Blurred lines help
While masculine in appearance, my wife and I both acknowledge that I am more gender fluid than other married men, something we believe plays a role in balancing the power dynamics in our marriage. I’m more in touch with my feminine side and that’s helped to blur the line between what many married couples traditionally consider to be appropriate behavior for a man. — Steve Kaverman, Cañon City, Colo.
I’m femme, presenting bisexual, in a partnership with a butch lesbian. I grew up wanting to fall into the “woman’s” place in a lot of ways, and because my girlfriend identifies with many masculine qualities, she enjoys “man’s” work. But there is always an open dialogue between us because we are very aware of the expectations you can fall into. We work together on most things or will ask each other for help. We feel very comfortable doing that in a way most of my female friends don’t. — Elizabeth Gibson, West Chester, Pa.
Changing gender, and expectations
I’m a transgender man. My wife and I had to negotiate the change in social expectations going from a “lesbian” to “straight” couple. I have a very time-consuming job and before I transitioned, my wife did most of the housework. Now those dynamics feel oppressive. I’ve stepped up how much I do, but it’s still a source of stress that I can’t do more. When we were a same-sex couple, the process of balancing household duties was something we worked out together. Now, it’s not just about our relationship, but about how we relate to gender and society. That’s a lot of pressure to put on dishes! — Alex Corbett, Kaikoura, New Zealand
I am a transgender woman, still early in my transition, and my partner is a cisgender woman. Our relationship has been mostly free of heterosexual power dynamics, even before I began transitioning. Child care and homeownership haven’t come into play yet, but I’m proud of how well we manage to divide the tasks we have. That goes for emotional labor, too. The straight couples I know do not share the burden of being an emotional center. That almost always falls on the woman. — Micah Lily Osler, Manhattan, N.Y.
Does race matter?
I am in a heterosexual, biracial relationship (I am a white female, he is a black male). I don’t know if it’s because of our difference in race, but we challenge gender roles frequently and my partner is highly attentive to my needs, much more so than any white male I’ve dated in the past. He is also the primary cleaner and is meticulous about laundry. We are traditional in some ways, but we also closely observe one another and regularly pitch in to help. — Holly Nelson, Albany, N.Y.
We do what we must
My wife is in a wheelchair and has limited ability to do many activities. I do virtually all the shopping, cooking, dishes, bills and bookkeeping. I also do physical caretaking. Our emotional life, however, is balanced. She is a fearless communicator and has helped me start to become one too. The sex can be repetitive and constrained because of her condition, which is a source of frustration. But it’s also intimate, funny and sometimes joyous. Who would have thought the best sex in my life would be with a woman in a wheelchair? We do what we can — and must — to live together and love each other. — Julian Gerstin, Brattleboro, Vt.
Let go of your baggage
I’m a male in a heterosexual marriage with two young children. I can get them ready for school, pack the lunches, cook the dinner, go to the parent-teacher conferences. But then my wife will feel she is failing or has been left out. Sometimes men place expectations on women in relationships, but women can come in with a lot of baggage as to what they think they’re supposed to do, regardless. — Andrew N, Queens, N.Y.