I’m going to Tina’s tomorrow night.

Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day, but I’d be at Tina’s apartment tomorrow even if that holiday didn’t exist. Wednesday has become one of our regular date nights. Also Mondays… and also Fridays. We’re spending as much time together as not anymore. Tina gave me a key to their place last week. We’re both non-binary so we can’t really be lesbians, but I joked to them that we were probably U-Haul lesbians anyways. We’re trying to come up with a genderqueer version of that expression so we don’t misgender each other, but Avis Enbies doesn’t have the same ring to it.

This is the first Valentine’s Day of my entire life where I’ve been in a relationship. I’ve been in other relationships, but they never lasted more than six months and that three-to-six month period never included Valentine’s Day. I’m a polyamorous pansexual transgender Communist. I think Valentine’s Day as it exists now is an invention of cishet patriarchal capitalist oppression. However, my core is shameless romance, and the only thing I can think about right now is how excited I am to share tomorrow evening with my partner and to find ways to show them how much they mean to me and how much happiness they’ve brought into my life in such a short period of time.

Tina and I have been dating for about a month now, and we haven’t known each other for much longer than that. Our relationship has developed so rapidly that it should feel like a blur, but each evening/day that I’ve spent with them so far is etched with painterly precision in my memory. Tina and I have regular conversations about how quickly we’ve become fixtures in each other’s lives and how that swift intensity should be freaking us both out but also how it isn’t doing that at all. Tina and I have more reasons than most to be wary of the early glow of a new relationship and all of the ways that can be an invitation to heartache, but most of our conversations about our relationship end with one of us making an earnest confession about how peaceful we feel and how none of the relationships we’ve been in before have ever felt this right.

Sometimes, on the nights when I’m at my place and not at Tina’s, I’ll roll over in my bed to cuddle against them. They’re not there, and I’ll have to remind myself that I didn’t dream up the last month. I have to rub the sleep from my eyes and convince my mind that they really exist. I have to make myself process my new reality which is that I’m in a relationship with another non-binary person in rural West Virginia, and that I’ve suddenly woken up into a partnership with someone who embraces my queerness and my genderqueerness as essential parts of who I am.

It’s such a difficult thing to accept because I’ve never had something like this in my life before. I’ve never dated someone that wasn’t a cishet woman. I haven’t dated anyone since I came out as trans and started transitioning. I haven’t been someone’s partner since George Bush was President. I’ve been in casual relationships, but I haven’t been in a committed partnership since 2008. And that “partner” was the woman who raped me and serially abused me my sophomore year of college. I turn 30 in just over a year, and I haven’t had a single serious romantic relationship in my 20s.

I wasn’t in very many casual relationships either. I was in two extended casual flings in my 20s (and maybe went on more than one date with about half a dozen other women). Those flings ended when my cishet partners realized how queer/trans I was before I did. I don’t blame them. There was always an intense spark at the beginning. Shared interests. An intellectual chemistry. Mutual physical attraction. And it would always dissipate in a cloud of confusion when my femininity would win out as I became closer and more open with the women I was trying to date.

More recently than seems probable, Tina and I had one of the more intense and vulnerable conversations of our relationship. It was the first one where we both acknowledged how much we were falling for each other and how ready we were to explore whatever relationship we would wind up building together. I told Tina that one of the reasons that they were beginning to mean so much to me was that I knew I could tell them a couple years down the road that I was a trans woman and not just non-binary (and that’s an honest possibility) and that I knew that they would still care for me and want to be with me.

Tina pressed me against their chest and assured me that if I decided I was a woman that their feelings about me wouldn’t change. That the core of who I was wasn’t related to my genitalia or what pronouns I used or how I presented my gender externally. They had let me into their life because of how I treated them and how I treated others and how I thought about/talked about the world and how I was able to make them feel happy and safe and that would all stay the same if I was a man or nb or a woman or something else.

I’ve written on this blog a lot about how my gender identity feels fluid. How there are days where I feel more androgynous and there are days where I feel more like a woman (there are never days where I feel like a man anymore). But I had never said that out loud to another person. Not to my family. Not to my closest friends. But I was lying naked in Tina’s arms and I had to know (and already knew before they answered) that I had finally found someone that I could say something that risky to and for once in my life, I wasn’t let down.

I remember telling my former best friend (who no longer speaks to me because I’m pretty pro-killing Nazis) when I was 21 that I was queer and he told me that I wasn’t. I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve told my Mom that I was femme and how little she was able to comprehend of what I was saying when I laid that out. I’ve told people that I’m nb and they call me masculine pronouns without batting an eye and never realize that they’ve misgendered me. I told Tina that someday I might be a woman and that’s something they should prepare themselves for, and Tina said everything that I needed to hear to remind myself that I can be the best, happiest version of myself if I have someone around who supports me exploring all of the sides of me I never thought I could inhabit.

I’ve fallen head over heels for Tina for so many reasons. They are such a passionate person. I can listen to them rattle off Dragon Age esoterica for hours (and they can rattle off Dragon Age esoterica for hours). Their capacity for pragmatic empathy is astonishing. They have a considerable talent for navigating right to heart of a thorny emotional issue without sacrificing a clear moral perspective. They are full of so much joy, and they can exhibit a wider range of emotion and passion playing a couple rounds of Overwatch than I was capable of displaying en toto for the last year or so.

But what I always turn around to when I think about Tina is how much they listened when I laid out my trauma to them at the beginning of our friendship. How much they reciprocated as I was opening myself up to them because I was so desperate for a connection built on anything other than superficial cishet gladhanding. How brave they were when they started peeling back their own wounds to me. And how I’ve spent my entire life disappointed and rejected and alienated because I never had the words for why I couldn’t make the connections I so desperately craved. Then I found those words but I didn’t have anybody in my immediate, physical surroundings that I could share with. And then Tina and I stumbled into one another, and it’s been magic from the first correspondence.

I have spent so much of my life alone. I have spent so much of my life not feeling like I had a real home because there wasn’t a place where I felt truly safe and truly wanted because I was never truly me. I don’t know where things go from now on with Tina, but I do know that I will never accept anything less than everything they’ve brought into my life from now on. They have reminded me what it’s like to have a home and to no longer feel alone.