Originally published in UNITE Virginia Magazine, November 15, 2016
15 years ago, I thought I was open-minded, and perhaps I was. I had been raised by my mother and the school of hard knocks. After squeaking my way into college, I’d graduated with honors and a degree in English, formally trained to critique our culture and embrace diversity. I became a mother and lived on the fringe of a post-modern hippie lifestyle, baking whole grain muffins and dehydrating kale chips for my family. Then my husband told me that he wanted to wear women’s clothes.
The news seemed somehow bigger than my open mind. What would become of me as a wife? Our children? What would the neighbors think? Who was this man I loved? I crumbled at his words. I wished I could shave my head and deny my own gender so that my husband had no right or capacity to claim it for his own. I wanted womanhood to die.
Seda’s story affected me deeply, tied as it was to our marriage and family. Now, I am beginning to share my story. Most stories about trans people are told by the people who transition genders themselves, and these perspectives too are of great value. Mine is one of the few stories told by partners and stands almost alone as a full-length memoir written from the perspective of a wife with family. Our solution to this challenge developed organically, and it is also unique. My former husband, now a woman named Seda, lives in her own wing of our house, and I live in the other wing with my romantic partner and our two teenage boys. We share meals and household chores. We watch movies, play soccer, and hunt for mushrooms in the woods as a family of five.
Our family is completely out of the box. 15 years ago, I thought I was open-minded, and maybe I was. But now that I have been forced to walk my talk, I have found that being open-minded is only the first step on a long road toward accepting and embracing diversity. The adjustment calls for more than an open mind; it calls for an open heart.