Note to new readers: I posted this July 7, 2015, five days after I undertook the transitioning which finally took hold, but six weeks before I made that public. That’s why Julie refers to me as “G” throughout.
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Before we were married, I told Julie about my condition. Generally, half of women bail at the news. For those who stick with their husband, if his gender dysphoria erupts as mine did, half of them will leave at that point. If the man decides he needs to transition, half of those left will divorce. Of those who determine to stay, when the transition finally happens, half of those will not stand by their spouse, leaving around 90% with no mate by their side.
My Julie provides me with complete confidence that she is not going anywhere but down life’s path with me. Her faithfulness is second only to that of my Lord Jesus.
I am pleased to present to you the one whom I call My Heart.
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I am privileged to be married to an incredible human being. A compassionate, kind, friendly, considerate, heart-on-sleeve, easy-going, funny, super likable human being. Depending upon the audience, I use three different names for my love, but they all refer to the amazing goofball I call my own. Here I’ll use “G.” G is more or less a nickname that allows me to maintain neutrality without confusing the vast network of family, friends, associates and acquaintances that know my spouse. The name G has also served our attempts at a middle ground—a highly elusive zone of objectivity we’ve tried desperately to carve out of the quandary that is gender dysphoria.
What’s it like being married to a person struggling with gender dysphoria? It’s like watching the development of a chrysalis. A fragile existence for certain, but with the hope that something healthy and whole and beautiful will eventually emerge. Now, imagine that chrysalis riding a roller coaster through a hurricane. I suspect the only thing worse than going along for that ride is actually living inside that chrysalis, being wrenched, constantly and tumultuously, in opposite directions. It is heart-breaking, because when you witness your spouse so distressed and anguished, you want desperately to ease the pain and you are powerless. It is frightening, because when you see how deeply tormenting this condition is, you can’t deny the disturbing reality of that statistic—41%. 41% of people just like your spouse will try to alleviate the torture by ending their lives. Please, Lord, not mine. Please not mine.
Those of us who are cisgender (people whose gender identity aligns with that assigned at birth) have the luxury of skating through life never questioning our gender roles. We wake up each morning and go about our day oblivious to the fact that our gender of brain and sex of body match. A dysphoric transgender person is denied this basic privilege of biology. Imagine, every minute of every day of your life, reconciling a disconnect between your brain, body and societal role. We can’t, because we never have to think about our gender, and whether we’re supposed to be referred to as he or she, or have male or female body parts. The hormones of our ovaries and testicles interact with the signals of our female- or male-wired brains and we go about our business. It takes a massive amount of mental energy—both conscious and subconscious—to reconcile the miscues between brain and body, and to contrive a gender-centric social interaction that comes naturally for most of us. It’s hard. It’s insanely hard. Some have compared it to having a pebble in your shoe you’re not allowed to remove. Always discomforting, often painful, impossible to ignore. I wish I could live a day as my spouse so I could fully grasp the challenge. I wish everyone would take a walk in those shoes. There’d sure be a lot more empathy for the people trying desperately to take them off.
When G sat me down in early 2013 to disclose how severe the dichotomy of brain and body was, two things were very clear to me. One, that my spouse was in complete and undeniable agony, and two, that we would confront this challenge together. The reality is that most transgender marriages do not survive. It is sad, but understandable. Is there anything that flips a marriage on its head more than a partner’s gender change? If ever there was a justifiable reason to declare “this is not what I signed up for,” this is it, right? I would never fault any spouse who finds it to be more than he or she can bear.
But this is what I signed up for when I married G. I signed up for a union of love, respect and esteem—and that is what I have. I signed up to be crazy about my spouse, and to have my spouse be crazy about me—and that is what I have. I signed up to share with my incredible G all the stuff of life—all joys, all tribulations, all straightaways, all detours, all circumstances of birth and all the consequences thereof.
I mourned. I felt loss. Not the loss of a person, because the person I loved wasn’t going anywhere. It was the loss of an identity. I was familiar with “Greg and Julie”, with how we sound, how we look, how we fit in the world and how the world sees us. I feared the loss of that familiarity because I thought it meant the loss of us. And losing us wasn’t an option. Then came the list. A short pro list on one side, a tall column of cons on the other. Topping the cons: What if we lose us? Once a fear is identified, verbalized, it starts losing power. I mourned and fretted for a week or two, and then I realized: We will be fine. The “us” part will be okay. And the cons, which seemed paramount before, suddenly didn’t matter so much.
When we met the first time with G’s therapist in April 2013, G recounted a text I had sent the day after the big reveal, during one of many times over the years we were on the path of transitioning. I hadn’t specifically stated so the night before, so I texted “I want you to know I am with you no matter what.” Doc looked at me and said “For better or worse?” I answered, “I don’t consider this worse. Worse would be learning my spouse was an axe murderer or drug trafficker. Worse would be a marriage to someone cruel. Even if Greg transitions, it does not change the fact my spouse is the second best thing to ever happen to me.” (The first being my baptism in Christ).
Besides, I really, really, really like my spouse. Despite the hurricane-battered roller coaster, despite some redefining of identities, despite some significant hurdles in the road ahead, I am blessed because G signed up to be with me, too, no matter what.