I discreetly study Seda out of the corner of my eye every morning as we eat breakfast, and I try to see her as the woman she sees herself as.This is not easy. I have to imagine away the beard stubble and the face of the man I fell in love with almost fifteen years ago. I screw up my courage and almost arrive at the place where I can see my . . . wife? Then it all falls apart, and I see the tired-looking face of the father of my children who wishes it would be easier for all of us.
We take Seda to get her hair cut and ears pierced after work one day.This is a much-awaited milestone.As Seda happily bicycles home alone, the boys and I drive across town to pick up a beehive (our second) in which I collected a swarm earlier that day. The entrance to the hive is duct taped closed, but I worry that we will hit a pothole or get into a car accident releasing 20,000 bees into the station wagon with the three of us. I know how to sweat. I’ve gotten good at it.
Seda announces to her managers at work that she is a woman.Her employers make a plan for this transition, and to our relief administration is explicitly supportive. We did not expect to make this announcement so soon, but Seda is no longer willing to lead a double life and the raw, shaggy appearance before and after electrolysis is too difficult to otherwise explain.
I prepare to tell our neighborhood what is going on and, despite the fact that they all appear to be queer-friendly, I find that I am utterly terrified that we may lose our closest community.To my relief, they are understanding.To my surprise, one woman tells me that she wishes it were her husband who wanted to transition. She’d always identified as a lesbian but fell in love and had children with a man. I wish I could wrap it all up neatly in a box and give it to her.
Seda’s interest in sex drops markedly. This development fills me with anxiety as I realize that most of my attraction to her is embedded in the mutual escalation of our excitement around one another.If she is no longer attracted to me or interested in sex, that part of our relationship will be over, and I will not even get to be a lesbian! I can hardly believe my marriage has come to this.
I make pancakes or waffles every Sunday morning. I no longer measure the ingredients. I am not attached to how they turn out. If the result is heavy or flat, the next round will be better. If the batter is exquisite, I am appreciative beyond measure.I consider writing an un-cookbook about the Zen of cooking without recipes.There is no place for failure.
I am drawn to birthing and even consider becoming a surrogate mother. I order the paperwork and comb through it imagining myself carrying and relinquishing a child that belongs to someone else.I realize that mine is a future without any certainty of family as I’ve known it. I wonder if I am trying to buy time.
One morning, I walk into the bathroom and gasp. Seda is getting out of the shower, and her chest is completely bare. For some reason, I had never before realized how much hair had grown there and what an anchor that hair was to the memory of the man I’d married. I cannot speak, but back away stifling quiet howls of pain. Seda is shocked by my reaction but feels terrible for me.The shave was unavoidable; she thought I knew it was coming. I want her to put it all back, but I know this is impossible.How could I stop or change any of it, ever?
I miss having a man in my bed. Sex is sometimes fun with a woman, but I still want to be entered and filled with all that is male, something Seda will no longer pretend at. One night I begin to cry as Seda and I make love. My tears fall fast through the entire coupling and at the end, I collapse sobbing on her chest. I know that my husband is gone. I grab the camera and photograph what is left of his face from all angles. He looks ashen and drained. I am photographing the dead.
My mother comes around to accepting and supporting my choice to stay with Seda. We visit her in California, but Seda stays in bed all weekend with a migraine. My mother tries to help by cleaning out her closet and offering Seda clothes. In fact, Mom gets a little giddy at the prospect of taking part in making Seda into a woman. She also tells me that under no circumstances am I to tell my grandfather. He has been through enough.
I write poetry regularly now; in tears, I drop to my knees in the hardware store by the caulk to write and pray—all one work in a tiny spiral notebook. I am creating. I no longer worry about what other people think of my tears or my frenzied writing.