Sunday, December 22, 2013

You Go Girl!

Jake/Jasmine is dating a lovely trans woman, who is the most confident, no-nonsense, life-together person (of any gender) that I've ever met. Jasmine's new love (let's call her Samantha) described how she has been dealing with her conservative evangelical family:

"When I came out to my sister, she spewed the ugliest hate you could imagine. She used words like 'freak' and 'bitch,' and told me I was destroying our family. I just laughed it off and thanked her for using the right word!"

I paused for a moment to process which word she meant and then burst out laughing, "Yes, I guess calling you a 'bitch' shows a remarkably high level of acceptance of your new gender."

I continue to be floored by the strength and patience of the trans women I've met. It breaks my heart that they face such cruelty from their own families, at a time when they need the most support.

Jasmine and I have befriended some wonderful trans women who are on similar transition timelines. They've become a second family and support group to us. They are not freaks or bitches. They are kindhearted, loving, intelligent, fun, honest people, who are risking everything (jobs, spouses, even safety) for the freedom to be themselves. They deserve better.

Check out this passionate open letter to all the haters: A Trans Ally Sounds Off

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Poly Bliss

I wake up and kiss Jake good morning. Then I roll over and kiss Bradley good morning. Then they scoot in and gather me up in a hug sandwich. I grin and giggle, "Pinch me. Is this really my life? I really get both of you?"

The three of us have become a happy little family unit of sorts. Jake and Bradley don't have a romantic relationship, but they've developed a loving bond. It's strictly platonic when we share the bed. It's cuddle-heaven.

When we moved into our new apartment, Bradley assembled our Ikea furniture while Jake cooked us a Thanksgiving feast. I sat on the couch working on my laptop, looking up periodically and sighing with contentedness. I have never felt so overflowing with happiness and gratitude.

Lately I've been walking around the apartment singing a song from the musical Cabaret:

Beedle dee dee dee dee
Two ladies
Beedle dee dee dee dee
Two ladies
Beedle dee dee dee dee
And Brad's the only man (Ja!)
Beedle dee dee dee dee
He likes it
Beedle dee dee dee dee
We like it
Beedle dee dee dee dee
This two for one...

Twosies beats onesies
but nothing beats threes

I recently told Jake about my fear that I don't deserve this much happiness:

"I worry that my life is too good. Like something bad will have to happen to even it out."

He laughed with disbelief, "Something bad did happen. Pretty much the worst thing that could happen to our marriage. I told you I was a woman and was going to transition. Remember how this all began?"


With a smile and a sigh- "Oh yeah."

Friday, December 20, 2013

Real Beauty Sketches

This video came out last spring, but I just saw it on a friend's Facebook page, because it's still circulating virally after 60+ million views.

Dove's long-running "Campaign for Real Beauty" is a departure from typical aspirational beauty care advertising (buy this product, so you can look beautiful like these unachievably perfect models), and focuses instead on inspirational messaging around natural beauty and self confidence. Pretty brilliant brand marketing.

Jasmine's transition has helped me feel genuinely beautiful and comfortable in my own skin for the first time in my adult life. How can I complain that my nose is too big when she is trying to change her entire facial structure to pass as a woman? How can I whine that my boobs aren't perky enough when she is suffering through puberty to grow her own pair? How can I bemoan my frizzy hair when she is spending hundreds of hours on excruciating hair removal? It all feels so petty and repulsively ungrateful.

Now when I look in the mirror, I don't see all the things that I want to change about myself. I just see me. And I am perfect because I am a healthy, beautiful woman, born in the right body.

Being married to a transsexual sure puts things in perspective.

I wish Jasmine could see herself through my eyes. The first time I saw her in a woman's wig (a couple months into HRT), I thought she looked beautiful. Even without makeup, I could see the transformation; I could envision the stunning woman she was going to become. I jumped up and down, "Baby! Oh my gosh, baby, you are going to be beautiful, this is going to work! Don't you see it?"

But all she could see was a man in a wig.

So I started taking photos, because I was sure the camera could capture her beauty, and then she would see what I was seeing. But every photo was all wrong. The angles were unflattering, or the lighting was bad, or the pictures simply fell flat. I desperately took fifteen, maybe twenty photos, and they all failed to capture her beauty through my eyes.

If only I had my own sketch artist.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Non-Monogamy Saved My Marriage

The most devastating part of Jake's transition was the impossible decision: Do we stay married--essentially living the rest of my life as a lesbian--or do we end our marriage and settle for being best friends?
Not sure which option is worse.

Option 1: The Gay Way

Jake (soon to be Jasmine) knew, even before I could admit it to myself, that lesbianism was not a viable solution for us. At first I fantasized about us staying together faithfully forever. I would propose to her post-transition, we would renew our vows, and live the rest of our lives as a shining example of true unconditional love. We could be the great American LGBT love story. I had read about wives of trans women making it work. They either decided they could live without sex, or were flexible with their sexual orientation. For me, it would simply be the power of our love and rock-solid marriage that would defy all odds.

Let's get real. I am far too horny and straight for that.

I am a sexual being; I consider sexuality part of my core as a person. I was born with a monstrous appetite and it's always been directed toward one particular gender. Although I've never been attracted to women, I am adventurous enough to explore intimacy with my new wife. However, I simply cannot fathom giving up men. I love men. Big, strong, hairy men. Getting married so young, it was hard enough coming to terms with only having sex with one man for the rest of my life. Now, at 31 years old, how can I resign myself to never again enjoy the body of a man?

Jasmine has desires too. As a bisexual, she wants to enjoy romantic and physical relationships with men in her new female body. And I want her to have that experience. So even if we try option 1 for a while, it would inevitably degrade into option 2.

Option 2: The Friends Zone

I can't bear the thought of being just friends.

I don't want to be best girl buddies, who talk about the men we're dating, as we slowly drift apart. Until Jake came out as trans, I thought I had the perfect marriage and a dream spouse. I can't just throw that away. I want to go to bed with Jake every night and wake up with her* every morning. I want to hug her and kiss her. I want to stay life partners, teammates, family. I want to stay married. But given our undeniable physical needs, that's just not realistic.

So in the end there was really only one decision: Rip off the band aid and dissolve our marriage swiftly so we could both start rebuilding our lives ASAP? Or stay together as long as possible, running the risk that I'll have missed my child-bearing years by the time I move on and start dating again?

Option 3: The Alternative Lifestyle

But then we discovered a third option. One that we hadn't thought of, because it was barely part of our vocabulary. Polyamory. Consensual, loving, non-monogamy. With polyamory, one partner doesn't need to meet all your needs. So if Jasmine and I can have passionate girl-on-girl sex, awesome. But if it doesn't feel right to me, or if she winds up preferring men too, no problem. We can still remain married in all the ways we want to be married, without compromising our other needs and desires.

With polyamory we can affirm our commitment to staying primary life partners, without the anxiety of wondering if we will work romantically and sexually post-transition. With polyamory we can each create whatever sex life we dream about, without negating our precious marriage. With polyamory we can have it all.

I was wrong about my options. There is only one that makes sense.

I am poly.

*A note on pronouns: Jake asked that I continue to use "he" while he's in guy mode, and only use "she" when presenting as Jasmine. I switch back and forth between names and pronouns, sometimes mid-sentence, depending on whether I'm thinking about my past/current husband or my future wife. I know it's confusing. But so is gender identity during transition.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Transition Grief

I am hunched over, sobbing and gasping, the hot water washing my tears and snot down the drain. The shower is my favorite place to cry, and I've been spending many long nights here. Our water bill is going to be astronomical this month.

I hate myself for crying so much.

I have never seen my husband with so much hope and joy. There is a new lightness about him. He recently realized that he is transgender, and that's been the cause of a lifetime of suicidal depression. Through sober self-reflection and unearthing repressed childhood memories, he finally has a name for the discomfort he's felt in his own skin. And he has a cure-- transition.

Yet here I am, acting like I'm in mourning. I say I'm supportive but my bawling indicates otherwise. Why can't I pull myself together? How long will this gut-wrenching despair last?

Then one day I read that people go through a grieving process when they learn about a loved one's transition. Grieving. Yes, that is what I've been doing. Grieving the loss of my marriage as I know it. The loss of my dream for our future and family. The loss of the physical man that I married. The loss of my life direction. The loss of my normal.

Now that I know it's just grief, I give myself permission to cry. Now I have the words to tell Jake, "I need space to grieve without feeling guilty about it. I'm not crying because you've hurt me or because I don't support you. I don't want you to feel bad when I'm crying-- I know this isn't something you're doing to me; it's something you have to do for yourself. This is just my grieving process, and it will take as long as it takes." Now I have the freedom to move through my grief and start to heal.

Every night I stay in the shower until my body is streaked bright pink and my fingers wrinkle. I cradle myself and cry with abandon until the tears won't come anymore. I soothe myself with the thoughts, This is my life now. This is my new normal. I'm just grieving. I recognize this feeling and it never lasts forever. Go ahead; let it out.

This too shall pass.

(May 2013)

Sunday, December 1, 2013

My New Normal

"The black is sexier but the pink makes my boobs look better. What do you think?"
I am modeling lingerie for my husband Jake and his online friends.

Jake is lounging on the bed, shirtless, wearing a woman's wig. He is 56 days into hormone replacement therapy to become a woman. It's topless night for his Google+ support group, and trans women in various stages of transition are hollering from his computer screen: Ooh girl that's hot! The black, definitely the black! Yes, the black, you look gorgeous!

"Thanks, OK black it is!" I blush, darting embarrassed away from the camera, even though I am the most conservatively dressed for topless night.

I slip clothes over the black nightie and kiss Jake goodbye.
"See you in a couple hours; I'll be home by midnight."
"Ok, have fun baby!"
I lean in front of the camera and wave, "Thanks again ladies. Have a good night!"

I head out to have mind-blowing hot sex with my new boyfriend. I'll be back in time for a bedtime snuggle with Jake, to tell him about my date and hear how much fun he had chatting with his t-girls, before we fall asleep.

Four months ago I had a completely hetero-normal life. Jake and I were married for seven years, faithfully monogamous for the twelve years we'd been together. We were planning to start a family soon.

I could not have dreamed up my new life. I sure as hell never would have asked it for it. But this is my new normal. And I love it.

(August 2013)