In many respects, my partner and I are nothing alike. Opposites attract, right? Madeline* is a huge video game nerd, loves a chilled glass of wine, and is a chicken nugget connoisseur. I, on the other hand, prefer to put my nose in a book, enjoy a cup of tea and have been a vegetarian for over a decade. She performs folk-punk music on stage to hundreds, I huddle with my laptop under a blanket, out of sight. From the outside, we couldn’t seem more different.
But to those who know us well, we are more well-matched than it seems at first glance. At our core, we are both introverts, as happy in our own company as we are in others’. We’ve already decided how many dogs we’ll own, and what their names will be. We even share the exact same birthday, born about ten hours apart (I know, it’s a touch too cute). As it happens we’re also both bi and transgender.
In the early days of our relationship, we bonded over our bisexuality. Sharing our experiences and preferences led to plentiful conversations about our romantic and sexual interests. Finding a life partner who understood me on such a fundamental level was incredible. Moreover, we were both incredibly passionate about being a part of our local LGBT community and felt a strong connection to queer culture.
With respect to both sexuality and gender identity, our respective journeys of discovery and self-acceptance vary slightly. I came out as bi at the ripe old age of 12, and later as a trans man at 14. By the time I met Madeline I’d been out and proud, my “authentic self”, for five years. When we first got together three years ago, Madeline had been openly bi for a number of years, as was identifying as non-binary, though largely presenting in a masculine way, bearded and all.
So imagine my surprise when two years into our relationship she’s pacing back and forth in front of me in our living room, near tears, and announces, “Charlie, I’m a girl. I’m trans.”
Of course I was accepting. How could I not be? I’d been there, and coming out as trans is no joke. But a small part of me was worried. Yes, I was bi and attracted to women, but how would this change the dynamics of our relationship? Would this bring about the gendered stereotyping of what should be expected of me as the “man” of the house? This, I feel, is where our bisexuality came into play in such a key way. Neither of us had ever been interested in a heteronormative relationship dynamic before, so why would that change just because we were now a “straight” couple? I had known for over a decade I was just as attracted to women as much as men — in fact, I’d always had a slight preference towards people who were more feminine.
Soon, we were discussing new plans for our immediate future. Whilst she had identified as non-binary before, she had never openly shared any desire to medically transition (undergo hormones, surgery, or other treatments to alter her body) and so I had never felt I had the space to discuss my own wishes for my trans body and medical transition. I opened up to her about fears and anxieties I'd never felt brave enough to share with anyone else before, and in turn, she shared hers too. Unfortunately, I have not been able to begin my medical transition yet, but as Madeline began hers, the change was immeasurable.
Watching Madeline blossom into her femininity, experimenting with make-up and feminine clothing, embracing her naturally curvaceous hips… It awakened a deeper attraction within me. Yes, I was in love with Madeline. I had always been in love with Madeline. But watching her unfurl out of her fears and anxieties and into a woman was a total game changer. Her confidence in her trans identity grew, and I found myself demonstrating her attitude toward my own body.
As the months went on, both of us began to feel more liberated in gender expression. I didn’t hurry to cover my nakedness after sex, and came to feel comfortable enough to walk about in the nude. Madeline too embraced her bare skin, and the two of us would sit in happy conversation whilst she applied her hormone gel in the late afternoons. Living in British society, where trans people are dissected in the media for daily public entertainment, our flat became a paradise of safety and radical trans acceptance. I could lament my large chest without feeling I had to cover up for her acceptance, and she could vent about the stresses of facial and body hair with no expectation from me to shave it off.
It’s for this reason that I find it so frustrating when people assume that I or my partner have “the best of both worlds”. It negates my masculinity as a trans man, just as it negates my partner’s femininity as a trans woman. It also perpetuates the stereotype that bi people “can’t decide”; that being with a trans person is like being with multiple genders at once. The benefits of being in a bi T4T (“trans for trans") relationship are numerous and fabulous, but “having a bit of both” isn’t among them.
Our mirrored bisexuality, as well as our trans and queer identities, have brought us closer together in our relationship than ever before, and I feel known and seen in a way I never could have imagined. There is so much comfort in knowing that Madeline loves every part and all of me, regardless of my shape, sex, or gender, and that I feel the same way about her. It’s beautiful.
*Name changed for privacy