Sometimes, we’re heterosexual couples,
But occasionally heterosexual couples.
By McKenna RankinEditor’s note, The study of relationships has been ongoing for more than forty years. Yet, there’s still a lot to discover. Through the personal stories and personal experiences in Real Relationships, we hope to present a more authentic depiction of the love that exists in the present. The thoughts, ideas, and opinions expressed in this article are solely the author’s opinions. The writer is not based on the research done through The Gottman Institute.
I didn’t think about gender until about 2nd grade. In that year, I was not allowed to play around with no shirt, and I began to observe the physical and behavioral distinctions between boys and girls. Then I began to feel the constraints that gender put on me, and I wasn’t happy in any way. For the majority of my life, I was able to feel free and have the freedom to be myself and cross gender lines. As I grew older, it became increasingly difficult to express myself fully. I was more conscious of the stereotypes I didn’t fit in with and people’s reactions when I broke the rules and didn’t understand why I wasn’t accepted.
While in college, I played around with my appearance. I stopped wearing men’s and women’s clothing and tried the super-feminine aspect. I had a few guys who I’m sure were primarily interested in me because of my appearance, and I felt that I could not be me. Amid everything, I connected with my husband Greg on the internet. Greg was employed full-time at Taco Bell, paying his tuition for college, and I was enrolled in graduate school.
Our first date took place in September, Texas. It was scorching. The blazer I was wearing over my shoulders to conceal the marks on my arms since I was worried that the “normal” guy would see the tattoos and flee. But, I discovered very quickly that Greg was utterly himself. He would begin to sing or dance any time, discuss with anybody, and wasn’t focused on fitting the stereotypical image of a transgender male. He’s feminine and masculine and displays his entire self in all of the time. He inspired me to be my own and to be myself, too. He urged me to be myself, but it was expected and was the norm for us.
About a year later we first met, we were married. Two years after, our twins were born. Soon after the birth of our twins, I realized I had a name for the way I feel about gender that is called non-binary. My decision to come out wasn’t an unexpected, shocking experience to anybody who knew me; however, it did provide clarity to a section of me that I’ve been trying to understand since the time I could recall.
Greg and I are in an ongoing conversation on gender. Before our children were thought of, we planned to create a gender-neutral setting in the best way we could. We kept their gender from the world until they came into our lives. A few family members believed that it was due to our desire to be a significant shock. However, our intent was quite the opposite. We wanted to stop them from being placed in an unintentional box, regardless of their gender, for the duration of time we could. We didn’t want that to occur before they had even been born.
The twins of ours have gender-neutral initial names. One of them has my name, and the other one is Greg’s. They wear gender-neutral clothes. We’ve observed that due to what we wear, our fellow humans, like us, can often relate to them as children, rather than girls or boys. People view them like I would hope people would say to me. Our family members were irritated by our choice to name them, precisely their surname. They were also upset that they did not see the twins in the gendered clothes they purchased for them. At first, I worried that we handled too radical or too complicated things. Now, it’s our standard.
I have now used the pronouns they/they/theirs. This change in pronouns required Greg some time to work out. In the beginning, he wasn’t sure how to integrate them properly. This is why when I would refer to him, my pronouns would be awkwardly obliterated and cause me to feel distinct. Sometimes, he’d say the wrong pronoun and then correct it, which would also stick out. It could be, “They is non-binary” or “I went to the movies with them.” Or you could say, “She is, they are, I mean they are…having coffee with a friend right now.”
He’s been getting better. However, he occasionally makes mistakes. I try to correct him gently when the situation isn’t perfect, and he attempts to comprehend when I become angry with his behavior. Sometimes I get down and feel overwhelmed. He assures me that he’ll eventually get this down and expect everything soon.
Family members’ reactions regarding my pronouns are varied. Some choose to ignore my pronoun use and make use of “McKenna.” Others try to be supportive, but they have this mindset that says, “don’t ask, don’t tell.” Some people have doubted my motivation to be out and believed that gender non-contradictory should be accepted as usual. Some people aren’t afraid to say anything negative but appear to be embarrassed whenever I make corrections, particularly when they mention me with other people that aren’t part of my family.
When I was out, the twins were one-year-old, which meant they called my name “mama.” I not just felt uneasy about being known as “mama,” but also was irritated by the roles that came when I was a mom, such as having the role of primary caretaker, taking care of the majority of housework, and being the main person for making decisions that pertain to our children. Parenting and Emotional Coaching
After some reflection, I concluded that I wanted to be known as “momo.” At first, I felt guilty about changing the name my children gave me. Perhaps even embarrassed. I was not and never wanted to become a female or mother. I also faced the backlash of women I knew who believed that being non-binary meant that I was criticizing or rejecting gender identity in general and their roles in their families.
Greg is a curious person who does not make assumptions. Greg is sensitive, respectful, and open. In the past, the conversations we had about gender were centered around getting dressed for work, and it was usually a struggle for me. It wasn’t uncommon for me to go through my entire wardrobe, and all of my clothes usually ended in a pile in the middle of my floor. I’d say through crying, “this is too feminine,” and “this is too masculine.” These “clothing crises,” as we used to call them, have been mainly a thing of the past since I came out. There are still days when I’m irritated by certain parts of my body, such as my breasts or hips. Greg believes I’m beautiful regardless of my appearance, whether man, woman or a bit of both. While I am aware of that, I have trouble believing that at times. I seldom meet people who appear like my own. And I also rarely come across non-cisgender couples. I’m sure there are some out there, as we are. In the wake of this, my mind often begins to go towards the “there must be something wrong with us” road. Greg isn’t a fan of this type of thinking.
I’m aware that our love differs from society’s expectations. However, I am also aware that love doesn’t have an established appearance. I’m aware of the looks that we often get when we are out with each other. I’m terrible at reading minds, even though I’ll frequently claim that I’m not, but I’m thinking that people are trying to determine who we are. Mainly, what I am, whether female or male. What does that mean for our respective sexuality and relationships? I’m guessing you’re trying to work it out will make people’s heads spin. If I was asked to explain our relationship by sexuality and gender, I’m not sure I’d be in a position to do so. But here’s how it goes…I’m often male, and sometimes female, sometimes both, and neither. Greg is also Greg is a male. Occasionally, we’re hetero-couples or gay. However, we are entirely beyond the conventional labels most of the time.
I’m sure people want to be aware of “what” we are so that they can connect with us. It can be unsettling for me not knowing “what” we are either. But then, I remember that it’s not even a matter at all. In the end, we’re only Greg and McKenna, two individuals.
I’m not expecting or wishing for Greg to be a textbook guru. Greg has never asked for me to become a textbook. We do a decent task of challenging roles we play in our relationships. However, we are aware of how our lives’ culture and experiences have established gender roles in our lives. Before my coming out, I was responsible for most family planning, organizing, and household chores. It was my job to be seen as the one responsible for everything related to our children and our home. Sometimes, I was tempted to believe that all these duties were my responsibility due to being female. It was sometimes easier and less tiring to surrender to these gender roles rather than to be in an ongoing battle with Greg over the functions. However, this eventually led to anger and bitterness. It’s been challenging to accept that gender biases are present in our relationships and families. We want to think that we are entirely free of these, but we’re not. Since my coming out, we’ve been challenged by these roles more. Conversations about our parts have been less stressful as they are given more significant curiosity and acceptance. We’re also more free from gender roles.
The process of coming out caused me to grieve the loss of something I’ve did not have and that we never had–a heteronormative love relationship. In addition, it has been understood that there’s no best way to make a relationship appear. We’ve found ways to be in a relationship that isn’t based on gender and roles and outside of physical appearances. It’s a challenge to get rid of all the thoughts regarding our relationships “should” look and be presently involved in it. When I can accomplish this, I am overwhelmed by how excellent our relationship is. I’m becoming more adept at throwing aside any notions that aren’t compatible, as well, and in doing so, I feel that we are connected more profoundly.