By Mikayla Seaman Connolly
My husband Brandon and I premiered on episode two of the HBO docu-series “We’re Here” where top drag entertainers Bob the Drag Queen, Eureka O’Hara and Shangela Laquifa Wadley traveled to small towns across the country, listening to the stories of local LGBTQ folks and ultimately involving them in an end of show drag performance. Our episode featured Twin Falls, Idaho, where Brandon and I shared our story of meeting in our high school drum corps and band, becoming inseparable. We were best friends for many years, then slowly became romantic, and ultimately got married. When I met Brandon, he hadn’t realized that he was transgender. He actually didn’t transition until after four years of us being “peas in a pod.”
I’ve received a lot of wonderful messages since the show, as well as some heartbreaking ones. I’ve had many parents express that they’re now hopeful that their transgender child can have love in the future. I’ve had several individuals express that they’re completely amazed at the love Brandon and I share, while mainly focusing on the fact that I stayed with him even after transitioning. Even before the show, I’d had many exclaim, “Wow, that must’ve been so hard for you! I am so amazed that you stayed with Brandon even after he transitioned. I don’t think I could’ve done that.”
So, I’d like to discuss what it is like to be married to someone who is transgender.
First, I’d like to say, I am not a martyr. Being with Brandon isn’t hard for me to do. I think a misconception many loved ones of transgender individuals have is that they’ll be completely different people once they transition. Despite Brandon’s increased interest in sports and decreased ability to multitask, he’s still Brandon. In fact, I saw him begin to blossom into who he was always meant to be. He became more sure of himself, more loving (because he loved himself more), more confident, and most importantly, so happy. Even though the world around him often felt chaotic, he was finding strength and resiliency inside himself, because he was being himself. I think this is a lesson cisgender individuals can learn from transgender individuals. Being yourself is so important, and it allows you to love others harder – no matter the reaction of those around you.
Brandon was easy to love throughout transition because he was himself. I loved him for who he was, and I loved seeing him shine brighter.
How could I not have stayed with him?
I understand that LGBTQ+ individuals and their families often fear that being LGBTQ precludes a person from finding love. I think this is, in part, because society teaches us that LGBTQ+ individuals are unlovable. In movies, LGBTQ+ people are often portrayed as odd, with their greatest potential being the main character’s friend— nothing more. And, on a more intense scale, we are portrayed as being promiscuous and incapable of loving deeper than on a purely sexual level. This is simply a false narrative that society has perpetrated for too long. Brandon and I love each other just as much, if not more, than any cisgender and heteronormative couple I personally know. I also know we are not the only LGBTQ+ individuals to love this deeply.
I honestly think we LGBTQ+ individuals are capable of loving so fully because we strive to live our lives authentically. We have to learn to be unapologetically ourselves and define who we are and what we want with our own lives, regardless of what society tells us we should be doing. This provides a certain level of freedom within our relationships as well. For Brandon and I, it rid us of gender norms, allowing us to question what we really wanted for ourselves, each other, and as a family – without worrying about what society wanted from us. To be frank, many of our immediate loved ones didn’t want us together at all. We chose, from day one, to not let others’ expectations— whether that comes from church, family, friends, etc.— deter us from being together and living the life we want and need for ourselves.
I am so grateful for the opportunity to show that LGBTQ+ love is powerful, meaningful, and oh-so-real. To be living such a fairy-tale love is a dream come true and I’m beyond grateful for it. I think that kind of love and acceptance is something each of us can achieve. And if we keep our hearts and minds open, we just might be the blessed recipients of what LGBTQ+ individuals have to teach us.