With Valentine’s Day coming up, a traditional image may come to mind — chocolates, roses, and often a man and woman. But on Friday, the Consent, Outreach, & Relationship Education program — a volunteer branch of the University of Michigan’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center – explained not all relationships fit this heteronormative mold. The presentation, held at the Michigan Union, titled “Our Love is Beyond Your Imagination,” illustrated healthy non-cisgender relationships.
Alex Jenny and Effee Nelly, a nonbinary couple who met at the University as undergraduates, headlined the event. The couple has dedicated their lives to spreading their art and voice as queer and transgender people of color.
Jenny and Nelly began their program by reading some of their written pieces that they explained have helped them process their lived experiences. Nelly’s first piece, “Truth Takes Time,” described the hardships of coming to accept her identity.
“Growing up in Ecuador, I cannot remember ever learning about trans people in a positive light, if at all,” she said. “With time, nonetheless, I have learned to deeply admire my younger, flamboyant self.”
Throughout the presentation, Jenny and Nelly revisited the theme of accepting and loving their younger selves, who didn’t quite yet know who they were. The couple also recited one of their unpublished pieces for the audience, explaining they often reflect on their younger selves.
“As trans people, we find ourselves thinking about the past a lot,” Nelly said.
Despite this, they have found solace in each other and shared that loving each other allowed them to “embrace the parts of ourselves that we thought were unlovable.”
The presentation then transitioned to a Q&A session. Jenny and Nelly were asked about the role of social media in their relationship, the importance of compromise, and growing and maturing together. The couple uses social media to display their art, and when asked about the platform, Nelly said it has become a way to connect with others.
“I love connecting with all the queer and trans people that we are able to connect with,” Nelly said.
Though there are merits to social media use, Jenny emphasized that when using social media, they always try to examine the true purpose of a post.
“Does this still serve you?” they said. “Am I producing art for myself, the community, the art, the likes, the follows?… Life is so public, but so curated.”
Both emphasized the importance of not looking at compromise as a loss.
“Do I want to win in this moment or do I want to prioritize our connection, our relationship?” Jenny said.
LSA sophomore Amy Craven said events such as this are important because they bring visibility to those who are not always seen.
“I think, especially with the rhetoric around Valentine’s Day, there’s not a lot of space for people who aren’t in, quote, unquote, ‘normative couples,’” she said. “It is really important to have representation for everyone.”
Emma Mallers, an LSA senior and co-coordinator of the event, explained by bringing Jenny and Nelly to campus, people can see an example of a healthy, non-cisgender relationship.
“To be able to have a couple who represent a very happy, positive, beautiful form of love that is not as salient, especially around this time, would bring a lot of visibility to folks who have similar identities on this campus,” Mallers said.