Christmas 2015 was the start of a dramatic, emotional, magical year for Carli and me. The day started early, just the two of us drinking coffee and exchanging gifts. We would spend time with the kids later that day, but it was important that we have a couple quiet hours to ourselves first. You see, no one knew Carli yet so no one could see the gift I gave her. I’ll never forget her face or the joyful tears we cried when she saw the delicate, feminine flower ring in the little box. It was her first piece of women’s jewelry. She beamed when she held up her and admiring the little silver flower, it was magic! I think we both cried again when she had to take it off as the kids were coming in the door for Christmas dinner.
Christmas 2015 was also the day we told our oldest son that his Dad is transgender. I remember sitting in our living room after everyone else was gone, Carli trying to read from her well thought out notes so she wouldn’t forget something important to the story. She wasn’t very successful following her notes, the words sticking in her throat as her jaw quivered and the tears came. If I remember right, I poured more than one glass of bourbon for each of us. Andrew was patient and kind but he wasn’t going to let her off the hook. He said he had all night, he wasn’t going anywhere and he was going to make Carli say the words. He knew exactly what she was trying to say but he needed her to say the words out loud; he needed to hear them from her mouth, from her heart.
Up until that day I was the only one who knew Carli, besides a handful of people we met at a now much beloved trans support group and our therapists. Carli had spent the entire year hiding her identity from everyone but me, and I spent the entire year carrying her secret. It was exhausting for both of us, but all I had to do was keep my mouth shut and be supportive. What Carli was doing was much, much more difficult. She fought with this alone for years, not able to share with me or anyone else what she was feeling. It’s hard to describe the weight that was lifted that Christmas Day. We were finally on our way to truly being out together. But—we were on the road now that had no exit. There was no turning back, we couldn’t take the words back and pretend Carli was just passing through. Carli was finally out and here to stay.
As we approach Christmas 2016 I consider each of the last 366 days with Carli a gift. Each day brought Carli into an ever brighter light and watching her embrace her authentic identity is akin to watching a child take her first steps, or tie her shoe for the first time, only on a grander, more adult scale. The sense of wonder and freedom was profound, and a joy to witness. Carli would come out again and again and again during 2016, each time lifting another weight off her shoulders, each time reinforcing for us that we were on the right road. Some days were better than others; some people took the news better than others. But through it all Carli not only remained resolute and steadfast, but grew stronger and more confident. My heart was in my throat as she left for work the first time after having come out to her co-workers in an email sent on June 29. I wanted to hold her hand as she walked through the door and ward off any bullies but this was her experience to own. As it turned out, I had no real reason to fear as her co-workers have been remarkable in their acceptance of her. To this day, I still have an intense desire to protect her and I suspect this desire will never diminish, even though I know she is perfectly capable of protecting herself.
We continue to be stunned by the love and respect we experience, even after the stunning, terrifying elections in November that emboldened mean-hearted people to act out in ways they never would have before. To these people, I say you’ve met your match. Carli and I, and all the amazing people in the LGBTQ community are here to stay, and won’t be silenced again. You can count on us to stand up for each other and to speak out when we see you being deliberately hurtful. We see you. Now see us.
I don’t know that we would have witnessed the power of the human spirit or the love that exists in the hearts of people we barely know had Carli not come out to Andrew on December 25, 2015. She could have chosen to stay in hiding, not telling anyone, continuing to carry this burden right into the grave with her. She could have chosen to remain a silent witness to the injustice and hate. I am grateful she chose otherwise, I am grateful she chose to give us the gift of herself, letting us get to know who Carli truly is for our lives are dramatically better for it. This Christmas Carli can open her girly presents with everyone in the room, too!! As she said to me this morning, it’s our first Christmas.
Happy Holidays, dear friends.