of ourselves is missing from a relationship if we do not disclose it. (pp. 341).
I can relate to this concept, as my bisexual identity has largely shaped my intimate relationships, and through self-analyzation, have discovered that I may take on more seemingly “masculine” roles in a relationship is not being afraid to initiate things that I desire, refusing to make myself small in conversation, and even assuming sometimes less-than-typical-feminine dress or appearance. This chapter allowed me to reinforce my own beliefs that gender is something that can be ever-changing and shifting, both within oneself, as well as within intimate relationships.
Identifying as open-minded and accepting, in addition to always ready to learn how to be a better ally, I like to believe that I am well-equipped to defend and support my trans brothers and sisters; however, the narrative included in the chapter by Katka Showers-Curtis truly enlightened me. I must note that the aforementioned narrative was inspired by Pat Parker’s “For the white person/who wants to know/how to be my friend”.
Erickson-Schroth’s (2014) text included the following narrative from Katka Showers-Curtis: “The first thing you should do is forget that I’m Trans*. Then, you must never forget that I’m Trans*. Get comfortable with the word “cis”. Remember that when the oppressor can name the oppressed but the oppressed cannot name the oppressor, oppression wins. Read Trans* theory, and let’s talk about it, but don’t expect me to teach you everything you need to know about being Trans*. (pp. 337).
With my new knowledge as to how thoroughly and uniquely one’s trans identity affects all aspects of their life, especially their intimate relationships, of course, there was a shift in my values, pushing me to be even more supportive, compassionate, and understanding of my sisters and brothers’ struggles. To be the best-informed ally that I can be, I will read literature that shines a light on a trans theory to broaden my horizons and perspectives.
I will recognize my space in the LGBTQA+ community and use my voice to empower trans voices; I must step back into spaces that are reserved for their expression and existencetoto honor them.