My husband is a transgender man
If you know me - in any way - you know my husband, Eliot. You know him in person, or you know him through a million anecdotes and stories that begin with the phrase “Eliot and I have been talking about…” or “Eliot recently said something…”
Those that are fortunate enough to know Eliot personally know him for his astonishing kindness, his amazing way with kids, his generosity of spirit, his unexpected love of South Indian food, for his absurdist and dry humor, for his advocacy as an educator, his strange love of running (strange to me, anyway, as a profound lover of NOT running), for a million other things I simply couldn’t list in full. The way he joyfully assists at and contributes to nearly all the weddings that I photograph. His protectiveness. His patience, from which I’ve learned greater patience. His very particular way of stacking the dishwasher to “optimize space”. (Y’all.)
My husband is my soul mate, the best man that I know, the best partner I could imagine, the best friend a human could find, the best son and son-in-law a family could ask for.
My husband is also a transgender man.
He began and completed his physical transition so long ago that sometimes we both forget that his driver’s license or birth certificate ever said anything other than the “M” that it reflects today. Before social media, before people were talking about trans or gender queer folks, before tiny five-year-old Jazz Jennings appeared on Barbara Walters. The anxieties, fears, pain of that time seem like a distant memory these days; strange, because it was such a central part of our relationship for so long. We worried about safety. I worried about losing my Indian community. We worried about our families, about belonging, about finding our place in the world. I remember those feelings a little more vividly today, as I find myself flushed with both love and fear typing these words to you
Being transgender- for someone like Eliot - who simply knew he was a boy from childhood and wished to transition so that his physical reality expressed those truths…is both simple and complex. Knowing who you are isn’t complicated. Eliot always knew who he was - he was always exactly who he appears to be today. Himself. But the act of transition, of transformation, in the society we live in here in the US - is an exercise in contradictions. For Eliot, transition was an act of visibility - an assertion of who he was and his right to live his whole truth. And with transition came a form of invisibility, too - a disappearance of his experience from the daily narrative of his life.
For the past two years, Eliot and I have been talking a lot about hiding. For a long time, we convinced ourselves that the reasons we didn’t share this truth was that no one needed to know. Eliot’s a man, and that’s that. It isn’t anyone’s business that people didn’t know this when he was born. But as we have evolved, as I have increasingly done deep-dive work with individuals and couples under the assertion that it’s vital to explore and be seen for our whole selves, as Eliot has increasingly spoken openly of his experience to students and colleagues and friends…we have begun to realize our own truth. That too often, silence and secrecy isn’t about safety or fairness or truly respecting our own desires - it’s about shame. And when we uphold our silence solely because of shame, we are teaching ourselves that the shame is justified.
This moment - as the White House attempts to erase transgender people from legal verbiage - may seem like such a strange time to share this fact in such a public way. But now, more than ever, the telling of our whole stories is vital. The assertion of visibility is a matter of life and death. Perhaps some of you haven’t concerned yourselves with politics around the rights of transgender people, because they’ve seemed abstract to you. Maybe you’ve even said cruel things about transgender people in passing, or written them off. Well, I want you to know that - all this time - you’ve known, cared about, loved and included a transgender person in your life. The person I love most. My Eliot. Our Eliot. Today is an opportunity to expand your understanding of who makes up your community.
To those that know us personally but didn’t know this truth before, that are perhaps jarred by what I’m sharing - on the one hand, I’m grateful for our initial secrecy. In that secrecy, we gave you a chance to just…love and know Eliot, before your preconceptions or walls could get in the way of your own hearts. On the other hand, I’m sorry that we didn’t trust you sooner, that we didn’t have faith in your capacity to love us fully and wholly. You have the most immense hearts, and today, TODAY, we choose to trust you - the people that you are and the people that you are capable of being.
To those that are “different” in any way, whether those differences are visible or invisible, spoken or unspoken, known or unknown - I hope you know how beautiful you are. I hope you see that love and acceptance are present and possible for you, exactly as you are. That we are here, that we have always been here, that we are lifting our voices today so that you know that you’re not alone.
To my beloved photography clients - every day, every damn day the work we do together, the bravery you demonstrate, the openness you dare to explore with me - calls me to answer to my highest self. This moment is a manifestation of what I’ve offered you and what you, in turn, have taught me. Thank you for being mine.
To my husband, my beloved, my Eliot - you perfect, beautiful, astonishing man. You are my reason and my reward.
I don’t know what happens after we share this. I don’t know if we will lose friends, or suffer consequences we can’t anticipate. It will break my heart if Eliot loses anything at all. But there are a few things I believe, that drive my faith, and here they are:
Even now, in these terrible times, I believe in the goodness of people, and our capacity for expansion. Over and over, the two of us have seen people love and evolve beyond our wildest imaginings. That’s why we believe in all of you today.
I believe in the Divine within us. I believe that when we speak our truth, we reveal the sacred. Living in shame is a form of death - the death of the sacred.
I believe in service. I believe that speaking our truest stories is an act of love to those that feel unheard and unseen, a permission slip to the world, and ultimately what we are called to do in this lifetime.
I love you all, and hope that our small act of courage today can be another seedling of light planted in this terribly harsh world.