Naomi Gopher faces endless judgement and intimate interrogations about her relationship with Inbar Ney, a transgender man. In a joint interview the couple describes society’s norms that they try to break, and how they try to avoid definitions regarding their sexuality and relationship.
“I really can’t understand why the sight of a short man and a tall woman walking hand in hand makes people stare. Something about this height difference makes people stare at us until we’re out of their sight,” wrote 18-year-old Naomi Gopher, girlfriend of Inbar Ney, a 27-year-old transgender man, in a Facebook post, sharing feelings of her daily life experiences.
“Nowadays I’m going out with women,” says Ney, and describes the rigidity of thinking according to which society tends to categorize his sexual orientation. “I think that people say: Well, now that he’s a man he ‘should’ be with women if he acts right. I mean, I fit in a known box for them.”
Just like Ney, Gopher also doesn’t believe in definitions. “Now that I’m with Inbar, people ask me why I don’t prefer going out with a biological man,” she says. “People interpret my sexual attraction depending on the person I’m dating at a certain moment. For me, I am just dating people who make me feel good.”
Ney and Naomi say that the first thing people judge about their relationship is the height difference, which is about 4 inches, because it’s the first thing that’s noticeable. “People judge the fact that she’s taller than I am, and it makes me laugh because in the past people judged my appearance; they weren’t sure if I was a man or a woman, or if I go hand in hand with a woman as a butch lesbian or with a feminine girl according to conventions. In the end, the questions are the same questions and the looks are the same looks. Only the eye color changes. ”
Gopher says that the relationship with Inbar leads to many questions from her surroundings. The curiosity about the relationship between the two sometimes leads people to ask very intimate questions that are accompanied by criticism. “I get questions from friends and family, like ‘why would you enter something that is so complex, distinct and different if you have another option?’
“I face very intimate questions that are asked rudely, and it’s clear to me that if we were a straight couple they wouldn’t arise. ‘How do you do it?’ and ‘What does he have between his legs?’ For some reason people feel comfortable asking these questions. I’m all for curiosity; there are those who really don’t know what it is about so it’s important to raise awareness. It’s a good thing as long as the questions are not aggressive and intrusive.”
Social judgment spreads onto other areas besides their relationship and gender. “I’m criticized about going out with an 18-year-old. Friends ask me: Why are you going out with a child?”, says Ney. “People always find something to get caught on. I made a decision to quit trying to make the lives of others comfortable by explaining, and that has made my life easier. They can come to whatever conclusion they want. It will likely be wrong. I won’t compromise. If someone feels it’s not proper, that’s their problem.”
The attempt to define is noticeable even when it comes to LGBT places like clubs. “Most of my friends are from the community. I grew up in this community and for me it’s home,” says Ney.”What is the funniest thing to me is that when I enter a club with Naomi people think we’re a straight couple. So now they ask: ‘what are you doing here, this is a women’s party?’ Tomorrow they may ask her,’what are you doing here? this is a gay party.’ Suddenly
I found that I don’t fit into these boxes very well, so I decided to go to places even where it ‘doesn’t fit’.
“People find it hard to understand that we conduct a relationship like any other couple. They perceive the physical differentiations instead of looking at whatever it is that unites us,” Gopher explains. “I think that it will benefit all of us to refrain from being fixated, from the desire to put everything you know into a box. Instead, just live,” adds Ney. “When jurisdiction disappears there will be greater unity, something the community really needs, given the fact that we still don’t have equal rights. There’s no such thing as one truth; everyone has their own truth and you can’t tell them that it’s wrong. It’s important that we learn just to listen and accept things as they are. Formation of identity and the struggle for your place in society is important, but I think everything has its time and its place, and one needs to know how to choose their wars.”