Friday, February 11, 2011

Coming Out: My love for my autistic girlfriend

Oh, look at that, it's just in time for Valentine's Day too! Not intended on my part; this has just been the first day I've been able to get back on my blogging feet. Sorry about the delay.
Anyways, one of the reasons I've been having a difficult time getting around to blogging hasn't just been schoolwork. Seventeen credits is a bit of a workload, but there's something that's been going on in my life which I haven't been disclosing to my readers, or to anyone really, until very recently. It's something which has forced me to re-examine my life, and is going to cast the privileges I have/had in a whole new light.
You may have noticed a slight shift in tone the few times I've discussed my romantic life with my significant other. At first, I used exclusively male pronouns, said "my boyfriend", and talked about his talents, his non-neurotypicality, etc etc. If you're sharp-eyed and a very devoted reader, you may have noticed that I've switched up to using gender-neutral language more and more. "My boyfriend" has become "my partner" or "my significant other", and pronouns of any type are used sporadically.
The time has come for me to admit this is not coincidental. Nor is it an attempt at being more progressive and in solidarity with gender-non-conformists. This is because my significant other is a woman. An autistic woman. Just like me. Right now, she is in the process of exploring different gender expressions before deciding on whether or not to move into the territory of hormones and surgery, and we have an excellent therapist working with her to make this as stress-free and smooth as possible.
I have always known deep down that my girlfriend was not a typical person, either neurologically or gender-wise. When she first disclosed to me that she wanted her outside appearance to match her inside, it came as no surprise to me, and I have done my very best to try to be a supportive girlfriend, and will continue to do so. It didn't take me much time to switch pronouns in my head, and switch names as well. But I refrained from disclosing my girlfriend's true gender to others, adhering to her request to not be "outed" until she was ready. Now though, with her permission, the only time I use masculine pronouns and names in reference to her is when speaking to my parents or people whom my girlfriend is not ready to tell about her true self. I respect that, but there's something more than wanting to be "ready" that motivates us from not being open about it. And that is fear.
I am fearful of the reactions of my mother and stepfather, who are virulently homophobic and ridicule trans people. The last time my mother and I encountered a trans friend of mine, she spent the better part of an hour (After my friend had left) babbling, "But, but, how does she look so, REAL? So, not like a man in a dress?!" And the words of my stepfather would be graffiti on this post, so I will not write them.
I fear the fact that not all people will be accepting of this relationship, and that we will be perceived as "attention seeking" just for trying to live our lives and love each other in a way that feels right.
For a while, I feared that the revelation that my girlfriend is a woman would drive several of her friends to blame me for the change, because I'm a vocal feminist and I feared they would think I "brainwashed" her.
But most of all, I fear how I will come to terms with our lost privilege. When we were perceived as a heterosexual couple, it never crossed our minds that our public displays of affection could inspire jeering or violent reactions. We could fearlessly go into any restaurant, any "couples"-oriented event, or dream of travelling to any tourist-town. Holding hands while walking was acceptable, and exchanging the occasional hug and kiss wouldn't draw a second glance.
One we fully come out of the closet though, that will be a luxury we can no longer afford. Even in the most gay-friendly cities, our love is considered deviant from the norm. The fact that my girlfriend is a trans woman will add to that, many who are less-than-homophobic still express a great disdain for trans people. We will no longer be able to dream of vacations to foreign countries (Beloved and I are both history enthusiasts) without first considering whether we would be safe there. And even in my own country, the United States, our love will no longer be legally recognized as valid enough to warrant a marriage. Meanwhile, in my girlfriend's country, Stephen Harper and conservatives are working to ensure that a bill which would guarantee freedom from discrimination in the law for trans individuals is defeated in the senate. This has led to many jokes between my girlfriend and me, where whenever something homophobic or transphobic rears its ugly head in our own countries, we start dreaming up our exodus to Sweden.
All joking aside though, being closeted meant a plethora of invisible privileges which are beginning to unravel, but there is more freedom out of that closet than any amount of PDA and trips to Morocco could buy. My girlfriend and I are resolute that we stay together, and that we fight together for our right to be recognized as a loving couple. Not just legally, but socially as well. It won't be easy, but nothing worth fighting for ever is. In the immortal words of Capt. Picard: "If we are to be damned, let's be damned for what we really are."
Remember: Freedom is merely privilege extended, unless enjoyed by one and all.


  1. What wonderful news for your girlfriend, and how heartwarming to me personally to see your warmth and supportiveness about it (I've had...somewhat less wonderful reactions to my history, on occasion). Wishing you both the best of luck on what can be a really wild and fascinating journey.

  2. Спасибо, CaitieCat. We're both a bit nervous, but I'm looking forward to it as one of the most amazing learning processes we will ever go through together.

  3. Today, I discovered Pat Parker. Here's one of her poems for you that I think applies.
    "For The Straight Folks Who Don't Mind Gays But Wish They Weren't So Blatant"
    You'll have to scroll down to it.

  4. That's a great poem, coastliveoak. I'm not as polite as Pat Parker is though, so if anyone *does* tell her and I not to be so blatant, I'm going to have a lot more to say than just "after you".