Rerouting… (Joni’s Perspective)

20160108_160512Over the course of my life, I’ve learned a few things about the world: First, I’ve learned that it’s full of beauty. Second, I’ve learned that things aren’t always as they seem. Third, I’ve learned that love grows everywhere you water it. I have had the immense blessing of having many amazing people come into my life over the years. Every person I’ve met has taught me something. Many people left a permanent mark on my life, changing me with their compassion, wisdom, and kindness. Some have left behind only painful lessons. But I am so grateful for the opportunities I’ve had to love each of the people who have come into my life.

When Kari entered my life, I knew this was an extraordinary moment of grace. So much changed for me when I saw life through Kari’s perspective, when I heard Kari’s stories, when I let myself be truly loved. As all of you know, our love story changed my life completely and I have never looked back. A few months ago, Kari confided in me that he had always felt more male than female. This did not come as a surprise to me. Something in me, from the moment we met, sensed his masculinity and the reason I fell in love had less to do with the package Kari came in, than it did with the beautiful heart, soul and brain that resided in that package. I fell in love with so many things about Kari – compassion, vulnerability, sense of humor, making people feel comfortable, kindness, gentleness, brilliance – likely, all the things you have fallen in love with about Kari. And when Kari told me that he had always identified as male inside, and that he felt that his outside didn’t match his inside, I was filled with love for him – just sharing this with me was a huge risk. I felt incredibly blessed to have been trusted with this. And my heart was broken for his pain.

I know what it feels like to go through life being something you’re not. I know what it feels like to feel that you’re alone and that no one could possibly understand how you feel inside. I know what it feels like to be judged. I know what it feels like to hide. I never want that for him.

I’m not going to lie, it was a scary thing to learn about. Transgender was a word I was familiar with, but I hadn’t known many transgender people, and I had a LOT of questions. So in typical fashion, I dove in and learned everything I can about it.

First of all, I learned that Transgender isn’t a sexual orientation. Transgender is not about “deciding” to be a different gender than you are. Transgender isn’t about selfishness or narcissism or hurting people. I knew this innately, but was surprised by some responses of people – like this was the transgender person’s choice. Like they chose this just to make a statement, or out of selfishness. The fact that people believe this is a hard thing for me to understand. I wonder if they even really believe it themselves, or if they just choose to blind themselves to the truth.

Transgender people are born with different wiring. In this Scientific American article, it begins to outline the differences in brain structure between transgender people and cis-gender people (Cis-gender means identifying as the same gender you were born with). And as I read story after story of transgender folks, I realized what a difficult life it must be to have been born and raised in the body of the opposite gender you identify with. To have to hide who you are. To have to constantly check yourself to make sure you’re fitting into the norms. It broke my heart. And, for those folks who implied it was a choice (a selfish choice, at that), I was astounded by their ignorance.

For Kari, he knew since he was young that he was male inside, and when he told me, I knew immediately that it was true, and that this would forever alter our path together. I spent about a month processing, reading, and trying to wrap my head around what this would mean. I got a new counselor, so I could learn to be the best support possible for him as he transitioned. I reached out and joined groups for transgender folks and partners of transgender folks. I did what I do best – I gathered resources, and I used them. And after asking a million questions and talking to doctors and counselors and transgender men and women, I feel confident about being able to support him through this change.

Some of my biggest questions were things like – how will this change you? Will hormones take away the parts of you that I love? Are there side effects or risks? What happens in surgery? How far are we going to go with physical transformation? When will you tell your family? When will we tell my family? How should we talk to the kids about this? OMG. The kids. It was hard enough explaining that I was marrying a woman, being that their dad is pretty conservative and they trend toward his views. How were they going to take this? What about my mom? What if she freaked out and didn’t want to live with us anymore? Will this change our relationship? Will you still be attracted to me/want to marry me? Can you get breasts stuffed at the taxidermist, like they do deer heads and people’s ugly dogs, so I can keep yours? (And is that creepy??)  So many questions. So few straightforward answers. We still don’t have many of the answers.

One of the first things we discussed was the name change. It felt like an important piece, to choose his name, to be known by a name of the correct gender. He chose Jace. I love that name. I started calling him by it immediately.

We then needed to tell our family and those closest to us. Jace’s sister was first, followed by his uncle, a couple of close friends who are like family, my mom, and the rest of Jace’s family. By and large, people have been incredibly supportive and loving. Proof positive that people will make #lovestories if given the opportunity. I’m so grateful for all the people in our lives who have shown us radical love and acceptance in this decision to be authentic.

We have talked through as many questions as we can. We still don’t have a lot of answers – so many things are different for each person. But what we do know is that we love each other and we will walk down this path just like we’ve walked down the other challenging paths we’ve faced together!

One of the first questions I’ve gotten is “How are you doing with all of this?” And the answer is that I feel incredibly lucky and blessed to have Jace in my life. I am SO PROUD of him. Not only telling me about this, but telling friends and family, and actually being brave enough to transition makes him the biggest hero EVER in my book. He is so brave. I am proud to be his fiancee.

Even before the initial shock and fear wore off,  I knew that this was right for him. As soon as he told me, I knew. Before he told me, I knew. This is his right path. And I get to share it with him. The initial shock and fear lessened the more stories I heard of people who were living authentic lives now and who were able to truly be themselves. I want that for Jace, more than anything.

Of course, this changes things a bit – there is a wedding to be planned for next March 31, and I will be marrying Jace instead of Kari. (I was a bit disappointed that I wasn’t going to have the lesbian wedding my dad never wanted for me… but on the plus side, when I take his last name we’ll have the same initials! JB squared!) Other changes: It’s also still always a surprise to see how people will react to us – and we have to explain things a bit now. Instead of buying  BIC lady pens for both of us, we now will need to buy separate boxes of writing utensils, which will cause our office supply cost to increase. And of course, we can’t share hairbows…. But then, we never really did that. Because Jace has always been a man.

I feel truly honored to share this journey with Jace. I am so proud to walk through this life next to a man who has changed the way I see the world, who has injected my life with more love than I’ve ever felt, and who has faced down his fears so bravely. I couldn’t be a luckier girl, and he has healed my heart from so many scars. He’s the best man I know.

So what can you do for us going forward?

First, we’re having a birthday party for Jace. We’d love for you to join us and celebrate this new beginning! 

Second, I’ll be blogging about this journey (with Jace’s permission!), so you’ll be able to follow our journey. Some of the parts of the journey are pretty personal, so just be gentle with your questions and do some research on your own, too!

Third, please use “he/his” pronouns. We know you’ll make mistakes. I make mistakes all the time. It’s ok, there’s grace for that. But his name is Jace, and he prefers he and him, and your efforts to support that will be greatly appreciated by us!!.

Fourth, send us some love. This is a very vulnerable position for Jace. This is a scary thing to do! I would ask that you reach out to him, that you tell him what he’s meant to you over the years, and that you encourage him along the way. He has a long journey ahead (we both do!) and we can use all the love we can get.

Thank you so very much for your love and support over the years. You have been amazing, and we’re so grateful for you. And thank you for being in our lives.

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