Peace Corps, Passing, and Identity Beyond Relationships

I recently applied for the Peace Corps and was offered an interview for the position of Crop Extension Specialist in Tanzania. While I am very excited about a lot of things, I am nervous about one thing- the possibility of being in the closet for 2.5 years of service. Of course, LGBT volunteers have served successfully in Tanzania in the past and I am sure that I am capable of finding coping mechanisms to deal with the difficulties of being closeted. A complicating factor, however, is Dude’s transition.

If I’m in the Peace Corps, while we may be able to talk on the phone, we will not be able to see each other except on occasion when I get some vacation time. Dude is going to try and live in Tanzania for a period of time while I’m there, if possible, but even if that works out we will not be living together and will likely not see each other for months at a time. Considering how many changes testosterone has already caused, one of my fears is meeting up with someone who looks and seems completely different from the person I remember. Even more upsetting is the possibility of Dude passing so well that, if she visits, locals have no reason to think I’m any different from a straight woman. Not being able to come out is one thing, my spouse and I actively looking like a cis-het couple is even worse.

It isn’t just Tanzania that I’m worried about. I expect it to bother me, but I also expect to have a lot more on my mind and it’s temporary. I’ve spent time in the closet before, I can do it again if it’s for a good reason. But when I come home? When I come home and suddenly my spouse and I appear to be nothing more than a typical straight married couple? Complete with all the cultural assumptions and rage-inducing invisibility that come with that? No thank you. It makes my skin crawl.

I’m not a lesbian strictly because of who I choose as romantic and sexual partners. That is an element of it, of course. It’s the defining factor. But the experience of being a lesbian has very much shaped who I am- my ways of interacting with the world and the ways in which the rest of the world interacts with me. My history is different in some ways from the history of straight people. My version of pop culture. My experience with men and women. My lesbianism is at the center of how I see myself in the world around me, my priorities, and my very personality. I don’t stop being a lesbian when I’m single. I was never not a lesbian- even when I had no romantic partners and was not looking for one. I am just as much me when I’m single, so why is it different if I’m with a man?

I know. Loaded and twisted question. It fucks my mind up every time I think about it. Because, in some sense, of course it’s different. If I were to suddenly start regularly dating men (let’s just pretend Dude isn’t a factor for the sake of this argument)- trans or cis- of course I would be changing that part of myself. Of course I would not be a lesbian. I may be bisexual or maybe some version of slightly queer considering my history (if we’re arguing- and I think I am- that the experience of being queer creates additional layers of queerness). But that isn’t what happened. I married what I believed, at the time, was a woman. I married the woman I had been dating for 3 years and we were married for nearly a year before transition was even mentioned. Now that my spouse is transitioning we are facing the very unexpected problem of whose identity to prioritize when or how to skirt the issue altogether. Little things like using the term ‘spouse’ instead of ‘husband’ (erasing of my lesbianism) or ‘wife’ (erasing of Dude’s gender) have become regular compromises in our lives and seem to work pretty well. But it isn’t always easy and everyone and their cat has an opinion, sometimes a very strong and angry one. Even within broader queer community there are those who object to me continuing to call myself a lesbian.

I am beyond grateful to have a spouse who understands my feelings and wants to find a way for both of us to be as authentically ourselves as possible, but it’s still a difficult road. And navigating these changes from without being able to see each other for a while and then coming back to a home that will almost certainly view us completely differently from how they do now is going to be a real challenge.

I made a new blog!

Hey all!

In hopes of both providing a less “me/us-centered” resource for people and to avoid this particular blog becoming too much about our reproductive journey (though it’s a big thing so it will likely come up now and again), I created a new site: https://antipastel.wordpress.com/

 

Check it out! ❤

Dude’s coming out all over the place and cute videos about old lesbian couples just make me want to cry and punch things.

This is a week of conflicted feelings. We’ve been doing better, generally speaking, since the transition started. The changes are noticeable but not too scary (yet)- I even find the chin hairs kinda cute. And Dude seems happy, which is the most important thing, right?

We’ve been doing videos, which helps. And it’s easier with other people knowing because we can talk and joke about it and it takes some of the pressure off the relationship. We’re also getting along really well and our sex life has been pretty fantastic… so, you know, mostly positive things.

But, I’m still a lesbian. Sometimes I can think of myself as “queer” (which I do, but always a queer lesbian- never just queer) and think of this whole process as a fun sort of project I’m helping Dude with- especially since it’s medical. I like medical stuff. I’m a biologist. That works for a while, I even enjoy it, but something always snaps me back to my own reality and it hits harder every time because every time I feel farther away than the last time.

 

My friend is getting married. My lesbian friend is getting married to her girlfriend. She shared a cute video of two old ladies who’d been together for something ridiculously long time- 48 years, I think? And I wanted to cry because that’s supposed to be my future. That’s supposed to be me and my spouse, decades from now. And I see older lesbian couples at church and I think “how sweet- how nice that things are so much better than they once were- how I wish those two would just go home”.

I’m dreading the day when we don’t look like a lesbian couple anymore. I’m dreading the day when invisibility means even more than it does now. I’m dreading the day when I have to decide what’s really important. Right now leaving seems unthinkable. I have no interest in losing my wife. But then… I guess I don’t have much choice there, do I?

I don’t know. Maybe it’s the coming out that’s getting to me. Maybe it’s just everything- I always assumed I’d get pregnant, too. And that I’d fall in love with the academic world as soon as I entered it. Maybe it’s all that. I’m not who I thought I was and while Dude is figuring herself out, I feel like I’m losing pieces of myself every day. And I’m tired. But I’ve always been able to adapt, so maybe this isn’t as big as it feels. In fact, I’m almost sure it’s not. I’ve had worse feelings about this before and it passed. I’m sure I’ll be over it by next week.

But right now it hurts. It’s selfish pain, I  know. And I don’t wish for Dude to be unhappy- or to stop transitioning, as clearly it was the right decision. I just… wish that wasn’t the case.

Don’t Call it a Comeback

Hello, readers, long time no see! We took a break from blogging, mostly because what we were going through was pretty personal, and hard on both of us, and blogging about it didn’t seem to help.

Since we’ve been gone a lot has happened. Ask filled you in on some of the pregnancy attempt stuff, but she left it to me to talk about where my transition is.

About two months ago I started testosterone therapy, which I accessed through our local Planned Parenthood. Ask and I talked about it a lot, and these were tough conversations. She doesn’t want to see me change, and I felt like I couldn’t stay the same without always wondering and perhaps regretting  the choice. At two months in, testosterone seems to have agreed with me quite well. I feel as though my emotions are calmer, and I feel happy and optimistic about the changes. Although I’m on a very low dosage, the changes seem to have been coming at roughly the expected pace for a normal dose. I have a small but ever-more-visible amount of facial hair, I’ve had significant growth in my downstairs region, my voice has dropped subtly but perceptibly, and some of my fat may have begun to redistribute  slightly.

This is great, and it’s also a problem for us. When I started, I agreed to do a low dose only and keep it low for the foreseeable future so that the changes would be slow and Ask would have time to get used to things. That hasn’t quite panned out the way that I expected: Although I’m not passing as male or anything yet, I’ve had changes at about the rate I would have expected on a full dose.

From the beginning, I’ve tried to give Ask’s feelings equal weight as my own, and to give her some say in the process as I moved toward transition. This doesn’t mean I gave her a veto, but it meant I consulted her about the timing and the way I went about transitioning and coming out. But now, we came up with a plan, and the plan isn’t working the way we intended it to work. That’s awkward. Part of me says go, go, go!! But another part says slow down, wait, and do this right. I think Ask is frustrated by how quickly things have moved already, and I don’t always know if it’s better to move forward at my own pace or slow down and give her time to adjust.

Hello, again.

So, it’s been a while. Almost a year, I think. And I feel at least somewhat ready to start posting again. Although, if it gets hard, I may disappear again.

Things have been moving forward. Dude’s transition has begun, but I won’t go into the details- I’ll leave that to Dude. I also don’t remember how much I’ve already mentioned about everything else and I don’t really want to go back and read the posts because I know they’ll upset me, so if I repeat myself just consider it a recap.

I’ve been trying to get pregnant for months, now. At the first appointment they did a standard “let’s just make sure everything’s cool” ultrasound, where they found a cyst on one of my ovaries and the RE said it was likely caused by endometriosis. I was annoyed because I had previously been to the doctor a few times (and once to the ER) for extreme pain in that exact area and was told it was gas pain. Still, I figured lots of people have endometriosis and still have kids and I wasn’t too worried. The RE recommended surgery to remove the cyst so it wouldn’t have a chance to grow and burst and also to see what other endometriosis I might have. I opted to try one round of fertility treatment and then opt for surgery if it didn’t work. It didn’t. I got surgery last August and they removed the cyst and found that I had Stage 4 endometriosis and I was told if I’d waited much longer I probably would’ve had to have a kidney removed. So, I’m glad I got the surgery- regardless of whether I ever get pregnant. It’s also helped with a number of symptoms that I never realized were symptoms. My cramps are much less painful, my back doesn’t hurt all the time like it used to, and I don’t have to pee nearly as often.

After the surgery we tried again. I’ve tried with two different fertility drugs, plus an HCG shot that triggers ovulation each time. It’s all well-timed and I get ultrasounds after each round of pills to make sure I’m producing eggs. I’ve been through that probably 6 or 7 times, but only actually been inseminated 4 times. Once I produced too many eggs so we had to wait. Another time the sperm bank didn’t ship the vial in time so I had to wait another month to try. Now I’m in the waiting period between being inseminated and being able to take a pregnancy test. This is very likely the last time I’m going to try. And Dude and I need to figure out what we want to do next.

Originally, Dude wasn’t supposed to start any sort of transition until after I had a baby. But the waiting was putting a lot of strain on both of us. I’m not sure I like the way we moved forward with it, but I guess it’s good that we’re no longer in complete limbo.

We want to be coparents, if we can. We want to stay together, of course, but I can’t guarantee anything. I want to get pregnant now or decide that it’s not going to happen and start treatment, but I hope if I don’t that maybe Dude and I will still be able to find a way to parent a child together. Part of me is scared we’ll break up before that’s a possibility, but I hope that doesn’t happen. The idea of being very non-traditional queer parents appeals to me these days. And dude and I have very similar values and parenting styles (or so we believe).

Anyway, it’s been a weird year. I’m a different person now than I was before and that scares me. And I’m still a little angry. I’m also very nervous about the future, but I’m trying.

I have more to say, but the pregnancy stuff is on my mind right now. I’ll try to post again, soon.