“On the Male Side of the Middle” is a video by Paul Neudorf linked to in a blog post on Gay Mennonite League. I appreciated this thoughtful exploration of one young person’s transgender journey. As a person still learning about transgender/gender-variant identities, and aware of holding cisgender (i.e., not-transgender) privilege, I am reluctant to be critical. So, I will pose this comment as a question, or a wondering.
In several places, family members and the young man himself, Calvin, spoke of how things became more comfortable after transition, because he “made sense” to people, particularly as he and his partner, Sharon, began to be read as a man and a woman in a couple.
Sharon: “For others around us to see us as man and woman — which is almost how we saw each other — now they see us that way, too.”
Calvin: “That makes sense to them.”
In another segment of the video, another person — a sibling, I think — makes the comment
“I definitely feel more comfortable relating to you as a guy.”
At another point, her mother describes the family as settling into
“a much more natural, comfortable place ….”
On the one hand, I just feel happy for Calvin feeling more personally coherent, more of who he really is. In that sense, what I take from this video is that some of the discomfort being described was not necessarily homophobia but more a sense of gender dysphoria being experienced not only by Calvin but also by his whole family. I absolutely celebrate with them their sense of wholeness-making that has come about through Calvin’s transition.
On the other hand, I am still troubled by some of the perspectives on gender and sexuality being conveyed. I get the message that before Calvin transitioned, his presentation as a masculine woman was not comfortable for the people around him. Similarly, I get the message that the presentation he made as a masculine woman with a more feminine woman (Sharon) in a couple was somehow incoherent.
I guess it is important to me to clarify at least in my own mind that the good news here is that Calvin is living into who he really feels himself to be, and that he and Sharon have the chance at life together — not that they present to the world in a way that the world is more comfortable with. They do not exist — or love — in order to make the world comfortable.
None of us do. We exist in order to live into a full abundance of life, and to love others such that they too can live into a fully abundant life.
I don’t think these concerns are the ones the video set out to address, so I am not judging it accordingly. I just want to acknowledge the varieties of challenges … and how many of these challenges could be resolved if we get better at just allowing each other to be. To be different from each other, to be ourselves, to be in love. Comfortable or not.