Am I allowed to mourn his breasts?
I’m afraid that even to broach that question will label me unsupportive. Render me less than: The one who isn’t truly celebrating this day, this change.
I am celebrating for him. We have been planning this day since last summer. Since our marriage. Since deciding to bring him onto my health insurance. Since the arrival of his therapist’s letter. Since the first consult. This weekend as we shopped for #byebyeboobies button downs and zipped hoodies. I am celebrating.
Yet, I find myself mourning.
He has been living publicly in his gender since our first meeting. His initial (and continuing) moniker in our relationship was “Mister”. My Mister. Now, he’s my Mr. (by marriage). I know the nuances of his identity; how difficult it is to find other genderqueer trans*guys like himself. A boi whose trans*masculine gender informs his decision to undergo #byebyeboobies top surgery (double mastectomy plus masculine-bodied pectoral contouring) and yet whose gender fluidity rails at being assumed cis-male. He will always honor his natal sex and identity; acknowledges that he cannot imagine not talking about “When I was a Girl Scout” or “As a dyke in the Navy”. And yet he also seeks safety: gender presentation and pronouns that “match” on state-issued ID cards and the capacity to enter a public bathroom without concern.
#Byebyeboobies reaffirms his gender and may increase his safety in the world. I am glad for these things.
But, am I allowed to mourn his breasts?
I am not simply mourning the feel of his chest under my cheek when we cuddle or the ways in which we are intimate; though it’s true I am mourning both. But I also mourn the public dialogue we currently engage in. He is trans*. Queer. Masculine. I am cis. Queer. Feminine. Together, we are a butch/femme, girl/boi, queer-couple. Because the world oft misgenders him, I am seen as queer. In this public world we connect sexual identity and gender identity: If I am a girl and he is a girl (misgendered), then I am queer. But, if his trans*masculine gender is recognized, then he is a boi and I am a girl. Am I, he, we, then straight?
Well, no. My spouse will likely always identify as trans* and queer. I will likely always identify as queer. Our internal identities are not shifted nor erased by external assumptions. And yet, he is changing his externally-viewed self to reaffirm his gendered selfhood, and in doing so he will shift external assumptions about his gender identity. When seen as a couple, in a world that views people through cis-colored glasses, external assumptions about our sexual identities will also likely shift.
What does it feel like to be invisibly queer?
Once, when I came out a decade ago, I was invisibly queer. I could argue that now, when seen alone, that I am also assumed heterosexual. But, I am so often seen with my partner publicly that I feel publicly queer. If he is misgendered or seen as genderqueer, then my queerness is confirmed.
I would not give up #byebyeboobies to have my sexual identity confirmed. But, I am mourning.
I am mourning his breasts because now I must be uncomfortable again. I must negotiate the invisibility of my sexual identity, as he has negotiated the invisibility of his gender identity. Because there is less likelihood that I will be assumed queer, then I must choose when and how to come out. I must have language to talk about my identity, my partner’s identity, and our relationship. I must decide when it is safe to have those conversations and with whom. To be queer, I must be intentional.
Am I allowed to mourn his breasts?
Perhaps this is the wrong question to ask. It does not have an easy answer. One mourns what has been important, special, or loved. One mourns a passing just as one celebrates a birthing. The beauty of life is the complicated gray we sit in. Our gender and sexual identities are separate constructs inextricably linked. The lines between celebration and mourning are muted. Opportunity and loss are partners.
Tomorrow we say #byebyeboobies. I will hold my partner’s hand as he goes back for surgery. I will say a prayer for safety. I will celebrate this new step with him. I will tend to him in the days thereafter.
I will also attend to myself. Celebrate the opportunity this discomfort offers me for growth. Say a prayer for hope and peace. Hold my own hand as I move forward post-surgery; onward and South to new spaces, people, and queer conversations.