I bring up my ex, Brandon, and how “different” Matt is quite often. My immediate reaction is to apologize.
It’s not fair to compare the two. Brandon was younger. He was less mature. Most importantly, he had less experience with life.
The only heartbreak Brandon had ever known was saying goodbye to his kid sister at the end of a visit. His biggest accomplishment was his high school diploma. His life goal was a steady 9-5 with a desk and a window.
None of this was bad. None of it was wrong, or unacceptable. It just wasn’t good enough for me.
When I was still engaged to Brandon, I had a moment. I realized that there was a language that some couples spoke that I hadn’t learned.
I fluently spoke mediocre-relationship. I was good at passive-aggressively defending my desire for a specific restaurant. I was excellent at coercing him to run with me. I could teach a college course on navigating sub-par conversations and I aced the final in wrapping up one’s self-worth in the happiness of someone else. I’d settled for not feeling wanted. I’d grown great at pretending to be in a healthy, loving, and balanced relationship.
He was content with our static life. It pleased him. It was good enough for him.
The carpet underfoot would crunch with ramen noodles when I came home from a weekend away. It would never cross his mind to vacuum. It wasn’t on his radar.
His laundry would pile up and I would surprise him by washing it and putting it away, only for him to complain that it was on the wrong shelf.
His hand never found its way into mine. We would hold hands when I reached for his, but never a second sooner.
His idea of cooking dinner for me after a long day was unwrapping the plastic on a frozen pizza and pre-heating the oven.
I didn’t realize what I was missing until I saw another couple communicating in a completely different language than the one that I was using.
Once I saw that something else existed, I knew I couldn’t stay any longer. I was tired of us speaking past each other.
When I met Matt, I knew immediately that he and I communicated in a language that I’d never spoken.
When I talk, I know Matt is listening. Not because I’ve asked him a hundred times explicitly, but because I know that he wants to hear what I have to say.
When it started to snow last night and Matt noticed first, he pointed out the window to show me. When I looked back at him, with a big grin on my face, he was looking at me. He was deriving joy from my joy. He looks forward to snow just to see my goofy grin.
When we climb together, there’s no sense of competition. I never felt embarrassed when I couldn’t reach the top. He only showed encouragement and love.
When we’re deciding what’s for dinner, or what movie to watch, or whose family to visit when… It never turns to an argument. We continue a constant discussion: How important is it to you? Neither of us is disappointed to concede to the other.
It’s easy. It’s simple. It’s based on mutual respect.
My comparisons between Brandon and Matt aren’t meant to be malicious. They aren’t meant to highlight anyone’s faults. The language that Brandon and I spoke was the only one I’d ever really known. And as I learn what is to be in a relationship with Matt, I can’t help but think back to how much different my life was and could have been.
The roads are always icy and bad during the winter in Minnesota, but as our date fell on the day following a week-long snow storm, we both agreed to let each other know when we were home safe. After quick messages of “Home safe” and “I had a great time,” I realized it was well past midnight and I should probably at least pretend I was tired.
Saturday was interesting, I was still riding the high from out amazing date but I was contemplative. I needed to tell her, but I couldn’t figure out how.
Sunday is cleaning day. I spent the whole day thinking, processing, and cleaning my apartment. I called and Skyped my friends. I talked it out. I wrote, rewrote, and deleted drafts upon drafts of text messages telling Steph about being trans. Meanwhile, Steph and I were texting semi-frequently, though I was noticeably more distant than I had been the past week.
It was never a question of not being comfortable with who I am, what I’ve gone through, or what it would mean to be a trans man in a relationship with a cis-woman. I wasn’t even scared of rejection as a whole. I just didn’t want to be rejected by THIS woman, because I had such a strong connection to her in such a short time. Basically, I didn’t want my fear that it was all too good to be true to be a reality.
So in the midst of trying to plan a date for the following day (Monday) this happened:
And then we had a weird and awkward and interesting conversation that was both about our date and about to logistics of me being trans, what that means to me, what that would mean for her, etc.
The whole conversation lasted a few hours. I was as open as possible and she asked whatever questions came to mind. I knew that I had to provide her with bare honesty, and I wanted to, too. I wanted to share with her because I felt like she would understand.
I met her for pizza and a comedy show the next day after work. It was another incredible date. We kept talking, and even when everything seemed to be coming to a close we weren’t ready to be done in each other’s company, so I invited her over.
Now, don’t get ahead of yourself… I just wanted to keep talking with her. I wanted to soak her up. I was on the edge of my seat waiting for the words to fall from her lips. I was hungry for her in the purest of ways. I wanted to hold her, protect her, watch her grow, watch her leave me and come back to me; I just wanted to be around her.
She followed me home and we talked into the night and cuddled before falling asleep together.
We planned the third date for Wednesday. Dinner and drinks back at my apartment.
This whole time she was asking me about my past and I was asking her about her past. The fact that I am trans was just another thing to discuss, but it was never the thing to discuss. She was curious about my background and history just as much as I was curious about hers. We both brought up our struggles and our pains. We brought up our passions and our personal victories. We shared so much of ourselves with each other from the start. We embraced each other’s souls with laughter and compassion.
I asked her to be my girlfriend that night. She said yes and it’s been the most amazing adventure of my life.
And that’s how I met my Steph, how I told her I was trans with a text message, and how we started falling in love.
Hey, internet. I’m Steph.
I’ve always been an “ally”. People are people and I believe they should be allowed to do what makes them happy (unless that’s killing babies, but you get the point). I helped organize the GSA’s Day of Silence at my high school. I’ve run Minneapolis’ Big Gay Race three years in a row.
My exposure to transfolk and trans-related issues before meeting Matt was absolutely zero. The image in my head of “trans” was incredibly vague, if not non-existent. I’d never met an openly trans person and I’d never even seen pictures of anyone, other than Chaz Bono, who was to my knowledge a transgender individual.
Matt is my boyfriend, but when he told me he was a trans guy our relationship was still quite new.
A few months ago I sent a cute guy a message through an online dating site. We messaged back and forth for a few days before setting up our first date.
Based on my interest in wine and the appeal of an intoxicated first impression we had dinner and drinks. We talked for hours over two flights of wine, two entrees, and bacon covered dessert. Having never smiled so much in my life, I talked him into walking across one of Minneapolis’ many beautiful bridges with me. At one point he snuck his hand in mine. I beamed.
I’d parked right near the restaurant and not wanting to end our date just yet I offered to drive him over to his car (two blocks, ladies and gentlemen… I was so into him). In my car, my beloved Saab, he asked me if he could kiss me. Matt was, and had been all night, unlike any of the other suitors I’d met online. I can’t remember if my response was of course or simply nodding my head, but I drove home that night with butterflies.
The next day or text message conversation was limited compared to those prior. We were both working and in hindsight I’m sure he was frightened to inform me of his “situation”. One glass of wine into the evening, I said (quite crassly, because I’d waited all day for him to ask me first) that we should go on a second date. The next few text messages are hard to recap, so here they are verbatim:
Re-reading that my response seems so calm. Honestly? I was in an absolute panic.
Let’s rewind for a minute…
Throughout my college career I only seriously dated one guy. Let’s call him Brandon. Brandon and I got engaged toward the end of our Junior year. That summer I took a trip to the West Coast to visit a close friend and his newlywed wife. My relationship with Brandon had already been rocky, but seeing the joy my friend and his wife shared created even more doubt. Over and over in my head I assured myself that I deserved to feel the spark that my Oregonian friends had. I gave Brandon back his ring the day I landed in Minnesota. Our breakup was rocky, but I learned a lot about myself and what I was looking for in a partner.
Around the beginning of the new year I opened an account on OkCupid account. I went on dates with 4 or 5 guys and exclusively saw (and broke up with) one other guy before Matt and I started talking. My online experience was similar to that of a lot of women… Meaningful conversations with a few fellas, but an overwhelming number of sexual advances from creeps.
Anyway, the story at hand…
I’m thankful that I had google at my fingertips as Matt came out to me. I immediately googled “trans guy” came across a list of 10 Things Not to Say to a Trans Person:
- “Have you had ‘the operation’?”
- “Which bathroom do you use?”
- “If you combed your hair a certain way, walked a certain way, did ____ a certain way, you would be more masculine/feminine.”
- “When did you decide to become transgender/transsexual?”
- “You pass really well.”
- “I thought you’d be a monster – but you’re just a normal person!”
- “How do you have sex?”
- “I can still see the woman (or the man) in you.”
- “Are you afraid that people will hate you or want to hurt you?”
- “What does being a man (or a woman) mean to you?”
Given the fact that we’d intended to have sex with each other eventually these rules didn’t all apply. I asked him about hormone therapy, top surgery, his transition timeline, his junk–for lack of a better word–and even sex. I asked questions that I would never feel the need to ask a cis-gender male, but I did my best to be (and having asked Matt after-the-fact I believe I succeeded in being) respectful.
A lot of questions came up, but not necessarily all at once and definitely not all that night. Transitioning is a process and so is understanding what it means to date a trans person.
So, I began that process with Matt.
More on that process in part 2…
We are Matt and Steph. Matt is a trans-guy and Steph is a cis-girl.
You may be familiar with Tiff and Dade (ElectricDade on YouTube), a couple who found each other before Dade identified as a man, married as a same-sex-couple, and then went through the transition process when Dade made the decision to become a truer version of himself. As you watch their videos you are given an intimate look into how their relationship dynamic has evolved and adjusted to their new normal, including the start of a beautiful family.
We have both found these videos to be an amazing resource but they never really captured our situation or experiences, and while there are other coupled voices in the trans community, we’ve felt that they haven’t articulation the kind of information that we would have liked to hear.
Matt is a problem solver. If he can’t find a solution, he’ll make one.
We want to expand the resources and discourse for trans folk and their partners. We want to make it easier for people to get information about what it’s like to be in a relationship with a trans person and what it’s like as a trans person in a relationship.
We want to cover everything from sex to communication, meeting the parents to style advice, advice for people new to the game to advice for people years and decades into their transition.
We know what we want to talk about, but this isn’t just about us. We want to provide content that people want to hear about. So, that’s where you come in. We need topics! Help us help you! Email us at MattAndStephShow@gmail.com
Matt and Steph
PS: This is an apology to those that have stumbled over here from Reddit. We had initially posted there asking for topic ideas for a YouTube channel, but after a little bit of procrastination and anxiety on Matt’s part, anonymity won out and thus a faceless blog was born. I will talk more on this topic in a bit, but for now, this apology will have to do. I’m sorry this isn’t a YouTube channel, but it might just be better this way.