Gay! Who’s To Say?

Can a gay man marry someone who is now a woman? Doesn’t that make him straight? Or, at the very least, bisexual?

It’s a colorful picture of a gorgeous couple.

The woman, tall, blond, tan, statuesque, looks like a real-life version of a Barbie doll, wearing a strapless wedding gown and pearls.

The man, dressed in a white tuxedo with red accessories, has strong features, a very short haircut, and a smile that indicates bliss.

Just above the picture, the Huffington Post headline:

Cuba Transgender Wedding: Ignacio Estrada, Wendy Iriepa Wed In Country’s First-Of-Its-Kind Ceremony

So, Wendy was born a man.

In fact, Wendy, formerly Alexis, had her sex-change surgery in 2007 as part of a pilot program that made gender-reassignment procedures part of Cuba’s universal health care system.

Pretty progressive for a country that, shortly after Fidel Castro came into power, saw many gays and transsexuals fired from government jobs, jailed, sent to work camps, or exiled. But, Castro has expressed regret in recent years over the treatment of gays during that period, saying it was a mistake. But my intention is not to hold Cuba up as some civil rights leader. We’ve all heard stories of the repression of its citizens. No, in fact, my story lies in the comments on this particular news item, thank you very much, Internet.

The Huffington Post piece, as well as the ones on Yahoo, The Guardian, and the BBC websites, all describe Mr. Estrada as a “gay man”. This confused the world wide web, mightily. Could a gay man marry someone who was now a woman? Didn’t that make him straight? Or, at the very least, bisexual?

— ∮∮∮ —

It seems he only does paternity testing now, to great cultural success (can you say “You are NOT the father!” without doing your best Povich?), but at one time, my Maury show would have been titled “My Sister Outed Me To The World…But I’m Not Gay!”

Not quite housefrau-friendly enough for Oprah, not quite scandalous enough for Jerry Springer, which is a metaphor for my life. Stuck in the Maury zone.

Anyway, once upon a younger and thinner me, I had a sister who loved to be right and a boyfriend who was born a woman. He lived full-time as a man; at home, at work, out in the world; but was, technically, female.

The technicalities are where it gets sticky. Though he was born with female genitalia, my paramour had always considered himself male and thought that, biologically, something got switched up in the baby factory, putting a dude brain with chick parts. We were together for three years, but discussed his other self less than a handful of times, largely living like a heterosexual couple, which I considered us.

So it was a shock when my mother called me, crying.

“We know about you,” she said, which could have been about a hundred things, as I live a vastly different lifestyle from my lovely, well-meaning, conservative Christian parents.

I had told my sister, who was also my coworker, my boyfriend’s secret, and she had shared it with them, gently, “for the good of everyone,” explaining, as well, that this made me gay.

“I freed you,” she said, proudly. But I didn’t need freed. I was the girlfriend, he was the boyfriend, what was enslaving me, exactly? Are there relationships that need stigma, on top of rent payments?

I’m wasn’t offended by or frightened of the “homosexual” or even “bisexual” labels, most of my friends in my cosmopolitan existence fell somewhere outside the norm on the sexuality spectrum, I just didn’t feel like they were appropriate for me.

You can’t just tell someone they are gay, any more than you can tell them they are straight.

Explaining this to my family was another story. The world was Andy Griffith black and white; the shades of gray only served to confuse. Not being gay, but loving someone with the same privates, I had just didn’t make sense to them.

So, I “did” gay. I cut my hair short, slapped a rainbow flag on my car, and volunteered at the GLBTQ center near my house. But it felt like a sham. I was so afraid that “real” gay people would see through me and call me out on my ruse. And I wasn’t happy pretending. I had to face facts: I was, in my heart of hearts, not a homosexual.

And what about Ignacio Estrada, the Cuban man who is now legally married to a woman? Should he change his entire view of himself as gay because the person he loves had gender-reassignment? Why are we so insistent that he be this thing that makes sense to us, instead of the thing that makes sense to him?

In the end, I wore “gay”, trying to make sense to other people. But ended up taking “straight” back for me. I can only hope that Estrada and Iriepa continue to wear the things that they are comfortable with, regardless of the world’s opinion. And also, that one’s not a toilet-paper-over while the other is a toilet-paper-under kind of person. That stuff can ruin any marriage.

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The Checkout Girl

The Checkout Girl is Jennifer Lemons. She’s a storyteller, comedian, and musician. If you don’t see her sitting behind her laptop, check the streets of Richmond for a dark-haired girl with a big smile running very, very slowly.

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