I want to start by saying that I plan to practice she/her pronouns and using my wife’s female name going forward. I need to let go of my husband, a fact that I struggle with daily and have decided to just face in all of it’s absolute pain. Mostly, I do feel that using husband and he/him doesn’t replicate how I feel about this transition in the sense that I fully support the journey my wife is on. A reminder that this blog is about the process as I’m experiencing it. It’s utterly confusing to be supportive of your spouse’s self-actualization, but also feel that it’s plucking your identity one hair at a time. Every day I’m reminded how much I don’t know about myself, and as Katie gets to know what she looks like and who she is, so am I.
The first time Katie shaved her legs was 2 days after The Outing (see post labeled “The Outing” if you want more background on that). I was in Baltimore for work travel, a welcome distraction from what was very persuasive fear that my life as I knew it was over. I called Katie after too many glasses of wine to ask how her day went, but there was no answer. I remember it now as being an hour later before she called me back, although, it could have been 10 minutes. Wine and time don’t do the details much justice. I was mad that she didn’t pick up the call right away provided that I was emotionally a wreck and needed to talk to the only person who knew why. The time-delay in calling me back was not helped by the her mood on the phone when we talked. I could feel the distance not just in the miles between us, but in the details being provided to me on the phone. There have always been moments where the ability for Katie to give me the details, to be engaged, were a lot harder. These moments we had fondly called the “Mopey Zoo Lion” days in an attempt to lighten the heaviness of them. These days had an unexplained darkness looming over my wife’s ability to fully immerse herself in the wonder of our lives. I try to be patient with Mopey Zoo Lion, but on that particular Monday I could not rise above. Spending any time unable to tell anyone that my husband is actually my wife is a situation I wish on no one. It’s not the gender reveal I had issue with, but my inability to explain what a fucking rock star I was for even getting out of bed. I had packed more panic and tears than could fit in my checked suitcase AND NO ONE KNEW. My coworker who I traveled with doesn’t know I cried on the plane while he slept. Or in the bathroom at the airport. Even still, I have completely invested myself in work because it’s one place I have any moniker of control, but I still have many days where I cannot escape my brain. These thoughts include, but are not limited to the below (Note To Self: write a longer and more details list):
- Are we going to make it?
- How do we do this?
- What’s next?
- I feel so alone.
- How fast will this transition happen?
- I need more time.
- Will I be a divorced woman at the age of 30?
- OMG, will I have to date again?
- Can we have kids?
- Will we have kids?
- Do we want kids?
- Why are there so few internet hits for ‘Can a straight woman become a lesbian when her husband comes out as transgender?’?
- How did I get here?
- I feel so alone. This one gets two points because it’s inescapable, like the eventual need to blink when your eyes are dry or yawn when you’re tired. It’s the horizon line you’re always headed toward and never reach. The bad odor when you forget to take the trash out before you leave town for a week.
In frustration, I remember crying on the phone and I remember going to bed not settled about anything. Alone in my room, I fell asleep to something on tv I don’t remember. Side-note: I still sleep on my side of the bed when I travel. I wonder if I’ll ever sleep in the middle?
Not that there is ever a “good time” for a life-altering/shattering experience, but The Outing took place 3 days before our 2-year Wedding Anniversary. As I was out of town for work, I had planned on taking the following Friday off so we could back-pack the Hoh Rainforest for two nights, allowing us to turn off our phones, drink wine from a box, and explore the Olympics during what is a slower time of year for hiking. As fall’s crisp breeze brings cloud-cover, scarves, and school to the Pacific North West, hiking becomes a sexy after-thought in time-management, making the trails less crowded. In the wake of The Outing, I considered if we should still go on the trip, but it made more sense to me to just go. Staring at each other in our house for 3 days sounded awful and painful. At least we could be distracted by mossy arches and fear of seeing a bear! On that Friday morning, we left early for the upper-most left corner of the Lower 48 and made it to the park entrance around noon. The hike itself is not a huge incline, making the weight of 30-40 lbs not feel as cumbersome as other climbs. That said, it was warm out, at least 65, and Katie at one point hiked up her pants to cool off. It wasn’t then that I noticed, but a while later, that there was no hair on her legs. I never knew how important body hair was until it occurred to me that I wouldn’t see it again. I had this realization as I stood crying on a log facing Katie, asking her why she hadn’t told me that night on the phone, the night of Mopey Zoo Lion while I was in Baltimore. I begged her for more time, trying to make her understand how surprised I was by all of this.
The picture above isn’t the exact log we had this conversation on, but it’s very similar. I kept thinking as I was crying, noticing all the green go in and out of focus, that when there is a movie about my life (Please note sarcasm), that image of the two of us standing on the log would be the movie poster, the theme of our entire story. The two of us standing opposite each other, me crying, and both of us not knowing how to navigate the distance forward. I really cannot explain for those of you who haven’t experienced this how much body hair impacted me during this transition. It is a loss I never knew I would mourn and I miss it all the time. The straggly red beard on Katie’s face is something I hated so much when it was there (it was patchy and not real cute), but standing in the rainforest, I missed it more than ever.
We moved past that log and we walked and talked about other things, not just the leg hair. Communication is a big opportunity for Katie, especially as she learns about all the things she has withheld from even herself, let alone other people, for so many years. I’m so proud of her for the work she’s done in such a small amount of time. Katie describes her emotions as looking through a window and being able to see the what she should feel, but not able to open the window and touch it. This has made the Mopey Zoo Lion so much clearer for both of us. That said, I made it clear there cannot be more surprises for me (like hair removal) when I come home anymore. Maybe eventually I will not need to be hand-held as much as I do now, but this is where I am and I can’t feel guilty about that. There was a point while we were walking along the river that I told Katie the image of our marriage was broken, that it was no longer the wonderful idea we looked at in the mirror. As we both individually try and figure out what that means, she has to drag me through the glass, as I her, even if the cuts make us both bleed. The cuts will eventually scar and help us both understand if we can do this or not. There are so many questions about our marriage neither of us can answer, but I believe if we can be honest about that, those questions will be easier and less painful to answer with time.