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Emily Thaler Mother May I Photography gay queer trans couple USA Oregon Dancing With Them magazine (1)

Fern & Xander – How Disability Brought them Closer

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OREGON, USA

 

How did you meet?

Fern: The two of us first met at a queer bar. There was a drag show that night, and we both came with different people, but we ended up spending time together because we were both pretty out of our element in the club. We met months later at a yoga studio. Xander taught there, and I was a student. We became friends and would go on hikes with groups of other friends, see each other at yoga events, and would occasionally have dinner together.

One night, after being interested in Xander for months, I sent a text to ask what they were up to. They invited me to a show they were playing. So I went (of course!) We left together and explored this old brick building, an art warehouse that stays unlocked through the night. There are ladders and staircases, and secret rooms throughout. Finally, we ended up on the roof where we watched the stars together. That’s where we had our first kiss.

 

What is your favorite memory together?

After the two of us started dating, we went on a camping trip across the US for around six months. We saw some of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen, and we got to know whether or not we liked each other very quickly in such close and unique quarters. (Spoiler alert: We *did* like each other.) 

One of the best moments of travel was a birthday trip Xander took me on in 2019. It was my first time in North Carolina, and the Blue Ridge Mountains were magnificent. We visited the city of Asheville for a few days and camped inside the mountains for a few days. On our last day there, Xander proposed to me in the most beautiful place I’ve ever been. We layed in the grass and told each other how much we loved each other, explored the beauty around us, and felt very full of love.

Another memory I love: We used to teach partner acrobatics together, specializing in teaching complete beginners how to put each other into the air. One Valentine’s Day, we had the opportunity to teach a workshop for romantic partners. I didn’t know what to expect or if anyone would show up. I was so happily surprised when it was a packed room full of partners who had never experienced anything like it before. The amount of trust and communication these folks built together over those three hours was so beautiful to watch. For a few hours, we could be a part of all these people’s love, and it was such a rewarding experience. We stayed and had our own little tea and chocolate date afterward.

 

What has been the biggest challenge you’ve had to overcome together?

During the first years of our relationship, we were teachers of partner acrobatics. The community we built, the classes we taught, and the acrobatics we did together were a huge part of our lives and identities. However, throughout the years, my body has changed. In 2020 I was diagnosed with classical EDS and POTS and was told that I had to stop doing all partner acrobatics. Losing this part of our lives was a massive shift. In different ways, we both felt layers of guilt, grief, and sadness. I had to learn who I was again, and we had to create new blueprints for who we are as partners.

My body changed so much, and my disability continues to shift daily. Going through this together helped us see how resilient we both are and how much we manage to lift and support each other through tough times.

Xander is the most incredible caretaker, uplifting energy, listener, and partner. There was (and is) so much to learn and change, and I have felt supported and seen by Xander every second of the way.

 

Tell us your favorite thing about one another.

Fern: Xander is sunshine in human form. They are truly the most loving and loveable people I’ve ever known. They see the good in everyone and everything. They care about other people and animals and will do whatever it takes to stand up for what’s right. Xander brings out childlike playfulness in me and never takes life too seriously. They make me laugh like nobody else. And the singing?! Xander writes and performs music that is beautiful and still makes me swoon all these years later. 

 

Xander: Fern is a mysterious person at first, but as soon as she feels comfortable with you, she shows you her super goofy, playful side.

She is so creative and intelligent. I love having deep conversations with her. I love learning from her and hearing her perspective because I love the ways she thinks. Fern is not shy to speak up against injustice. That makes me so proud to be her partner. She is the most supportive and loving partner I could ever ask for.

Fern is always singing or humming and has the most beautiful magical voice. She loves singing to the animals on our land (chickens and ducks), and I think they love it, too.

 

What’s in the future for you both?

This year we will get married! After that, we’ll take our skoolie to our land in Oregon, where Xander will build us a cob house. Within the next two years, we plan on having a child together. We’re so excited. 

We plan to have a little community of friends on the land who want to build cob houses, grow herb gardens, work toward social justice and earth justice, and offer community-enriching workshops and experiences for others. 

Fern is a clinical herbalist who is currently growing her practice and plans on having a big, beautiful herb garden within the next few years. Xander is studying the art of cob house building now with plans to become a teacher so that others can build safe and earth-friendly homes at affordable costs. We would love to create a safe space for LGBTQ+ folks to come and learn about the things we’re passionate about (herbalism, cob houses, yoga, meditation, music, etc.) and to feel connected with nature.

 

How has Xander’s unsupportive family impacted your relationship? 

Xander’s parents are unfortunately not supportive. They never accepted Xander coming out as queer, let alone when they came out as trans. That has been extremely difficult for us both, BUT we feel so lucky that Xander got the gender-affirming medical care they need. My family loves Xander like their own child, and the challenges with Xander’s parents have brought us all closer in a way I couldn’t even have imagined. 

Photography by Mother May I Photography