I took down a blog post for the first time today. Not because it was a bad post in itself, but because somebody has decided to reblog me in order to call my spouse some really awful names. Names like “misogynist,” “anti-feminist,” and “abusive.”
I have messaged this person and it went about like you might expect. That is to say, it was not a particularly productive conversation.
I’m writing about all this here because I am, for the first time, seriously considering taking down my blog. But before I do that, I am going to try something else. People who only hang around online to call strangers names deserve pity (and the title of ‘Asshat’). Not acknowledgement. But this encounter has made me realize that it is time to spell out some things that may be less apparent to the rest of the world than they are to me.
Keeping an online journal, it is easy to fall into the trap of talking primarily about the difficult aspects of life and relationships, because the easy stuff is … well, easy. I don’t need to work through it and so I don’t write as much about it. But that doesn’t mean it’s not there.
J and I have been together for nearly a decade. We met during our undergrad years, and I was immediately impressed by her (then ‘his’) sense of adventure. J was always planning a hike or a boating trip somewhere. And while he referred to guide books for suggestions, J’s planning wasn’t limited to guide books or trails. If it was on a topo map and it looked interesting, J knew about it, and would find a way to get there. Hanging out with him, I felt the world open up around me. Of course I was a person in my own right before we met. I had traveled and hiked and explored on my own. But J pushed me beyond the limitations I had set for myself. Good relationships do that. Good people do that.
From the beginning I admired J’s forthrightness. J has a Spock-like streak that I share. We have always been able to talk about anything. We are rarely jealous — J never is. We are good at keeping our fights focused and logical. We know how to compromise.
As is perhaps true of any two people, there are things that J and I cannot agree on. J isn’t really an animal person. I grew up around dogs and love them. I think J’s attitude about animals is terribly cold; she thinks I get overly attached. It’s just one of those things, like how some people are kid people and some people aren’t. As frustrated as I get with J about this subject, I really appreciate her embracing life with a dog for my sake. J has dealt with dog hair in the house (and everywhere) and has helped feed and walk Ziggy when I’ve been unable to do it. When we were both in graduate school J took Zig to the field with her for part of one summer when I could not. When the vet bills started to climb earlier this year J wasn’t happy, but she accepted it. She has done all these things because she cares about me, and I care about my dog. Surely that is the sign of a good person?
This year J and I became parents. Babies are 100 times as much work as dogs. Freedom is superseded by responsibility. Sleep is fractured, at least for the person in the relationship whose body has taken on the role of ‘milk truck.’ Going out is possible, but the activities we choose to do suddenly have to be compatible with a diaper bag, baby carrier, and a little person who doesn’t know that it’s impolite to scream in public.
I think people who don’t have kids themselves should consider long and carefully before passing judgement on the life-balance decisions parents make. The truths and cliches of parenthood are well-documented, but until you’ve brought a baby into your own home, how can you really understand how hard it can be?
For the first several weeks after we brought Little Guy home I was overwhelmed, and probably depressed. Days were hard and nights were harder. Sometimes I wanted to sleep, but couldn’t, and I needed sleep. I was still reeling from my dog’s cancer diagnosis. J was working as a botanist. It was early summer and she had to travel a lot for her job. When she did come home, often after working 60-hour weeks, she would help me with the baby.
Eventually I learned how to sleep in 2-3 hour pockets of time. I learned how to take naps. I was fortunate in that my body recovered very quickly from giving birth. This meant that I was able to go on longer walks, and I spent a lot of time in the foothills with my dog and my baby. Life was still hard, but it was suddenly much more manageable.
I can’t say for certain what J’s personal journey was during this time. That she went through her own depression I know, and I suspect it was much longer-lasting than mine. While I was living with and caring for a baby 24-7, J was having to move back and forth between her professional life and home life. I’m just speculating, but maybe working away from home made the adjustment period harder for her. Taking care of a baby for me soon became just a fact of life, while J’s immersion was much slower, and perhaps therefore, more difficult.
It’s December now and J is working in the office, not in the field. She is home in the evenings and on weekends. And this is great, but it also means that the rules of the game are changing. We fight more. About chores, about child care, about free time. There’s this book I love by Jennifer Senior, called “All Joy and No Fun.” In it she says that we are living in a time period where everybody’s expectations have shifted. More women are working out of the home. Men are now expected to participate in child rearing. But nobody knows what the new balance should be, and women are torn between feeling grateful for the help they are getting, and feeling furious at the help they aren’t getting. That’s how I feel. In one moment I am outraged when I see J sitting down to play Minecraft while I am in the kitchen making dinner. In another moment I feel lazy and guilty because she has to go to work each day, while I have the luxury of taking long morning hikes with Little Guy and Ziggy in the nearby foothills.
And parenthood itself is so incredibly confusing, from the ‘let the baby cry-it-out’ camp to the attachment parenting camp that tells you to never let your baby cry. I am lucky to be part of a large, non-judgmental parent group, but it’s hard, deciding how to deal with things like feeding and sleep issues. It’s even harder when your baby has health problems, as ours did in the early months. It’s stressful. It makes for shorter tempers. In our house we have also had to deal with other stressors, such as my sister’s cancer diagnosis, my unfinished thesis, and some financial difficulties. Yes, J and I fight more these days. We also talk a lot, make compromises, act on those compromises, fall short, re-negotiate, apologize, and fight again. This is just life. I see other parents around me going through similar processes. Hopefully, some day, things will be easier.
The thing I have found, in being the spouse of a transgender person, is that the transgender issue is only one part of our lives together. In our case it is often the least significant thing we are dealing with. Most of the time the fact that J is transgender isn’t even on the radar as an issue. That’s one of the things I hope this blog shows — That being in a transgender relationship is, in a lot of ways, like being in any other relationship. We’re just two people, fumbling through life and trying to make things work.
The person who made the recent attack on J wrapped it all up by saying, “HRT don’t cure misogyny.” This is such an offensive comment that it is hard to know how to respond to it. It was made by somebody who felt they knew J from this blog. But they don’t know J. Or me.
And I hope this post makes that very clear.