March 24, 2008

"My partner deserves to be respected and protected. "

One of the people who testified at the hearing for HB1722 was "Bri," the author of today's guest blog post.

Here, she shares her experience testifying on behalf of the bill that would extend legal nondiscrimination and hate crimes protections to transgender and gender-non-conforming people in Massachusetts:

When I arrived at the state house at 11:30am, the large crowd overwhelmed me. I couldn't believe the turn out for HB 1722, I was so proud to be a part of this moment, this memory, this incredible struggle. I was there for all of my friends, my family, myself, my partner, and everyone who has or will ever have a gender variant or conforming as it may be. Being in the testimony room was tough, I could barely hear, I was sweating as if I had just run a marathon and I had more anxiety than I could handle. I waited patiently, watching the movements, feeling the emotion and taking in the atmosphere. As the hours flew by, I was nervous not everyone would be heard. With testimony until 11:30pm, the committee did hear the range of support. At 10:05pm, they called my name. I became instantly nervous. My hands became even clammier and I felt the sweat increase. My testimony felt different from the others I had heard, it felt incredibly intimate and revealing, but at the same time, I knew I had to be vulnerable and share my deepest feelings. It may have been that I couldn't hear much of the hearing, but I think there was only one other partner that testified, and I had to give partner's a strong voice. I testified as a partner of a trans guy. I testified for my partner. I testified for us.

My name is Bri, and I am the partner of a trans guy. I met my partner over four years ago while living in Colorado and attending college. Our love was instantaneous as well as his admission to me that he was not a lesbian but a trans guy, and that he wished at some point to medically and socially transition, of course with his own plan and on his own path. I knew from the moment he uttered the words that I would be there for him, by his side, supporting his every desire. He wasn't as confident. He was convinced that his only option was to run away and transition alone; begin a new life with his new identity, and cut – off all ties. He felt that the pain of running away from everything he knew and loved was far less than the pain he would cause his family by transitioning.

Not long after I began speaking, I felt tears fill my eyes. I had to pause.

I can't tell you why I became so selfless, but from the moment I met my partner, I was dedicated to making him feel comfortable in his own skin. I wanted to see his brilliant personality shine through his fears and regain control over his life. I can tell you from the bottom of my heart, he loved me and he wanted to believe me, but as a trans person, he knew it wasn't easy. I knew it wasn't easy. Almost daily I would wake up and ask him which pronoun and name he wished to use for the day. We used baby steps. Some days he was confident with "he" and walked around like he conquered the world. Other days it was just too much and I simply avoided all pronouns, because I knew the pain it caused him to hear "she." Our relationship is beautiful. It is the healthiest commitment I have ever taken part in. We communicate about every detail, we respect one another, we listen to each other's expectations, we support one another through each other's obstacles. I couldn't have brought home a better partner to mom and dad.

At this moment, I couldn't control the tears in my eyes or the wavering in my voice… I paused multiple times. When I finally I looked up, it was the most incredible feeling, all members of the committee were staring into my eyes feeling what I was telling them. At least two members had tears in their eyes. I knew at that moment, they will always remember my story...and I hope they use it to make the decision they know is best.

But it was and remain very painful. He would look into my eyes tell me he loved me. But it was always followed with, "one day you will wake up and realize that this is more than you bargained for." My heart broke every time he uttered those words. I can't imagine the pain he felt and the rejection he harbored in his heart to even fathom that I would be willing to abandon him purely because he intended to express his gender identity differently than before. It isn't fair. It isn't fair at all.

Our daily lives were impacted by his transition. Our first major obstacle was finding a new apartment. This feat was much like getting a hotel room while traveling. If we stopped to sleep, I was always the one to get us a room. Hotels never give us the same response regarding vacancy...there are only rooms when I ask. When we searched for our first apartment we were scared whether we would find a place that was safe or if our landlord would place financial burdens on us or create an unsafe environment. While we were lucky and had a terrific experience the first time, we have decades and several new places in our future.

Our travel arrangements were and continue to be affected. We grapple with whether he should shave his face and attempt to recoup any sign of femininity just so he doesn't set off any alarms, because his passport and ID have an F marker and he visibly looks like an M.

Health care is of particular concern to us. Yes it is a huge deal to remain covered by insurance for medical exams, access to hormones, and preparation for emergencies; but getting to a safe doctor is as far as we ever get. He has to make sure and schedule appointments around my schedule so I can attend every appointment with him. He needs a witness as well as someone to advocate on his behalf. Before we met, we wasn't so lucky. He was the victim of unfair, unsafe, disgusting, practices that violated his personal dignity.

The biggest fear and scariest thought we have is violence. As members of the queer community he and I have both been subjected to our fair share of verbal abuse, poor service at restaurants, and threatened physical violence; but as a trans guy and a gender non conforming person, he is at a higher risk. I can't sugar coat my feelings or pretend that violence is something we don't have to ever worry about, but I am always nervous when an unidentified number pops up on my phone. Is this going to be the call? We live hours a part and when he doesn't answer his phone I am nervous. When you love someone that is a member of a targeted group for violence, it isn't easy to ignore or suppress your own fears and thoughts. The violence and oppression faced by transgender and gender queer communities is real.

My partner has struggled to be where he is today. He fought long and hard to live comfortably, and I still think he isn't quite there yet. But he is only close to his end goal because of support from his family, friends and community members. His fears still plague his mind. Will he have a hard time looking for a job after completing his PhD? Will we continue to face struggles in finding safe housing? My partner deserves to be respected and protected. No one should live in fear of being unable to obtain necessities. We must put our fears to rest and begin understanding acknowledging the importance of protecting the gender identity aspect of a person's being.

He didn't leave. He didn't disappear to transition, he has made every step right next to me. He realized that there is no greater pain in the world than being alone. He knew he had to risk losing his family based on their feelings and choices. It is our choice whether we are prepared for his changes. No one has left his side, people have only held him closer. I could have never imagined leaving because he is the most beautiful, genuine and compassionate person I have ever met.

I will tell you, my partner is more than I bargained for, this relationship is more than I bargained for. It has brought me more joy, love and compassion than anything I could have ever imagined.

When I got up to leave from the table, my legs were shaking and I was crying. I had just laid my life on the table for these people to hear, judge, and possibly dismiss. I was angry that my soul could be ignored by the people that are supposed to protect us. I hoped that my words permeated their hearts and would remain a story they could feel forever.

You can read previous Quench posts about HB1722 here, here and here.


Anonymous said...

That's the kind of powerful story that changes people's hearts and minds.

Thank you for sharing it.

maudite entendante said...

Ok, either I'm really sleep-deprived or that was the most sob-inspiring thing I've read since the text of the Obama speech. Actually, scratch that, I am *both* sleep-deprived *and* totally tearing up over that. Bri dear, anyone who could dismiss that story has no soul.

All I can say is, may I be as gifted as you have been at expressing my love at important moments. And also - go, you.

(verification word: xlvfbl - someone who now loves baseball instead.)

Stellewriter said...

Legislators may have no idea what we face, and often with the gay political disinformation feed and confusion it is rare to hear an honest description in the public forum. Further, the world of Transgender is not one where we can hide. As an MtF, Transsexual everyday has become a trial. It is a trial of always being aware of where I am, who is around me, and what I may have to do to survive. When I say survive, I am not only referring to actual danger and fear of assault, but also the daily mundane that others never have to thin about. Something so simple as employment, or obtaining services, as well as medical care are all complicated and often out of reach because of ignorance and bigotry. Thanks for taking the courage to address and state the reality you are facing.

Anonymous said...

As a friend to both Bri and Tre I am proud to say that this power couple is going to make a positive mark on this society. Whether it is for human, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer peoples these two will move this world and move it in a positive direction. Through the years I have come to know Tre as one of the most respected professors, an icon to many, and a wonderful partner to Bri. Though across the country from where I met them both and where they met each other, they have continued to make an impact on my life and have also been an inspiration to our entire community. Keep up the amazing work you two and just know that your actions and intentions have continued a chain of change that will better this society and the people who live in it.
Kerianne Smith

Jessica said...

YOU and Tre are both such amazing people. I really can't even picture a more perfect pair. love you both

Jake Twist said...

Wow. That's amazing, and I'm tearing up just reading what you and your partner have been through. Thank you. As a transguy who often worries that he'll never find love, your words give me hope and comfort that there are partners like you out there. You are incredible!