By Martha Hewett @Martha_Hewett
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Videographer / director: Gabriella Garcia-Pardo
Producer: Martha Hewett, Ruby Coote
Editor: Sonia Estal
Dakota Pierce, 27, and Blair Cherelstein, 25, have been together for just over two years after meeting on Instagram.
The couple, who live in Frederick, Maryland, have both gone through similar experiences to become who they are today.
Blair, who is transfeminine, came out as transgender when she was 16 years old, she began socially transitioning when she was 17 and started hormone replacement therapy at 18.
Dakota came out as transmasculine in 2017 after graduating from college and he has been taking testosterone for almost two years.
Dakota told Truly: “To be with somebody who understands that little extra thing about me, about being trans, has given me the opportunity to let me just be myself.”
The couple first met after Dakota saw a photo of Blair modelling for a clothing company. He describes himself as being “flabbergasted” and “astounded” by how beautiful she was.
They soon started messaging and eventually, Dakota flew out to Maryland from Indiana to meet Blair for the first time.
The pair are now engaged after Dakota popped the question in October 2019.
Describing the engagement, Blair said: “It was definitely a surprise. It was a really magical night.”
Yet despite their commitment to one another, the pair have faced criticism for their choices as individuals and as a couple.
“Some people have used our transness against us,” Dakota explains. “People have followed us, or we get messages online.”
“We see people stare at us, we automatically think the worst and it might not always be the case.” Blair added.
Having both gone through transitions, neither Blair nor Dakota are strangers to judgement, with both sharing their fears for potential situations that can occur in public.
“It’s constantly having to be aware,” explains Dakota. “Am I going to bind? What does my voice sound like? I try to never go to the bathroom out in public.”
Unfortunately, though, it’s not just strangers that have been the couple’s harshest critics.
Dakota was raised in a strict Christian household and didn’t have support from his parents, particularly his mother, during his transition.
“Anytime I tried to have a conversation with her to help answer any questions she had or alleviate any concerns; she was always on the defence.” Dakota explains.
“It got to the point where she was telling me that she was having everybody in church hold vigils for me.”
Dakota recalls being told his lifestyle was a sin and although his family love him, they can’t agree with his choice.
“First of all, it’s not a lifestyle – it’s not something that I chose, nobody chooses in their right mind to go through this kind of mental or societal turmoil.”
Although Dakota is understandably hurt by the lack of acceptance from his family, he hopes for things to improve down the line.
“If my mum ever sees this video, I don’t want her to see it and only see how sad and angry I am at her but also that I went through a lot of things.
“All I’m asking is that she tries with me.”
Despite Dakota feeling like he’s lacking the acceptance from his mum, the couple remains strong in their love for one another and soon they’ll be taking their relationship on a new journey.
The pair are currently planning their wedding, which they describe as “non-traditional”. The celebration will represent Blair’s Jewish heritage and also their queer relationship.
“Just because we’re in a heteronormative presenting relationship doesn’t negate the fact that we are both very queer people.” Dakota explained.
Blair’s family, who support their daughter and her relationship, will be in attendance, along with the couple’s close group of friends.
Although Blair describes the engagement as a surprise, Dakota says he knew he would marry Blair as soon as he met her.
“When I saw her in person after she picked me up from the airport, I knew that I would spend the rest of my life with her.”
For Blair, finding someone who understands her experience has given her a real sense of comfort and happiness.
“To hear that I’m good enough just the way I am, and I don’t have to be somebody I’m not to make them happy – it feels so good.”