Bibliophile | ‘Now That I See You’ by Emma Batchelor

Now That I See You
by Emma Batchelor
Allen & Unwin

Something was wrong but she was totally unprepared for her boyfriend Jess to admit to her that they were more comfortable wearing women’s clothes than men’s outfits. She thought of what it took to say those words out loud “to make this admission with the knowledge that those words could be a trigger to explode our comfortable life, knowing that once said they could never be unsaid”.

A few weeks later, both of them are reading books and online articles about gender identity, but she discovers that most of the writing is directed towards the person wanting to question and explore their gender identity – and not their partner. Message boards weren’t very supportive either as all the people had left their partners when they shared that they were transgender and she couldn’t imagine leaving the love of her life.

All she wanted was for Jess to be happy and feel comfortable and confident but everything was complicated by Jess being on the autism spectrum. She writes about happier times when they first met and also uses writing to explore her feelings through the turbulent times. She keeps a journal and emails Jess with her questions, concerns and goals – emails which start with “hello my love” before becoming “hello” and then disintegrating into no greeting at all as their relationship also disintegrates.

Canberra author Emma Batchelor has just won the 2021 The Australian/Vogel’s Literary Award for her authentic and intimate exploration of the 18 months after her partner disclosed that they were transgender, based on her own experience of her partner transitioning from presenting as male to female. “I took out actual letters and my journal entries and used them as scaffold from which to build the story. It was important to me not to speak for my partner or to tell her story.”

A natural people pleaser, she found herself caught in negative thought spirals and tangled up with “fucking pronouns”. It was difficult being, as she describes it, a casualty of someone else’s self exploration. She lost her partner, her best friend, her well-being and potentially her home and realised that when your partner transitions, you have to as well. From the depths of despair, she had to rebuild her self-esteem and her life.

Lezly Herbert


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