In 2002, I began dating an amazing person. Three years later, after several very large challenges, we were married. Yet none of the issues we faced as a married couple prepared us for the strength and dedication we would need to get through the largest of trials we had yet to face.
In September 2013, the love of my life told me a very deep secret, one that would change everything I had accepted as true about our relationship and our future. And it was one that I didn’t have any idea how to handle. My spouse whom I trusted, loved and experienced so much with told me, “I’m transgender.”
When I heard this for the first time, I felt sadness, anger, frustration, confusion, pain, fear, and hopelessness. Conflicting questions ran through my head: what does that even mean? What did I do to cause this? What did I do to deserve this? What can I do to make this all go away? What can I do to help? Where do we go from here?
We were in Hawaii finishing up a Navy tour and had already made plans for our future. What would this mean for all that we had planned? Would I have to give up things I had become comfortable with and expected? I was still so confused about what it meant for me that I didn’t consider what it meant for the person that had just expressed something so intimate.
I couldn’t cope. To be honest, I took that secret and buried it inside me in hopes that it would go away. I thought if I ignored it or forgot that it was said, it would be like it never happened.
For a good six months, I conveniently forgot that I had been told this wretched secret. We moved to Tampa where we had thought we would be able to find the way to our new life after the Navy. We shortly realized that my vision for our new life was going to be completely different.
She began dressing up for me. I would come home from work to find a different person than who I had left that morning. I felt feelings that I didn’t realize I had and am ashamed to have felt. I was disgusted — not by what I saw but what I felt. I still didn’t want to recognize the fact that I was not married to a man, but to a woman. I had this perfect image in my head of what I expected and planned for my life: the picturesque family with a husband and lovely children (one of each gender, only trying a third time if it didn’t work out the first two times). We had a decent-sized home that was beautiful and full of love. That dream quickly dwindled away as the truth began to shine through. Still, I was in denial that this secret wasn’t going away, that this was a permanent change that was going to need to be addressed.
After six months in Tampa, we decided to move back to Hampton Roads to pursue a job opportunity for her. We rented a bedroom from a friend, and shortly into our stay, we explained the transition to her. That’s when things became very real. Our roommate and our friend for several years accepted the secret like it was just old news.
It was exactly what I needed to see in order to push me past my denial. After all, if she, as our friend, could accept it, why couldn’t I as a loving and devoted wife. From that moment, I began making every effort to fully accept my spouse and the secret that was no longer a secret.
I began to understand that I was not married to a man, but to a woman. I realized that the love of my life was not who I saw, but the person who had been hidden deep inside for so long – the beautiful woman who eventually became known as Kaytee.
I began to research what being transgender really meant. I joined a Reddit board for spouses of transgender people and found support from others in the same position. I learned the answers to all the questions I had that first day of hearing her secret. My biggest revelation was that it didn’t matter what my spouse looked like on the outside. I had fallen in love with the person on the inside, and she had always been there. I just wasn’t aware of it.
Now, nearly three years after first learning of her secret, I am more in love with my wife than I ever was before. I know more about her and am more attracted to her both inside and out. We are so much closer than ever did before. For the first time, I truly see a real future for us, not one that attempts to fit our marriage into a box. It’s a future that makes it possible for us to be together for the long run.
I know that when we are both older, we will be cute, stubborn, old ladies rocking in chairs on a porch, smiling at the life we have created together. And it’s all because she felt comfortable enough to trust me with her deepest, darkest secret.
Jenn is a 32 year-old married Navy Veteran. She holds her MBA and currently works as a kennel attendant while she working to open her own business. Originally from Michigan, she and her wife decided to settle here in Hampton Roads after having been stationed here with the Navy previously. She enjoys spending time with her wife, photography, and being a part of the LBGTQ community.