what's it like to fall in love when one of you is transitioning
For Elijah and Tallulah, experiencing his transition together only brought them closer.
Tallulah and Elijah
Tallulah Haddon and Elijah Harris are partners in crime, partners in love, and partners in queerness. Or, as they poetically describe themselves, “a femme-daddy and trans sissy queer couple.” Meeting Tallulah's gaze at a cabaret performance hosted by Fagulous, Elijah first thought to himself: “Who is this weirdo doing a creepy, pervy performance about cannibalism while beatboxing?” Needless to say, they hit it off. At the time, Elijah was in the process of transitioning. All relationships are unique, and while Tallulah and Elijah’s experience is not one a lot of couples face, it was what ultimately brought them closer together.
Having spent the last 42 years as a couple (or so they claim, we’re not so convinced on this point), the pair now spend their days caring for 700 rabbits, collaborating on performance art, sharing saliva and acting as queer ambassadors. They occasionally grind on each other, too. We met the pair to get their beautiful, unique insight into the intricacies of a queer relationship.
How did you guys meet?
Tallulah: We first met at a Gay Shame event. Elijah was wearing gold hot pants. He doesn't remember anything because he was too drunk. I have a lasting memory of staring at his ass as he walked away in those gold hot pants. He has a great ass. He was by far the most beautiful person I had ever seen, I wasn’t sure he was real. We then met about a year later – Elijah was stalking me. I was performing at a cabaret competition, and I was so late – I arrived about three minutes before I was supposed to go on. After that, we got talking.
Eli: We met at a cabaret night hosted by the wonderful Fagulous. I was supporting a friend who was performing and Tallulah was doing a performance. I just thought, “Who is this weirdo doing a creepy, pervy performance about cannibalism, while beatboxing?” She looked like a tiny glittering mythical creature of some sort. We mostly took the piss out of each other all night and then I asked her out. I didn’t really know what she looked like because of the make-up but I knew I liked the way her mouth formed words. She wasn’t bothered that I was transitioning, thought I felt like a half-formed thing, in a state of becoming. I vomited my way through our first date/drink, but she still kissed me. Then it just kind of turned into a full blown, all encompassing, mutual obsession.
Have you changed each other? If so, how?
Tallulah: Yes, I cast a spell on Elijah and he turned into a man. It was me. In the early days we had jokes that Elijah was actually turning into a bear, possibly a chameleon – that he's a shapeshifter, and I couldn’t hold onto him, always slipping away. I wouldn't really want to change Elijah. However, I think I've encouraged him to wear pink and other things he might not have otherwise. I've dyed his hair all sorts of colours and made him spit and cry into vials for me to wear, so I guess I've taken some of his secretions away, and probably changed the levels of jelly inside him.
Eli: I dunno about changing each other as such, but I have definitely grown or developed or something. Like, if I was a hermit crab, our relationship has given me the courage to come out of this smaller shell and go for a bigger one just down the beach a bit, nearer the water or something. Tallulah might say she showers more because of me?
How has the relationship changed you as individuals?
Tallulah: How can I begin to explain that – to describe something that feels like a part of you? I don't know how I can fish it out and look at it, analyse it.
Eli: When we first met I had been on hormones for a month so I’ve been through a lot of physical change. A few months into our relationship, I had top surgery, so that was pretty intense for her, for me and for us as a couple. It was quite bizarre. It is all tied up together, my transition and our relationship. I’m not saying I would have been a different person without her – it just would have been a different ball game I guess.
What have you learnt from each other?
Tallulah: He's taught me what a “French stick” is, what it feels like to have the sea touching my feet, and what it means to be brave. I’ve always been brave, but I've seen a different kind of braveness in Elijah. It has made me hold my head high at times, when I feel like I would normally run away from difficult shit. I've gotten more feisty since meeting him - like when people tell me to put my dick away. I like to watch him swim -- seeing his little body floating in and out the tide, his new fleshy chest. He's a brave floating jelly, made of sissy freedom and overgrowing chest hair. He's also the reason I love Ariana Grande.
Eli: My family isn’t remotely religious so being part of her family's Jewish traditions has been really cool -- and they are liberal so it’s all pretty relaxed. I play a special part at Passover dinner, where you leave the door open for the Prophet Elijah. So I sneak out the door just before that bit of the service and they open the door for me. It’s a nice moment more than anything, and sums up how open and kind her family have been to me. Another thing she's taught me is how to talk about poo. Tallulah seems to get off on breaking down the layers of my repressed being. I’m now much better at arguing in general, and I also feel comfortable telling her I need a shit. It’s nice, this thing we have.
What does it mean to be in a queer relationship?
Tallulah: It's several things. For one, it is a rebellion against heteronormative culture -- a political action. It is also very funny and bizarre, surreal even. Situations like your partner getting his tits cut off are not an issue in other people's relationships. Seeing someone you love in pain and anguish because of their body, how they feel in themselves and how other people treat them is really fucked. And if you don’t make jokes about their tits being in jars of formaldehyde afterwards, you might just cry about how intense it all is.
I find myself adapting all the time, evolving. If one thing doesn’t work, then fuck it, we try something else. Necessity is the mother of invention. Our vernacular can also be a barrier -- expressing yourself can be difficult when the right terms, the right language, have not been invented yet. ‘Boyfriend’ doesn’t sound right, for example. It doesn’t describe the complexities and joy of what I have experienced. I usually like to say partner because I feel we are partners; partners in crime, partners in love, in solidarity.
Eli: I think for us it is political. We are definitely not a cis-het couple. We are queer and angry and proud. Sometimes, if we are in a queer space and T is performing, people look past me and talk to her. I get that she is bizarre looking and cool, but I ain’t her cis straight boyfriend. That drives me nuts. To the majority of people, our relationship is 'other'. Not everyone can get their head around it and so they feel the need to label us -- especially, when it comes to T’s sexuality. Which is just fucking basic really. Therefore, our queerness and my identity as a trans person, is part of us as a couple. We create spaces for each other in ways I haven’t experienced before.
This article originally appeared on i-D UK.