She avoided indicating my gender or name to her mom, letting her know she was dating someone, and letting her mom assume I was a woman. We talked for hours about how to let her mom know I’m a boy, and hours more about how to let her know I’m a trans boy.
“Just tell her,” I advised. “I’m proud to be trans. I’m out as fuck. On purpose. I like people knowing.”
But no; hours of talking and planning. In the end, her mom immediately read me as AFAB—assigned female at birth—once she saw a picture, and had no problem using my correct pronouns. I began to realize that it was Kelsi that had the issue with my transness, my masculinity.
My trans maleness became a third character in our relationship, hovering there in the room, ready to take the blame for any miscommunication issue, any emotional upset. Instead of seeing me, she saw a Man. She was puzzling questions like, “How do men communicate? What do men want?” rather than “How does he communicate? What does he want?”
In conflict, she would exclaim, “You’re such a man!” Her tone made it clear it was an insult. “How did I get to be in a boy-girl relationship, and how did I come to be the girl?!”
Her tone also made it clear that being the girl was problematic; in a girl-boy power dynamic, she did not want to be on bottom.
“I don’t trust men,” she would remind me. “I’ve learned to not trust men. It’s just encoded in my wiring.”
Baffled, I insisted, “But I’m trans! I have a vagina! I was socialized as a woman! I’m not that kind of man!”
She—and we—always blamed our issues on my maleness, the testosterone changing my brain, allegedly making me less emotionally in tune, making it harder for me to put words to my emotions and thoughts. On my best friend’s porch one day, eating take-out Thai food, Kelsi mentioned our upcoming road trip to meet her parents in another state.
“Road trip?” my friend inquired.
Kelsi turned to me, realizing I hadn’t told my best friend about this big relationship milestone. Her upset, disappointed face said, “How have you not told your best friend about this? You’re such a man.”
“Testosterone’s changed my brain,” I explained later. “I just don’t feel that need to tell my friends the details like I used to.”
I shrugged it off, ignoring the warning signs that something was wrong with the relationship, not my gender.