Now That I See You by Emma Batchelor

‘I found some hairs last night. Long and dark. Glaring at me against the white tiles of the bathroom floor.’

In brief, this is a story about a relationship breakdown which occurred after one partner tells the other that they are transgender. What started as a relationship between a man and a woman fails when the man becomes a woman. Emma, whose story this is, finds it very hard to let go. The story unfolds over a period of eighteen months and is told in three parts: ‘Us’, ‘Them’ and ‘Me’. Emma, as part of ‘Us’ struggles with Jess’s disclosure and tries to think of ways to accommodate Jess’s change within her own needs. But Jess needs space to rediscover themselves and to make a new life.

We have only Emma’s perspective through her thoughts, diary entries and eMails to Jess. Jess is essentially silent. While that is okay — it is Emma’s story — it made it difficult for me to get any real sense of who Jess is.

‘It is curious how devoted we are to binary thinking, both in terms of gender and sexuality. Actually, not just binary thinking but traditional thinking. If you are a woman, you must be attracted to men. If you were initially attracted to men, you must always be attracted to them. We struggle with the in-between spaces, the grey areas that change. Anything that subverts the norm, really.’

Emma grieves for the loss of her relationship with Jess and while I felt sympathy for her, initially I wanted to know how Jess was feeling. But I guess that is another story. Relationships change over a lifetime: children become adults, form their own significant relationships, some become parents, the cycle repeats. But these relationships are usually lived out within specific binary gender constraints. And so, I am forced to think about how relationships formed within those constraints are challenged (and often broken) if one partner’s role changes.

‘I am a casualty of your quest for self-exploration.’

A challenging and thought-provoking read.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith