So Much Love In One Room


I work for a community college and it’s a special time around here.  For the last two days we have been celebrating winter commencement.  Hundreds of students learning how to wear academic regalia, one of their final lessons on our campus. (Regalia can be quite complicated!) They arrive with their families and friends in tow, everyone excited and happy and bursting at the seams with pride and joy. These students have worked for years, many of them having given up on education in the past, not really expecting this day would ever come.  But here they were, walking across the stage as their name was called, clutching a diploma as they shake hands with dignitaries and have photos taken.  It’s always emotional, stressful, and rewarding.  This year it was made more stressful by an overnight ice storm, but everything went well despite the curveball Mother Nature threw.  Fortunately for me, the ice brought an unexpected opportunity to witness the sort of goodness in people that gives me hope.

Carli being Carli, she wanted to drive me to commencement because of the weather.  She knows I am perfectly capable of driving myself but she wanted to take me in the truck instead of me driving my little car on the ice.  I’m fine with that, I think it is sweet that she cares for me this way and that she is willing to give up part of her weekend to tote me around, waiting patiently as I run all over the building assisting graduates and commencement guests.

I felt guilty leaving Carli alone while I ran up and down the stairs, radio in hand, ushering late arriving guests to their seats and anxious graduates to their designated spots. Some of my colleagues know Carli personally but most just know of her through me.  When I mentioned to two of my colleagues that Carli was alone in room 120 while I was working, they promptly marched in and sat down with her, spending time just chatting, laughing, and generally having a nice time.

Carli picked up some lunch at the student run café, and everyone there treated her respectfully, just as they do any other guest.  As I was swinging by I overheard the student working at the counter call out for “Miss Carli” when her order was ready.  Hearing her name always makes me smile.  Lunch was delicious, by the way.  I don’t know what that dessert was, but oh my goodness!  Good job, students and faculty!

After the last diploma was handed out, I met up with Carli in room 120, which was now filled with happy graduates, family members, and proud faculty.  Many photos were being taken, many happy tears wiped away.  One faculty member I hadn’t seen in ages approached us and had some very kind words for us.  She had never met Carli, but we all chatted about our gardens, zucchini lasagna, and food preservation like we were just three old friends catching up with each other.

As we were leaving the building another colleague stopped to say she and her family follow our story, they’re on our side and always pray for us.  This colleague never met Carli in person before that moment, but she already cares for her and supports us on this incredible ride through transition.

Today I celebrate two of my favorite things……the accomplishments of our students and the friendship of my colleagues.  I watched a graduate break down in tears, clutching his diploma to his chest.  He said it took him 12 years to do it, but he didn’t give up.  I see a parallel in Carli’s path; it took her a long time, too, but she is now clutching her authentic identity because she never gave up.

This is why I love my work and where I work.  I draw strength from witnessing the persistence of our students. My faith in humanity is renewed daily by the simple acts of kindness and generosity of spirit exhibited by my colleagues and friends. I watched as my wife was embraced, respected, and loved just for being herself.  I helped a family be present to watch their loved one receive his diploma; they didn’t have enough tickets for the whole family but we made it work anyway and they were so grateful.  As they were leaving, one of the women in the family stopped to say thank you again. As she stepped down the stairs, she turned and said “there was so much love in one room.”

I agree. I wholeheartedly agree.

Finding Our Voices


Does anyone really like the sound of their own voice?  I sure don’t like mine, never have, even when I used to sing as a kid and young adult.  Even though I have never liked my voice it’s never been a source of emotional distress as it can be for transgender women.  Carli is almost always appropriately gendered by strangers in face to face interactions but is misgendered 100% of the time when speaking with strangers on the phone.  This has been wearing on her even more lately, so she is going to speech therapy now and is determined to find her Carli voice.

While Carli is quite literally finding her speaking voice, she is also finding her personal voice.  She came out to the world on June 29 of this year and has since been slowly, gently, helping people get to know the real Carli.   Recently she has started consistently correcting people who slip up on pronouns or use the wrong name.  She says it’s been long enough, the time for free passes is over.  She is finding her voice!

Once Carli gave me the go ahead I started sharing our story with anyone who would listen.  I am sure my friends are tired of hearing me go on about transgender issues and equal rights and bathroom bills and shopping experiences and makeup and on and on and on……….I didn’t think I had any problem finding my voice!  That is, until the election on November 8.

Suddenly I felt like my voice didn’t matter, it was too small, that sharing our little love story wasn’t enough to prevent the world from falling to pieces.  The ignorance and hatred expressed during the campaign were sure to be followed up with mirrored behaviors, possibly even with amplified intensity. Is it going to be enough now just to talk to people about how much we love each other and to be an example of what is possible when people are allowed to be authentic? I want desperately to find a bigger, louder, stronger, more prominent in-your-face kind of voice that will carry our message of acceptance, love, and quest for equality to the far reaches of our country!!

Okay, how do I that? Really, I’m open to suggestions here.

I can tell our story, but there are limitations.  Does anyone care about the positive spouse/girlfriend/boyfriend experiences?  We hear a lot about the tough relationships that ended because of transitions.  In this media climate, the dramatic stories always seem to get the most attention.  I will not lie and say it’s been simple or that we haven’t hit rough spots.  But we simply do not want to dwell on the negative.  Constantly pointing out flaws and faults does nothing to heal hearts or help people see the value in equality.  That’s not the voice I want to share.

Carli and I have a wonderful circle of supportive friends.  They’ve been patient and kind, listening to me rant on about everything transgender.  They’ve read my stories and made the most lovely, thoughtful comments, expressing their love and support at every turn.  My family has been wonderful, choosing to believe in us even though it is hard to understand.  In the grand scheme of things, though, my voice isn’t carrying very far.  My voice isn’t bigger, louder, stronger, or more in-your-face. Yet.

The pitch of Carli’s voice is changing with practice.  She is sounding more feminine, beginning to sound like the woman she truly is.  Her strength in being visible and gently requiring respect is growing. She is finding a way that works for her.  I need to find a way to change the pitch of my voice, to make it carry all the way to the lobby, past the last row of seats and out to the street.  I don’t want to change my message at all, being out together is possible and beautiful and I want everyone to know it!  I just want to up the intensity and expand the reach.  I don’t know how to do this yet, but I will figure it out. For a variety of reasons, I can’t be the one standing on the steps of the capitol building with a bullhorn, but there are others who fill this role beautifully.  Perhaps Carli and I will find a way to combine our voices with others in the community, creating a chorus that cannot be ignored or legislated out of existence.

Bigger, louder, stronger, in-your-face voices.  We will find them.

Patience is a virtue, I guess


I can be very patient.  Really.  I am patient when waiting for a table at a restaurant or when standing in line watching an overworked cashier doing their very best to be efficient and helpful.  Life is too short to get worked up about sitting through a red light twice or having to wait a few extra seconds for the chip reader to read my debit card.  These are minor inconveniences that do not constitute a crisis; however, it is difficult to continue being patient when it comes to acceptance of diversity.  I’m holding on to the knot at the end of my patience rope with one hand when it comes to this.

My little family is incredibly diverse; we are a microcosm of America. Transgender, gay, black, white, Christian, atheist, Mexican, college educated, high school graduates, Democrat, Republican, military veterans, and the list goes on; we have a lot of diversity check marks sitting around our holiday tables.  It’s incredible to watch these unique individuals blend into a beautifully open-minded, loving, generous whole. So why is it so hard for others to be accepting and open-minded? What can we do to help people recognize the beauty that comes with diversity? And for me, how can I grow my patience rather than become frustrated by those who seemingly refuse to try?

For me to strengthen my patience I should better understand people who are unaccepting.  I have a theory.  I think maybe some people don’t even try to be accepting because that means they would have to admit they have been wrong all along.  Or, maybe people are afraid that accepting diversity would mean they would be losing something that they use to define themselves.

Let’s think about those people who simply don’t try.  Is it possible these people don’t want to acknowledge they were wrong in their beliefs and refusing to express acceptance is their way of avoiding having to admit they were wrong?  At one point in human history mankind thought the Earth was flat.  They were wrong, big deal.  Humanity got over it and stopped being afraid to fall off the edge of the Earth.  Since then people have learned to accept a lot of things that were once unheard of.  White people marry people of color.  Gay people have children.  Transgender and non-binary and intersex people exist.  For real!  With this group of unaccepting people, I try to be gently persuasive, try to follow Carli’s lead because she is the queen of patience in this area! We try to be an example, talk with them face to face since seeing is believing.  We hope they will see that turning a blind eye to reality doesn’t make them right, it just makes them seem deliberately hurtful.  Being right shouldn’t be more important than being supportive, loving and kind, should it?  It’s a marathon of patience, slowly, gently, subtly proving through mere existence and visibility that diversity should be celebrated instead of hidden or ignored.  It’s exhausting, and I do rely on Carli and our many friends who continue to encourage patience.

The second group of people are the ones who frighten me.  This group knows they are on the wrong side of history and are blatant about not caring. They care only about themselves and their way of life, afraid that letting diversity thrive will mean the end of their comfortable, familiar existence.  If they accept gay marriage it would destroy the foundation of their own marriage.  Because they can’t personally explain what it means to be transgender it can’t possibly be real; it’s just a bunch of sick men running around in women’s clothes.  Children from interracial marriage are diluting the gene pool.  All of this is preposterous but there is no arguing with this type of ignorance. Their stance is irrational and how do you have a rational discussion with someone who seriously believes that sexual orientation can be flipped on and off like a light switch, being transgender is a lifestyle choice like living on the lake rather than in the city, or interracial marriage is against nature? I have no patience whatsoever for this group of people, but I am terrified of their far-reaching influence on the future of our country as well as the very physical safety and well-being of my family and friends.

There is a third group of people I truly admire and this group gives me hope.  This group readily admits they do not understand. They don’t get what being transgender means and they might still do a double take when they see an interracial family.  But instead of shaking a finger at my trans wife or gay son, lecturing about turning their lives around and getting back to “normal”, they embrace them and say “I don’t get it, but I love you, and that’s what matters.”  Even though they can’t quite see over the horizon and the world still looks a little flat, they are willing to give the explorers the benefit of the doubt and accept them at their word.  For them, humanity wins over false righteousness.  Love wins over hate. Acceptance of diversity is a work in progress for them but they are working at it with diligence.  For these people, I have all the patience in the world.

Happy Anniversary To Us!

29 years ago today Carli and I were married in a little church in my hometown. It was standing room only, so many of our family and friends there to celebrate with us, even though there had been an unexpected snow storm the night before.  We didn’t expect the snowstorm but it made the day sparkle and shine like only fresh Michigan snow can do.  Sometimes unexpected events turn out to be the best gifts.

No one in that little church 29 years ago could have imagined the turn of events that would bring Carli and I to the present day.  No one could have anticipated the gift Carli would give me, that gift of letting me see her for who she really is.  Sure, some things were predictable, like moving around the country whenever the Air Force decided it was time.  Having kids. Buying cars and homes.  Adopting pets. Taking up hobbies.  All the normal, ordinary events any other married couple might experience during 29 years of marriage we experienced, too.  We didn’t always get to spend our anniversary together since Carli was gone so much during her military career, but we’ve had a few memorable ones.

Our first anniversary was TERRIBLE!!  We pulled into our first duty station on our first anniversary.  I was homesick and I hated Florida as soon as we crossed the border. We were surprised by a tropical storm and we were booked to stay in temporary housing on base, but that happened to be in a trailer park.  Great! Having never been through a tropical storm since Michigan doesn’t tend to have them, I had no idea what to expect but everything turned out okay.  Florida got better, we made dear lifelong friends while stationed there.  Eventually our anniversaries got better as well.

By the time our 10th rolled around we had moved two or three more times, bought a house, and our marriage had survived a lot of tough times. We spent that anniversary at a wonderful resort, just overnight, but still something we never did so it was a treat.  Carli gave me an anniversary ring I had been eyeing for months at the base exchange.  It felt like giving this gift was out of character for the person I was married to, so it was delightful and surprising. I still wear it every day and never take it off.

Last year was by far the most memorable and pivotal for us and our life together.  Carli had come out to me as transgender earlier in the year and she was struggling to decide if she should stay in the closet except when she was at home with me or take the huge leap of faith and live authentically full time.  Regardless of which route she would take, she deserved to have the freedom to be Carli without fear of being outed, even if it was just for a few days.  So, we went to Las Vegas for five days of luxurious anonymity.

Five beautiful, scary, fun, liberating days, just two girls on the town. It almost didn’t happen that way, though.  Carli deliberately brought no boy clothes on the trip besides the clothes she wore to get through airport security. Carli got off the plane, looked around, and suddenly had serious, agonizing doubts.  Could she really go through with this? Was this going to be okay? Could she be out in public as herself after all these years of hiding?  We almost went shopping in the men’s department but instead we went to dinner and got a good night’s sleep.  I told Carli I would support her either way, but she knew I was a little annoyed.  We made these plans with her freedom in mind but both of us needed to know how it would feel to be out together.  No matter what, we were in this together and we may not have another opportunity like this for a long time. We knew our future was hanging on the outcome of this trip.

Morning came, Carli got up, showered, put on makeup and girl clothes and off we went, never looking back.  She overcame her fears and walked through the city with her head high.  We went shopping for scarves and cute hats instead of boy clothes. We had dinner at the Paris, she in a beautiful red dress and me wearing a dress much too short to wear to work.  It was a monumental moment in her transition, for both of us.  We could indeed be out together, celebrating close to three decades of marriage and a lot of surprising gifts. I had no way of knowing 29 years ago that we would be picking out which dresses to wear when we go to dinner tonight.  All I hoped for back then was to share my life with someone special, a person to love and respect, someone who shares my values and beliefs.  She is exactly who I was hoping for; she is a surprising, wonderful gift.  Happy Anniversary, Carli!

Save the date, friends.  You are invited to share our 30th anniversary with us one year from today. We plan to renew our vows and raise funds to help open a much needed safe, sober LGBTQ community center.  Stayed tuned……

Love not fear

Today we woke up to a changed country. Today we woke up terrified by the unknown of what the future may hold. I personally grieved all day and went through the routine motions, attending meetings, feeding the puppies, checking Facebook way too often. Too many emotions to describe.  Tonight I walked into our house alone, met by the dogs but not Carli since she is out helping one of our sons with a truck. So the house is quiet and familiar. It smells right and feels right. We love the home we have built together. 

I made a decision somewhere between the back door and the closet Carli and I share.  I decided there is no room in our house for fear. We will not allow it take over our lives no matter what.  End of discussion. 
I do not know the same fear as Carli and our LGBTQ friends and friends of color know.  I can’t know because I am a cis-gender heterosexual white woman.  It’s not possible for me to be in their shoes. I can get a sense of it, though, and it takes my breath away. 

The fear I allowed to invade my mind today was literally fear for the lives of the people I love. This feels familiar, like I have experienced this before. I remember the feeling from the time our youngest son had pneumonia as an infant and we stayed awake day and night making sure he was still breathing. I remember the feeling when we learned our oldest son was in a car accident on his birthday. I remember it from when Carli’s Air Force duties took her to a place I was not allowed to know about. I remember the feeling when I heard my father had cancer. 

Each of these times when fear gripped my soul there was a choice to be made, whether I was aware of it or not. I had to choose to allow the fear to consume my every waking moment and paralyze me or to feel the fear and move through it to search for resolution, solution, closure. 

I choose to move. Move through this fear and continue to support the transgender community I have become completely smitten with, embracing them the best way I know how. I choose to continue fighting for their rights because it’s the right thing to do for them and all humanity. I choose to share the love story Carli and I have written over the course of 29 years, hoping that others may see it is possible to be together.

I do not know how to be lesbian, transgender, black, Latino, or anything else that was not written into my DNA.  But I know how to love so I will just keep doing that. All day, every day.

Why we voted early

Don't forget your sticker

I remember elections in the not so distance past, thinking early voting was just for people who had physical difficulty getting to the polls on election day or who were away from their primary residence.  Carli voted by absentee ballot during her entire military career so we never shared the voting experience.  It was such an exciting day in 2008 when we could physically go to our polling place together, casting our votes at the church down the street in our new hometown on the second Tuesday of November.  It hadn’t occurred to us until we were standing in line together that it was the first time we had been able to do this.  We loved it, even though we likely voted for different candidates back then.  I didn’t want to vote early in future elections. I didn’t want to send in an absentee ballot.  I wanted to stand beside my spouse, perform our civic duty, and exercise the right others fought for us to have.

I never anticipated the election of 2016 would change my mind about early voting.  We voted early at the public library in our little town not because we can’t get to the polls on November 8 but because we are afraid to be at the polls on November 8.  We do not feel physically safe to stand among the residents of our town, waiting to cast our votes.  This isn’t how it should be but it’s our reality now.

One of the first thoughts that popped into my head when Carli came out to me as transgender was how on earth would I be able to keep her safe? I couldn’t be with her every second of every day.  What if I was at work when she was faced with a potential threat, physical harassment or violence?  I might not be there to steer her away from the gaggle of judgmental, ultra-conservative, small-minded people staring at her, looking her up and down, and whispering hateful and rude remarks under their breath (or out loud) as she walked by.  I couldn’t walk her into the restroom or dressing room every time she needed to use one.  Of course, she is perfectly capable of taking care of herself, but it is instinct to protect the people you love and I felt powerless to protect her from what could be very real physical threats.

I had no way to anticipate these threats would come from the very people vying to be elected to represent the American people  and from their supporters.

Transgender people are being murdered in record numbers across the country. Transgender students are systematically ostracized and marginalized by adults who refuse to accept the possibility of their existence.  Elected officials pandering to the powerful ultra-conservative right wing are demonizing innocent people for no reason other than to improve their name recognition and stir up major trouble.  Politicians are blatantly using fear to incite violence against people like my wife and friends.  Average citizens are deliberately choosing to remain ignorant of the facts and unconcerned for the well-being of others.  The fear-driven hatred is palpable and positively terrifying.  We can’t pull out of our driveway without being confronted with political signs promoting candidates who are determined to wipe LGBTQ people from the equation, eliminating all human rights of any kind.

So what options did Carli and I have?  We could stand in line for hours with the narrow-minded, ultra-conservative people in our town and run the risk of waiting with people who hate Carli simply because she exists. We could stand in line and listen to people glorifying candidates who would rub her out of existence, wondering if we will make it back to the car safely or be accosted by protesters standing inches beyond the legal buffer zone.  Or we could vote early, taking advantage of an accommodation we have always felt didn’t apply to us, giving up the hope of feeling the excitement and patriotism we felt in 2008 when we held hands in line and voted together for the first time. Or we could simply not vote, but this was really never on the table.  Voting is something we must do, it’s in our American DNA.

Yes, we voted early and to our great relief the poll workers were delightful and didn’t even flinch at Carli, one of them even complimenting her on her makeup. We could still hear people whispering around us, giving those sideways glances that come from people who don’t want to be outright rude but still want the people with them to “take a look at that.”  It could have been much worse and it’s likely to be much worse for many marginalized populations tomorrow at the polls.

We voted early and we voted like our lives depend on it. Because Carli’s life and the lives of all LGBTQ people in the country quite literally do.

Is this together?

Carli and I consider ourselves so lucky.  Although we live in a state whose legislature does literally nothing to protect any rights for transgender people, we have experienced very little outright mean spirited behavior from people. Sure, we sometimes think people are having a laugh at our expense and we see a few sideways glances.  We have not been targets for the deplorable hatred and violence so prevalent within the transgender community, though, and for this we are incredibly thankful. 

Our day to day lives are boring, we are the first ones to admit it! But we like it that way. We relish our quiet time in the country, with the dogs, the garden, and the mundane tasks that come along with homeownership. We do enjoy going out for dinner and drinks occasionally. Which brings me to my most recent observation. 

Since Carli came out and started living authentically as female we have been asked “is this going to be together” just about every time we’ve asked for the check after dinner.  What does this mean?! 

Not once in all the years we were presenting together as husband and wife/man and woman can I remember being asked this question.  Now that we present as wife and wife/woman and woman all of a sudden this is in question. There is no doubt when we walk into an establishment that we are together. We hold hands all the time. We sit close together.  We are clearly a couple, at least I feel that we look like a couple. So why this question?

To be clear, the wait staff we have encountered have been exceptional. There is rarely an incidence of misgendering, Carli is almost always called “ma’am” and we are collectively referred to as “ladies.”  Although I would prefer non-gender specific terminology, these people are legitimately trying to be considerate and have worked hard to make her feel comfortable and welcome.  So when it’s time to pay the bill and we ask for just one check, I almost always give my credit card instead of letting Carli pay. Why?  Because all of her cards still have her previous male name on them.  Why, after seeing the waitstaff work so hard to be kind to us over the course of the evening, would we do something that would likely make them rethink their take on our situation?  Why would we  open the door for someone to come back to the table and thank Mr. Funk for coming in?  Letting Carli give a credit card that no longer reflects her identity puts all of us in an awkward position, so unless Carli has cash in her purse I will continue to pay for dinner. 

Some may think this is unnecessary and the name printed on the card shouldn’t matter. Some may think Carli should just change her name and get all new cards but that’s not as easy as you might think, for a variety of reasons.  As I have said in previous posts, that’s a story for another day. At the end of a wonderful evening out together, we are grateful for the attentiveness of well-trained, socially aware staff and we will continue to tip them well for a job well done. We hope that with each interaction, each normal-as-the-day-is-long exchange we have with people outside the transgender community, we are raising awareness and visibility. 

We thoroughly enjoy spending a night out exploring new restaurants, trying local microbrews and visiting establishments we haven’t been to before. I imagine most couples decide who will pay the bill based on whose paycheck came most recently or by an archaic system that outlines responsibilities by gender role. Carli and I use a completely different system, clearly, and that’s okay……for now.  She will have to pick up the tab sometime!!

How does this look?

Make up! I am not a fan. I don’t wear any make up other than mascara and eyeliner, sometimes a little eye shadow.  I knew Carli would be asking for my opinion and assistance with her make up and I have tried  but the truth is I am hopeless and really no help at all when it comes selection and application of make up. 

It took me a long time to understand why make up is so important for Carli. I think she is beautiful without it. Women should feel valued and beautiful with or without it, right?! For me, I just can’t stand how it feels. The last time I wore foundation was 29 years ago when I last performed in a musical at my hometown playhouse. 

It took me a long time to stop being impatient as Carli fussed with her make up. Since I don’t wear much make up, and I wear my curly gray hair natural it takes me no time at all to get ready to go. Carli on the other hand takes much longer to prepare than she used to and to be quite honest it was annoying, that is until I really started to pay attention to why she feels this is so important. 

When I look in the mirror I am okay with who I see. I am fine with being 50 years old, fine with the lines beginning to show more prominently, fine with the gray hair creeping in. When Carli looks in the mirror she worries about things I will never have to worry about myself. She worries if the shadow of her beard is going to be the first thing people see, giving away her transgender identity. She worries if people will see her Adam’s apple. She worries if there are enough cues for people to come to the correct conclusion and appropriately gender her. I will never have to go to such lengths in order to be accepted or understood. 

Thankfully Carli has friends who are much better with make up than me!  I had no idea that putting orange lipstick over her beard under the foundation would help hide five o’clock shadow! She  found professionals who help her select the right shade of foundation for each season, depending on how much of the summer garden tan lingers. Our son’s friend knows how to sculpt eyebrows; don’t let me near hot wax! I am incredibly grateful for these people. They have been so encouraging and caring, filling in the gaps where I had little to offer Carli. 

When I watch Carli getting ready in the morning, I stand behind her, reaching around her for the comb or the lotion we now share. I watch her carefully applying make up to make it easier for other people to understand her. I watch her lean back, tilting her face from one side to the other, making sure it’s all blended evenly. I am equal parts sad, proud, and humbled. Sad because she has to go through all of this just to be accepted for who she truly is. Proud because she is brave enough to live her life as her true self. Humbled knowing how privileged I am for never having to do any of this just to be myself. 

When Carli stands up from the vanity and asks “how does this look” sometimes I still can’t really see the subtle shading of the make up, but I can easily see that she is beautiful. 

Funny, the things you miss

Fall is my favorite time of year. Yes, I love the spectacular colors of fall, the crunch of fallen leaves under my feet, the feel of crisp autumn breezes on my face.  But what I love the most are the smells of fall.  Right now our house smells like homemade apple sauce, hot peppers dehydrating soon to be ground into delicious dried seasoning, fresh sage harvested from the herb garden, and cool, clear country air.  It’s been an exceptionally mild autumn day here so we opened the windows and let all that beautiful fall air in to every room.

I am very sensitive to smells. I associate memories with scents, and the slightest hint of certain smells will cause a wave of memories to flood my mind.  The scent of roses makes me think of the week Carli and I spent in Las Vegas.  The smell of a certain shampoo reminds me of visiting our son when he lived in California.  Lilacs make me miss my Dad.  I had no idea when Carli started to transition that even the very scents that filled my senses would change dramatically, or that I would miss the smell of the sweat.

I’ve always enjoyed stereotypical masculine scents. When I pick out candles, I avoid the flowery kind and the ones that smell like food, always opting for the ones that smell like men’s cologne, woodsy, or clean. The smell of motor oil and gasoline is a constant presence, and it’s always been comforting to know that Carli can fix almost anything with wheels and an engine.

While the smell of vehicle repair is still around, and the candles are still lit, I miss the smell of a man in the house. Carli started hormone replacement therapy six months ago, and I expected slow physical changes to happen.  I was not prepared for how quickly she would stop smelling like a man and start smelling like a woman.  I literally woke up one morning and didn’t recognize the person next to me by scent alone, and it was startling.

Of all the things I anticipated I would miss, this never even crossed my mind. All of a sudden I realized there would never be another bottle of men’s cologne in the house. All the shampoo and lotion will smell like a girl.  Even the perfume samples that come in the mail are all women’s fragrances.  She will never smell of testosterone-laden sweat again.

When Carli was in the Air Force, long before we knew what being transgender was, she traveled a great deal, often 200 days out of every year. I remember keeping the pillow case on her pillow, not washing it with the rest of the sheets, just so her scent would be there even though she was not. It was always comforting to walk in the closet and be met with the masculine smell of her uniforms and work clothes.  I worried about what else might change when I couldn’t smell the old Carli anymore.  I have always been keenly aware of how my sense of smell is tied to my sense of well-being, my sense of security and stability.  What would happen when all of those familiar, comforting smells were gone and replaced with something unfamiliar? Would it still smell like home when I walked in the door, when I opened the closet?

As with so many things I have been unnecessarily worried about, these changes have not been the end of my world. I’m learning to appreciate the new scent of Carli, associating her new scent with our new experiences.  The scents are different but my sense of well-being, security, and stability are stronger now than ever before because my relationship with Carli is stronger.  Home is still home. Today, we both used the girly perfume sample that came in the mail before we left the house to visit friends.  We both smelled pretty nice.


Happy Birthday Carli!

Yesterday was Carli’s birthday, and the first birthday she could celebrate as her true authentic self. We’ve never been big party people, and we spent so many birthdays apart while she was active duty we have always opted for private celebrations, simply enjoying the time together.  Looking back at her birthday last year it’s easy to see the major changes, but if you look a little more closely you will see that some things thankfully just didn’t change. 

Last year on her birthday Carli was still in the closet and I was still the only other person who knew about it. We would venture out for dinner or shopping and she would dress in feminine clothes but we would always go to places we were not likely to see people we knew. Always looking over our shoulders and around corners. Just as we are now out together, we were also closeted together. 

This time last year I was almost at the end of my rope. It was getting harder and harder to keep her secret. It broke my heart to watch her struggle everyday getting dressed in male clothing she was miserable wearing because it wasn’t who she was.  I painted her nails but she had to take it off at a moments notice if someone dropped by the house. She would shave several times a day because she hated the shadow of facial hair and I could tell she was getting closer to the end of her rope, too. We had to bring others into our world soon.  But that’s a story for another day!

Carli’s transition did bring lots of changes, happy changes. But there are fundamental aspects of our lives that simply haven’t changed. I didn’t know that things wouldn’t change, though. I would use the 30 minute drive to work to worry myself sick about what was going to change. I wondered if I would have to give my “woman card” to my spouse. Would I have to pick up the guy chores? Who would do the heavy lifting, fix the cars, till the garden? Did her transition actually mean a role reversal, and what would I do if that’s what happened?  

Our friends know we are big gardeners. Our garden takes up more space on the property every year. Only one thing really changed in our gardening this year-Carli gardens in girl clothes now. That’s it. She didn’t forget how to drive the tractor or run the tiller and she still enjoys gardening. 
Carli has always been very handy, she can fix anything and we have done our fair share of home improvement prior to her transition. Was that going to stop? I am not nearly as handy with power tools if she felt she needed to give up those activities.  I had no idea, but maybe our home improvement days would be over!!  Well, let’s see. Since her last birthday we have remodeled one of the living rooms, created a fabulous set of shelves in an underused closet, gutted and renovated the laundry room, and refinished the wood vanity in one of the bathrooms. Nope, not much changed there!

The most noticeable change has been in Carli’s attitude while engaging in these familiar tasks. She used to be cranky, demanding, and angry when working on these projects.  I stayed out of her way before because I didn’t want to do anything wrong. Now she is happy, joking about things that go wrong rather than slamming tools on the floor. We laugh more, we have fun and at the end of the day we look at what we have accomplished and can honestly say we do good work together!!

So yes, some things did change, but not for the worse.  I am glad I didn’t let fear of what might happen drive my life. And I did keep my woman card; Carli got her own for her birthday.  Happy birthday, love!