Queer femme hearts trans man: the legitimacy of love

Guest post by Chelsea O'Neil
fingerprint rings

It's happened on a handful of occasions. I mention that my partner and I are planning a wedding and the person I am talking to, someone that I don't know very well at all, responds with “Will it be a real wedding?” Ouch.

What I imagine they were looking for was some clarification of the legality of the marriage, since we're not straight.

It also made me feel defensive because I am a woman and my partner is a man — yes, he is transgender… but questioning if our wedding is real also brings up Pinnochio-like questions of whether or not he is a “real boy.”

Other couples don't get these questions, particularly heterosexual and cisgender couples. I don't want things like that to hurt… but they do. This really hurt my heart.

For LGBTQ people, and often other marginalized communities, intimate love and wedded bliss may seem unattainable. Society tells so many of us that we will not be worthy of love “until” or “unless” or in “real” ways. The messages are to lose more pounds, to change what makes us different, to fit in, to conform, to assimilate, to stop pushing our agenda… then and only then will we find acceptance.

Being fully, unapologetically ourselves comes with risks and can be both contentious and dangerous. We are violated, belittled, deprived of love, victimized, isolated and left wanting… both by larger systems and communities, and by people we thought we could trust. Amidst the pain or discomfort, we have to remember that there is hope.

Our own wedding planning process continues to be a source of connection and celebration for both of us as well as a reminder of just how queer we are. I love weddings. I am a sucker for a good love story. I am in love with the details, and the ritual, and the ceremony, and I have served in nearly every capacity for others. I am an officiant, a photographer, your right-hand maid of honor, and your last-minute hairdresser and make-up artist. I've surfed the hetero-mainstream blogs for years and have come to the realization that I don't see myself in any of it.

We started our own blog as a place for complex identities and representation of voices and faces and relationships that want to honor their love with ritual, ceremony and celebration! I am forever grateful to Offbeat Bride for doing much of the same.

For me and my partner, experiences with gender, sexuality, and body acceptance have been very painful at times and continue to challenge us both. Together we have found a lot of healing and the strength to continue to work to be unapologetic about who we are by sharing our love story and seeking out others who reflect our values and experiences. We have been transformed by our love for each other and want to keep sharing and shouting from the rooftops that queer people can find love and healing across and because of their differences, not in spite of them… even if they choose to play by their own rules.

It doesn't matter if you have a traditional church wedding, a tasteful non-denominational golf course ceremony, or a super-pagan shindig in the woods, officiated by your lesbian friend from college — straight couples are not likely be questioned about how “real” their wedding will be. I know that our love is real and that our ceremony will be a very significant and meaningful moment for both of us and the people who love us — that's what matters. Our own love story is proof that it's possible.

It is essential to our survival and our mental health to connect with other people and share our experiences… to remind each other that we are enough. We deserve to be loved. We are beautiful. So this post is for the fat kids, and the gender queer, and the too dark or too light, and the others who feel like outcasts and misfits… those who have been told that you will be alone forever… that no one can love you fully and truly as you are… that you are not enough.

Our love is real in all of its forms.

Dinosaur trans buttons

Comments on Queer femme hearts trans man: the legitimacy of love

  1. I think (hope) they didn’t mean anything by it either, but a small bit of tact and asking if it was a legally recognized wedding instead goes a long way. Fortunately, we’re quickly moving towards a time where the question won’t need to come up, because more and more states in the US and countries outside of it are changing laws towards civil rights for all gender associations/types and marriage options.

    For those who know any LGBTQ couples please take a minute to remember they get denied and outright told they shouldn’t be in love more than you’d think. The actual statistics of how often in an engagement they’ll be rejected by vendors or other strangers is extremely disturbing. Sorry I can’t remember the figures off the top of my head!

  2. As a lesbian who has just recently gotten engaged, I have been asked no less than 5 times if my wedding will be legal. It’s been asked by friends and family (all cis, heterosexual humans) and I’m going to be honest: I hate it. I think it’s tacky and by them even asking, it’s as if my wedding is somehow less than a straight wedding. It IS legal here, but c’mon – do a bit of research. Also, think about how it might make someone feel to question whether or not their weddings will be legitimate.

    OP, I’m sorry you’re being asked if your wedding is “real”. That’s even worse than being asked if it’s legal.

    • Urgh! And what difference does it make to the person asking whether your ceremony is a legally binding one or not?

      You are saying that you are getting married. You are saying that you are planning a wedding. You are using those words purposefully and people should accept those words at face value. Whether or not you are having a legally binding wedding is immaterial, you are telling them that you are committing yourselves to each other and that surely is all that they need to know.

      To Chelsea & partner and Morgan & partner, I wish you many happy years of married life together.

  3. I’m so, so sorry your entire legitimacy is questioned by people. And I’m sorry for any hostility that questioning takes on.

    My whole week has been sort of awful; we have to replace sewer pipes to the tune of four grand, my stepfather’ health is…very bad, my fiancé’s family is expecting a more traditional wedding than we may be capable of….but no one has asked if it’s real. We pass for a cis-gender straight couple, and have all the presumed legitimacy thereof. People ask me if I’m converting to Judaism; no one’s asked me if the wedding will be real.

    I’ve always been a sort of loudmouth about calling people on gender related privilege, knowing damn well that I get advantage for presenting in a heteronormative fashion, but posts like yours make me feel like maybe I’m helping, because dammit, people are still jerks to people who don’t fit their notion of what should be. Even if they don’t get that they’re being jerks.

    You write beautifully, I love your blog, and keep on keepin on! And if anyone needs any yelling at, send ’em my way. I have four grand’s worth of sewer pipe bills to fuel my rage. 😀

  4. 🙁 That sucks that someone would ask whether your wedding is “real.” A wedding is real regardless of whether it is legally binding or not, in terms of the couple’s love and commitment to each other.

    To some previous posters: It’s important to remember that being legally wed comes with all sorts of benefits from a legal, healthcare, and government perspective. That is why we continue to fight for marriage equality. A strong commitment to a partner is an amazing and beautiful thing, but no amount of commitment will get you decision rights for healthcare purposes, tax benefits, and so forth unless the wedding is legally binding, or you go through an arduous legal process to get all of the contracts written up appropriately (though you still won’t get tax benefits).

    So I think that asking someone if a wedding will be legally binding is a legitimate question, especially if you are a family member of the person getting married in a state that doesn’t have marriage equality. In my state, marriage equality is still very much a dream— we’re solidly in the Bible Belt—so I’ve definitely asked friends if they plan to elope/or travel to another state so that they can legally get married, since the state is forced to recognize marriages granted in other states. If it was legal in my state, it wouldn’t be a question I would ever think to ask.

  5. It’s real because it’s yours, & other ppl need to GTF over themselves. It makes me mad on your behalf. Even if they’re “just” asking about the legality, why does that matter to them? Are they your tax preparer? Are they the hospital asking who is next of kin? Only a tiny few people legitimately need to know the legal status of ANYONE’S marriage. The others can butt their noses right out. And if they did, the world might be a better place, hmph.

Join the Conversation

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *