Male wedding privilege as seen from a transgender groom's perspective

Updated Oct 12 2015
Guest post by Owen Karcher
Owen and his fiancé Chelsea. Photo by .
Owen and his fiancé Chelsea. Photo by Stephanie Claire Photography.

As a transgender groom, I have been thinking about the weird privilege I've held as the male-presenting person in my relationship with my femme fiancee, Chelsea. I am granted so much space and almost zero responsibility, if I accept it. I am celebrated if I choose to be part of conversations about the wedding, yet no one demands details or shares their judgments or perspectives about any parts of it with me.

My femme partner, on the other hand, is the sole carrier of all things detail-related and is held responsible for all the choices — what dress she wears, what the colors are, the flowers, etc. etc.

One of the reasons for this may be our immediate families and close friends knowing that I am not great at reporting details… another, I'm quite sure, is that I identify as male.

Men, in heteronormative, cis-normative weddings, are expected to show up and wait as their lady walks down the aisle to them.

There are so many images of relationships that do not reflect who we are, steeped in the binary roles of male and female responsibilities, expectations, and places. I've found it increasingly difficult to witness the ways in which we are expected to play these out.

When I was female, those expectations were not explicitly reinforced… but since I've transitioned, those things are so much more apparent and expressed. I believe this is because people want to honor my identity and respect my maleness, yet it feels uncomfortable and untrue… because it erases the fact that those images don't actually fit our queer relationship, and they don't include my trans-ness.

We are entering this new phase of relationship intentionally and equally. We will continue to encourage each other's authenticity, honesty, and vulnerability and will hold each other in support of our truth — independently and as a pair.

How many grooms, or partners of grooms, have noticed this very issue or male privilege while planning their weddings? How are you dealing with or addressing it?

  1. Thanks for the perspective.

    I never thought of my husbands lack of interest as Male Privilege but it's a fascinating way to look at things.

    And it's a thought provoking contrast to the assumption that women WANT all that responsibility because all women are bridezillas who only care about what they want….and gifts…..

    The thing I love about offbeat bride is that so many of those assumptions get questioned, and explored, and if only in this space we get to be free of them…. so thanks

  2. It's interesting to see this described as male privileged because I know many times in this forum is has been described more akin to male discrimination. There is certainly a stereotype as to how men and women should respond to wedding planning. Whether you see privilege or not I guess depends on perspective.

    • I don't think the privilege and discrimination are mutually exclusive here, they are both symptoms from the same cause, ie over-defining gender roles.

      Assuming that those who define as male are not part of the wedding planning process advantages them by making them not responsible at the exact same time it disadvantages them by not allowing them choices, even in cases where that individual doesn't actually care about the choices…. net result is that individual as not seen as a person in their own right but a stereotype which is overall a disadvantage as far as I'm concerned.

      Additionally, where the wedding is between two people where one defines as male and one as female, then at exactly the same time that the effect above operates then those who define as female are disadvantaged by making them bear more responsibility (by making all the choices) whilst at the same time advantaging them because they get choice.

      As a woman who recently married another woman (neither of whom identify particularly as anything but neither of whom object wildly to woman as a "near enough" label) I definitely felt people's confusion over our (apparent lack of) roles, it came out though as "what are you both wearing?" We had some fun with them all and refused to tell anyone what we were wearing, (waistcoats, colored chinos and converse for both in different colours in the end) which I think had the effect of (or at least contributed to) making people just assume we were both responsible for everything and we got equal amounts of (endless) questions. What was lovely though was that afterwards everyone came out with a variation along the lines of it was unlike any other wedding they had been to and so very us, which I like to think was code for "you showed us a wedding without a default bride and groom, we didn't realise before but that's actually rather fab!"

      • I agree a lot with this! It seems like a great example of the "discrimination hurts everyone" mentality. By pushing people into stereotyped bubbles based on their gender, everyone loses out on the full picture, and it reduces people to stereotypes about gender rather than their actual needs and desires.

        This is why "privilege" can be so tricky. Privilege can often yield disadvantages, as you point out here. And privilege is not universal – there are certainly ways where, in some traditionally feminine domains, male privilege can be much less evident, or entirely nonexistent. That isn't saying male privilege doesn't exist, but it's only one piece of the puzzle.

        • THANK YOU! It's so hard to get people are aren't interested to recognise this as fact and especially as having such an incredible effect on our modern society. Like, "what, women got the vote! We're all equal now, obviously!"

          And Stripey's description really perfectly fit child rearing too. Never mind that we've discovered that any parent (from male, to adoptive) has their brain change to recognise their baby's cry among nearly identical others after loving and caring for the baby. Men as primary parents, particularly when committed to a woman, must be lazy and selfish. Pff.

          I could never be with someone who didn't understand about gender norms. My partner is male born and roughly identified, and I similarly female. From the outside, we're "normal". But we're new gen of thinkers, hopefully. 🙂

  3. You are a lovely couple. Even in my heternormative/cis relationship, this is apparent but I try to keep things balanced and keep him involved. Which is kind of challenging – I'm the planner in the relationship. There will be no aisle and no giving away, just a trip to the courthouse and a big party with friends. And no garter belt game. So a lot of the male privilege of a traditional wedding is out the door.

  4. That is a very interesting perspective. I do think that you are correct when people assume because you present as male, you expect to 'conform' to the traditional male role. I don't think however in the majority of cases that it's anything but people trying to do the right thing.

    The trans* community, as you are obviously aware, is very diverse and whether or not it's right, it can be very difficult as friends and family of a trans* person find it a bit of minefield to negotiate and like the gay and lesbian community of say 20 years ago, people are trying to find the best way to support their loved one without offending them.

    However as the cis-bisexual female fiance (who is quite frankly useless at being a 'proper' femme girl) of a cis-bisexual traditional male goth with a tendency towards the dramatic (former media-student darling), I can understand a little of how frustrating it is for both of you to try and fit into the hetero-cis norms.

    There is no way my beloved is going to just turn up on the day and allow me to organise everything, he wants and expects to be involved with every step of the day and tbh I'm relieved, I've not a clue what I'm doing! Like you and your intended, we will just have to find our own way through the maze that is organising a wedding.

  5. When my husband (whoa first time typing that) visited the local bridal shows with me, he was almost the only gentleman there. What ended up happening is that we won quite a bit of raffles that were geared towards the men. It was interesting.

  6. My cis-male partner was devastated at the lack of groom-centric wedding support he found. As the planner in our relationship, our wedding was pretty much his show, from lighting to centerpieces to music and beyond. The majority of groom planning online stuff he found on his own was "She'll take care of the wedding, you book the honeymoon & be relieved that you don't have to do more." He got some great advice here on Offbeat Bride, but still felt sad that he didn't find a spin-off Offbeat Groom section for male-identifying people.

  7. "There are so many images of relationships that do not reflect who we are, steeped in the binary roles of male and female responsibilities, expectations, and places. I've found it increasingly difficult to witness the ways in which we are expected to play these out."

    Perspective aside, I think this was a great thing to think aloud. Even in cis-normative weddings the traditions revolving around marriage are heavily pressured and influenced by how gender roles are perceived and expressed, with little to no regard of how a couple actually functions or wishes to present themselves. I like to think OffBeat and similar blogs have pushed that envelope enough over the years to help people realize that a wedding should express those getting married, more so than those attending or witnessing.

    Glad I read this, and I hope people continue to celebrate their love however they see fit.

  8. I was really surprised when I went with my cis-male fiance to rent a tux for the wedding. He's the one wearing the tux, because I want to rock a fancy dress and he wants to look suave. The salesman asked who the primary contact was, and we gave my fiance's name. The salesman said "Oh, wow, that's rare!" That was strange to me, because, as my fiance is a grown-ass adult, I'd assume that the clothes going on his body are his responsibility. The salesman kept asking *me* (I usually dress very femme and present as female) what my groom was wearing. My fiance has a good eye for color and detail, so he is in charge of coordinating outfits, not me.

  9. Must just say – loving the hat!

    We're a cis hetero couple, geeks and feminists. My partner wants to be involved in all aspects of planning and we have experienced a range of situations with vendors.

    One that sticks in my mind is a suit hire company. We approached the vendor and he said (to me) what will the groom be wearing? I indicated that it would be the groom's choice. He continued to talk to me and even went so far as to say, the bride always tells the groom what to wear – gah! Needless to say, we won't be using them.

    I guess its just an extension of the assumption that many make about the usual traditions of weddings.

    We explain that we are planning a wedding (and a marriage) of equals and that we want it to reflect our values and geeky interests. When you find a vendor that gets it … what a great feeling 🙂

    Thank you for sharing your perspective and very best wishes to you both.

  10. My fiance has known from the start that I am not planning this thing by myself, and that doesn't mean planning with girlfriends while he plays video games. He is expected to have an opinion and ideas and present them to me the same way I present mine to him. He has been warned that the second he stops helping and being involved, I'm done planning. As equal partners I expect both of us to take on the challenge, especially since we can't afford a planner. Yes, I am more detail oriented and yes, as the bride, I have changed my mind several times. But he is more people oriented and is good at building us a good relationship with new people. We compliment and balance each other and it has made our planning thus far quite easy.

  11. My trans fiance and I are getting married in (yikes) 3 months and I have to say, I know what Owen's saying… I think we're experiencing the oddness of heteronormativity on most levels with this wedding thing, and it's a bit unnerving! It creates this air of "normalcy" around us that we're not used to… unless we happen to disclose our queerness with a vendor, or even a distant relative who might not know our story– we're just another "boy and girl" getting married.

    Luckily, my fiance is all involved in the planning and doesn't care how it looks- he even has an engagement ring, which sometimes gets a "wow, that's interesting!" reaction.

    Anyway, I never expected to get married- legally- to anyone… and now it's not only legal but it "looks" straight and that just freaks me out. We're having "co-ed" showers which help neutralize the whole gender-specific thing in that regard– and I actually think that a lot of people are expecting us to be sort of "radical" in our choices for our wedding– but the funny part is, so much of this is feeling uber traditional– that we have to remind ourselves that we're still a couple of queer kids, no matter what!

  12. My genderqueer butch spouse (we're coming up on our first anniversary) really embraced male wedding privilege, and did a lot of that "whatever you want honey" thing. There were times it really drove me crazy, in part because I knew there were things she really truly did have preferences about, and yet she backed away from the "bride" thing because of its gender normativity (e.g. it expresses "femme" just like wearing a dress does). But the wedding was perfect and really expressed us both.

  13. Ugh, when my (cis-hetero male) fiance and I (cis-bisexual female) announced our engagement, the first thing his father said to me was, "Now, you know, all you should expect him to do is show up." I didn't even know what to do. Did I mention this was also my college graduation dinner? All my close friends and family were there. My friends said I turned pretty red, but all I could think of to say was (calmly), "I think M. can decide for himself what he wants to do." And all the parents LAUGHED at me. THEY LAUGHED. AT ME.
    I still get furious thinking about it.

  14. I experienced the flipside of this from his family, who were otherwise absolutely wonderful throughout the planning process

    Due to somewhat unforeseen but unavoidable timings, my fiancé ended up being very busy throughout our engagement with his studyng, and I ended up doing the lion's share of the planning (which probably would have happened anyway, tbh, as between us I have most of the time planning awareness). He did help out a lot with artistic direction, and designed a lot of things, but I got them made and sent out/in place/vendors booked/did all the people wrangling.

    Something that I found stressful was the flowers. I really didn't care about them (seriously would not have minded if we hadn't had any), but I knew other people would mind and had strong opinions. After I'd had a mini breakdown about this my husband said to let him worry about them, and I was quite happy to cross them off my to do list, knowing that I didn't even need to worry about making sure he had my input as I just did not care.

    Shortly after I'd had this conversation with him, I spent a whole afternoon with his family (when he wasn't there) which went a little like this:
    Family: Pemcat, what's happening with the flowers?
    Pemcat: Oh, Pemcat's fiancé is dealing with flowers, you really need to ask him.
    Family: No, but seriously, you haven't even spoken to a florist yet, we really need to get on this.
    Pemcat: You should totally speak to Pemcat's fiancé about this. I'm sure he'd appreciate the help.
    Family: Have you thought about what colour flowers you want? You're having blue shoes, so it really matters that you get that right.
    Pemcat: I hadn't given it much thought, Pemcat's fiancé is dealing with the flowers.
    Family: You really need to call a florist already. I hear these people are good, or you could try this alternative.
    Pemcat: I'm sure Pemcat's fiancé would appreciate that information.
    Family: But we should call them now!
    Pemcat: (through gritted teeth) You really need to talk to Pemcat's fiancé, who is DEALING WITH ALL THE DAMN FLOWERS!
    Wash, rinse, repeat.

  15. This. So much this. As my fiance and I plan our wedding, we find this to be a great issue, even to the point of vendors not being willing to deal with him. My fiance is also trans*masculine and has a lot of input and thoughts around our wedding, which I love. Vendors do not seem to know what to do with him and his willing involvement.

    One of the worst, was when we had a meeting with a vendor and I had work meetings that I could not get out of so I sent him alone. The vendor basically refused to talk to my fiance about anything, despite the fact that it is also his wedding and that I clearly trusted him to go and represent us both.

    Not that he doesn't occasionally play into the patriarchy around weddings by making me be the one to tell the engagement story every time despite his loving it. Still, it's very frustrating when you are committed to remaining very wholly your individual selves and outsiders keep trying to shove you into the box. Here's to fighting the good fight.

  16. The flip side of this is, while the male person doesn't have the pressure of responsibility, people also seem to feel it's perfectly acceptable to dismiss his desires. My fiance is especially geeky in ways that I definitely am not. We are working hard to express our middle ground, but also each individual's passions. Yet, every time I mention a sort of offbeat/geeky thing that is definitely more my fiance than me, my friends are like "You need to shut that shit down". Um. Shut my husband's passions down? No thanks. IDGAF if you don't want to hear the Totoro theme song as our exit song.

  17. Thank you so much for sharing! My FH is also transgendered (almost 2 years of T now). He still helps with decisions in the wedding (mainly because I force him to have an opinion. It's his wedding, too). But one of the biggest issues I have is that we are queer but we can't really share that with everyone. He started transitioning in the middle of our so-far relationship and I've supported him every step of the way. But when we started dating, we were a lesbian couple. We were queer and proud. We stood up for our relationship and beliefs, especially in this middle-ground that our country seems to be in with same-sex marriage. We had to think about where we could get married. Then once his birth certificate got changed it was a sudden moment that everything melted away. It's very nice to feel "normal" once in a while, but it also feels like a very major part of our relationship history has just kind of been swept under a rug.

    TL;DR: My FH and I know what you're feeling 🙂

  18. Sounds all too familiar.

    My fiancé and I went to a little wedding fair last weekend. A man who was trying to advertise his wedding dress and hire shop made some very interesting, and slightly grating comments.

    In the conversation, I used the pronoun "we" in relation to "our" wedding planning. He immediately responded with "We? Really? Come on, now… who's this 'we'… do we mean 'I'?"
    Immediately I didn't realise what he was getting at and was a little taken aback by this comment, but it was my fiancé, standing right next to me at the time, who replied by informing him that he'd so far played equal part in the planning.

    Somehow, the man in question seemed surprised when neither of us then wanted to give him our details or take a leaflet.

    Did he think I was in the wrong for trying to include my partner in the planning? Or, did he think my partner was in the wrong for wanting to play a part? Either way, I found his tone and message quite patronising, assuming that because I'm a woman that I'm going to want to do all the planning myself and that when I say "we", I clearly mean the so-called royal "we".

  19. Do you happen to have any articles on transgender men who married cisgender men and how the laws worked in their favor or not?

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