My husband Dominic took this picture of himself the other day at the gym.
As soon as I looked at it, I felt as though I’d been punched in the stomach. In that moment, I realized the last of his feminine characteristics were gone. I would never again see the person I married looking back at me. That face no longer exists. In many respects, that person no longer exists.
Initially, I was overcome with grief, but that grief was quickly replaced by guilt. I felt guilty for feeling sad. Why couldn’t I just be happy for him? He, the person I fell in love with 13 years ago was finally, for the first time ever, living an authentic life.
“I would never again see the person I married looking back at me. That face no longer exists. In many respects, that person no longer exists.”
I was reminded of Richard Bach’s quote, “If you truly love someone, set them free.” I equated my love for him with my ability to love him enough to let the invented version of him go and fully embrace the new, real person emerging, without hesitation. However, I was also acutely aware of my overwhelming feelings of loss, as I watched the transition unfold at a rapid, unrelenting pace.
While Dominic is finally living a genuine existence, I feel as though I am having my past erased right before my eyes. Our 13-year long relationship, our two mom family and my personal identity as a lesbian were now being taken from me. I was also mourning the loss of the person I fell in love with and the future I had envisioned for our family.
As I was sorting through my feelings of loss and guilt and fear, I had a moment of clarity.
All of a sudden a word came to mind, a word that gave me permission to feel and express ALL of my emotions.
That word was “and.”
I realized it was possible and okay to feel excitement and sadness, hope and grief, relief and fear, happiness and loss, freedom and confinement, clarity and confusion.
The happiness I felt for his freedom could exist alongside the loss I felt for our past, as it existed in my memories.
I also gave myself permission to miss the old Dominic. His smell, his skin, his voice, his personality are all very different now and I allowed myself to remember, even fondly, that person.
Just as a parent both misses their baby and rejoices in the person they are becoming, I too can reminisce without wanting to turn back time.
“I realized that while those memories may cause me to feel nostalgic, that doesn’t mean I ever want to see that person again.”
I realized that while those memories may cause me to feel nostalgic, that doesn’t mean I ever want to see that person again. That person almost killed Dominic’s chance at ever truly living. That person was nothing more than a fabrication. That person was in tremendous pain and fighting for happiness.
But, partners and family members of trans people need to be allowed to go through the grief process. I believe there is a way to honor both the trans person and our journey to acceptance. Just as trans people benefit from receiving support and acceptance during the transition, the partners, friends and family members must also be given allowance and time to mourn, become educated and move toward acceptance.
While the pain I am experiencing and the pain Dominic endured prior to transitioning are not comparable, my pain should not be denied or dismissed. In fact, the very future of our relationship depends on my ability to work through my own grief process and if he does not give me the space to process the effect the transition has had on me, our relationship will surely end.
As the photos are removed from our walls, put into boxes and placed high upon shelves in dark closet corners, new photos are hung and the new, true story begins.
At that moment, we must acknowledge a hard truth: The story we wrote with our partners before may have been our truth, but it wasn’t theirs. The story being written now is their truth, and we have the choice to embrace it or move on.
However, even if we decide to stay, weather the transition and embrace our new dynamic, we should still expect to experience nostalgic moments that take our breath away. Like old photos, these memories are our connection to our previous story and should be able to remain safe in our minds.
This transition has taught me a lot about life, love and grief.
Life is messy, love is complex, grief is a necessary process and a partner’s transition tests the very core of your relationship and teaches you a great deal about yourself.
“Life is messy, love is complex and grief is a necessary process and a partner’s transition tests the very core of your relationship.”
I have come to realize that loving the whole person: the soul, the heart and the spirit is key.
At the end of the day, while I miss his smell and his voice, the person I married is still in there. He is still the same heart, has the same values, exhibits the same compassion, blows me away with the same sense of humor and lights up my sons’ lives as the same amazing parent.
Everything is different now, and yet at the core, what really matters is the same.
So, I will continue to mourn and celebrate and grieve and love and miss and embrace this messy, beautiful life I have the privilege of living with my person, my Dominic.