It was early July, and we were on our way home after a botched date night. My spouse's mood was off, once again; this chronic melancholy, this little Eeyore cloud hanging over our lives and saturating everything in miserable little droplets. It happened all the time.
The unhappiness had put a wedge between us for years. I, the happy, bubbly, social person on one side; my partner, the quiet, brooding, isolating one. And on those rare nights we could sneak out for a meal or a drink, I would grow resentful when the Eeyore cloud starting pissing all over our parade.
"I wish you would tell me what's going on with you," I said as we drove home from the coffee shop.
"I can't," she replied.
"Enough of that. We've been together 22 years and you've been unhappy the whole time. Everyone can see it. The kids and I can feel it."
"I know," she admitted.
I sighed. "Is it me? Are you unhappy with me? With our family?"
"No, it's not you. It's not the kids. This predates all of you, trust me."
"Look," I said. "I'm tired of brushing this under the rug. I think it's time for some honesty. Nothing will get better if you don't tell me what's wrong."
"I can't," she insisted, staring straight ahead, hands firmly on the wheel.
I thought of potential big secrets and just started guessing.
"Are you gay?" I inquired. Hey, it happens, right? Maybe she wasn't as into me as my ego wanted me to believe.
"No," she said.
"OK." And then I just threw it out there. "So, do you want to be a woman or something?"
Silence. And suddenly, I knew. But I had to ask again because I needed to hear the answer.
"You..." My voice was caught in my throat. "You're a... a woman?"
More silence. My stomach was in knots. I wanted to throw up.
"I can't talk about this," she said in the smallest, most vulnerable voice I had ever heard from her. I felt my heart break on the spot.
And I, the supportive mom of a trans child, the advocate, the ally, friend of the LGBT community, replied with an eloquent, "Oh, you have got to be f*cking kidding me!"
Yep. Not my proudest moment.
The life I knew -- the life I had with my husband -- died that night. There's no other way to describe it.
I thought I knew everything about my spouse. And yet, at that moment, I felt completely blindsided by the news. I didn't know this could happen twice in one family. (Our daughter, Alexis, is also transgender.) I didn't understand how someone could hide something like that from the person they'd been married to for over two decades. I didn't know how this would affect our family, the kids, his job.
I felt betrayed, hurt, devastated, angry and scared. And he, by the light of the Walmart parking lot we had stopped in, looked a perfect picture of terror and relief.
"I never thought I'd tell anyone," he said, staring down. "But I just told you."
I wanted to scream at him and I wanted to hug him, all at once. We were lost in a situation neither of us saw coming.
But that was eight months ago. I would love to tell you that, given all the experience my family has with trans issues, it's been an easy journey. It hasn't. The first few months were incredibly bumpy. I didn't think we could come back from it all.
But we did. Life with Zoe is beautiful. That's her lovely chosen name, by the way, and I helped pick it by vetoing all the ones I hated. I hated a lot of them. I'm really supportive.
Her name is now legally changed on her birth certificate, along with her gender marker. The papers came in about a week ago. Her birth certificate says "female," which means -- you guys -- I'm gay married! (Insert rainbows and plaid shirts here.)
You have no idea how many lesbian jokes I've been holding in for the last few months. Sh*t's about to get real.
This same-sex marriage revelation was a perfectly comfortable shift for me. It feels right, because we feel right. After nearly 23 years together, I finally have my whole partner, not just the part she wanted to show me. And that Eeyore cloud? It hasn't come out to play in a while.
My wife is gorgeous, witty and social now that she's finally comfortable in her own skin. We're the happiest we've ever been.
I need to give some serious props to our two sons. These guys could teach a class in resiliency, compassion and acceptance. They've embraced their mama with open arms, just as they did their sister.
And Alexis? She taught her mama to be brave like her by example, and saved her from drowning in secrets and misery for the rest of her life. What a gift that girl is.
While I know there are many horror stories out there about what happens when people come out, we haven't dealt with a single one yet. Our families, friends and neighbors have all been incredible. We're so fortunate to be surrounded by many caring, open-minded people.
And that brings us to this very day. Today is the day Zoe is coming out at work. There's much at stake here, and she's understandably nervous.
Like her daughter, Zoe has also written a coming out email to all her coworkers who don't yet know she's transgender (the ones she works closely with already know, as does HR, but there are may more people to tell). It's a big day.
After we do these two things, there's no more hiding. Zoe gets to be herself full-time. I get to say "my wife" without outing her before it's time. My kids finally get to say, "I have two moms."
We don't have to remember who knows and who doesn't know and who can't know yet because they might tell someone else, and ... well, let's just say it's been exhausting for all of us. We've been living in the closet, and it feels damn good to be busting out of it.
This is the internet, so I expect not all of you will be supportive. But believe me, there isn't a thing you could say in response to this news I haven't already thought of in the last several months. I used to worry about the shade people would throw our way, but not anymore. Our world is so full of love and support that it leaves absolutely no room for hatred or ignorance to reside within it.
Besides, on top of having both a transgender daughter and wife, I've been fully immersed in gender issues for two years now: studying research, interviewing experts, giving talks, writing articles, and connecting with thousands of families. So unless you're coming at this with at least as much knowledge as I now have, I'm probably not going to pay your negativity much mind. Just sayin'.
So why share this at all? The same reason we share Alexis' journey: I want you to learn with me.
If you learn along with me, then you won't be afraid. You won't be judgmental. You won't think families like ours are defective or weird. You'll get to know the queer parents at your kids' school instead of avoiding them. You'll invite the trans kid in your child's class over to play, like you would any other child.
And then you'll teach these things to the people in your life, whether directly or indirectly. Knowledge creates change. And then the world gets safer for Alexis and Zoe, the two bravest ladies I've ever had the pleasure of loving.
You and I are going to help make that happen, OK? Here's to the messy stuff of life, the woman I love more and more each day, and to wonderful new beginnings.