A queer vision of love and marriage | Tiq Milan and Kim Katrin Milan

Tiq Milan: Our first conversation
was on Facebook, and it was three days long. (Laughter) We shared over 3,000 messages between us, and it was during those 72 hours
that I knew she was going to be my wife. We didn’t wait any prerequisite
amount of time for our courtship; we told each other
the vulnerable truths up front: I am a transgender man, which means the F on my birth
certificate should have stood for “False,” instead of “Female.” (Laughter) Walking around as a woman in the world felt like walking with
pebbles in my shoes. It took the rhythm out of my swagger, it threw me off balance, it pained me with every step
I took forward. But today I’m a man of my own intention; a man of my own design. Kim Katrin Milan: I am
a cisgender queer woman. Cisgender means the gender
I was assigned at birth is still and has always been female. This doesn’t make me natural or normal, this is just one way of describing
the many different ways that we exist in this world. And queer is a cultural term, but in this case, it refers to the way that I’m not
restricted by gender when it comes to choosing partners. I’ve identified in a few different ways — as a bisexual, as a lesbian — but for me, queerness encompasses all of the layers
of who I am and how I’ve loved. I’m layers, and not fractions. And for me, the fact that he was queer meant that I could trust his courtship
from the very beginning. As queer and trans people, we’re so often excluded
from institutions and traditions. We create spaces outside of convention, including the conventions of time. And in those 3,000 messages between us, we collapsed time; we queered it; we laid it all on the table. (Laughter) With no pretense at all. And this meant that we were able
to commit to each other in a profoundly different way. So often what we’re told is this idea
of the “Golden Rule,” that we should treat other people
the way we want to be treated. But the problem with that is that it assumes that we are
the standard for other people, and we’re not. We need to treat other people
the way they want to be treated, which means we had to ask. I couldn’t assume that the kind
of love that Tiq needed was the same kind of love that I needed. So I asked him everything —
about his fears, his insecurities — and we started from there. TM: I didn’t know what
kind of love I needed. I had just come out of a year-long fog of being rejected and utterly depleted. I had someone look me in my eyes and tell me that I was unworthy
of their love because I was trans. And there’s a culture of lovelessness that we’ve created around
transgender people. It’s reasoned, justified
and often signed into law. And I was a heartbeat away
from internalizing that message, that I wasn’t worthy. But Kim said that I was her ideal — the heartbroken mess that I was. (Laughter) KKM: He totally was my ideal. (Laughter) In more ways than one. Both poets, writers, creatives with a long history
of community work behind us, and big, huge dreams
of a family in front of us, we shared a lot of things in common, but we were also incredibly different. I’ve been a lifelong traveler
and a bit of an orphan, whereas he comes from a huge family, and definitely stays grounded. I often kind of sum up
the differences in our strengths by saying, “Keep me safe, and I’ll keep you wild.” (Laughter) TM: We have marginalized identities
but we don’t live marginalized lives. Being queer and trans is about creating
new ways of existing. It’s about loving people as they are, not as they’re supposed to be. Kim is unapologetically feminine in a world that is often cruel and violent to women who are
too proud and too freeing. And I didn’t enter into this union under the auspices that she
was going to be my helper or my rib, but a fully complex — (Laughter) KKM: Right? That’s not right. TM: But a fully complex human being whose femininity wasn’t for me
to rein in, control or critique. It’s her brilliance, the way she leads with compassion, and how she never loses
sight of her empathy. She has been my hero since day one. (Applause) KKM: Our relationship has always been
about setting each other free. One of the first questions I asked him was what dreams he had left to accomplish, and how would I help him get there. His dreams to live as a poet, to adopt and raise a family together, to live a life that he was proud of, and one that would live up to
his mother’s incredible legacy. And I really appreciated that we
were able to start from that place, and not from a place
that was around figuring out how to make each other work together. And I think this really allowed us
to grow into the people that we were in a way that was incredibly different. I love him whole; pre-transition, now and in the future. And it’s this love that had us
committed to each other before we’d even seen each other’s faces. TM: My mother’s biggest
concern when I transitioned was who was going to love me as I am. Had being transgender somehow
precluded me from love and monogamy because I was supposedly
born in the wrong body? But it’s this type of structuring
that has to be reframed in order to let love in. My body never betrayed me, and my body was never wrong. It’s this restrictive,
binary thinking on gender that said that I didn’t exist. But when we met, she loved me for exactly how I showed up. She would trace her fingers
along the numb keloid scars left by my top surgery. Scars that run from the middle of my chest
all the way out to my outer torso. She said that these were
reminders of my strength and everything that I went through and nothing for me to be ashamed of. So sprinting towards her hand in marriage was the queerest thing that I could do. (Laughter) It flew in the face of more
conventional trajectories of love and relationships, because God was never supposed
to bless a union for folks like us, and the law was never
supposed to recognize it. KKM: So on May 5, 2014, just about three months
after meeting online, we were married on the steps
of City Hall in Manhattan, and it was beautiful
in every conceivable way. It’s safe to say that we
reimagined some traditions, but we also kept some old ones
that we worked in, and we created something
that worked for us. My bouquet and corsage was actually filled
with wildflowers from Brooklyn — also added in a little bit of lavender
and sage to keep us grounded because we were so nervous. And it was put together by a sweet
sister healer friend of ours. I never wanted a diamond ring, because conflict and convention
are not my thing, so my ring is the deepest purple, like the color of my crown chakra, and set in place with my birthstones. The gift of queerness is options. I never had to choose his last name, it was never an exception, but I did because I am
my father’s bastard child, someone who has always been
an apology, a secret, an imposition. And it was incredibly freeing to choose the name of a man
who chose me first. (Applause) TM: So we told some family
and some close friends, many of whom were still in disbelief
as we took our vows. Fittingly, we posted all of our wedding
photos on Facebook, where we met — and Instagram, of course. And we quickly realized that our coming together was more
than just a union of two people, but was a model of possibility
for the millions of LGBTQ folks who have been sold this lie that family and matrimony
is antithetical to who they are — for those of us
who rarely get to see ourselves reflected in love and happiness. KKM: And the thing is, absolutely we are marginalized
because of our identities, but it also emboldens us
to be the people that we are. Queerness is our major key; blackness is our magic. It’s because of these things that we are able to be hopeful, open,
receptive and shape-shifting. These are the things that give us, and are such an incredible
source of, our strength. Our queerness is a source
of that strength. I think of the words of Ottawa-based
poet Brandon Wint: “Not queer like gay;
queer like escaping definition. Queer like some sort of fluidity
and limitlessness all at once. Queer like a freedom
too strange to be conquered. Queer like the fearlessness
to imagine what love can look like, and to pursue it.” TM: We are part of a community of folks — Yeah, that’s good right? (Laughter) We are part of a community of folks
who are living their authentic selves all along the gender spectrum, despite the ubiquitous threat of violence, despite the undercurrent of anxiety
that always is present for people who live on their own terms. Globally, a transgender person
is murdered every 21 hours. And the United States has had more
trans murders on record this year than any year to date. However, our stories are much more
than this rigid dichotomy of strength and resilience. We are expanding the human
complexity on these margins, and we are creating freedom
on these margins. KKM: And we don’t have any blueprints. We’re creating a world
that we have literally never seen before; organizing families based
on love and not by blood, guiding by a compassion that so few of us
have been shown ourselves. So many of us have not received
love from our families — have been betrayed by the people
that we trust most. So what we do here is we create
entirely new languages of love. Ones that are about creating the space
for us to be our authentic selves and not imposing this standard of what masculinity or femininity
is supposed to be. TM: We are interested
in love and inclusion as a tool of revolutionary change, right? And the idea is simply, if we drop all our preconceived notions about how somebody is supposed to be — in their body, in their
gender, in their skin — if we take the intentional steps
to unlearn these deep-seated biases and create space for people
to be self-determined, and embrace who they are, then we will definitely create a better
world than the one we were born into. (Applause) KKM: We want to mark this time in history by leaving evidence of the fact
that we were here. We open up little windows
into our relationship for our community to bear witness, and we do this because we want
to make maps to the future and not monuments to ourselves. Our experience does not invalidate
other peoples’ experience, but it should and necessarily does
complicate this idea of what love and marriage
are supposed to be. TM: OK, now for all the talking, and inspiring, and possibility-modeling we’ve done, we’ve been nowhere near perfect. And we’ve had to hold
a mirror up to ourselves. And I saw that I wasn’t
always the best listener, and that my ego got in the way
of our progress as a couple. And I’ve had to really assess
these deep-seated, sexist ideas that I’ve had about the value
of a woman’s experience in the world. I’ve had to reevaluate what it means
to be in allyship with my wife. KKM: And I had to remind myself
of a lot of things, too. What it means to be hard on the issues, but soft on the person. While we were writing this,
we got into a massive fight. (Laughter) For so many different reasons, but based on the content about our values
and our lived experiences — and we were really hurt, you know? Because what we do and how we love
puts ourselves entirely on the line. But even though the fight lasted
over the course of two days — (Laughter) We were able to come back
together to each other, and recommit to ourselves,
to each other and to our marriage. And that really yielded
some of the most passionate parts of what we share with you here today. TM: I have had to interrogate masculinity, which I think doesn’t happen enough. I’ve had to interrogate masculinity; the toxic privileges that come
with being a man don’t define me, but I have to be accountable
for how it shows up in my life every day. I have allowed my wife
to do all of the emotional labor of prying open the lines of communication
when I’d rather clam up and run away. (Laughter) I’ve stripped away emotional support
instead of facing my own vulnerabilities, particularly around the heartbreaking
miscarriage we suffered last year, and I’m sorry for that. Sometimes as men,
we get to take the easy way out. And so my journey as a trans person
is about reimagining masculinity. About creating a manhood
that isn’t measured by the power it wields,
by the entitlements afforded to it, or any simulacrum of control
that it can muster, but works in tandem with femininity, and is guided by my spirit. KKM: Y’all … (Applause) And this has created the space
for my femininity to flourish in a way I had never experienced before. He never is threatened by my sexuality, he never polices what I wear or how I act. I cook but he does way more
of the cleaning than I do. And when we’re rushing
to get out of the house and we have so much to handle, he handles everything, so I have time to do my hair and makeup. (Laughter) He understands that this is my armor, and he never treats femininity
as though it is frivolous or superficial, and this, and him — he grows my experience
of gender every single day. TM: I love to watch her
get dressed in the morning. Watching her in the closet, looking for something comfortable
and colorful, and tight, and safe — (Laughter) But it’s challenging to watch her
negotiate her decisions looking for something that’s going
to get the least amount of attention, but at the same time be an expression
of the vibrant and sexy woman she is. And all I want to do is celebrate
her for her beauty, and the things that make her
beautiful and special and free, from her long acrylic nails, to her uncompromising black feminism. (Applause) KKM: I love you. TM: I love you. (Laughter) KKM: There are so many queer
and trans people who have come before us, whose stories we will never get to hear. We constantly experience
this retelling of history where we are conspicuously left out. And it’s really hard
to not see ourselves there. And so living out loud for us
is about that representation. It’s about having possibility models, and having hope that love is part
of our inheritance in this world, too. TM: The possibility that we are practicing is about reinventing time,
love and institutions. We are creating a future of multiplicity. We are expanding the spectrum
of gender and sexuality, imagining ourselves into existence, imagining a world where gender
is self-determined and not imposed, and where who we are
is a kaleidoscope of possibility without the narrow-minded limitations
masquerading as science or justice. (Applause) KKM: And I can’t lie: it is really, really hard. It is hard to stand in the face of bigotry with an open heart and a smile on my face. It is really hard to face the injustice
that exists in the world, while still believing in the ability
of people to really change. That takes an enormous amount
of faith and dedication. And beyond that, marriage is hard work. (Laughter) Piles of dirty socks on the floor, more boring sports shows
than I ever thought possible — (Laughter) And fights that bring me to tears when it feels like we’re not
speaking the same language. But there is not a day that goes by where I am not so grateful
to be married to this man; where I’m not so grateful for
the possibility of changing minds, and rewarding conversations, and creating a world
where love belongs to us all. I think about our acronym: LGBTQ2SIA. A seemingly endless evolution
of self and a community, but also this really deep desire
not to leave anyone behind. We’ve learned how to love each other, and we’ve committed to loving each other
throughout changes to gender and changes in spirit. And we learned this love
in our chat rooms, in our clubs, in our bars
and in our community centers. We’ve learned how to love
each other for the long haul. TM & KKM: Thank you. (Applause)

100 thoughts on “A queer vision of love and marriage | Tiq Milan and Kim Katrin Milan

  1. i first watched this about 7 months ago on my college winter break. i had had so much trouble accepting my sexuality throughout the past semester, it was hurting my grades, i was drinking too much, then I decided to watch this (and a bunch of other sexuality-focused ted talks) and I had a shift. i felt so much better. i think it gave me a new base to think on so i could actually grow. thank you.

  2. Alright guys listen up and listen well. First off no one is "shoving this down your throat" your the one who clicked on this video.

    Second, all of you who say there are more important things to be learning about are absolutely stupid. This is one of the most important things in this generation. Lgbt people are getting killed. Not just in other countries in America as well.

    So let me share my story for anyone who is also bothered by this transphobia and homophobia.
    I'm a part of the lgbt community. And it took a lot for me to get here to be comfortable enough to down right say it. Even after i was completely ok with who I was, these kinds of comments got to me and low and behold I spiraled into depression. Then with more hate it turned into cutting. Then I attempted suicide. So before you go shoving your hate where it doesn't belong, think about what kind of effect it could have on someone.

  3. They spoke at my university last night. Beautiful couple, dropping a lot of knowledge.

  4. This was wonderful to watch.Very informative and its nice to see positive happy people in this world.Bleassings

  5. I love listening to them talk, especially Kim. Her voice is so soothing lol theyโ€™re such a lovely couple. I enjoyed this TED talk

  6. The fact that you will have to adopt children. You two are two confused little girls

  7. Brace yourselves, Here come the hate filled comments from aged decaying flesh and ice covered holes where hearts should exist.

  8. Gay folks have a Lot of Love an forgiveness in their hearts!๐Ÿ’• beautiful people! Happy 4 u both!!๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘

  9. So sad! but if you want to live in an altered reality go ahead just don't try to force me to watch the purple little men crawling the walls!

  10. Tears burned my face with happiness. Happiness because your story is similar to mine. We too married at the courthouse in NYC. I am so happy for your love story you have shared with the world!

  11. So they are both 2 lesbian women, 1 who dresses like a man and feels he is a man and another woman who would date a man or a woman.

  12. I'm happy that they found each other and that they love each other, but my god this was one of the most narcissistic talks I ever listened to. Us, us, us, me, me, me. I haven't learned a single thing listening to their verbiage.

  13. you are excluded not by hate or bigotry..but by the fact that less that one half of once percent of all people share you struggle

  14. they are literally one of the most beautiful couples i've ever seen like this made me want to cry! Their love man, at the end of the day its all that matters.

  15. im Hetero and THIS was deep, moving, real and beautiful. i love their love!

  16. Marriage is not a queer statement; it's about as normal as someone can get. Therefore, there's no reason to know about these boring people.

  17. Not once did they bring up the creator yet they believe in GOD. Being gay/lesbian is something created by man NOT GOD.

  18. Someone in the comments told me to scroll back up …..I shoulda listened. Pathetic world we live in. I thought this was very beautiful.

  19. I heard Tiq speak at a conference. A very smart forward thinker. They are a beautiful couple. Period.

  20. They give me hope, theyโ€™re so smart and articulate much respect and love to them

  21. Thank you for sharing this story! I cannot wait to share this story with my students. You are helping and changing the world!

  22. this is absolutely amazing.these two are trail blazers. so breathtaking.๐Ÿ˜€๐Ÿ˜€๐Ÿ˜€๐Ÿ˜€.๐Ÿ’–๐Ÿ’–๐Ÿ’–

  23. the way they look at each other smiling <3 just beautiful.. gives me a huge sense of hope! so inspiring

  24. It sounds like they're reading from a script. " Queerness is our major key ; blackness is our magic…"


  26. I freaking love that this is on TED. This is exactly what I've been looking for for weeks now. I'm a gender fluid teen and it's so hard to find validation these days. I so want to meet these wonderful people and ask them about their experiences. It's hard seeing all the transphobic and homophobic comments on this video, but personally, I think this is a big step for education everywhere. Let's paint the world rainbow together!

  27. "We're creating a world that we have literally never seen before." That line gave me chills with the hope of possibility. This fellow nonbinary person salutes you.

  28. How'd I know they'd be Black. Any time it comes to emasculated behavior, it's always a Black man. Any time you want to show feminine, weak, or queer behavior the media uses a Black man. But when Black men are being slaughtered wholesale and unarmed by white police officers you dont show that. You don't show the love of his grieving spouse or partner.

  29. Real men just need to tap into their feminine side ๐Ÿ˜‚ Their putting down heterosexual relationships. Stigmatizing a man and a woman by lifting up themselves as if men don't do these things or a woman is just being used. You cannot reinvent love as a blanket thing. It's unique to each one this earth. My husband cooks and cleans just like I do lol How this born lady gonna tell her sorry about the miscarriage? ๐Ÿ˜‚ lady, you had no biological part in it. I love people especially when they obviously are being a certain way toward non lgbtqsia and it'll continue I'm sure. It's tew murch. Hope everyone has a great life! And remember, God is a woman ๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚๐Ÿ˜‚

  30. Accept people for who they are and not what we want them to be. Everybody is different. Our perspectives should be kept to ourselves. Everybody deals with things differently . Seeing them deal with their problems and supporting each other I feel so happy.

  31. Some of us may have a hard time with the topic of this Video – However >>> . From the Ideas, I was Taught as a Child – to find a way to …… take a Long Hard Look in a Mirror. and ask WHY… and what does it mean to be Human. Life is a Journey – Never stop Learning.

  32. If it was a rich person bragging about how happy they are about their riches, they'd get boo'd off stage.
    If it was fit person bragging about how happy he/she is to have his/her body, he or she would get boo'd off stage.
    If it was a trans person talking about how happy his psycho-graphic is "normal," it's praised… I like to hear stories about how to get fit, how to get rich, how to get smart, how to get motivated, how to push forward in life… why is this a TED talk?, you can't apply this to the vast majority, I can't use this for anything…

  33. Misleading and confusing our children of the 21 century is not acceptable. Let's Vote!

  34. I'm a pansexual, cisgender woman and recently started seeing a trans man. This is my first time in a relationship with someone who is transgender and, while the last thing I care about are what kind of genitals you have, it's a very different and new experience for me. I know that he has gone through struggles I could never completely understand and that he has insecurities that I might not even consider he would have. This talk has helped me so much. It just makes me excited to see him again and smooch on his faceโ˜บ I hope to be a couple like these two, they are actual goals

  35. I know it is important for them but really, for me this was not about beeing queer or anything. It was just about reflecting on your own behaviour, trying to be empathetic towards your partner and wanting to share a life with another person. They share a beautiful vision about a shared life that many people try to aquire. Hope they will have the most amazing time together.

  36. That is my worst night mare to marry a trans person and know after the math. Please God don't punish me ever this way this freaks me out so much it's super creepy even the winner or vagina is not the same yep on this matter I am a completely closed book.

  37. They both have good confidence & cadence. This couple needs to write a book. hetero fan here, the questions they asked each other to help cement their relationship (bc they were already highly compatible) sound interesting.

  38. So amazing that you found each other and very impressed with the eloquence of and beauty of your relationship. Iโ€™m curious from your perspective, if you lived in a world where you didnโ€™t have access to hormones and surgery, could you still be yourself and accept yourself as you are or would you feel those โ€œpebblesโ€ in your shoes. How much of transitioning is trying to fit the cultural mould of one gender?

  39. Reimagining masculinity??? He's a girl, should be easy. Standing up for femininity isn't a choice it's innate.
    Lots of talk to say nothing really.
    Cute couple who have nothing to say and a million words to say it.
    I stand up for free speech. Ramble all you want but I'm not a fan.

  40. Ideology + practice = praxis

    Whatโ€™s amazing about the Milans is the execution of their desire to share their lives as models of possibility. You can watch them do what they talk about here , in real time if you follow them both on Instagram. ๐Ÿ’›โœจโœจ

  41. TED thinks pedophilia is an idea worth spreading. Doubt me? Look it up

  42. They really talk and talk and say very little. I am happy they're happy, but I don't subscribe to their ideology of "cis-gender" and "transgender", these are not sexes you are assigned at birth, gender is masculinity and femininity, gender is not male or female, which are biological realities. Gender is assigned to you by society, not by a doctor, and the way you dress and the styles you like won't change that you're just two women in love, one is masculine and one is feminine, and that's okay.

  43. OH MY, I'm so touched. It's great!! Thank you for you two as two independent individuals, changemakers, as well as a couple, an existing walking encouragement, living inspiration to so many others.

  44. Just cause you use big words and have a decent vocabulary doesnโ€™t make delusional thoughts and concepts right๐Ÿ‘Ž๐Ÿ‘Ž๐Ÿ‘Ž

  45. Why is this a ted talk? This should have been a jerry springer episode

  46. I don't want to be offensive here, I honestly like the fact that they are so in love as they seem to be, but, i am scared of the mentality of for example "blackness is my magic" or things along those lines, These are ideas that spawn seperation. whether they are born from sexuality, race, etc..

  47. โคโคโค So many tears of joy!!!! I love this so much, how does it not have more views and likes?

  48. These two are an absolutely amazing and beautiful couple! Keep spreading your story and empowering people. Keep being wonderful!

  49. Wow wat a video i enjoyed this so very much ..a great couple easy on the eyes type couple lol This video is about love and not the kinda love we were taught or even saw or experienced in our own lives i took great comfort in knowing lines of communication are open now for alot of us beings ..Thank you thank you so very informative

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