Unwrapping the Onion: Part 9: Starting a New Life

by Permission to Live

This post is the final post in a series. Please click here to start with the series Introduction.

It’s the spring of 2012 now, and we’ve moved to a new home in a new city and are making new friends and starting over. We’ve officially left the ministry and are making new career plans. My spouse has begun transition and she has been able to go by her new name and female pronouns publicly now after using them at home for months. Only now there is no second guessing over what she can wear when we go out. There is no tripping over which name to use. It’s only been a few months, but she has said “I’m so happy!” with enough frequency that it has actually gotten downright annoying at times. For the first time my spouse can just be. She is so relaxed, and it all seems so right for her, it has become strange to try and think of her in any other way.

We’ve begun to forge a new community living our lives openly. We hope to make connections through work and school, we are already making inroads in the LGBTQ community and a local accepting church we’ve attended on occasion. We’ve also been pleasantly surprised by the support of some old friends, and the deepening of new friendships. When I announced that we were moving a short time ago, Joe Sands from Incongruous Circumspection (whom I had never met in person) discovered that we were moving to their area, and promptly informed me that he and his wife Kristine would be happy to help us move in. At first I sort of dodged, hoping that like most polite offers, he didn’t really mean it, but he persisted in telling me again and again to let them know when we were moving in. And so, I sent him an abbreviated version of our story, explaining that although they knew me from my blog as a woman married to a man, they would be meeting us at our new home as a lesbian couple and why that was the case. Within minutes their reply came back saying that it did not matter to them (or in Joe’s own own words “he doesn’t care”), and that they would still love to help us move. And then they proceeded to drive 40 minutes with all their children in tow, to meet some strangers at their new apartment at 7 o’clock on a Sunday night and help them unload their truck. And they didn’t stop there, they have invited us into their home, shared meals with us, and even babysat our children. The people we have met along this journey have changed our lives, and given us hope.

I wrote in January that my word for the year was acceptance, and how I felt afraid, and I still have some fears over so many new things, like getting a job, going to school, and putting my oldest into school. But as we’ve taken this next step into living life with all pretenses dropped, I am strangely not afraid of my spouse living authentically. We met as very limited people, both trying to do the “right” thing. We married so quickly, hardly knowing each other, much less the secrets each of us were hiding. And yet as we both changed and grew to the point where we came out to ourselves and each other, we were each able to find acceptance and understanding in our partner. We found freedom side by side, and after that crazy journey, were surprised to find that we fit together better than we ever could have imagined. It’s an unbelievable love story, a modern day fairy tale.

And yet, the word acceptance has served me well as a reminder to accept relatives where they are at, as well as the reactions from family and friends as we’ve come out. Telling our parents and friends about the changes in our lives was probably one of the scariest things we have ever done. But it was time, we were no longer unsure of what direction we were headed, and it was getting awkward to be tripping over my own spouse’s name while on the phone with someone who didn’t know the whole story.

We expected the worst, and it has been hard. We’ve had some hurtful statements, but many of our family and friends have responded more with sorrow and confusion than hate and anger, and that is encouraging. As much as we love them, if they are hurt by us living our lives there is nothing we can do about that. We try to love and accept them where they are at, even if their beliefs tell them that we are horribly wrong. It is not our job to try and educate them or make them change their minds. That has to be their journey just as it has been ours. We love our families, and we hope to continue relationship with them if they want that.

One of the things that has surprised me the most has been how many people have expressed shock that we are monogamous. It is as if they think being gay or transgender somehow means you no longer have the ability or inclination to be faithful to one person. We have been married for seven years and neither of us has ever cheated on the other. Furthermore, neither of us are interested anything other than monogamy. We are happily married and partnered in life. My spouse is a woman attracted to women, and I am a woman attracted to women. Everything we have been through together has only made us closer as a couple. Why would we want to leave each other?

Thankfully, the kids have adjusted well. They have gradually switched on their own time from calling my spouse “Daddy” to calling her “Dee.” They still have both parents loving and caring for them daily. When they’ve asked questions we’ve answered honestly. If they need further help now or at some point in the future we would not hesitate to get it for them. I have hopes that as time goes on society will become more and more accepting of diversity in families. Recently I overheard Ms Action chatting with one of her little friends. The friend mentioned their dad and Ms Action said, “Dee is kind of like the dad in our family, she’s awesome.” They are happy that their parent is being herself, just as we encourage them to be themselves.

This experience has been part of our abandoning gender roles. Obviously gender roles made no sense if we were actually both the same gender, but as we started to consider each other as equals we really had to question the idea in general. Why the assumption that anyone is better at anything based solely on what sex they are? All that time I spent waiting for my spouse to put together the crib or hang the pictures, and it turns out I’m the one who is handy with tools. And the kids respond way better to their Dee wrestling them into pajama’s each night. I really have to wonder why society feels the need to push such extreme gender roles and images. Why can’t people just be who they are and use their gifts and talents accordingly? Unfortunately our society still shames and even shuns people who don’t fully conform to gender roles, and I believe this limits so much opportunity for people to discover what they are good at and what they enjoy. I am looking forward to learning things I never allowed myself to consider because of my gender.

Obviously this journey has played a part in my faith as well. I just have not been able to relate my experience with the religious idea of conformity. In becoming healthy authentic people, both of us have been left largely without a spiritual home. Most Christian groups do not recognize our reality as valid, claiming that we are choosing to live sinful sordid lives and telling all kinds of lies about people like us to bolster their claims. I cannot understand why a god would create such diversity in people and then demand that they all live the same life in the exact same manner. This is not my only question regarding Christianity (I’ve written about my questions regarding penal substitutionary atonement, prayer and more), but it is a huge barrier to my even being interested anymore. So where am I at religiously? Where would you be if you had my story? We don’t know where we fit anymore. After studying for and serving the church for years my spouse discovered there wasn’t room for her for her to be more authentic, let alone transition. It’s hard to believe in a god who creates people that his followers do not affirm or welcome. It’s hard to feel respected when you are told to divorce your spouse simply because they are being honest about who they are.

Watching anti-LGBTQ politics largely fueled by religion, has taken on a new light, because now it is MY family that is being attacked. Many people seem to think that my family shouldn’t exist. But we do, and we are just the same as any other family. We work hard to provide for our kids health and education. We have our issues and quirks like any other people. We still work to heal from problems of the past, and strive to learn more about gentle respectful parenting. We still eat and go for walks together, wash our kids’ hands and faces, read stories at bedtime and sometimes play hide and seek or have tickling wars. In most ways, we are just your average family. The person you have gotten to know through my writing, is still the same person.

I am now in the process of starting my first job ever and my Hunnie is in beauty school just like she’s wanted to for so long. I am enrolling in school part-time this summer. I honestly have no idea what I am going to major in – that journey remains to be discovered. We feel excited about the future. We are independent, living our own lives for the first time. I am proud to be married to someone as strong and brave as my spouse, someone who has battled through depression and thoughts of suicide and despair is now waking up every day with a smile on her face, excited about what the day will bring. She is an overcomer. Thirty percent of transgender people commit suicide, and I am grateful that wasn’t my Hunnie’s story. When I was in counseling my therapist asked me if I felt any resentment towards my spouse over all this. And as I thought it through, I could truthfully say no. Yes, I have had questions and struggles, and yes, it hasn’t been easy, but if I could go back in time knowing what I know now I would marry her all over again. She held my hand as I journeyed out of depression, has continued to encourage me to discover my own interests, took the initiative to end corporal punishment in our home permanently, and continues to be my partner, co-parent, lover, and friend.

I am proud to face the world with her at my side.

Comments open below

Part 1 ~ Part 2 ~ Part 3 ~ Part 4 ~ Part 5 ~ Part 6 ~ Part 7 ~ Part 8

You can read more about Permission To Live at her blog – Musings of a young mom.

NLQ Recommended Reading …

Breaking Their Will: Shedding Light on Religious Child Maltreatment‘ by Janet Heimlich

Quivering Daughters‘ by Hillary McFarland

Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement‘ by Kathryn Joyce

 

About Suzanne Calulu
  • Ž

    I’m so happy for you and your wife! My wife to be is a transwoman as well and we’re very happy together.

  • http://mimitabby.com/blog mimiT

    what an amazing story. glad you have a happy ending.

  • shadowspring

    It could easily be titled “The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest” of that title was not already taken!

    I am surprised at the lack of comments. It could be that more people spoke up when this was published on Permission to Live’s own blog, and people are all commented out? But I will add this:

    I am so proud of you for putting your story out there. No one will understand GLBT issues if they don’t get to know anyone who is part of that community. I know I didn’t understand! I bought the Focus on the Family explanation, until I started listening to people (Christian raised folks, like yourself) who showed me the truth.

    The religious right is really good at closing people’s minds to the GLBT community by calling it ” the gay agenda”. They scare people by either saying outright or implying that you all are LYING about who you are in an attempt to manipulate us. They have told us that gay people are out there recruiting people to their lifestyle, so it would be dangerous for us to talk or listen to them.

    Talk about ironic! Focus on the Family has a stated agenda, to recruit people to their religious beliefs and convince them to live according to their religious rules and standards. When it comes to trying to manipulate people to adopt a certain lifestyle, evangelical fundamentalists take the cake.

    I appreciate your story, and I don’t see anything in this (or any other LGBT story I have heard) that has attempted to recruit me to adopt a LGBT “lifestyle”. All people are asking for is acceptance for who they are. You do a great job of putting that request out there. I wish you and your spouse all the happiness in the world. You both deserve it.

  • Melissa

    God bless you, your wife and children. Thank you for telling your story.

  • C Winebrinner

    Kudos for your bravery in putting your story out there for the world to see. You and your wife are obviously blessed with a strong happy marriage!

  • Caffeinated Writer

    “Ms Action” is absolutely right- you and your wife are awesome! If there’s a god, I hope he/she/it blesses you, and even if there isn’t, somewhere across the internet there’s someone who thinks that you and your family are pretty rad.

  • http://inqueeringmind.wordpress.com Gavin

    Thank you for sharing this. I’m a trans* guy, and I grew up similarly to your spouse. I was shocked to find out that you *had* to be born with an ‘outtie’, and that it didn’t sometimes come later for boys. I fought my parents to be allowed to have a rattail in the early 90s, and between my Kindergarten picture and my first formal dance, I wore a skirt once. For a funeral. And protested that as well. I didn’t have the words for how I felt until after I left home and began to allow myself to be attracted to women.
    My parents know that I am trans*. I have been living as a man for about four years. My name has been legally changed for three. But they refuse to accept it. And they won’t let me tell my almost 9 year old brother. He knows my legal name is different, but I’m not allowed to tell him the whole reason(Gavin is not my legal name. It’s my penname. My real name is a little too rare. It’s extra confusing, because my parents have no problem with him knowing I’m attracted to women, and that I had girlfriend for nearly three years. It’s just the “doing it as a man” that seems to be the problem.
    I’ve had to put part of myself back in the closet to maintain a relationship with him, and not abandon him, and that makes me very sad, because I know he will want to know why I lied to him for so long when I am finally able to tell him.

    Yet, I am still one of the lucky ones. I didn’t grow up in a QF/P home, or even a particularly religious home. I was not disowned by my parents when I told them (though most of my extended family refuses to acknowledge me now). I’ve yet to encounter violence based on my gender presentation, even though I live in the heart of “700 Club” country.

    I can’t imagine how difficult it was for your spouse. And how strong she must be to still be alive after all those poisonous thoughts told her she was wrong and evil.

    To both of you, I can only wish continued love and happiness. And again, my gratitude. For sharing this story, and giving me hope. If your family can come out of such rigidity and find love and acceptance, then that means I might not have to wait 9 years to tell my brother the truth.


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