Reactions to Caitlyn Jenner’s transition have spanned the predictably horrible to questioning misogyny and sexism in America/the world to talking about the difficulties transgender women of color face to a response from Laverne Cox pointing out that beauty isn’t the marker of womanity.
These reactions have also led to people–friends and family–calling and hitting up my various inboxes with questions about my wife’s transition, how we’re doing, whether supporting MtF transition upholds patriarchal/kyriarchal standards of beauty/power/oppression over women overall, asking about my wife’s genitalia, wanting to discuss Caitlyn’s transition and interviews and photo spreads, wanting to talk about/sympathize about people being rude about transgender individuals, and so on.
Amongst my seminary pals, I’m a known gender theorist. Amongst all my friends and family, my wife and I are out about her transition and our orientations. We’re open books, and generally we don’t mind being asked questions. In ‘peace times’–when there’s a ‘lull’ in transgender news reporting (when there’s not been a famous person to recently come out as transgender), I might get one or two people across a few months’ time who talk with me about transgender issues. But when someone famous comes out as transgender, everyone wants to light up my world.
It can be a little overwhelming for this introvert.
I have to wonder, from my perspective, how Caitlyn’s friends and family are doing. My wife and I–we have an interesting dynamic. There aren’t a whole lot of people who experience gender transition during marriage, and of those, there aren’t a whole lot who wind up staying together throughout the whole thing (for a variety of reasons).
Wife and I are obviously together. E and I love one another very much. Sometimes it’s weird, though.
We’re in our 30s, but she’s going through puberty again. I don’t mean the physical kind–although of course with her hormones, there’s that, too–but there’s an emotional puberty/adolescence. She gets to experience life as a girl in a way she couldn’t when she was younger. She’s having some of the experiences she should’ve been having when she was 12, 13, 14, 15 years old. I support her through it, but sometimes there’s a little bit of oddness to it. Sometimes I find myself thinking, I’m married to a 30-something teen-aged girl. How did that happen again?
She’s experimenting with clothing, flirting, doing her hair. Her body is changing, and she’s surveying those changes, mapping herself anew all the time. She’s excited by those changes, bounding up to me to show me, eyes lit up, her voice calling out, “Look! Look!”
I’m so glad for her. I’m so proud of her, for sticking it out, for going through the tough stuff she’s had to go through–facing her fears about coming out to family and friends, about coming out to me, about her own awkwardness with her body. I’m happy to be able to provide a safe space for her, to be her confidante, to hold her hand through this all and to push and guide where appropriate.
This has been years in the making, just as it has been for Caitlyn Jenner. The journey continues, the process continues. I hope that the Jenners/Kardashians are prepared for ‘teen girl mode,’ too. I hope that all who transition can find a safe, supportive environment in which to do so.