For those of you coming late to the party, I’m married to a trans woman who started her Real Life Test about seven weeks ago.
There are many gates a trans person has to go through in order to transition; to my eye, the Real Life Test (RLT) is about the most asinine. Essentially, without medical intervention, the trans person is expected to live in their identified gender for a specific period of time (often a year, but gender clinic waiting lists can protract this) before the medical folk get on board.
While it’s easier to pass as male during the Female-to-Male RLT, it isn’t especially easy and it’s potentially dangerous if you live near roving Neanderthal tribes. The Male-to-Female RLT is not only difficult and dangerous, but a lesson in humiliation. So in other words, if you aren’t killed or don’t kill yourself during your RLT, we’ll give you medical treatment.
My partner, the Bit-ler (Butler-In-Transition) is fortunate that firstly, she can afford to spend a coupla thousand quid on a hair system with a monthly maintenance bill of about £100, (not counting transport costs, since there’s only a handful of places in the UK who ‘install’ this type of system). She can also afford to attend an endocrinologist privately – not only does she have this B cup I keep rabbiting on about, but her facial hair has really decreased its growth.
(O yes, the MtF is expected to do her RLT with no tits and a fully functioning beard, just as the FtM is expected to do it with breasts and menstrual flow but no beard or upper body strength.)
The Bit-ler’s additionally lucky that she works for an agency that has protocols in place to deal with transitioning employees – she knows she won’t lose her job. AND . . . remarkably, her colleagues weren’t content to sit quietly through the announcement of her transition, but after giving her a round of applause, have been proactively supportive of her. She’ll probably live through her RLT.
And of course, she has me.
You’d think the MtF’s wife would be a font of feminine wisdom, but the Bit-ler drew the short straw in that department. I don’t cook. Doing my hair = pulling it back in a scrunchy. My fashion sense, according to my son, is various levels of plaid. As to being quiet and decent, well . . .
And this isn’t helped by the Bit-ler’s periodic channelling of the Femininity Goddess – an Irish Mother Superior/Hyacinth Bucket entity who walks through our house, hands clasped, uttering phrases like, ‘How common, something I would never say, especially with the windows open.’
I’m sure the old lady next door has heard the phrase, ‘You fucking whore,’ before we moved in, but anyway . . .
While I’m not great at beauty or fashion tips, I do see in technicolour when the Bit-ler doesn’t act ‘female’ in a social setting. As we discuss what women typically do in this or that situation, a little voice in the back of my head asks, ‘Why? Why are women expected to be this way?’ I feel like I’m taking some great beautiful wild thing and trying to tame her.
The Bit-ler always sweeps my hesitation away – No, tell me, tell me what it is women do when they’re hither and yon, or inside places men are never permitted. She has to know what the expectations are before she can decide to accept or reject them.
As I share this ancient lore, I wonder when I ate that lore-bait, hook, line and sinker, why I’m the type of woman who smiles and laughs and shares and endures.
Three steps later, I wonder where my life went, that my mornings are spent curling her hair when I can’t be arsed to do my own. That when I spend time considering why her outfit works or doesn’t, I’m wearing the Jack Skelton T-shirt my son gave me, over unflatteringly skinny jeans with dried mud from the garden and dog walks. That I police her gender-appropriate social niceties and have given up screaming, ‘Fuck!’ At least when the windows are open. That I live knowing someday someone will call me a lesbian and maybe treat me badly for it, and I’ll have to deal with that like a seasoned pro instead of someone who hasn’t a clue what lesbians have to suffer in order to live and love.
I don’t have answers to my questions, but I’m still willing to do this. Mostly because I’m amazed at the Bit-ler strapping on her bra and marching out with her lemon-yellow shoulder bag to take on the world. I’m a bit too selfish to deny myself the adventure, no matter how many outfits I have to pass judgement on.
But the questions are there. I wonder if I’ll know sometime in the future, what I’ve put to the side so I can do this now. I wonder if I’ll regret or be happy that I did.