Written by c m taylor.
Photo by Haili Jean Co.
My queerness was a passive experience for much of my life. I came out as bisexual freshman year of high school, when somebody asked if I liked girls and I said “yes.” There was no deep thought, no bombshell of realization, just a question I hadn’t considered and an answer I didn’t need to. Like being right-handed or having red hair. A thing inconsequential enough not to share with my parents who I assumed would just have to deal with it should I ever bring a girl home. An inarticulable stuntedness plagued my romantic relationships with mostly cis men.
I was given space to wander into the corners of my gender by the exquisite shelter of another trans person.
I had considered my own transness before dating a non-binary person, but not enough to own or name it. I’m ashamed to admit to having been one of those “but why does it matter” jerks behind closed doors when it came to gender-neutral pronouns: it was defensive, a mechanism to avoid recognizing my desire to escape the confines of the incorrect language being used to describe me. In hindsight, I didn’t want to reframe my understanding of the theys I knew who looked like me. I’d have to reframe myself.
When I met my husband, their pronouns were hammered into me by their roommate before I’d ever seen their face. As I fell in love with them, reasonable boundaries they erected to protect themself as a trans person dating a cis person felt inexplicably like being lectured on a subject in which I already had a degree. Their request that I not use cis-ifying language during kink play made me angry, not because I wanted to call them daddy but because I didn’t want to be their good girl and I didn’t know how to say so. At the same time, they were embracing aspects of me I had never dared demonstrate to a partner. Parts I had scarcely looked at myself. Coming out to my partner was a series of slow steps. “Can you only use the word ‘partner’ instead of ‘girlfriend’?” “Can you call me ‘good slut’ in bed instead of ‘good girl’?” “Can you not use my name during sex?” They asked me if they should switch my pronouns before I’d worked out how.
The bubble we lived in was gloriously protected by quarantine. Our home was yoga leggings, big pastel sweatshirts, and them cooking while I paid the bills. We danced in our kitchen with our cats and made music together. I held them while they wept and they told me how good I looked in my first binder. I was given space to wander into the corners of my gender by the exquisite shelter of another trans person. I proposed because I am certain this is the happiest, the most harmonious love I will ever know. I am certain that that happiness and harmony are owed to the honesty inherent in our glorious queerness.
To love my partner the way they deserve, the way I vowed to, I am obligated to leave behind my passivity.
It is a privilege (made greater by my and my partner’s whiteness) to be bisexual and non-binary in a “straight passing” relationship in that we are not subject as often as many queer couples are to on-sight bigotry. It is simultaneously not always a guaranteed protection. My 6’1” partner in their beard and tiny spandex shorts gets snide comments and sometimes even physical confrontation at the grocery store, no matter how femmed-up I am holding their hand. We laugh at the aggressive “sir”s when we have the energy. Still, for me, the difficult part is navigating my relationships to those with whom I was close before.
Being engaged and now married has forced me to come out and come out and come out. To love my partner the way they deserve, the way I vowed to, I am obligated to leave behind my passivity. I don’t get to be the bisexual who happens to be dating a boy nor the non-binary person who doesn’t mention their identity. I am a bisexual, non-binary person married to another bisexual, non-binary person and our success depends on erecting reasonable boundaries to protect our trans love in a cis world, one which includes our jobs and families. I come out every time I correct a coworker who just said “he.” I come out every time I remind my family again that while I do have a husband, I did not marry a boy.
In learning to defend the language my partner prefers, I have finally found the voice for my own preferences as well.
My queerness is no less a fact than it was before, no less obvious than my right-handedness or red hair. But with a ring on my finger and a beautiful trans person whom I love at home, I must now insist on its being respected in a way I’d never been brave enough to do. In learning to defend the language my partner prefers, I have finally found the voice for my own preferences as well. Acting according to their sexual boundaries allowed me to enforce mine for the first time. Enforcing my own boundaries has allowed me to explore uncharted options. One active choice begets another.
I have quietly accepted who I am a long time. But for my first gay-married Pride, I want to be loud. My queerness is no longer passive. My queerness is alive. My queerness is as active and determined and as enormous as the love which unleashed it from its hidden place. My queerness likes to wear lipstick and combat boots and a binder and it likes to be called “they.” And I am so proud.
About The Author
c m taylor is a poet, songwriter, painter, and essayist living in Buffalo, NY. They earned their BA in Creative Writing and Dance Studies from Knox College in 2016. They serve as Art Editor for Variant Lit. You can learn much more from and about them on Twitter.