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'Til Death Do Us Part

When I was 13, I fell in love. I was still a child so, what did I know? Fortunately, I knew enough. From the beginning, he was there for me, loving me in the midst of chaos, believing me in the midst of doubt, simply being my friend. We were married when I was 18 – over 30 years ago. Our marriage has never been easy. I have battled mental illness the entire time he’s known me but his love and support have carried me through. We’ve had struggles and challenges and then eight years ago “he” realized “he” is a “she”.

Being married to a transgender woman can be challenging. It redefines our relationship. There are benefits – we’re the same size so we can share clothes and shoes. But there are also hardships, as I try to understand who she is and what she needs. Over the last eight years, as she’s transitioned from male to female, our marriage has changed and adapted. I’ve watched her find herself as a woman. She “grew up” before my eyes starting out by playing dress-up and ending by identifying as a woman regardless of how she dresses.

This last week she completed her transition by undergoing facial feminization surgery. The goal is to bring her outward appearance in line with her inward sense of self. From this point forward, she will no longer live as a man. My “husband” is now my “wife”.

I’m still trying to figure out how I feel about this. I’m grieving the loss of my husband even while embracing a new relationship with my wife. It’s not easy but the look she gets when she is herself, the pure joy she shows when allowed to be who she is instead of who people think she should be, makes the struggle worth it. Too often I worry about what other people think even though that makes no difference to my reality. I know I shouldn’t worry about other’s opinions, and I have no desire to bring my life in line with community expectations, but my reality still makes me nervous. The world can be scary. We’ve been so lucky. Many transgender individuals experience rejection and outright hatred. We had a few friends who couldn’t accept the change, and so we had to end the relationship, and a few family members who struggle but don’t fully reject us, but all-in-all it’s been amazingly smooth. We are surrounded by friends and family who love and accept us.

So, as we move forward into this unknown future, we know that whatever we face, we face it together. Together we find the strength to continue. The journey is scary, the road bumpy, but we are not alone. We are loved and we are strong.

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