March 8th, 2017. Selfie taken on our way into the maternity ward for Ben’s birth.This is the second in a series of posts about how my relationship with my wife evolved over the course of my gender transition. You can read the first post here.
Let me preface this: A lot of this post casts me in a very unfavorable light. I do this because I feel it is important to be honest about the bad parts of transition. Katharine has been involved through the writing of this, she agrees with my descriptions of her feelings in those times, and has signed off on the final draft. This isn’t just my version of the story, it’s ours. For my trans readers, trigger warning, this is not going to be easy to read if you also transitioned while married.
The first six months after the day I came out were the worst months of our lives; Katharine went through all seven stages of grief. Shock laid in immediately and lasted through to the next week (I had come out on Wednesday). That week my entire family came down with a stomach virus that left us all frequently running to the toilet, leaving us without a lot of opportunity to process anything, we were too busy dealing with the immediate mess. The next week, denial and anger set in, though I did not learn about how denial had manifested until much much later.
The denial came in the form of rejection that I was actually transgender. She didn’t ever actually say that to me, because she knew that would just upset me; I didn’t learn this fact until over a year later. There’s no way her husband could be a trans woman, that can’t be real, that sort of thing happens to other people, not us, not her. It had to be something else… the porn, that’s what it was, the pornography made him think like this.
When you grow up believing that your gender feelings are a fetish, you process them as you would a fetish, and that meant pornographic fixation. Some of this centered around things I couldn’t have for myself, such as being a bride, or pregnancy, but the majority of it centered on transformations. I had been obsessed with TF porn even before Kat and I first met, especially transformations that involved a change of sexual characteristics (surprise surprise, a lot of it was men turning into women). I created what became the largest TF porn community of Reddit, and moderated it for seven years. I am not proud of this, but I’m also not ashamed of it. It was the way I dealt with my gender dysphoria, it was my coping mechanism. After I came out those interests all but evaporated, the fixation just vanished over night.
Katharine knew about my porn habits, even though we never talked about it, and her first thoughts early on were that all of this trans stuff was me externalizing that fetish. She believed I had become so obsessed with it that I had wanted to make it happen in real life. In short, she thought I was exactly the thing I had believed about myself for twenty years, an autogynephile. You might be saying to yourself right now “That’s TERF talk, I thought you said she supported trans rights?” You’re right, it was, and that’s what grief does to you. It’s completely different when its your spouse, someone you are intertwined with. She had to deny that I was trans, because it couldn’t be real, our lives couldn’t be taking that drastic of a turn. She commented once that it felt like the universe had suddenly warped at the start of 2016. She lost a pregnancy, lost her president, and lost her husband.
I didn’t make the anger any better, either. Those early days of transition, even without hormones… they change you. Learning you are trans is like putting on the One Ring, it turns into an obsession, an addiction. Your communities become your lifeblood, your Precious, you become attached to them like a barnacle. Any time I wasn’t being expected to do something else I was on social media; Reddit, Twitter, Discord, or Slack. My head was permanently buried in my phone, and Katharine felt abandoned. Katharine went into the hospital after the stomach virus because she was worried about dehydration. I spent the entire visit with my phone in my hand. She was rightfully furious.
Anger came in the form of feeling betrayed. I had made it clear that this wasn’t something I could not do, I had to take these steps, even if it meant losing everything, including her and the children. How could I be willing to accept that? Was our marriage really so worthless to me? Did I really feel so little for them? She was enraged that I had never told her anything about these feelings. How could I have kept this a secret for so long? I had always told her everything about myself, so from her perspective I had been lying to her about who I was for eleven years. When she asked me how could I do this thing, I was speechless, because for me it had never been a lie, it was simply not something I could every have admitted, not even to myself. It was a secret so deep that I kept making myself forget it.
Ironically, I had actually alluded to it once many years before, when we were dating. We had had an argument about something I never told her about, and she explicitly asked me if there was any other secret I had been keeping from her, and I responded with “well there’s one, but it’ll never come up.” I didn’t remember that conversation until she mentioned it, but once she described it the memory came forward and I clearly remembered that in that moment I had meant the fact that I had always wanted to be a girl, yet somehow that fact didn’t stick in my memory. My mental blocks came down and my brain shuffled that little bit into the vault, because it was too painful to think about. It was a form of trauma, you see, and trauma always gets stored out of sight and out of mind.
My support networks became my everything, and she became extremely jealous of that attention. She began reading my tweets and Reddit comments religiously, and often came to me upset about something I had said online. When I spoke about my plans for transition, she was mortified that I would be making those goals so soon already without having talked to her. She became extremely paranoid that people were saying negative things about her in my support chats, scared that other trans people were convincing me to leave her.
While I was awash with support, Katharine was on a desert island. Initially she sought out other women like her, spouses of people in transition, but the support groups she found universally made her sad. Post upon post about how their trans spouses became selfish and greedy, unwilling to be considerate of the family’s needs. Spouses that became so obsessed with their own transitions that they stopped helping around the house, stopped interacting with the family. Mood swings and tantrums. Then the worst, spouses who just outright left, wanting a new life unburdened by marriage. The constant barrage of depressing stories left her overwhelmed, and she backed out of the groups out of fear that it would bias her view on the situation.
She also had no one she could talk to among her friends. Initially she refused to tell any of her family or social circle because then that would make it more real. If no one knew, then it wasn’t happening. After the denial fizzled, she still didn’t want to tell anyone because she feared she would dump all her woes, all her fears, all the pain she was carrying, and they would encourage her to leave. She didn’t want to leave, she wanted to make it work, so she had no outlet to vent her pain and anxiety.
How long could I wait to start hormones? Would I have to have surgeries, could I just do the medications? Could I start hormones but continue to present male? Did I have to change my name? What would the children call me? I couldn’t go by Mom, that was her title, I didn’t deserve it. I didn’t carry them, I didn’t puke for them, I didn’t birth them, I didn’t feed them. I didn’t take them to school, or watch over them all day. I hadn’t lost sleep for them. What right did I have to be called a Mom?
Initially, I agreed with her, I tried to cling to the title of Dad. I felt like that was a title I had earned as I tended to our family during both pregnancies. I was the one who held back Kat’s hair when she was throwing up, I was the one that took her to Urgent Care when she became too dehydrated, and many other unglamorous spousal duties that I wont mention in this post. I was the one who cried when my daughter was brought into our recovery room after the birth. That’s all the dad’s duties, right? That’s what job I had taken on. It was a very heterosexual centered kind of thinking, because there’s nothing about those things that don’t also come from the non-birthing mom in a lesbian relationship.
What if she never was ok with my transness, what if she said I couldn’t transition, would I stop? I lied and said yes. I did that fairly often in that first month, withholding how I actually felt in order to try to soften the blow. I told her that if she never was ok with it, I would not transition. Half an hour later she found me face down across our bed, catatonic, tears pouring from my eyes, wracked with dysphoria at the thought of never being able to start down the road I had dreamed about my entire life. She rubbed my back for several minutes until I calmed down enough to admit between sobs that I couldn’t not do this. It had to happen, or else I would die.
Ben’s BirthDue to the gestational diabetes, as well as the previous cesarean with Samantha, Katharine’s obstetrician concluded that it would not be safe for her to attempt to deliver the baby naturally. A surgical delivery was scheduled for March 8th, one week before the due date. Our son was coming! The morning of the delivery Kat made me promise that I wouldn’t talk about trans things, I wouldn’t get on social media, I wouldn’t use my phone at all except to take photos. The day was about her and our son, and I had to be there with her. By this point we had already had several conversations about how I was far too disconnected from the world around me. I kept my promise.
A maternity ward is a strange place to be when you’re a woman that everyone thinks is a man, I was acutely aware of every little gendered nuance. It is a woman’s place, a mother’s space, men are only there at the will of the person giving birth. This is clear from the moment you step off the elevator (in our hospital the entire top floor is just maternity) and fall under the scrutiny of the nurses station. They watch you everywhere you go. When they enter your room their demeanor changes completely once they realize there is a man present. Knowing their perception was wrong felt like sandpaper against my soul. I wanted to scream at them, tell them that I am a woman, I am not like the men they usually have to deal with.
At the same time, the rest of the hospital staff get all bubbly and excited when they see that you’re wearing the wristband that identifies you as a parent. People congratulate you before you even open your mouth. Men treat you like you’re some kind of champion, and women get cheery and doe-eyed towards you. I couldn’t help but laugh at the sexism of the juxtaposition.
Then comes time to fill out the paperwork, and you’re faced with the hetero-normativity of child birth as you’re forced to identify yourself as the father of the child. The form doesn’t even give you the chance to say anything else (presumably a lesbian couple would have been given a different form). Having to sign off on the application for your child’s birth certificate, knowing that the name and gender that will be on it forever is wrong, is excruciating.
From the moment Ben was born I felt an intense attachment to him, in a way I never had felt for his older sibling. Don’t take me wrong, I absolutely was head over heals for my daughter, I cried tears of joy when I saw her the first time, but what I felt towards Ben was different. This child would never know me as a man, he would never call me Dad, to this little gift I would always be one of his mommies. Something stirred in me, a maternal connection that had laid dormant, suppressed by disassociation.
One of the questions I posed on Reddit early on was “Did you develop a maternal instinct after transition?” None of the replies I got gave me much hope, but there in that room it happened; it clicked on, I was this kid’s mom. Katharine could see it too, she saw just how tender I was with him, how I couldn’t keep my eyes off him. With the post-birth hormones flowing through her veins she felt intensely connected to me, passionately in love with me for having given her this little miracle. It faded, of course, those hormones are temporary and she soon went back to being angry with me, but for those few days in the hospital we were completely there with each other and none of the trans stuff mattered. She even acknowledge me as a mother, it was clear to her that fatherhood was never appropriate for me.
Kat said she started to see changes in my personality, small shifts in how I related to the world and how I reacted to things. My body language was shifting as more of who I used to be before putting on the mask came forward. At the time I thought she was just projecting; that it wasn’t me who was changing, it was just how her perception of me had shifted. Now, though, I look back and can see it. Relieving myself from that secret had let me finally stop suppressing a lot of the feminine behaviors that I expressed as a child and early teen. I started walking with my hips instead of my shoulders, and my hand movements became more expressive. These were all things I had consciously trained myself not to do as a teen because they read as feminine to my peers and would get me bullied for being “a faggot”.
I remembered one day I was standing next to the front door waiting for Kat and Sam to be ready to leave. Kat looked over at me and said “You’re standing like that now?” I was leaning on my hip, taking the weight off one leg and letting it bend. It’s a distinctly feminine posture, and I hadn’t even done it consciously, it was just natural for me to stand that way.
By May I had lost nearly 40 pounds from my peak weight before plateauing for a year and a half at 285Over the next month I became more and more despondent. The stress of coming out to Katharine had given me gastritis. I lost twenty pounds in the month of January, ten pounds in February, and another five in March. It took a trip to urgent care when the stomach pain got bad enough that I thought I had given myself an ulcer before I properly understood what was happening. The sudden weight loss caused my testosterone to spike, increasing by 50% over the level it had been in January. With it came an intense amount of biochemical dysphoria, my brain started screaming in pain. I spent many days completely disassociated and I can barely even remember the month of March.
I was worthless as a spouse and parent, leaving Katharine with no choice. She couldn’t raise this newborn and our four year old all by herself, she needed a functional partner. She told me to call the doctor I had on file and make an appointment to start HRT. It worked, almost immediately I became more responsive. I had hope, I had a light at the end of a tunnel.
Kat came with me to the appointment and sat quietly in the corner as I talked to the doctor about my history and what I wanted from treatment. I could tell she was a ball of anxiety the entire time, but she put up a happy face and never gave the impression that she was opposed. I left the appointment with a prescription and a ton of excitement. I thanked her for coming with me. She, admitted that she was struggling and that she continued to be in disbelief. She was still hoping that I would start the hormones, it wouldn’t make any difference (or I’d get worse), and then I’d abandon the whole idea.
May 2017 at a craft fair in Del Mar, one week after I had started hormone therapy.That, of course didn’t happen. Four days into HRT I realized I was able to think clearer. My derealization and depersonalization started to lift, I became more present. I got happier, calmer, more patient. On day fourteen I got super exhausted, completely drained and lethargic, to the point I had to have Kat drive us home from her parents since I couldn’t stay awake. After the exhaustion faded, I realized that my breasts were on fire. The changes had begun, and I was over the moon with joy. Katharine was shattered. She asked me to make us an appointment for a couples therapist.
In the mean time, changes were happening quickly, and it was clear that I finally needed to tell my mother. I won’t go into that story in detail, because it isn’t relevant to this one, but my mom did not accept me. The event left me depressed and distraught. Kat was there with me for the entire thing, and then comforted me when it was done. I was so very thankful for her being there in that moment (as well as the other incidents with my mother that followed), because this had completely shattered my mental image of who I thought my mom was, and without Kat I would have felt incredibly alone.
My gender therapist at the time mostly worked with trans youth and their parents. She accepted trans adults as well, but was not able to help is with couples issues. When I asked her for the number of a couples therapist, she told me Donna’s name without reservation. If anyone could help us, she could. I contacted her immediately, and we scheduled our first session for the first week of June.
We came into that first session completely unaware of what was going to happen. She sat us down, we talked a bit about our situation, she asked some very pointed questions, got a feel for what we were going through, and then did something neither of us expected. “Full disclosure,” she said, “my spouse is also transgender. She transitioned after we were married, and that experience is what encouraged me to become a therapist.” Katharine burst into tears.
She had spoken to many women online whose spouses had transitioned, and had seen it go all manner of direction, but she had never believed that she would ever meet anyone in person who knew what she was going through, let alone had made it through to the other side. It was a game changing moment for our relationship. Within days the effect that moment had on Katharine was clear. She immediately became so much more receptive and accepting. The month before she had suggested the name Jocelyn, and I had grown to really like it, but up until that point she hadn’t been using it. That week she started calling me Joc… acceptance had begun.
One day while we were on our way to Costco, she told me that she had come to the conclusion that she wasn’t actually losing a husband, but was just gaining a wife. The comment touched me immensely.
July 2017. San Diego Pride and San Diego Comic Con the following weekSlowly things started to improve. We went to San Diego Pride together, my first time in public presenting female, and a week later I went to Comic Con in a dress, at Kat’s encouragement. I spent ten minutes sitting in the car in a parking lot a block away from the convention, trying to work up the nerve to open the door and go to the con. Kat cheering me on over text was finally what got me to get out of the car. For her part, Kat finally gained the courage to start telling some of her friends, and in August we decided it was time to tell her mother. Her Mom came over to spend some time with the baby while Samantha was at school. I left the house, dropping the car off to be washed while I killed time in Target. I had barely been in the store five minutes when Kat texted me “SHE ALREADY KNEW!”
Her mom had seen how I had been changing, the subtle shifts in my male presentation, small things here and there. I had started wearing nail polish by then, and sometimes forgot to take it off before we would go out for meals together. She also noticed the way my behavior had changed as I let more of the real me out. She knew there had to be something gender related happening. When I came home we sat in the living room as I answered her questions and clarified some things. Her first concern was for the grandchildren, and Kat, in that order, but as long as it was making things better, she was supportive.
We all agreed we could NOT tell Katharine’s father just yet. With Kat’s Mom behind us, and the support of our friends, Katharine gave me the go ahead to come out at work.
The next Monday I went in to work and told my boss that I had something important that I needed to talk about with him and HR. He replied “Oh no, what did I do now?” Then he informed me that due to a recent reorganization of the company, we didn’t actually have an HR person at the moment, so he and I went off and found an empty office to talk in. I told him I was trans and that I was transitioning. “Oh! Ok, how can I help with that?” He went off to chat with the management team and an hour later told me that I had the full support of the entire executive team.
Once everyone was in the office, he gave me the nod, and I stood up and announced that I had something to tell everyone. I delivered a speech that I had been preparing for the entire week before, going through multiple times, and then ended up forgetting on the spot and had to read from my phone. It was impassioned and powerful, and way WAY over the top dramatic. I came to work that day wearing one of my good bras under a low cut tank top, but then wore a very large baggy shirt over it (the Mario Bros shirt you might have seen in a few selfies). When I finished the speech I took off the shirt to reveal my chest, which was already at a 44DD by this point, and introduced myself as Jocelyn.
Everyone congratulated me and was supportive. My coworker Robyn, who I had come out to a month earlier, jumped out of her chair and ran over to hug me. From that moment forward I was Jocelyn at work. Some co-workers struggled with pronouns for a bit, but everyone was supportive and understanding. That was the last day I ever used to the men’s room at work, and the last time I presented male at the office. My plan had been to start out more androgynous and ease into more femme looks gradually as my body continued to change.
We call it second puberty for a reason. Not only is the body and brain literally experiencing pubescence all over again, we also are suddenly dumped into a completely new gendered experience that we have to learn from scratch, often by ourselves without the social groups and parental influence that cis teenagers receive the first time around. We have to figure out our style, learning how to dress ourselves age appropriately, all while fighting the urge to reclaim our lost youth. This combined with the hormone switch has us acting like teenagers, complete with the irrationality and erratic mood swings.
I made it three weeks before I started wearing dresses at work. Bolstered by positive experiences of being gendered correctly by strangers, my confidence was soaring. Now I look at the photos from that time and wonder who the hell I thought I was fooling, but at three to four months I had convinced myself I was already very passing. I was living authentically for 70% of my day to day life and was chomping at the bit for more. It’s addictive, after so many years of feeling like you’ve been in jail, getting to leave the cell is heaven. You don’t want to go back, putting on the guy costume gets harder and harder every time.
This pressure was extremely hard for Katharine, because in reality I was still very visibly trans, but she also didn’t want to have to tell me no. Every time she did, I got upset. I didn’t like being told I was wrong, and I really didn’t like having to slow down. She was very scared about the reactions that strangers would have towards me, especially if we were with our children. We made a rule that I would not present female when our kids were with us, but I frequently pushed against that rule. In many ways I became exactly what Kat had read about on the spouse forums. Despite making a show of moving at her pace, I kept leaving her behind.
One such incident happened the weekend after I came out at work. We decided to go to a local aquarium as a family outing, and I wanted to wear a tanktop and a cardigan. Kat reluctantly agreed, but then I took another step too far… I asked our daughter Samantha to not call me Daddy. I did this while we were driving to the aquarium, without talking to Kat about it first, and it was a massive step over the line, made entirely out of self interest. Sam, at this point, knew that I was a girl, but we hadn’t started switching names yet. Sam was confused, and Kat was unprepared.
I had sprung this on both of them because of an incident that happened a week prior. Samantha and I were at a local grocery store, and the cashier and I were having a very pleasant conversation about… something, I don’t even remember. Samantha comes running up to the counter and loudly says “Daddy, can I have this?” The cashier immediately went stone faced quiet, clearly feeling like she had been duped. The rest of the transaction was extremely awkward, and when I got home I completely fell apart over the incident.
I didn’t want a repeat of that situation, but instead of talking it through, I just made an executive decision there in the car. It ruined the trip for Katharine, she was in a perpetual anxiety attack for the entire visit because she felt like she had to not only look after the children, but make sure I wasn’t in danger either. I, of course, had no idea she felt this way because I was off in my own little gender happy place. I had a tendency to walk around with blinders on, oblivious to the reactions of people I wasn’t directly interacting with. Kat wasn’t able to do that, she saw everything, including the stares of people nearby or behind us, and naturally she was extremely uncomfortable.
Eventually we did have a talk with Samantha about what to call me, and Katharine proposed that I would go by Mama J, and she would continue to be called Mommy. Samantha understood why we wanted it that way and gradually over the next few weeks started switching. Eventually she was so committed to Mama J that I couldn’t get her to call me Daddy when I was presenting male. Katharine also became so used to calling me Jocelyn that she didn’t remember to use my deadname when around people we weren’t out to.
In October a small tragedy struck. A long time friend of ours, Beatrice, died from a very rare form of cancer. Bea had been like a surrogate mother for both Kat and I, and both of us were quite distraught over the death. Bea had been on hospice for six months, so we knew it was coming, and that was one of the reasons I had not yet pushed to come out publicly. Bea was a member of my mom’s church, and I knew that she would not be able to understand my transition. She had always been so proud of our family, and I didn’t want to tarnish that memory on her death bed.
Attending her memorial meant returning to the lions den, the local Jehovah’s Witness Kingdom Hall. That meant not only having to put on the man disguise, but having to wear a suit as well. At this point I was presenting female more than 80% of the time, and usually gendered correctly while in public. I had lost a fair amount of muscle mass and upper body fat already, so my suit just did not fit me correctly at all, plus my curly hair at this point was already down to my ears; I looked like a kid playing dress up. Bea’s husband greeted me in the parking lot and spent a long time staring at my face (which had changed quite a bit since he last saw me), as if he was trying to make a judgment about what was going on in my life.
October 2017. The last day I ever wore a suit.The memorial was extremely hard for me. The dysphoria of being in that suite, combined with the anxiety of being back in that building, surrounded by dozens of people who would hate me if they know who I really was, sent me into a panic attack. I started sweating, my heart was racing, and I kept twitching. Kat took the kids out into the main hall to see friends we knew while I hid in a back room where it was quieter and less crowded. During the program I got hit by the full force of Bea’s death, intertwined with the weight of being in a place that I really did not want to be. I started crying.
After that event, Kat really understood just how dysphoric having to dress male was for me. She told me that night that I’d never have to wear that suit again. We threw it and my wedding suit into the thrift store donation bag in the closet.
November 2017. Family portraits. We weren’t originally going to be in the photos, but the photographer insisted we take a few as a whole groupKat had tried to encourage me to work bits of my women’s clothing into my male presentation, hoping it would help to ease dysphoria. The problem was, she and I had differing ideas of where the line was between feminine and masculine, and things that I thought gave me an androgynous look caused her anxiety to flip out. Women’s t-shirts were ok as long as they weren’t too long, but my body hadn’t changed enough to accommodate most womens t-shirt cuts, and anything I could wear had to be long enough to cover up my belly, which inevitably was too long for Kat. The few middle grounds we found were womens tank tops, which were fine as long as I didn’t wear a wired bra, a black dolman, and a few of my cardigans. It wasn’t that more feminine pieces made me look visible trans, or even womanly, they were simply gender nonconforming, and Kat was afraid of that drawing attention to us. Katharine prefers to be as invisible in public as possible.
November 2017. DisneylandIn November we went to Disneyland as a family; I wore jeans and a tank-top with an unwired bra. I was never gendered male during the entire visit, and on multiple occasions was referred to as “She” or “Her” both by cast members and by other guests in the park. It was pretty clear that this transition thing was doing it’s job.
The decision was made that my Mother-in-Law would tell Kat’s Dad at some point after Christmas of 2017. We didn’t know exactly how he was going to handle the news, and wanted to make sure all our family events were done before that so that there wouldn’t be any uncomfortable awkwardness. She literally told him on December 26th, and to his credit he wasn’t horrible. He didn’t understand, he wasn’t happy about it, but as long as Katharine was fine and everyone thought this was for the best, he wouldn’t make waves. A year later, both my in-laws still frequently get my pronouns wrong, though they have mostly stopped deadnaming me.
December 2017. Work Holiday PartyIn December we attended a work holiday party, the first (and so far last) party my office had ever held. I bought a dress specifically for the event and Kat and I both got dressed to the nines. It was a loud party (and got louder as the night wore on), and we spent most of it sitting at the table with the rest of my teammates, chatting about nothing. One big surprise of the evening was when there was a decision to get all the women in the office together to take a group shot at the photo booth, and they specifically came to get me to join them. It was an incredible gesture that made me feel very included, since all but one of these women worked in a completely different part of the company and we never interacted, yet they surely knew I was transgender.
2018 went by astonishingly fast, and I feel like I’m hard pressed to come up with verbose details, but Katharine was very quickly becoming more and more comfortable with who I was. I took all the 4XL male t-shirts in my closet down and folded them into a pile. It weighed nearly twenty pounds. I gave the entire lot to my mother, who has now used them to create dresses for both her and my daughter (but, of course, not me).
There is a restaurant here in town, a quaint little comfort food restaurant that is a staple of the town. For a long time we were visiting it almost every weekend for Sunday breakfast. The staff got to know our group very well, and would have our drink orders ready shortly after arriving. The first time I went to the restaurant as a woman, the waitress was completely shocked. Kat says that the entire time she was taking our order, she was just staring at me. I didn’t notice (blinders, remember?), but Kat did, and she stared her back down. From then on it was like nothing had changed, except something did change, because they stopped taking my order last. As the “man” of the family, and the most middle aged of the group (between my kids and my in-laws), I was always the very last order to be taken, regardless of where I sat at the table, and also usually the last to be served. Within a month that became my father in law. I took a lot of joy in that.
Kat and I decided that the best time to officially come out would be on the first anniversary of the day that I told her. We’d make it Facebook Official, and then it would be done, from then on I would be full-time. I went through four drafts of my coming out post, and each time Kat told me I was writing too much. I kept being too verbose, trying to explain things, or justify myself. Katharine finally told me that I don’t owe people an explanation, this is just how things are now, and they should accept it. We settled on the final draft the night before.
On January 10th, 2017, I told Katharine something I had been trying to ignore for my entire life. I am transgender. If this is news to you, then consider this my coming out: Hi, [redacted] is now Jocelyn. My pronouns are she and her. My daughter calls me Mama J and Katharine calls me her wife. 2017 was a year of birth and rebirth for our family and I could not have gone through this journey without the love and support from my amazing wife.
Only about 10 people on my FB friends list didn’t know, but well over a hundred on Kat’s side were still in the dark. I tagged her on the post, and she ensured it went to her timeline. We were showered with support from both sides.
March 1st, 2018. Day of my legal name change.On March 1st my name was legally changed to Jocelyn, and I was formally declared female by the state of California. This almost complicated some things, because we just happened to decide to buy a house the week before. Impressively, escrows and banks are quite used to people changing name during the process of a home buy, and that caused almost no issues at all.
This is good, because the buy itself was horrifically stressful. We had a whirlwind 30 day escrow, from when we made the offer on the new house to when we closed on the sale of both our old house and the new one. We had exactly two days to vacate our old home before the flipper who bought it was starting construction, and of course I came down with the flu the day of the move. Let me tell you, watching moving guys try to figure out if you’re a man or a woman as you’re directing them with your personal belongings is both amusing and terrifying.
In June, after a 6 month struggle with my insurance, I finally was able to have my first gender confirming surgery. I wrote about that entire experience in another blog, and you can message me if you’d like to read it. That story is an entire 6000 word essay in and of itself. What I’ll write about here is how that experience affected us.
In the beginning of my transition Kat had flat out refused the idea of me ever pursuing any surgeries. She was (and still is) terrified that I would going under anesthesia and then wouldn’t wake back up. She also just didn’t want me altering my body that way; medications are one thing, but cutting the flesh is another. Gradually over the course of 2017 she became more accepting of it, and in the later half of the year finally told me “I am OK with you getting an orchiectomy.”
The irony of this was that all through the second pregnancy she kept saying how I was going to be getting a vasectomy “as soon as this kid is out,” so I thought she’d be fine with the orchi. Eventually she admitted that secretly she had only been pushing that idea because they’re reversible and even then, that I would be so lazy about getting it done that it would never actually happen and then, oops, we’d end up with a third baby.
An orchi, however, is much much more permanent than a vasectomy. There’s no returning from that, once they’re gone, they’re gone. Kat went through grief multiple times even after she gave the OK for it because of the loss of a hypothetical third child that we didn’t even want to have (two nightmare pregnancies was enough). Multiple times she lamented that I had not done any sperm storage before starting HRT, and she had always held on to a hope that I could go off HRT long enough to regain fertility and make deposits. Having that surgery meant her giving up hope on that hope. Still to this day, she cries when remembering this, and I feel a lot of sorrow that I wasn’t able to relieve that pain. It was quite possibly the worst thing that my transition took from her.
June 25th, 2018. Taken 20 minutes before my surgeryThe timing of overlapping events on the day of my surgery meant that Kat wasn’t able to come with me to the hospital for check-in. She had to take Sam to pre-school, and then take Ben to her mom’s before she could come be there with me. She was also going to have to leave the hospital while I was still in recovery in order to get Sam from school. It was a juggling act of parental and spousal responsibilities, and I feel so thankful to her for her dedication to our entire family. She could have just as easily said “You’re on your own” and just come to get me at discharge time. She views it like she didn’t have a choice, but that’s not how it seems to me.
I wasn’t allowed to drive myself home from the hospital (I was barely physically capable of being a passenger), so I had to get a ride from a friend. I went through check-in and became increasingly more and more anxious as the clock got closer and closer to the surgery time, and Kat still hadn’t arrived. She came in just in time, and seeing her walk through the door to the pre-op room was a massive relief for me. When I woke up several hours later, she was there at my side, holding my hand, telling me not to stir. Thankfully, after care for an orchi is pretty light, there wasn’t a lot that I needed from her after the first day. I healed up pretty quickly and by the end of the week was back to helping with the kids, even though I wasn’t actually supposed to lift anything over ten pounds.
Another major problem we had in 2018 was my spending habits. Living as a man, shopping for clothes was just a utilitarian function, I never enjoyed it because I didn’t care about what I looked like. Going shopping with Kat was an exercise in disassociation, finding somewhere to sit and pretending I didn’t actually want to dive into the racks alongside her. Finally being able to shop for myself, in clothes that I liked, had opened a flood gate of excited me and interest. I especially engaged in retail therapy whenever I was feeling dysphoric or depressed. I was addicted, badly, and that meant bad news for our credit cards. I, at least, didn’t have very expensive taste, mostly sticking to Target, Ross and Amazon, but it was enough of a problem that I racked up some very hefty credit card debt over the year, to the tune of five figures.
Granted, it wasn’t just me causing it, we also had bought into a home that cost us more than we initially expected. Our property tax was double what had initially been estimated, our energy bills were twice as high because the house wasn’t as well insulated, our water bill was higher because it has a lawn (and the city raised the rates), and we didn’t even remember to consider insurance costs. We were spending more money per month than I was earning by myself. This problem fed into both of our anxieties: My response was to pretend it wasn’t as big of a deal as it really was, and hers was to just close her eyes and choose to ignore it. Eventually we both realized that there was no way we were going to dig out of this hole without some major changes in our lifestyle, and Katharine completely took over our finances. We cut our food spending down to a third, made changes around the house to reduce energy and water usage, and I stopped shopping, period (for those wondering, my December and January shopping sprees were paid for with gift cards).
The final thing I have to write about is a fairly large topic, which I will leave for my third essay in this series, but I am not sure when it will be ready. I have just started writing it, and this essay took almost three weeks for me to be satisfied with. We’re still living this journey, you see, and my brain struggles to remember hard events when they are still in play. We will see what comes with time.
I will leave you, dear reader, with this. We are a better couple now than we were two years ago. We talk a lot more, about our feelings, about ourselves, about each other, about our kids, about what we want from our relationship, both in the short term and the long term. The lines of communication were forced open out of need, because otherwise we weren’t going to survive. Couples therapy gave us the tools to be more honest with one another, even when that honesty is painful, and in that honesty we are much more real in our love. We aren’t the happy-go-lucky perfect couple that we were at the start of our relationship, but we’re still in a very good place and love each other very dearly.