Note: These are the original letters that we sent out. Some of the verbiage has been slightly altered for the internet. It should be noted that at the time that these letters were sent out, Addison was still using her old name and pronouns. At this point, that is no longer the case. We had considered editing the letters to reflect this. However, for the sake of posterity we have decided to not do that. Please respect Addison’s name and pronouns.
January 18, 2015
Where to begin….
You’re likely wondering what all this fuss about. Who writes real letters? It is 2015, right? What with text messaging, FaceTime and twitter… why bother? If you can’t fit it into 140 characters, what’s the point? Well, I can’t possibly fit what I need to say into 140 characters. (I can’t even fit my anger about the guy who cut me off down the street into 140 characters.) I guess I’m just not a fan of brevity. The Dude would be so disappointed.
Now that I have your captive attention, I’ll just come right out and say it: I am transgender. By saying that, I mean that I am a woman. I am a transgender woman. Yes, I was designated male at birth, but I identify as a female. I have been this way for all my life… and yes, I do mean all my life.
For as long as I can remember, I have felt that I should have been born as a woman. I felt that my body did not match my brain. I always wanted to be that pretty girl. I have always wanted to wear that pretty dress and those patent leather shoes. But sadly, being assigned a gender of male, I’ve had to wear pants. Believe me when I say that pants are a social construct. Pants are bullshit.
For the longest time, I’ve tried to ignore this. I thought if I tried hard enough, I could be the man that I was supposed to be. I did pretty well at this for a long time. I tried to be the man that the world wanted me to be: the son, the husband and the father that society expected of me. I even tried (and failed) to grow a real manly beard. I would rationalize with myself how impossible it would be to become a woman. That somehow, this was an idea I could talk myself out of… a habit that could be broken. I can give this up for lent, right? Shockingly, this did not work.
However, I can no longer ignore things. Eventually, this was going to happen. I initially consulted a psychologist, mainly to tell me what I already knew: that I was (and am) suffering from Gender Dysphoria. Over a couple of sessions, we worked on a letter of referral to an endocrinologist. You see, there is only really one cure for this condition. That cure is to let myself be who I am meant to be, to become the woman that I have denied for so long. The next step in this process is to start hormone replacement therapy, which I will be doing in February. This will begin blocking out my male hormones and replacing them with their female counterparts.
So you’re going to start noticing that things are changing about me. It will be gradual at first, but as time goes on it’s going to be more obvious. My body is going to start to develop female features. I will become a woman on the outside. I will be paying a lot of money to have lasers blasted into skin to remove my facial hair. I will be working on my voice. I will likely look and sound ridiculous for some time. Basically, I will experience puberty all over again. As time progresses, I will no longer be living or identifying as a man. I will begin to dress as a female. With this comes female pronouns and a female name. Megan suggested (and I liked) Addison. At some point, that will become my legal name.
Of course, above all, I want everyone to understand one important piece of information: I am not making a choice. This is not a choice. I am simply allowing myself to finally be the person I am supposed to be. By embarking on this transition, I put myself and my family in a very vulnerable situation. Growing up, I often experienced bullying and ridicule, being called a faggot or gay or whatever other slur was convenient at the time. I endured those comments even though I hated them. However, I do not wish for this treatment to be inflicted on my wife or my children. By coming out, I risk my employment, my friendships and my family ties. I am putting everything on the line just so I can be myself. This is not something than anyone would ever choose for themselves. Underneath it all, I am still the same person. I still have the same likes, interests, sense of humor, etc.
I don’t expect everyone to understand. This will be awkward for everyone at some level. Thus far, most everyone we have told has been very accepting. That has allowed me to be more open with other people. Without having the support of Megan and my closest of family and friends, I wouldn’t be writing this letter today. So I expect that at least some people reading this will not accept me for who I am and that’s ok. I hope that with that, you can at least be respectful. I cannot say that I am sorry for who I am, but I am sorry for any hurt, confusion and other emotions you might feel concerning me in light of this news. In the end, as much as I’d rather not lose people I care about, I am sure I will live on without you if that is what you choose. After all, without loss, victory has no value.
I also expect that there will be questions. I will probably need a F.A.Q page before this is over with. That’s ok. Please ask me. By asking me questions, that means that you’re interested. It allows me to have a dialogue with you about what’s going on, without me feeling that I am forcing information onto you that you don’t care about. It’s also better to get the information straight from the source, rather than through a game of telephone.
I know some have already asked me for sources of more information that they could read on their own, and there are many. One book that both Megan and I have read is called “She’s Not There — A Life in Two Genders” by Jennifer Finney Boylan. While it doesn’t deal with any clinical information, it describes the life of boy who becomes a man, a husband, and a father who fights the same internal battle as I have found in myself. She transitions from James to Jenny and lives to tell the tale much better than I could ever hope to, as I am neither an author nor an English professor; I only have a loose grasp on English.
In closing… I’d like to recall that for all of our lives, we are told to be ourselves, above all else. The people who tell us this, do they really mean that? Only time will tell. I hope that maybe my story will cause someone else to make changes in their life that will help bring them peace.
So, where is my mind in all of this? Believe me, to say that the last month of my life has been a roller coaster ride is a huge understatement.
Sadly, as I assume happens with many relationships after 17 years, we have formed our usual, rut-like routines. Before settling into our different activities on different couches in different rooms of the house, we make a point of sitting down to the dinner table together most nights of the week. We get along fine, but we engage in the same mundane conversations that most lovers of nearly two decades do. “How was your day?” “Did anything interesting happen?” “How is work going?” Etc. (I mean heck, when you’ve been with someone for that long, you already know everything else there is to know about the person, right? Or so I thought.)
Since Sean first told me about this new (at least to me) revelation a month ago, it has pushed both of us way beyond our comfort zones, forcing us to communicate on a much deeper and more emotional level that hasn’t really been required of us in some time. This has demanded intense, frequent, honest, and more often than not, difficult conversations on both our parts. As weird as it seems under our current circumstances, though, I have actually felt closer to my husband in the past month than I probably have in years. We have developed a level of emotional intimacy that only something this intense can forge. In turn, we have actually had some really good moments in the midst of all this turmoil.
But I have also hit what has felt like rock bottom on more than a few occasions lately. I never knew tears could come so freely or so often as they have in the last month. I have gone over a million scenarios in my head that I never imagined I’d ever have to think about. And yet for all the scenarios I’ve considered, I still have so many questions, concerns, and fears about what the future holds for us and our growing family. All that I know of my future right now is a great fear for the unknown.
I will tell you all the same things I’ve told Sean: I have loved him since we were both little more than kids. He is the only man I have ever been with and I have loved him madly from the beginning. I love him for who he is at the depths of his heart and for what he has been in my life: my husband, my lover, my best friend, an amazing father to my children, and so much more. I don’t think I could ever not love him. And even once he has transformed into Addison, I cannot imagine loving her any less. It breaks my heart to even consider it a possibility.
However, as much as I love him and always will, I simply cannot promise him forever at this point. I have always considered myself to be a completely boy-crazy, heterosexual woman. I was and have always been attracted to a man who I find to be incredibly handsome. I look at family pictures of us now and just cry knowing what I am about to lose, and even though he has no intentions of going anywhere, I am still losing HIM. I want to tell myself and to reassure him that my love for him is enough and that as his transition progresses that my love will continue to be enough. But at the end of the day, I just don’t know how comfortable I can be being with a woman.
I have thought a great deal about my wedding vows and what they mean to me. “For better or worse, in sickness and in health, until death do us part.” These are vows I have always felt so strongly about and yet forever is a promise I can’t possibly make to either one of us at this point because honestly, I don’t know how far out of my comfort zone I will be able to stretch before I break. I feel like no matter what path I go down, there is no truly happy ending for me with this situation. Do I leave a relationship with the one person I have always loved, and lose the only life I have ever known (which has been a pretty good life, mind you)? Or do I stay with my best friend and the love of my life knowing that with a woman, I might never truly be fulfilled again? Either way, I lose something significant. While I know that Addison will remain the same on the inside as the husband I have always loved, I also know I am losing a significant part of the person I thought I married. My heart is beyond broken and I know it will never fully be repaired, so at this point, I am not ready to choose either one of those options.
Needless to say, we have some other life changes to deal with this year and I need the emotional and physical support of my love by my side as we move forward. At this point, the only promise I can make to Sean is to face this journey together one day at a time for as long as I can and if it ever gets to the point where I can’t go any further, to cross that bridge when we get there. But rest assured that if that time ever comes, I will not love him any less. I will always love him heart and soul. I will always be there for him. He is and forever will be my family. I just don’t know if that can be as my spouse.
As difficult as this is for me, I am trying with all I can to be supportive of my husband and his needs. I am trying to understand where he is coming from and I have read enough in the last month to understand this is not something that he would ever “want” for his life. No one would. This simply is who he is. He was terrified of opening up to me as he has been with opening up to his family and his best friend. This is the kind of thing that families disown you for and the thought of possibly losing our children and me agonized him.
As evidenced by the recent death of a young lady in Ohio, people who are transgender desperately need the love and support of their family and friends. The suicide rate among them is much higher than that of the average person. And these people, like all of God’s children, have worth and value. Sean and I have talked about where his mind is in regards to this and luckily, he assures me that he is fine and that my support of him has been crucial. Were I not still loving him and supporting him, though, would he be in a different frame of mind? At the end of the day, that is not a risk I am willing to take. I know it may seem hard for some people to understand, but I would rather have a living “wife” than a dead husband. And if he ever did anything to hurt himself, that would be a far more difficult conversation to have with our children. It’s a fate I could never be okay with.
Now that you know where my heart is in relation to my husband, I’m sure you are probably wondering about our children. We both love our children immensely and we will always take their needs to heart. Sean and I are each seeing psychologists at this point. From everything we have read as well as the advice of both of our doctors, we have come to the conclusion that honesty, no matter how difficult or confusing it might seem, is the best policy. It will be much better to be open with our children about this now rather than hiding it from them until they are teenagers. Kids at a young age are both more resilient and adaptable than they are in their later years. And honesty within a family is healthy and essential for building and maintaining trust.
Of course, we don’t want to bring this on as a complete shock to Grayson, so Sean isn’t walking around in a dress just yet. We have agreed that this needs to be a gradual introduction, so he has slowly been introducing more feminine garments to his wardrobe around the house. Grayson has noticed a few things and commented on the humor he finds in Sean wearing shoes and tank tops that look like Mommy’s. But once Sean assures him that it’s just a shirt or just a pair of shoes, he simply says okay and turns back to whatever toys have his attention as if it is no big deal. As more garments are introduced, we are hoping that Grayson will naturally start asking questions and at that point, the three of us will sit down as a family so that we can explain to him as much as he needs to know about the situation at this time.
As much as I still worry about Grayson and his understanding of this situation, I do not worry so much about his baby brother Hunter. By the time Hunter is old enough to have any lasting memories, Sean will have fully embraced his new life as Addison and it will be all Hunter has ever known. I do not worry about Hunter being confused like Grayson might be for a little while. But while Grayson has had five years to experience the joy of having his Daddy, a true father in the traditional sense of the word, that experience is something Hunter will never have and that breaks my heart. I suggested Sean’s female name of Addison simply to allow our kids to hold onto as much of their “Daddy” as possible. Luckily, he liked my suggestion and so in time, they will call their daddy “Addy”.
I know Addison will love her children every bit as much as Sean has loved them. She will change Hunter’s diapers and give him bottles. She will continue to read stories before tucking tired boys into bed at night. She will get down on the floor to play their childhood games. And she will give baths and wipe away tears. But at the end of the day, while our boys will still have the blessing of two very loving parents, Hunter will never know the unique bond between a father and his son that Grayson has had the privilege of knowing.
At the end of the day, my biggest fears have come into play when I think of all of you reading this letter and not knowing how you will respond to it. For some time now, my church has boasted the phrase “Barrier-Free Worship”, emphasizing that all are welcome to worship with us. Yet as my pastor, Gary Maguffee, mentioned in a recent sermon, it is naïve to think that everyone in our congregation is able to embrace that mindset just yet. He encourages us to be a church where people feel safe to speak their truth and where they can expect those truths to be met with grace, but I know that not everyone is there yet and that fact terrifies me.
As much as I wish I didn’t care what anyone thinks of us, I am only human and I do worry about what you will think of me and my family. I am working through what it would mean to honor my marriage vows in the light of the coming changes and what it would mean to break them. It seems as if there will be consequences no matter which way I go. This is something I am struggling with and for which prayer would be greatly appreciated as it feels like once again, there is no easy choice for my future.
Since finding all of this out just over a month ago, I have been so afraid of how our friends and family would react that I have kept it from almost all of you, even from those of you closest to me, suffocating instead in private grief when what I’ve needed more than anything is the love and support of my family and friends.
Beyond these fears, I worry about how this will impact my children and how they are treated. Just as I need the support of my family and friends at this time, my children will need the same kind of support. It would hurt me beyond belief for my kids to come home hurting because of unkind words spoken to them about our family. I know I can’t control what others think or say, but for the sake of my children and our family, I hope and pray that when you are at home discussing our situation where little ears might hear you, your conversations would be seasoned with love and grace rather than harsh words and judgment.
Essentially, I cannot change anyone’s values or beliefs. I know this will be very difficult for some of you to grasp. You may have strong objections to the situation or even to how Sean and I are dealing with it. I am okay with you having your opinion. Sure, I hope that in time, you can learn to be more okay with our situation than you might be now, but I understand and respect that you all are entitled to your opinions.
What I beg of you as our friends and family is to please not mistreat me, my children, or even my husband. At this point and for an unforeseeable length of time stretching into the future, Sean is my husband and will continue to be my spouse even once he is known as Addison. And if at any time in the future our marriage ceases to be, he will always remain a parent to our two children and someone whom I love dearly. I certainly hope that all of you, whether you attend my church, another church, or no church at all, can find it within your hearts to be a little more barrier-free, to gain some understanding of my family’s truth, and to show grace in how you handle this truth. I am not asking any of you to be okay with it, but I pray that you will continue to treat my family with the love, respect, compassion, and dignity that we all deserve.
If you are reading this, please know that we wanted you to hear about this directly from our personal perspectives rather than through the gossip of others. I apologize for being so lengthy with my thoughts, but if you have read our letters in their entirety, I sincerely appreciate it. I know it is much to absorb and I am sure many of you will have questions or concerns. Feel free to ask what you feel is necessary, but please be respectful in doing so. In wondering what constitutes a respectful question, a good rule of thumb is not to ask anything of us that you wouldn’t want someone to ask of you. Otherwise, I will try my best to be a pretty open book. Thank you for being understanding.