Why Did I Stay

When Arlo first told me they were planning on transitioning almost a year ago, one of the first things I frantically tried to find out was whether I should stay with them or cut my losses and leave. It was probably the most difficult question to find an answer to and most of the answers I found were extremely disheartening, in fact, it wasn’t until I came across another blog of a trans partner that I had any form of hope.

Well even though I was having a really difficult time processing that I was going to be dating someone I didn’t physically recognise, I’m a strong believer in that you should never end a relationship on a whim. The same way that you should never break up with someone during a fight because emotions are high and you might not even feel the same way in the morning. So I already knew even if I did leave the relationship I needed the news to settle first, I needed at least a month to process it and then I’d check in again and see how I felt. When I did check in with myself a couple of months later I felt a lot better, not amazing but better, and that was a very good sign that we were going to work together.

At the time Arlo told me about their transition I identified as a lesbian, not necessarily because I had fully examined my sexuality but because the label was very convenient. So when they came out I immediately worried that their gender and my sexuality were incompatible, but the more I thought about it the more I remembered having long conversations with my ex-girlfriend about not being able to work out if I was bisexual or a lesbian – and dating a girl at the time, I just chose lesbian so at least I had a sexuality.

I spent a lot of time examining my feeling towards, well, every gender I guess. Which is very difficult when you’re seeing someone, because trying to envision being with anyone who isn’t your partner, regardless of gender, if extremely difficult. As a queer woman I very much fancy women but trying to imagine kissing a woman – when the only person I want to kiss is Arlo – is really hard, let alone trying to imagine kissing men or other non-binary people. I still don’t think I’ve worked my sexuality out which is why I love using the label ‘queer’, I don’t have to know the specifics but I’m definitely not straight. If someone asks me to be more specific I tend to say bisexual, or pansexual but I definitely prefer identifying as ‘queer.’

At the beginning of Arlo’s transition I was absolutely terrified of two things: one, waking up and literally not recognising the person I’d fallen in love with; and two, having to tell my very middle-class, conventional, and cis-het family. What I didn’t realise about number one is that all these changes weren’t going to happen overnight, I wasn’t literally going to wake up to a stranger. Partners change all the time, they buy new clothes, cut and dye their hair, get new jobs, pick up new hobbies, make new friends. All of these occur over long periods of time and are completely normal, but if your partner did all of these things in one day it would seem like a drastic change. So when Arlo made a majority of social changes they happened in stages each a few months apart, first the haircut, then the pronouns, then the name, and soon top surgery – Arlo gave both themselves and me enough time to get used to each change before they moved onto the next one, and that made it significantly easier.

The fear of telling my family, however, was terrifying. I was already the first not-straight person in my entire family (including extended family) and now Arlo and I were about to be the first not-straight-and-not-cis-couple of both our families. Thankfully they took it pretty well, but the relief was indescribable. At the beginning I thought I was scared of Arlo’s transition – well I was a bit, change is scary – but I realised that I had actually been incredibly afraid of people’s reactions to Arlo’s transition. I should also mention that I have GAD (General Anxiety Disorder) which made it very difficult to know where the root of the anxiety was, all I knew was that I was very anxious; but still, I almost gave up my relationship because I was scared of what everyone else would think.

Also therapy is incredible. As part of the top surgery referral process, Arlo and I were required to have six private therapy sessions, and whilst we did talk about their non-binary identity we also talked about our relationship. Both Arlo and I have been through quite a bit of NHS therapy, but private therapy was a million times better, we managed to work through and discuss a massive variety of issues to help us both understand how the other one was feeling. If you can afford private therapy – even one session – I highly recommend it. I’m pretty frugal with money but I asked if we could go back to our therapist for more sessions, just because it helped us both so much.

So back to my original question when Arlo told me about their transition why did I stay? What made me not pack my bags and leave that evening? Well, I knew I needed to give myself some time before I made any big decisions; I knew that I had a pretty bad anxiety disorder that was most definitely screwing with my head, and I knew that there was a possibility that I wasn’t actually a lesbian after all. Arlo and I have an incredibly honest and trustworthy relationship, but I knew how scared they were tell me and to risk our relationship, so I knew how desperately they needed to transition. I love Arlo because they’re so caring, they love being with me, and they make me laugh so much; not because they use a particular name or pronouns, or have (soon to be had!) a female chest. As soon as I realised that I knew we were going to be okay. April 2019 I thought Arlo and I were over, January 2020 we’re starting to talk about getting engaged.

Mx

A couple of days ago Arlo and I sat down to start their legal name change via Deed Poll, and as they scrolled down the list of titles I saw ‘Mx’ – the non-gendered version of Mr/Mrs – and that was the title Arlo chose. Unsure if Mx was a title that all legal instituations in the UK would honour I did a little Googling, and it actually turns out that Mx has been a legally registered title since 2015!

It’s moments like this that I realise Arlo and I are actually very lucky to live in the UK, and that non-binary and genderqueer people are slowly being legally recognised.

Although it’s not all roses, the UK have refused to legalise ‘X’ gender markers on passports, driving liscences, and birth certificates a couple of times over claims that is would be too much of a change to their current system (I kid you not) and that it would create issues when travelling – despite the fact that Australia, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Malta, New Zealand and Pakistan all have ‘X’ as a gender marker and India, Ireland and Nepal¬†have various third-gender options.

Also at present in the UK you are required to be married according to your birth sex, so either as ‘husband’ or ‘wife.’ If Arlo and I got married today we’d be legally classified as ‘wife and wife’ which is pretty annoying, I’m hoping that will have changed by the time we actually get married.

It seems slow, but I remind my progress is happening, change is coming.

Some Good Things and Some Bad Things

It’s taken me 22 years to realise that sometimes life is just the worst. For Arlo and I October, November, and December have been pretty awful to us. In those three months within our family there has been a number of hospitalisations, cancer diagnoses, and two people died. During this Arlo was (and still is) holding down a full-time job, I was (and still am) in the busiest ever part of my degree, and we were (and still am) trying to keep Splodge sales up to cover the cost of the website subscription.

2019 in general was actually pretty rough – I’ll summarise it into ‘lots of things went wrong, and lots of people died’ – and I happily said goodbye to 2019 drunk, at a house party, next to the love of my life, crying (I think it’s fair to say I struggle with regulating emotions.) Despite having probably the worst year of my life, and waking up on January 1st feeling like my head was in a tumble dryer, today I am reminding myself good things have happened and are happening.

Arlo has told everyone about their new name and most people have been very supportive which is absolutely fantastic! Also people are beginning to use their correct pronouns which has made me super happy, Arlo’s dad used their correct pronouns today and I almost cried (poor emotional regulation again.) Shortly we’ll begin the process to legally change Arlo’s name so that they can enter their next job with a name that feels right to them.

Part of the reason 2019 was the worst year of my life is I lost my grandma who I was very close to, and it still makes me cry to think about it. However she left me some inheritance money which now means we can afford top surgery and the time Arlo will need to take off to recover! They have a surgery date booked for the 9th of March, so Arlo is only two months away from top surgery and I genuinely cannot wait. I don’t know when or how it happened but I realised that I always picture Arlo with a flat chest and so seeing their breasts is now really weird, and they no longer look like they belong on their body.

We’ve also discussed the fact that there’s always the possibility that one day Arlo may want to take testosterone to be read as male, and I am finally okay with that – although it has taken almost a whole year to process. Turns out I’m more attarcted to men (and masculine presenting people) than I first thought and so one day my partner may become my boyfriend, or they may always stay my partner, who knows.

Both Arlo and I have been incredibly depressed throughout November and December – probably due to the sheer amount of people that have died in 2019 – but whilst we were playing scrabble last night I disclosed that I’m begining to feel a little lighter, and Arlo is too. 2019 felt as if they was always a weight on my chest preventing me from breathing properly but today feels better and I hope our 2020 carries on this way.

Arlo

As I mentioned in my previous post my partner was unhappy with their current name and they’ve settled on a new one. It’s Arlo! Taken from the dinosaur in the Disney film The Good Dinosaur. As promised I’ve gone back through all of my old posts and changed Arlo’s old name to their current one which might have confused a couple people.

So if you’re new here and are thinking ‘Wait! I thought ‘Arlo’ had been your partner’s name all along?!’ I understand the confusion. I went back through all of my old posts and changed the name so that people wouldn’t get used to Arlo’s old name and then have to switch. However if you have seen people use Arlo’s old name ‘Soph’ (I’ve included it here because it’s pretty easy to find their old name especially on Arlo and I’s social media) they’re not dead naming I promise! They’re just using what was Arlo’s preferred name at the time.

If you’re not new here you might be confused as to why Arlo’s name has changed so drastically after being out as non-binary for a while. They found that when they were going by a shortened version of their birth name, people seemed to think it was optional – like a nickname, you didn’t have to use it but you could. Also Arlo had a very honest conversation with me about feeling like their name had too many female connotations, Arlo presents more masculine and (living in a very binary world) they would rather be misgendered as male than female. As ‘Arlo’ is a very new name it seems more male but doesn’t have any hugely strong connotations of gender.

The process of adapting to a new name is much more difficult than I thought – especially since I managed to do it with pronouns with such ease. If I think about the name before I say it, I use the correct one; and a couple times I’ve started saying Arlo’s old name and quickly corrected myself. However if it comes out my mouth before I think about it I use the wrong one. Arlo and I visited a friend who’s recovering from top surgery, and when I introduced Arlo and I used their birth name, not even their old name but their birth name. What’s worse is I didn’t even realise I’d done it so I never corrected myself until Arlo and our friend told me about it later. How I messed up that much I’ll never know. I felt terrible about it all day but I’m working on getting their name right every time.

What’s even more confusing is at the moment Arlo is only partially out about their name, so not everyone knows about it. Which means I’m currently flipping between Arlo’s current name and their old name depending on who we’re with. Hopefully after they’re out to everyone that will change and they can have a legal name change (yay!).

I prefer Arlo more than their old name anyway, I never felt like it suited them and I’m glad they’ve chosen something that feels like them. I’m looking forward to helping change Arlo’s name on all their paperwork and set up a new email address and such – it feels like starting over but in a really good way. When Arlo first came out to me as non-binary I thought I was losing my partner, it felt like mourning a death at some points. When I reality I only lost the bad parts, Arlo has been so much happier since coming out and it’s improved our relationship tenfold. I still associate their old name with a very sad and withdrawn person so having a new name feels like the perfect way to celebrate their new happiness and confidence.

I also realise there are very few photos of us on this blog so here’s the most recent one I could find (it’s of my 22nd birthday):

Arlo, they/them (left) and Rosie, she/her (right)

Image description: Arlo and Rosie stand in a garden wearing paper party hats. Arlo has short brown hair, brown eyes, and black glasses; Rosie has long auburn hair and blue eyes. Rosie has her arms around Arlo and they are both smiling.

Why Sam Smith Being Non-Binary is Such a Big Deal

At 10 years old I very vividly remember sitting in my bedroom crying because I had just come to the realisation that I didn’t like boys the way my friends did, I liked girls. Still crying, I opened up my first ever laptop and typed into Google ‘I’m a girl and I like girls’ and a glance at some forums told me I must be a lesbian, which made me cry even more. Though after some more Googling I found out that Ellen DeGeneres was a lesbain too, and that gave me a glimmer of hope. Ellen seemed to live a very normal life with her girlfriend Portia; she wasn’t openly ridiculed by the media or disowned by all her family and friends, in fact she seemed very happy and I thought maybe if Ellen can be happy dating women maybe one day I will be too.

Then when I was 13 years old and trying to explain to my mum that I liked girls and not boys, she asked me “So like Ellen DeGeneres?” And I said “Exactly like Ellen DeGeneres.” In that conversation Ellen was the only mainsteam example of a queer woman that both my mum and I knew; although my life was unlikely to look even vaguely similar to Ellen’s, she provided an example for my mum to understand what my life could look like if I settled down with a woman.

As a small anxious child Ellen DeGeneres gave me a way to understand my own sexuality and also explain it to others. I hope both Chaz Bono and Caitlyn Jenner (though not the best role model) also provided that function for trans kids; and I hope Sam Smith now provides that function for non-binary kids.

Sam Smith’s coming out is fantastic for so many reasons, for a long time non-binary and gender non-conforming identities have been looked down upon. The media seem to believe that identifying as anything other than male or female is something made up by edgy attention-seeking teens. So to have a successful adult celebrity – with a net worth of $25 million – identifying as non-binary is huge; it validates the non-binary and genderqueer identity in a way that reaches millions of people. Also as they’re a celebrity, Sam Smith’s coming out will reach lots of people that don’t even know about the concept of being non-binary, which works towards non-binary being a more widely accepted gender identity (yay!).

Sam has also asked that people use they/them pronouns for them, which will hopefully normalise and increase the amount of people using gender neutral pronouns – this is especially exciting for me because it means people will (hopefully) already be using they/them pronouns when I tell them my partner Arlo uses those pronouns too.

Sam’s coming out has been met with some backlash but it seems most people are supportive – even The Sun used Sam’s correct pronouns in an article about them. I am hugely grateful to Sam for coming out and being openly visible about their gender identity because it helps my partner Arlo and so many other genderqueer and non-binary people.

I hope that around the world non-binary people are coming out and being asked “Like Sam Smith?” and those people can say “Yeah, just like Sam Smith.”

Splodge

As I mentioned in the Top Surgery post Arlo and I are in the process of saving for their top surgery which is pretty pricey. We’re hoping to have Arlo’s top surgery booked for Summer 2020 (once we have the money for a deposit of course) and that is a relatively short amount of time to find ¬£7000.

Arlo toyed with the idea of setting up a GoFundMe to raise money but ultimately decided they wanted to give back to the people donating in some way. They came up with the idea of starting a small screen printing business, whereby we print our own designs onto T-Shirts and bags to sell online.

And so our tiny business Splodge was born! The way it works is Arlo (who’s a professional graphic designer) designs all the prints, then we both screen print the designs onto T-Shirts which are then sold online. The cool thing about buying from our little business Splodge is that we don’t have huge expenses (as it’s literally just Arlo and I printing designs on the dining table) and so all profits go into Arlo’s top surgery fund.

Also given the current state of climate change I was very adamant that we use environmentally friendly methods as much as possible. So the T-Shirts we buy use sustainably sourced cotton, the printing ink is eco friendly, and I’m currently looking into biodegradable mailing bags.

If anyone is interested we have a fully functioning website which accepts both credit/debit card and PayPal payments which you can find here: splodge.bigcartel.com

Or you can otherwise keep up to date with us via our Facebook or Instagram.

Identity

One of the first things I asked myself when Arlo came out is ‘Am I still a lesbian?’

For a long time I identified as a lesbian, after all I had an attraction to women and a lack of attraction to men, so this label suited my very nicely. In fact there was a point when – after being ridiculed for being non-straight your entire school life – being a lesbian became part of my identity. There was something wonderful about knowing I was never going to have to fit into the heteronormative gender roles that come with society. Being gay felt like I had freedom to choose not to settle down, not to marry, and not to have children. There was something so liberating about thinking I would always date women, and never men.

After developing my identity largely around my sexuality for 5 years I found it incredibly difficult to have that questioned. At first I thought I was still a lesbian and Arlo was just my exception, that I wouldn’t have dated them if I’d met them as a non-binary person, but that I loved them so much now that I was willing to stay.

We got into an argument about this and I said – and I am really not proud of this – “Your gender identity invalidates my sexuality!” Of course I was completely wrong, in fact it was my sexuailty that invalidated Arlo’s gender identity.

As time went on and I began to become more involved in the online non-binary community I realised that actually I found other non-binary people attractive too, and in exactly the way that I found women attractive. This meant I had to really sit down and examine my sexuality. I had to try and understand what qualities did people posses that made me attracted to them, and if I was attracted to masculine presenting non-binary people why wasn’t I attracted to men?

I think – and I emphasise think – that I’ve worked it out. I am attracted to people who’s bodies run off oestrogen. Turns I’m not fussed about the presence or absence of boobs, I don’t care about genitals, I care about hormones (I honestly don’t know why). So I’m attracted to all women (cis or trans), AFAB non-binary people not on testosterone, and AMAB non-binary people on oestrogen. Why? Literally the only thing I can boil it down to is, in terms of seeking a partner, I personally don’t like masculine voices.

When I finally realised that I understood why I find most women attractive, some non-binary people attractive, and no men attractive. I knew I could no longer identify as a lesbian/gay but there’s not a widely used label for my incredibly specific sexuality. I tried bisexual (the two genders I’m attracted to being women, and non-binary people) but after a few conversations most people just assumed that I was attracted to men and women. Then I tried pansexual which is a more accurate label but assumes I’m attracted to everyone – which I’m not.

So I settled on the label ‘queer’, the thing I love about using queer as an idenity is it’s so vague and ecompasses so many sexuailities. When I say I identify as queer people understand that I’m not straight, but not willing to be specific about my identity. Also queer is tied to a movement that rejects the binaries of gender and sexuality, a movement that is much needed but feels kind of radical.

So am I still a lesbian? Well the answer to that is no. I was worried that changing the label on my sexuality would destroy my identity, but actually identifying as queer is much more freeing and liberating than identifying as a lesbian ever was.