Editor's note: Due to safety issues, "Regina" and "Jean"/"Gene" are pseudonyms. They have asked that we not reveal their identities.
After reading the comments from HuffPost users Sue Langland and Shannon Barber on the Erin Ryan Fitzgerald story, I knew I needed to answer them, so I'm writing this blog post as a response to them.
My spouse, Jean, transitioned about 11 years ago. We've been together for 16 years and will celebrate our 14th wedding anniversary this spring. This has been a long journey for both of us.
We've had a very strong bond since the first time we laid eyes on each other. We're two halves that make a whole. This is not a bond that comes around very often. We literally complete each other.
To answer Sue's question about "maleness" is difficult. I mourned losing Gene when he first started talking about transition. I was scared out of my mind, as well. What is going to happen with us? Can I be strong enough to help him through this? Can I even get through this? These were just a few of the questions that went through my mind when he first told me he needed to pursue transition.
I didn't want to lose Gene, but he was getting too difficult to live with. He'd sink into sullen moodiness and strike out at me verbally, all because he was afraid of losing me. I couldn't stay in the dark regarding what was causing him such distress. I turned inward and started wondering what more I could do to help, to keep him from going into the depression that was crippling him. It didn't matter what I did, though; nothing helped until he transitioned.
When we first met, he told me that he suffered from high levels of testosterone. I think that was his first hint to me that there was something more going on. The problem, one Jean had dealt with for her entire life, was that she knew she was trapped in a male body. She was scared to death to tell me much of anything. We knew we belonged together, but she didn't know how I would react to her secret gender identity.
I kept a lot of what I felt to myself. I wasn't happy, but I also knew I couldn't live without the other half of me, either.
Last fall I finally figured out what had happened between the time when we were dating and the time after we were married: She had been letting her guard down and allowing Jean to come out when we were dating, but once we were married, she let Gene out again, and he truly was an asshole. I couldn't understand the difference until I had the epiphany last fall.
When she started hormone therapy in the spring of 2002, her scent changed. There really wasn't enough air freshener to dampen the smell over those first few months. I started burning incense when she was gone.
However, believe it or not, once her body fully adjusted, I think we got closer to each other physically than we had been for quite a while. For starters, she was a lot easier to be around most of the time. The hormones basically made her go through puberty again, so I was living with a teenager the first year or so. (Sometimes I think it was longer, but I won't tell her that.)
As for the "maleness" part of her, it really didn't exist until she thought she had to be the husband. It's really difficult to explain, because I fell in love with her female soul, not her outer male self. I looked into her eyes and knew that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with this wonderful person who cherished me for who I was, who didn't want me to change who I was. As for the sex part of our relationship, I don't think we really counted on that to create the bond we had.
In the beginning we tried. She wasn't comfortable in the male role, and because of things in my past, I wasn't comfortable with things after she could no longer function as a male.
Of all the things that I worried about, what bothered me the most was that I'd been able to fall in love with the most beautiful soul I'd ever met and still not realize how trapped she was. I also questioned my own sexuality, but I feared the possibility that she might not want me after she transitioned. We knew that she was heterosexual as a man, but we weren't sure where she would lean as a woman.
In the years since Jean transitioned, we've discovered together that we have the same tastes in women and men. We both prefer firefighters in turnout gear and often say that if we found such a man, we'd have to share, but she truly leans lesbian. She can't imagine herself with a man. As for me, I do miss heterosexual sex. I miss having that release, but I also don't want to ruin what Jean and I have together for that. To be honest, in that regard, we're like any married couple that has been together for a long time.
To be completely honest, my first thoughts after Jean came out to me dealt with what my family would say if I stayed with her. It took a while to get past that and remember that my family wasn't going to be living with us. When I took a deep look inside, often in counseling with a good therapist, I got past that part and started thinking about how I felt. I realized that as long as we didn't go too fast and took each step at my pace, not Jean's, I could live with her. Once we finally got started on our journey toward transition, she became a different person. She was finally becoming the person she knew she always was, and she had my support.
In the end, it was good that we had each other, because neither of our families took it well for quite a while.