Love is Love: My Answer to My Sexuality

"Love is Love" painted wooden box by Athena Cooper

In June 2016, 49 people died and another 53 were wounded in the deadliest mass shooting in American history. The tragedy rocked the world, not only for its sheer body count, but because it happened at Pulse, a popular gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida and the victims had been targeted because of their sexuality.

At the 2016 Tony Awards, which fell on the day after the shooting, Hamilton mastermind Lin-Manuel Miranda turned his acceptance speech into an impassioned sonnet. He declared “And love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love, cannot be killed or swept aside…” and even today his words still give me chills.

Those words have become a rallying cry within the LGBTQ community, but on a much more personal note, they represent for me a way to articulate my own sexuality.

If you had asked me back in the summer of 2014 how I identified I would’ve described myself as straight. It was not a question I’d spent any time on because I hadn’t come across any evidence that contradicted that assumption. When I decided to, once again, give the world of online dating a try, I selected “woman seeking man” and gave it no further thought.

This changed when I came across Stefan’s profile for the first time. It speaks to how little I knew about the LGBTQ community that, when he described himself as a transgender man in his profile, I had to Google the word “transgender” to make sure it meant what I thought it meant.

Now I knew I had been instantly drawn in by his profile photo—his gentle eyes and infectious smile. His description in his profile of how he’d quit his job as a technical writer to work with troubled youth spoke volumes about his character. There was also something both nerdy and classy in his admitted love for the CBC. As someone with a BA in media studies with heavy emphasis on the value of Canadian cultural content, I had a high appreciation for this kind of nerdiness.

Still, this was a dating website… was I romantically attracted to him? I honestly didn’t know. Was I really supposed to though with only a dating profile to go on? It seemed to me that the only way to answer that question was to make contact.

So I sent Stefan an icebreaker type message through the site. He responded and, after a fairly quick exchange of messages, had invited me to meet him for coffee. For the next few months we settled into a routine that seemed to involve a lot of dinners and movies out, dinners and movies in, and talking… lots and lots of talking. In short order we had formed a strong connection and become very good friends, but there always seemed to be this unspoken question as to whether we’d ever become more.

For my side of things, I was still doing a lot of Googling and trying to bring myself up to speed on what it meant to be the “T” in the LGBTQ community. In getting to know Stefan, I knew that being a trans man was a key pillar in his identity, as much as being a disabled woman was key to my own identity. I didn’t feel it was fair to him to start a romantic relationship if I couldn’t confidently answer questions I’d never even thought to ask about my own sexuality.

If I was attracted to Stefan, did that mean that I was bisexual? I knew this was how many romantic partners of transgender people identified, but the notion didn’t sit right with me. For one thing, all the people I’d had romantic feelings for in the past had been men. I’d never felt that way for a woman. For another thing, Stefan may have been born into this world as biologically female, but there has never been any doubt in my mind of his inherent maleness. More than simply appearance, his maleness is in how he thinks, feels and even how he moves. It’s inescapable for me and trying to see Stefan as anything other than male is an exercise in giving myself a headache—like staring at a blue sky and trying to force yourself to see it as lime green.

So was I pansexual then? For those unfamiliar with the term, it means that one’s romantic feelings are not limited by biological sex, gender, or gender identity. Again, many romantic partners of transgender people identify as pansexuals, however this is where my highly analytical brain kicks in—if I have found myself attracted to exactly one transgender person, did that really mean that I’d suddenly blown off any and all limitations I might’ve had previously around gender and attraction? Was one person all that was needed? And if I am not attracted to someone else who happens to be a transgender man, am I then not pansexual? For that matter, if a straight woman is attracted to one man, but not another does that somehow make her less straight? That made no sense.

Did I need a larger sample size to concretely answer this question? Like if I found more people who also identified somewhere on the LGBTQ and/or gender spectrum and then tried to get a sense as to whether I was attracted to any of them would that provide me more answers? Doing something like this however struck me as completely ridiculous though. I had already found someone who was unlike anyone I’d ever met before and that I seemed to be strongly attracted to… so I was going to try to find other people who were somewhat like him and check my attraction level to them in order to feel more confident in my attraction to him? Again, this seemed like another exercise in giving myself a splitting headache.

In the end, I concluded that I didn’t need to put a label on my sexuality in order to know that I wanted to be with this person. It wasn’t a question I needed to answer or a puzzle I needed to solve. Mostly I just needed to stop thinking so much and get out of my own way.

(Incidentally, if you want to see a fantastic webcomic on this subject from the perspective of a gay man who has found himself dating a lot of trans men, I refer you to “Orientation Police” by Bill Roundy.)

Stefan and Athena in NanaimoMy relationship with Stefan evolved from friendship to romance organically and seemingly with little say-so from either of us. In hindsight, it was like our hearts had come to the obvious conclusion long before our cautious personalities had fully gotten with the program.

Stefan and I have been together for a little over two years now. There are moments when I still shake my head in wonder at the extraordinary chance that I was given when we met and how different things could’ve turned out if I’d tried to rigidly box in my feelings.

Love must be…
Love should be…
Love has to be because it has always been…

I would have to wait until Lin-Manuel Miranda’s rallying cry to find the right words.

Love is love. For me at least, it really isn’t any more defined or complicated than that.

Athena


Love is Love

Concept and Design by: Athena

WEBCOMIC: Snow Days

horace-abigail_webcomic1_web

It’s finally arrived! Introducing Horace and Abigail, the monthly webcomic – brought to you by Tilted Windmills. Follow the adventures of Horace the transgender tortoise and Abigail the wheelchair-using mouse as they navigate their daily lives. This particular comic was inspired by the unusual amount of snow we had in Vancouver last December and the harrowing adventures we had trying to drag Athena’s wheelchair through it.

To find out about the origins of Horace and Abigail listen to the Tilted Windmills podcast.

Want to get notified when future episodes are published? Subscribe to the Tilted Windmills mailing list.

Stefan and Athena

PODCAST: Introducing “Horace & Abigail”

Tilted Windmills, the podcast has arrived.

Listen to the inaugural Tilted Windmills podcast episode, in which I interview Athena Cooper, co-creator of the Tilted Windmills universe, about our soon-to-be-launched monthly webcomic Horace and Abigail. The webcomic follows the adventures of a transgender tortoise with anxiety issues, and a disabled mouse with a penchant for optimism in the face of adversity. Find out what inspired us to create this webcomic, Athena’s artistic influences, and more.

And remember: to stay up to date with the latest in Tilted Windmills news, including new webcomic and podcast episodes, subscribe to our newsletter.

Thanks for listening!

Stefan

Why We’re Here: Find Your Heart(h)

find your heart(h)What do I have to offer?

It is a question that often bubbles up within our minds when we are at our lowest. In those times, the answer that seems to echo back from the darkness is… nothing. You have nothing to offer because you are not enough.

You are not successful enough… or beautiful enough… or strong enough… or smart enough… or able enough… and on and on. This is one more insidious faces of depression and despair.

As someone with a disability, I too have sometimes found myself ensnared within our society’s prevailing narrative that people with disabilities can only ever be a burden upon others because there is nothing of worth that they have to offer. I found it was easier to push back this feeling in areas like my career where what I had to offer was obvious and tangible. In my relationships with others though—particularly when I pictured myself in a romantic relationship—it was something that I had a harder time wrapping my head around.

I remember the early hours of one morning last year when this changed for me though. I was lying beside my partner who, even in the dark, I could see was tensed and agitated in his sleep. I remember watching his tensed form for a time and then taking the hand he had stretched toward me in his sleep. When my hand touched his, much to my surprise, he unconsciously bent his whole frame to curl around our joined hands. Stefan is 6’1″ to my 3’7″ so that’s a whole lot of frame. I had this bizarre feeling of being both tiny and immense all that the same time. It was like I was a hearth that he was curling himself around as he sought the warmth and light of another soul to help him push back the darkness.

In that moment, which ultimately inspired this painting, I realized every single person, regardless of their station in life or the body that they were born into is already everything that they need to be. I was enough, just as I was… just as we all are.

All of us can offer a smile… a kind word… a shared laugh… a compassionate shoulder… a moment of connection with another person. It sounds like such an insignificant thing, but it is perhaps one of the most profound and potentially even lifesaving gifts that you can offer someone—particularly someone in need.

And someday, should I ever find myself down that spiral of “not enough” again, I can only hope that there will be someone to take my hand in the dark too.

Find your heart.

Find your hearth.


Find Your Heart(h)

Concept and Design by: Athena