We confuse people often these days. To the state, we are now man and wife. To strangers, Alex is a gay cis man and River, a straight cis woman. To people in our circles, our love in our shifting genders has been difficult to fully grasp. To be clear, we are both queer and trans, though we embody those identities differently. When it comes to our relationship, we have always had to navigate other people’s expectations, seeing them struggle to make sense of our love against their templates.
Labels can help people make sense of their identities, but they can also fail to capture the ever-changing nature of being human. For us, these identifiers have helped us understand complex aspects of ourselves, while also facilitating our process of finding community. With time, however, we have outgrown various labels that once (seemed to) fit us so well. After all, what started as a love story between two college boys is now a love story between two married nonbinary femmes.
Now more than ever, we see the beauty of our growth from navigating the world with such unique lenses. One big challenge, though, has been to get others to welcomingly acknowledge us in our various changes. Though gender and sexual fluidity have gained a lot of attention in mainstream spaces, there is still a lot of resistance to them in practice. Unfortunately, and unsurprisingly, we have experienced the limits of labels in our circles. Even long after outgrown by us, labels like cis or gay have fixed us in the consciousness of others.
Since River’s visible transition, we have noticed how others subtly expect Alex to over-perform masculinity. Cisheteronormativity is so insidious that we are not necessarily surprised to see others erase Alex’s femmeness to make our relationship fit a rigid, uninspired model, but this does not make it any less hurtful. In reality, our love has explored our complex individual relationships to femmeness since we first met and we absolutely love that about our story. Watching each other bloom in our femmeness has been nothing short of humbling and magical.
When Alex’s femmeness is acknowledged, it is usually understood as an expression of a cis gay identity. In this simplistic assumption, people perceive River’s transition as an obstacle, failing to see Alex themself or their love for River as queer or beyond labels. Mainstream depictions of people transitioning in their marriages likely do very little to discourage this thinking. These stories are often centered around the partners who do not transition, who are also portrayed as martyrs for loving their partners despite their new truth. Of course, we resent the idea that transitioning would suddenly render River unlovable or harder to love. It is beyond ludicrous.
Above all else, our love has always been about authenticity and vulnerability, which is precisely why our transitions have only made us stronger. Any challenges we have experienced as a result have had nothing to do with our transness but everything to do with toxic transphobia we have internalized or continue to experience from the world. Ultimately, what our love has afforded us is the option to cherish parts of ourselves we once tucked away. It has given us the best peace: the tranquility of no judgement.
The bottom line here is that (our) love is beyond anyone’s imagination. As you continue to read and experience us, please do so with openness and tenderness. We cannot emphasize enough how important it is to be compassionate when witnessing other people’s gender journeys. Without compassion, confusion and impatience are palpable, uncomfortable, and hurtful. If you are our friend, we hope you try to love and support us how we try to love ourselves and support each other: with kindness and patience.