I Wanted to Transition. I Wanted My Marriage. I Chose the Former.

Illustration and Painting
Illustration and Painting

I miss slamming down the phone.

Many moons ago, when phones were attached to cords and often walls, people could slam down the phone when they got angry. It provided a visceral happiness, that crash of the handset into the cradle. It was loud, a kind of loud that physically shot through the house -- and karmically through the phone line to whoever was on the other end.

Not near as satisfying is angrily hanging up one of today's smartphones. Tired of the irritant conversant on the other end, there's now simply pushing a red button. Nothing echoes, nothing feels like it may suddenly snap off. With the possible exception of one's finger, which is far more likely to break than Gorilla Glass.

That's why I like taking calls in the car. My phone routed through the bluetooth, there's a big physical knob that connects and -- more importantly -- disconnects calls. I can hit it as hard as I want when I finish talking to, say, my ex-wife. I'm in the car a lot these days.

She calls, I get angry, she gets angry, I get louder, she gets angrier, I get angrier and eventually I just slam my hand down on the knob. Even better? When I know she's in her car; all she has is a stupid little button.

The knob and my car are especially satisfying at times like these. That, and when the bluetooth disconnects it takes me right back to satellite radio. If I see my ex-wife's number on caller I.D. I try to quickly tune in to Neil DeGrasse Tyson. Even talking about the utter destruction of the cosmos, that guy has the most relaxing voice in the universe. He's Kenny G for geeks.

I need the relaxing. According the one study, 45 percent of transgender people said coming out ended their marriage. The other 55 stayed together, or broke up for other reasons. I'm not sure what group my divorce fits into. There were so many things about my marriage that were flawed before I came out. Was my transition the last straw, or the inevitable one? I really don't think I'll ever know.

What I do know is that a breakup that began as amicable no longer is. When I sit alone in the darkness of the home we bought together, all I can seem to do is stare down the hall at the empty room where my daughter used to sleep, but isn't tonight. Even my wife's old room -- she stopped sleeping with me long ago -- seems a mocking reminder of a life gone totally wrong. I wouldn't choose not to transition -- but I never wanted this.

Loneliness and darkness aren't good for anything. (OK, maybe mushrooms.) At least they aren't for me; I just seem to get angrier with every passing minute.

When did it go so wrong? Why did she say those terrible things to me? Why did she want to sleep alone? Why would she never even talk to me at the dinner table? Why did she insist she go out of town on business all the time? Was it even really business? Why was I such a damn fool?

These aren't the questions I ask her on the phone, of course. We fight about who's going to pick up our daughter at what time. She wants to know when I'm going to switch the cable to my name. Screw that; I just want to know when she started lying to me -- and I angrily slam down the knob, thankful that I'm in my car. It feels good; the disconnect clearly about so much more than a phone call.

My car is helpful here, too, when these things happen. When the tears make my mascara run, I can fix my makeup in the little lighted mirror in my sun visor. Neil Degrasse Tyson talking on the radio, I can calm down, do a little touch-up and know I'll be safe again to be seen in public (and drive a car).

Neil is still talking. Did you know when a star explodes it's the final act of a process that has taken years and years and years? The fire and fury, they're just the final gasp of a process of death that began long ago -- much like a marriage gone wrong.

It's a process that is really all but inevitable, if you truly understand what's involved. If you're willing to listen. Even if -- especially if -- you were never willing to before.

Even those that support me the most insist I need to understand her. Can I really blame her for her choices, whatever they may have been? There are wedding vows -- "'til death do us part," but nothing about when a spouse decides to surgically alter their parts. It's flip, but it's true.

So I choose to forgive.

There's a reason forgiveness has a universality about it. Not a particularly religious person, I still participate in grace around the table when I'm at the home of those that are, and forgiveness is seemingly always in there. Though I must admit Hebrews 10;17 is more my speed: "Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more." (Just because I'm a Neil Degrasse Tyson person doesn't mean I just read science.)

Our society is replete about the redemptive power of forgiveness. I must admit, after weeks of weight on my soul, my fingers feel light at last. That knob that disconnects the phone? It connects it, too.

And yet I can't.

Forgiveness, for all its worldly and heavenly merits, can be a very selfish act. Certainly, when the mother of a murdered son forgives the killer, that is something to be valued. But for me to forgive my ex-wife her tresspasses? Isn't that just another way of saying: "You did these bad things, but look how noble I am choosing to forgive you. Yeah me!"

My hand above the button, my mascara is once again a mess, as the explosion of rage that has been my life of late mingles with self-doubt where there was none before. They're both a constant in my life these days. I'm only now admitting my role in the death of my marriage that began a long time ago. It's not for me to say here what those things were -- but I can say they were my choices. Choices every bit as selfish as I think hers to have been. Finding myself has all to often meant thinking only of myself.

Does all of this change the choices she made? It does not, but I must admit to myself I understand them. I played at least half the role in many of them.

I'm not going to call her, not yet anyway. Not because forgiveness is something I've decided to abandon, but because as I once again look in the mirror I know there's someone else who I need to forgive.

It's going to take much longer than a phone call.