Tomorrow night, Oxygen will debut their new four-part series, Living Different. Every week will have a different theme and the premiere is about “Love Without Labels,” aka women who are living with different sexual identities. Out androgynous model Rain Dove is part of the episode and shares how she is open to being and dating any gender.
Also in the episode is Lizz, a Mexican-American lesbian who is struggling with her own identity after her partner, Stacey, has begun transitioning to a male. Lizz fully supports Stacey but feels like she must tell her staunchly Catholic family what is going on in her relationship. It’s clear that her brothers and mother don’t fully understand what “transgender” means, and Lizz feels like she has to come out all over again.
We spoke with Lizz about her experience on the show, how she felt about helping a partner through a transition and how her family has dealt with their daughter “living different.”
AfterEllen.com: How did you hear about the show and become involved?
Lizz: The producer heard about me and my story so I was approached … to see if I was interested. So I went through the whole process with them and took it from there.
AE: This is your real life, so you’ve dealt with these issues of coming out as queer or lesbian, and now as a partner of someone transgender. How different was it going through it with the cameras involved?
L: Honestly, it wasn’t that bad for me. I felt like I was very much ready to let my family in and I just wanted it to be known because I was tired of bottling it up. I feel like it was more a stress on me because I knew that Stacey was kinda nervous about it. He wasn’t sure how his family was going to react to it that, you know? Would they reject me or us or would we have family trouble because of it? But as far as the cameras being there, I didn’t have a problem with it.
AE: Stacey is “she” on the episode but now you are referring to him as “he.” Can you talk about the pronouns and how that’s changed in your relationship?
L: The pronouns were a little bit of as struggle at first. I know that during the time of the show it was still pretty early on in Stacey’s transition. He had only been doing the testosterone for a few months and he wasn’t comfortable with switching pronouns just yet. He wanted to wait until he looked more masculine until after top surgery so we all, family and friends in his life referred to him by female pronouns. So now that it’s a little more time, he has to shave everyday and his voice is deeper than it was, and now he’s comfortable with male pronouns. He hasn’t specifically requested it, but I can tell when his family refers to him as female pronouns it makes him feel uncomfortable.
AE: The show is about your relationship, but it’s pretty focused on you. As someone who is a lesbian and wanted to be with another woman, how did it feel to have a partner say, “Actually, I am male”?
L: It was really hard at first. I remember the first month after he told me, I had to genuinely reflect and decide if it’s something I wanted to go through with him. I came out as a lesbian, and at the point that Stacey told me, I had finally come out to everybody I knew. It was a liberating feeling, and I was still enjoying that. I didn’t know if I wanted to take on another struggle, coming out all over again. So the first month was really shaky. We communicated as a couple a lot and eventually I decided that true love—it comes around once in a lifetime. What me and Stacey have is really special so I didn’t want to give up on him because of this one thing.
AE: I think a lot of queer women will watch and think about it because its something very real in our community. What is something you hope comes out of your participation in the show?
L: Well for one I really hope that any person that’s questioning their gender identity, I hope that it kind of, I hope they’re not afraid to come out. When Stacey told me I found out he told his family a couple months before me. He ran it past them, kinda like “What would you say or do if I wanted to be a man?” And his sisters and family expressed that he was afraid to lose me. So anyone out there that might be feeling that way that their loved ones might shut them out, I hope that they don’t feel that way. That people in their lives can receive and accept it and move on from it. I also hope that it gives people who can’t relate to this in any way, a point of reference. I’ve noticed with a lot of people in my life they don’t know anyone in the LGBT community whatsoever. Never communicated with a queer person or what have you – this is completely a new concept for them. They have all these questions and I don’t think they’re in an offensive way. I think these days transgender is becoming more common knowledge but there are still people who don’t know what it entails. I hope it can be a reference for people that way.
L: My brothers are awesome right now. I can’t remember if they were caught on camera or not, but they know that Stacey has no male figure in his life. He has his sisters. He’s not a masculine manly man sort, so Stacey was nervous about when he started growing facial hair—he was concerned about what to do. Then my brother said, “You have brothers now. You can ask us what to do.” That was really, really touching. My mom was pretty awkward after the show, it felt like there was an elephant in the room still. I could tell she wasn’t ready to talk about it at first but after a couple of months she was fine. She asked about Stacey, and over Thanksgiving she asked if Stacey was coming. So they want to include him. They haven’t switched the pronouns just yet, which is something I’ll have to bring up to them for them to do. I don’t think they realize its something they’re supposed to do. But, yeah pretty, much my family sees Stacey as my partner and will always be my partner even though we haven’t been married just yet.
Living Different premieres January 6 at 9pm Et/PT night on Oxygen.