It’s hard to remember things for what they really are. Look at the paper you’re reading this on. My guess is you don’t see it for what it really is—a substance made from wood pulp manufactured into a thin sheet for writing or printing on. Instead, you see the things you associate with the paper. You see the homework you labored over for three hours last night, you see the letter your mom wrote you before she died all too soon, you see the cast list of the first play you ever starred in. With all of these memories, recollections, and connections, it’s difficult to see what the paper is at its most minimalist level. It’s difficult to view anything with such simplicity: a tree, your alarm clock, the teddy bear from your childhood. As we grow and evolve, the objects around us change in our minds. Our perceptions may shift and alter, but the object itself stays largely the same. The intrinsic values of the thing are pointedly stagnant.
People are like this, too. What is a person? Scientifically, we are all just a mass of organs, muscles, bones, and blood packaged together by yards of skin. Your dad, your wife, your worst enemy—they’re all just talking skeletons. Obviously, it’s unrealistic that anyone could view other people in this basic way. The connections we make are what life, at its core, is about. An individual in your life becomes synonymous with their role. You don’t see your best friend as the product of meiosis following the union of a sperm and an egg. You see them as you partner in crime, your confidant, the one talking skeleton who truly understand yours talking skeleton. For humans especially, it’s difficult to extricate our basic identity and our perceived one. Although we are all glorified objects gifted with an overactive sense of self, we tend to forget this more times than not.
When your boyfriends tells you he may not be a boy, it’s important to decide which identity is more important to you—the real or the perceived.
Do you love him because he has a penis or do you love him because he makes the best/worst puns?
Do you love him because of the testosterone concentrations in his body or because he has the best, crinkliest eyes when he smiles? Do you love him because the SRY gene was activated while he was in the womb or because he once bought you an entire loaf of Wonderbread to eat when you thought you had alcohol poisoning? Is the simplistic or complicated definition of your significant other more important? If you choose the former, break up. If you choose the latter, stay together. Your partner’s gender dysphoria does not affect the important parts of their being. Your perception does not have to change, but their basic exterior must.
Let’s go back to that paper, with the last latter your mother wrote. It’s not important to you that she wrote it on notebook paper, or a dirty cocktail napkin, or on the back of a Walmart receipt. It’s important that she told you she loves you, that she’ll always believe in you, that you will always matter. It’s the content, not the medium, that makes you cherish the latter. The feelings you associate with the letter cause you to store it away in your bedside table’s drawer and read it before bed each night.
You fall in love with someone not because of what they are, but who they are. Remember this. A person is more than two lumps of fat smacked on their chest, a blue or pink balloon, or an M or an F on a birth certificate. We are shaped by the exterior, but we work hardest on the interior.