I met my boyfriend Ethan as Ethan. I was one of the first, if not the first, person to only know him by this name. We met via OkCupid.com a few months after he transplanted himself across the country, out of old relationships, configurations and presentations, and into, what I have witnessed, a stronger sense of self that's grown under the warm California sun.
Both of us baby-faced and soft spoken, we sat awkwardly across from each other at Phil's Coffee on our first date, asking a mix of superficial and intimate details of each other's lives. I think we both felt like we had a lot to unload. Polyamorous with minimal dating experience and a sex worker, I regularly opt to divulge all the complicated bits upfront as a litmus test. He did the same, expressing his uncertainties around his identity and gender.
Casual encounters quickly turned into codependency (ok, the word choice might be a bit strong) and all those hopes, fears and concerns of the individual turned into those of the pair. Having a front row center seat view of my partner's ftm transition has been an amazing and hard thing to witness and be part of: feeling the anxiety followed by elation of the first testosterone injection, the apprehension surrounding coming out to old friends, parents and work, the anger directed at people who use the wrong pronouns and gendered bathrooms, the indecision and titillation of having tits, the happiness spurned by people who use proper pronouns without prompting, the mixed feelings that emerged after the discovery of peach fuzz, and the awe at the differences between the voice heard now and the voicemail recording made four months ago.
With all that we've collectively anticipated throughout the last year the one thing that we didn't plan for was how normal it would all feel. Maybe not all of the above examples are easy and incomparable, but our responses to each other have always been unequivocal support and devotion. While Ethan has only known me and accepted me for how I am, I have him. I think we're both used to saying "duh" more often than not.
And while I know there are times when Ethan feels he hasn't shown his whole self to me because I don't recognize him by any other name or any other gender, I know that whole self is there and, I'm conjecturing, probably more easily discernible than before. I mean, who can resist a hat wearing, saggy pants boy that sings show tunes like a freshman in high school and can teach me about lesbian culture, sports and his understanding of the world around him?