A week ago, this article would have begun with something like this: “I’m dating a football player. And I’m a trans guy.” Unfortunately, a week later, it has slightly shifted. I was dating a football player. Does the pressure that was forced on him by his surrounding peers, especially on the sports team, have something to do with the complexities that followed our relationship from the beginning? If it weren’t for them, would we still be together today?
Across the country, many debates have stirred up as to where people like me belong in the realm of sports. One example takes place in Connecticut, where two transgender girls earlier this year competed in their high school female track team and won… consistently. When at work, my boss even mentioned the incident. He imagined that, if he had a daughter, he couldn’t possibly see it as anything less than completely unfair. His words, and the reality and emotion I saw on both sides of this debate, caused me to silently swear to myself that I couldn’t ever do sports. Not at high school, at least. But somehow, sports slithered their slick little way into my life through A. My boyfriend of five, almost six, months. Half a year. And I completely believe that, if his family and peers had been supportive, things would have ended in a much happier way. And, God, I really think A and I deserved that.
We met at work much earlier in the year, a toy store in our town. I can’t say I felt a zing from the very beginning… he was tall, proud of being a football player, and showed off. A lot. While I, a tiny pre-everything trans guy who was a significant foot shorter than him, found myself more focused on figuring out how to master our promised complimentary wrapping. While I didn’t feel a zing, he did.
Because of my gender identity, I often find myself questioning whether or not I’m even datable. As of 2016, only 47% of all LGBT individuals would consider dating people like me. I had no concept of whether or not he was straight or not in the first place when I met him… and from the beginning, the way he danced around the question almost seemed to be a red flag. “I’m a noodle,” he would say. “I bend when wet.” With a bit of unease, but at the same time so blinded by the love I held for him, I went all in. And slowly, all those fears about being undatable subsided.
While we adjusted quickly, the world around us did not. The first day we held hands, I remember someone approaching us… he barely knew A himself, but he felt comfortable enough to say this: “Why do you even like her?” He brushed it off, but it stayed in my mind. Later, he was asked more and more inappropriate, intimate questions about my body (people really love knowing what someone’s genitals are, I don’t quite understand why).
I remember the day I met his family. His parents were born and raised in Columbia, with very diverse morals that heavily influenced how they viewed me from the start. His dad was a man who reminded me much of my own. Not to get too into depth, but that’s not exactly a great thing for me. I found myself holding my breath and walking around eggshells to like me… and I found that the only time that this was so was when I played the role of his girlfriend. In the long car ride after his parents met me, my boyfriend was left with his father. Alone. For a solid fifteen minutes, he screamed about how wrong I was and how what I was doing was ‘sexual’ and I could never change what god and science did. A was very upset. I still remember him crying over facetime, and that was a very dark time. But we shone through it all at the beginning, confidently intertwining together as two lovebirds. ‘That couple.’
But unfortunately, we didn’t work out in the end. The pressure that surrounded us began leading to constant arguments about the lack of time we had, which slowly became fighting for minutes between classes. HIs parents grew more and more unsupportive, never letting us have a moment alone together. Our moments in school were filled with constant shouts of his last name by all the players on the football team, where he was nearly kicked off just for kissing me. It just grew, and grew, and grew. And one night, as he ignored me for the thousandth time as we finally had a few free moments to talk which happened to land at the same time as one of his important video game matches, it was just too much.
If we had belonged together, we would have made it through. However, we were just a normal relationship with a normal love… in circumstances that were way beyond our years.
The thing is, our love story seemed like something that would defy the odds. Something that would be incredible and amazing and strong. However, we were a normal relationship… with normal problems that were too big to be fixed. We were, and are, high schoolers after all. I feel like, perhaps looking back at it now, maybe I loved the fact that he was sacrificing so much and not caring about others that I was blinded by how incompatible we were. We often had the same arguments about attention over and over, and he said hurtful things that I couldn’t forgive. Our interests were so different, with him obsessed with video games and I dancing through phases of writing, photography, journalism, music, future-obsessing, and yoga. I wanted to wake up to a bazillion romantic texts in the morning, while he was fine with a simple good morning. I was a hopeless romantic, and he was just… romantic. But I wouldn’t trade our relationship for the world. Following are some tips for people on both sides of a relationship where one individual is transgender and the other is cisgender that I learned from the relationship.
For cisgender folks:
- Dating a transgender person doesn’t make your relationship extraordinary, or unordinary. It just means you’re dating a transgender person. If you find that you’re viewing your partner in a way that ‘pities’ them, or you feel like the relationship revolves entirely around them being transgender, perhaps its time to evaluate how you truly feel about the person
- Talk with your partner about what they do and don’t want the world to know about their transition. They may not want the world to know at all, or they may be very proud and open about their identity.
- Sex. What’s okay. What’s not okay. Talk about it. Period.
- Don’t expect to be able to love insecurities away when it comes to gender dysphoria. Gender dysphoria is something that, unfortunately, we struggle with. It causes us to have rough days, and look at our body poorly.
- Educating yourself is so, so important. There are so many resources out there to know more about transgender people… just make sure that, when doing your research, you go to websites that are affirming of identities and not transphobic or ignorant. Some things you may want to educate yourself on include hormone replacement therapy, gender dysphoria, and the LGBT+ community. Here ‘s a helpful video of some basic lingo on the trans community:
For transgender folks *:
- Prepare to adjust to another family. Before meeting them, if you decide to meet them, ask questions and assess what the circumstances will be like. If things sound like they may go poorly (misgendering, invasive questions, etc.), make sure to mentally prepare yourself and decide for YOURSELF whether or not you want to put yourself in a situation where others may attempt to invalidate you.
- Talk to your partner about what (or what not) to do when someone misgenders you or says something transphobic. The worst thing is having your partner stay silent when something is said that deeply hurts you, or even worse when they say something themselves.
- Be patient. Think of a marginalized group in a circumstance that you are unfamiliar with, and imagine meeting one of these individuals for the first time with minimal research on this person’s experiences. Chances are, if you were to talk to them for about fifteen minutes, you’d say something unintentionally ignorant. We are living in a world where people don’t all know about us yet, and it doesn’t intentionally mean anyone wants to give us harm.
*these tips are meant for any transgender individual who is out. Remember, never feel pressure to come out until you’re ready. Be safe!
Photo: football wife