Johnson, Jordan and Becky Garrison, editors. Love, Always: Partners of Trans People on Intimacy, Challenge & Resilience. Transgress Press, 2015. $18.00 PB. ISBN: 9780986084409.
Helen Boyd, perhaps the best known person to remain married to a transgender spouse, has comments both at the beginning and end of this book that pull together the wide range of voices. In between, we hear from fifty people who are or have been partners of someone who is transgender. Most of the partners are women but there are men represented as well. Most are cisgender people but a few of the partners are transgender themselves. The partners represent a wide range of sexual orientations, sometimes discovering that within themselves as their partners transitioned.
Their essays are grouped into sections titled: “Intimacy,” “Challenges,” and “Resilience.” Some of the partners are represented by more than one essay. A few describe relationships that did not survive, but all have tried to support their transgender partners. Some write joyfully while others are still in pain: “I struggle living with the ghost of my husband who is now a woman.” But for others, the partner’s gender identity was never in question, only the body was a problem.
A common thread is secrecy to avoid bigotry: “I learned how to cope with not having friends and how to form friendships based on secrets and half-truths.” Many of the partners talk about the dilemma of how to explain themselves when doing so will out their partners. They struggle with taking care of themselves while their partners are going through such a major transition. While the details vary, the commonalities will provide support and even wisdom for what can be a very lonely role with all too little guidance. Making this book widely available will serve both people who are transgender and their partners. It is needed in every public library.
Carolyn Caywood, retired from Virginia Beach Public Library