“Could I be someone’s ideal partner?” is a question asked by perhaps almost every person at some point. Whether that’s a question regarding the validity of soulmates or of monogamy is one thing, but for many gender diverse people raised in a cisnormative society, this question becomes one of “Am I enough? Am I what they expect of a partner?” But love is an action that transcends expectation, there is no prerequisite for cisness in fostering a healthy and loving relationship, and nowhere is this proven greater than the rebellion of queer love.
Growing up, I was all too familiar with the rigidity of gender required by our popular culture, to the point I had internalised it; the woman daintily falling perfectly into the man’s arms, her head lying exactly 20 cm below his chiselled chin, one clad in soft pastels and the other in a fresh-pressed suit (you might be able to guess who). Whilst, yes, it is good to show genuine happiness and closeness in a relationship, to me this monotony was stifling; a direct barrier to real and romantic connection. And so I struggled, but dearly tried, to fit what I thought a man should be, and what a woman should want.
Never mind that all of this was made a lot more difficult by the fact that I was also into men, and that I had marked a self-cut bowl cut as the height of fashion, my efforts proved to be in vain, and so I stopped trying. I gave in to an authentic sense of self. I publicly wore down the identity I had tried to fit and instead became the me I truly was, asserting my goals and boundaries and ambitions and attractions. This was no overnight feat, mind you, but it was the beginning of a lifelong process into being authentically and queerly myself.
It was then, and only then, when I had shown willingness to be openly me, that I ended up stumbling into the arms of the love of my life. But there was no “okay now ride on horseback into the sunset together”, nor do I think there will be for a long time. For one, my horse-riding skills have only just advanced to a trot. But truthfully, a good relationship is loving work. There is no one moment where either of us could stop figuring ourselves out, stop exploring our boundaries and desires, or stop asserting our needs. There’s lots of un/learning and self-discovery that gets tagged on to the general motions of life, but the great thing is that you get the privilege of doing it together.
Still, when you’re or your partner/s is transgender, gender non-conforming, and/or gender expansive, your relationship can look and feel different to any notions of a relationship and intimacy you might have built up… it can be a hard and long process to unpack all that. That’s why being with someone who is also on the same page of growth and self-discovery is so important; it’s okay to get things wrong, it’s only human, but you deserve to be on the same page and understood in a relationship, and you (and your partner/s) deserve to feel safe and respected in your body and choices. A partnership is equal, and if there is no pride in your relationship from both parties, then there’s some growing to do. Your partner/s should be someone that stands up for you and someone that you are able to stand up for, so never settle for someone who wouldn’t.
There is, of course, push back from the public and the “how do you like… do it?” questions: for the ignorant we’re happy to be open on our terms as an introduction to the queer space, to the malicious we disengage, and instead come back to each other with support and care. When questioned about our activities by someone who easily fit both definitions, my partner simply stated, “And why does that concern you?” Rather than being overwhelming and a sign of us being something different in a bad way, these conversations become a reminder that our love is revolutionary to many, and that through it all we can become each other’s safety.
For those of you reading now who may be wanting to jump straight into a relationship for the sake of it, I give you this advice: Don’t. Becoming comfortable in knowing yourself first is an incredibly helpful lifelong skill and, whilst you may not even know where to start on that journey, it’s a good idea to be sure of your own wants, boundaries, and ideas before then having to adapt to others’. But to those who are ready, or are “courting”, then I say go for it proudly! Know what you’re about and know your worth! And try not to fall into the fallacy that only a certain way of performing gender guarantees love; there is no preset, no formula, and no moment in time that can ever take love away from the queer community.