24 January 2012

Partner Circle: Standing By Your Man

There is an old country song in which the female singer croons “stand by your man” in a slow, dulcet melody. I am sure that at the time this song came out, millions of housewives of husbands with drinking problems sung along with her, proclaiming their commitment to their “man”. Right now, I am about to take this song in a direction I am more than sure was never intended, so please bear with me.

First off, the term ‘man’ in this song, to me, is not simply a male figure but rather your partner – whether it be a wife, husband, domestic partner, boyfriend, girlfriend, or simply best friend. No matter the label, the sentiment rings true. We all need to stand by, stand strong with, and most importantly stand up for those who are important to us.

This is especially important when your partner or friend is trans*, boi, or gender non-conforming identifying. This means not only accepting them for who they are and embracing their identity (a topic which I will touch on in a later blog, I promise) but also standing up for them when outsiders raise the issue. This is almost more important for your partner than for yourself, or even the outsider in question in that it shows the person you are close with how much you love, support, and care about them.

Now for the amusing anecdote from my own life, which I believe everyone in this community can relate to from one time or another. My best friend is a self-proclaimed “big ol’ dyke” and I love her for it. I would not have it any other way, in fact. As someone who tends to dress in a more ‘femme’ way but is also known to dabble in male-categorized clothing from time to time, I am a full supporter of wearing whatever the hell you want to wear. This is why whenever anyone raises a question of my friend’s gender due to her more generally ‘masculine’ clothing choices, I take up issue with said person – I have been known to get more impassioned about the issue than the person being misgendered, in fact. I am okay with this, and I see it as just another way of showing my friends how much I care about and support them.

This issue is also quite an important one is your partner is trans* identifying, or even may be questioning their gender identity. Your partner needs to know that you support and love who they are as a person and that they can feel comfortable being their entire selves around you. This means not only expressing directly to them these sentiments, but also standing up when others bring it up as an issue – especially when the person bringing it up is in your circle of friends. If your friends slip up on pronouns, call them on it. If it seems to be a continuous occurrence or you fear it is being done on purpose, pull them aside and talk to them about how important it is that they respect your partner and your relationship with that person. More than likely, it is not being done with any malicious intent. However, if your friends are purposely using the wrong pronouns or even trying to call your partner by their government name simply to ‘get a rise out of them’ then you need to do some thinking about who your friends are. This has never been something I have encountered personally, but I know people that have had to put up with it, and it is simply not right. Your partner should feel one hundred percent comfortable around you and your friends, especially if you are close with them. Any time they are with you they should feel safe, and standing up for them is a big part of making sure they feel that way.

So I would like to say a big thank you to the fabulous Tammy Wynette for writing a song that seventy years later can be applied to a topic on a GFB blog. I doubt that is what she had in mind for her ballad, but thanks anyway Tammy.

Xx Emily

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