Just in time for Valentines Day, Transgress Press has published LOVE, ALWAYS: Partners of Trans People on Intimacy, Challenge, & Resilience. It is a beautiful collection of essays, stories, and poems. Assistant Editor Mitch Kellaway says, “This is really the first of its kind – an anthology with multiple voices instead of a memoir of just one partner’s experience.” Transgress Press is a small publishing house founded by Trystan Cotten that donates 40% of all revenue to social justice organizations.
February is the perfect month to publish this well-named collection about love. The stories cover a diversity of experience and identity but always boil down to that singular emotion. It includes over 50 entries and every one is worth a read. Partners wrote tales about the waiting room during top surgery, sharing a wardrobe, the shock of disclosure, the decision to stay or go, and the wilderness of online dating. They wrote many letters directly to their partners as well as poetry and prose.
The writers’ identities are as diverse as their partners. In one story, both partners are trans. In others, writers identify as queer and others eschew labels altogether. Some met their beloved during or after transition; some were married for years before they came out. In all, I appreciated each contributor’s exploration of love and sex and the evolution of their own labels as they fell in love with someone outside their preconceived notion of who they are and whom they want.
The breadth of stories is impressive, but there are a few more cisgender female partners than male partners and also less ethnic and racial diversity in the collection than in the trans community – something Kellaway hopes to remedy in a sequel. The co-editors, Jordon Johnson and Becky Garrison issued a public call for submissions at trans health conferences, online sites like Reddit, and throughout their personal networks to try to find a broad representation. Justin Ropella wrote the piece “How My Partner’s Transition Gave me Schlubby Ape-Man Complex.” He says he wanted to contribute because “when my partner came out, I found an alarming lack of perspectives like my own, not only as the partner of a trans person, but as a gay man in a gay relationship.”
The majority of stories are happy ones and I laughed and cried through more than one tale of triumph, but not all ended well and I cried through stories of heartache and heartbreak. Many relationships endured but not without a partner’s grief for an identity or physical form that has changed. Another common story was the rock solid relationship where the only challenge was prejudice from the wider world and even within the LGBTQ community. Many formerly same-sex couples felt unwelcome in queer spaces after one partner transitioned.
In her piece “Dear Janet,” Tasha Martin writes, “If a relationship already has fault lines, any major stressor will shatter along them.” For healthy relationships, transition can strengthen them. Stories of that strength coupled with the self-exploration, honesty, and courage required to come out or transition, made for a very touching, inspiring read. I found myself combing the pages for larger lessons on relationships, communication, support, and love.
Ropella says, “I’m hoping that people who don’t have this lived experience can see what it is like from these different perspectives, especially now when the trans experience is coming into the mainstream but with a very narrow focus one on or two experiences. I think seeing it through the perspective of a partner can make transition more relatable. And of course, it will be so helpful to partners themselves. It’s so helpful to have a common experience to relate to instead of feeling alone.”
In the end, this is a collection of unique stories with universal lessons about being true to yourself and generous with your love. In addition to flowers and chocolates this year, consider this collection as a great gift. Purchase the book here.