Zoe and I have been de-cluttering our home over the holidays. Doing this in January like everyone else puts our activities on par with our love of pumpkin spice lattes in the fall, which is eight levels of basic bitch. But I digress.
We’re going through old boxes, kitchen appliances, getting rid of books we’ve read and won’t ever read again, and deciding what stays and what goes in every room in the house.
Our criteria is simple; each item has to fit into one or both of the following categories:
1. Do we need it? (No, like actually need it.)
2. Does it bring us joy?
Everything that falls under the “no” category leaves the house. It’s been surprisingly cleansing. As it turns out, we’ve held onto many things we had no reason to keep, and letting go of those things is like letting go of what doesn’t fit our life today. It’s like a transition of a different sort.
And then I found the box of old wedding photos.
Here’s the thing about the wedding photos: they’re weird to look at. Like really weird.
In them, I’m standing alongside a person I don’t recognize anymore, who’s sporting short hair and a tux, and who looks decidedly male. (I’m also wearing a dress I wouldn’t be caught dead in today. Ew.)
But here I am, nearly twenty years later, decluttering the living room with… my wife.
Ok, so you might think memories of a simpler time – when I was a young and happy and idealistic twenty-year-old entering in to what I thought was a straight marriage – might hurt to look at. After all, we were in the prime of our lives and about to move to the burbs and make us some babies like a good ol’ fashioned straight couple. I should, perhaps, be feeling some twinges of pain or something over a lost life.
Over the last 18 months since Zoe came out to me, I’ve walked through all sorts of feelings: hurt, sadness, fear, anger, remorse, betrayal, hope, happiness, relief, and love. The early days were harder, the more recent days are better. These days, I feel a lot more of the second half of that emotion-heavy sentence.
Like every big change in life, accepting this one has been a deeply personal process. I’m not done with it yet, but it’s getting a lot easier. I’ve put to bed a lot of my fears, and every bit of that betrayal. The only remorse I feel is for her. I wish she could have lived her full life sooner. And any anger is directed at society for not being more welcoming to trans people. We’re getting there, but overall, we still make it difficult to come out, to live, to love, and to work as a transgender person. We still have a lot of work to do.
But when I look at those wedding photos, they don’t bring up any pain surrounding a lost life. My life isn’t lost.
I’m still married to the same person, only happier.
I’m still in love, but because the wall she had around herself for years has come down, I can love her more deeply and be loved back more fully.
We still have our three beautiful kids who, despite what some of the internet would like to think, are not at all traumatized. Our children are happy and comfortable having two parents who are happy and comfortable. Imagine that.
When I look at old pictures – and at my 23 years with Zoe, overall – I no longer see a time when I had a husband. Zoe has always been female, even when I didn’t know she was. A mistake was made when she was born based on the way her body looked. Everyone thought she was male, but everyone was wrong. We have now been corrected, that’s all. The fact we didn’t know for a long time doesn’t make her less of a woman at any time in her life.
I have never had a husband, I have always had a wife. My children have never had a mom and dad, they have always had two moms.
It’s taken me a while to see things from this perspective. And it's my perspective, which is unique to me and will not reflect how every partner or loved one of a trans person feels. But seeing things this way not only honours and respects the way Zoe feels about her own life, but also makes memories less painful for me. Any loss I felt was a perceived loss, because it’s really always been this way. I just didn’t know it.
We’re ordering a new marriage certificate soon, which will have Zoe’s corrected name and gender on it. And, if all goes well on the budget front this year (please be kind, money gods!), we’ll be renewing our vows for our 20th wedding anniversary this August.
We can have the wedding we should have had all those years ago, where we both look totes adorbs in our dresses and our friends and family can have a gay ol’ time celebrating our love with us. There may even be pumpkin spice lattes. So embarrassingly basic. So embarrassingly us.
We didn’t get rid of our old photos in our minimalist purge. We tucked them away for posterity.
But I think we’re going to like our new wedding pictures a whole lot more. This is the way it’s always been. It’s time to show that truth to the world.