Ask Matt: Reflections on Transgender Marriage Legalities

A READER WRITES: “I am a transman in a committed relationship (6.5 years together) with a cisman. We met when I was still presenting as female, and he has been a source of unconditional love throughout the process. I hope to begin hormone therapy in early December, and he supports me.

“We were in a car accident last month, and he was flown to Shock Trauma – we’re fine, but the incident got me thinking about how to have our relationship recognised by others, particularly medical professionals. It was dreadful to be in the waiting room, knowing his family could exclude me from his side, hoping the nurses would believe me when I expressed the strength of our relationship.

“We have thought about marriage, which would be possible as I am still seen as female by the state, but ‘marriage’ has unpleasant connotations for us (family history and gender discomfort) – and would it even be recognised once I have a male driver’s license and legal papers? How about a living will, advance directives, or durable power of attorney?

“We want to be each other’s emergency contact, the first person allowed to see the other when he is hospitalised, the one who makes medical decisions for the other if he cannot, and the one who decides how to handle arrangements if the other passes away. We’ve looked online, but cannot find much information for cisman/transman partnerships. Thank you, so much, for any help you are able to give.”

Usually, my disclaimer is “I am not a doctor,” but this time, it’s “I am not a lawyer.” However, I do know that there are some lawyers out there who read this blog, and I hope today that they’re reading this. There are probably some other trans people with similar experiences who can relay information.

An additional concern for me is that certain things about your letter indicate that you might not live in the U.S. (such as the use of the letter “s” instead of the U.S. “z”). If you’re not in the U.S., any legalities here might not apply in your case.

Here’s what I know about the U.S. – there is no federal law covering same-sex marriage, only a handful of states allow same-sex marriage, and only a handful of states recognize same-sex marriages from other states.

However, if you marry now, yours would not be a same-sex marriage as far as the law is concerned. My understanding is that, even if you change your legal documents later on, your marriage would still be considered legal everywhere in the United States.

That doesn’t mean that it’s not possible to run into problems. Even
gay men with power-of-attorney documents, domestic partnership documents, and other legal assurances have been forced to carry their paperwork with them at all times in order to prove their legal relationship. Because of your physical appearance, you will be seen as a gay male couple by the world, and there will not be the assumption of marriage that there is with obviously heterosexual couples.

However, when you are able to prove your marriage through documentation, there (ideally) should be no problems – but even that is not a guarantee, depending on where you are. In my opinion, if you decide to marry, you should carry your documentation with you at all times. If you decide not to marry, you should see a good attorney in your area who can set you up with all the necessary paperwork, such as power of attorney, that you will need in order to give yourselves the legal protections that you desire.

Many trans people and their legal spouses or legal designees have also run into difficulties after the death of one of the partners when family members come in to contest a will or other legal arrangements. In the U.S., this has caused many headaches for surviving spouses and partners, and some have lost money, property, and even minor cherished possessions as a result. It is really essential that you have a good lawyer who is versed in the law with regard to same-sex relationships.

I understand the feelings that you have about marriage, but you might be wise to cover your bases while that privilege is still open to you. However, I would never advise someone to go against their moral principles or values for the sake of convenience.

The bottom line is that you need your own lawyer, and even if you find advice on the Internet, you are best off actually seeing someone and drawing up all the legal paperwork that is recommended to you. Even so, I still hope to hear from attorneys out there, along with others who have personal experience in this area, who can offer some preliminary thoughts, ideas, and guidance.

Readers – let’s see your briefs! That was supposed to be a lawyer joke.

About the writer:

Matt Kailey is a transsexual man and an award-winning author, blogger, and community leader, as well as a nationally recognized speaker and trainer on transgender issues.

He is the author of Just Add Hormones: An Insider’s Guide to the Transsexual Experience (Beacon Press), a Lambda Literary Award finalist and Rocky Mountain News local bestseller, and his work has appeared in numerous publications, from anthologies to professional journals.

He is also a media personality who has appeared on local and national radio and television, in local and national print publications, and in five documentary films.

Matt began his transition from female to male in 1997 after 42 years of living as a straight female (as far as his age, you can do the math, but he is a proud, card-carrying member of AARP).

At that time, he entered an entirely new community – the LGBT community – which was both a culture shock and an incredible and life-changing learning experience.

Shortly after his transition, Matt took over facilitation of the Trans Man Support Group for the Gender Identity Center of Colorado and ran the group for almost six years. He also authored a column, “my point eXactlY,” for the Gender Identity Center Journal. That column became the basis for the book Just Add Hormones.

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