My Exemplary, Everyday Marriage

When Tom Forrister transitioned from female to male, his same-sex marriage became a federally recognized, ‘traditional’ marriage. The one constant was the bond he shared with his wife.

On a cool June morning in 2006, Bella and I stood in a little gazebo in the park and recited our vows. We had just moved to Massachusetts, one of the few places in the world that allows same sex marriage, equal legal rights included (though still limited and not recognized by the federal government). This was before my transition from female to male.

In a perceived lesbian relationship—and a new town to boot—we had no friends and family willing to attend the ceremony. Since then we have made many new friends and our families have come around, but in the beginning it felt like us against the world. We believed in each other and that was what mattered.

Looking back, it feels like another life. I stare at the photos and do not recognize myself in them—my hair is long, and I’m wearing a white dress. The only thing I recognize is the awkwardness that shows through, the discomfort that was apparent in most pictures when I was not wearing loose jeans and a baggy T-shirt.

Wait, I do recognize something else in those photos: how I light up when I am looking into Bella’s eyes. It’s the only time I am genuinely smiling.

Before we got married, Bella and I made an agreement: to renew our commitment to each other every day.

Every morning when we wake up we make the active choice to stay married that day. One day at a time, even the big problems don’t seem so insurmountable. Together, in the evening, the little things no longer matter. Morning or night, she is the best part of my day. Those days add up, and it’s easy to see our relationship continuing for the rest of our lives.


We didn’t know then how vital this daily commitment was until our marriage was put to the test during my gender transition.

As on our wedding day, it was us against the world. We jumped through hoops, scrounged and saved for surgery money, crossed through tangles of red tape that seemed more like the laser maze from Mission: Impossible. (Cue soundtrack, lower me down to retrieve the documentation that would be my pass to freedom.)

Then there was the surgery itself. Bella was my nurse once we’d left the hospital. (Incidentally, my mom also helped for a few days after surgery, flying all the way from the East Coast to San Francisco. I can safely say I now have my family’s support.)

We took it one day at a time, one step at a time. Bella helped me through it all, a time when I could give her little in return. The transition process was scary; often, I felt selfish for having to focus on my identity. Now that we’ve come out the other side, I am striving to give my partner the loving attention she deserves.

After I had gone through all the steps and filled out piles of paperwork, I finally became legally male. I went from having limited rights in a same-sex couple to suddenly having all the rights of a heterosexual couple, while still married to the same person. It’s not all about the tax breaks, although that’s nice too. If we go out of state, we don’t have to worry about visiting rights in a hospital if one of us needs medical care. We are entitled to each other’s property should one of us pass away. Federal benefits that we weren’t afforded—employment insurance, family, consumer, and medical benefits, and others—are now ours.

While we enjoy these newfound rights we should have had all along, we are fighting harder than ever for marriage equality. It’s hard to ignore the smack of injustice when you experience the difference firsthand. People who are this in love have enough trials to endure—they shouldn’t have to fight their government just to gain the same rights that other couples automatically receive.

As we approach our fifth wedding anniversary, I realize how far we’ve come in just a few years. I thought that transitioning would create distance between us, that things might change. Things have changed. But we’ve grown closer, because I am able to share myself fully. I can love unabashedly because I have nothing to hide, no more secrets or inner turmoil. After all we’ve been through together, finding comfort in each other, having a sense of normalcy and routine is a relief.

This year we will return to the gazebo, hand in hand, for the first time since our wedding. I am ready. I have faced the past, and time has healed many wounds. We will stand, man and woman now, two people very much in love. We will renew our vows to each other, the same agreement we honor every day. Perhaps, in a few years, we will make this renewal of vows a public ceremony. For now, this private ritual is enough.


More From Our Special Marriage Section:

Even stellar relationships lose their spark over time; here are the ingredients of a lasting, fruitful partnership, and techniques for weathering the the stormy times: What Your Marriage Needs to Survive

Guys may think leaving is the right thing to do for the sake of the family, but according to family lawyer David Pisarra, there are a few things they should know before—and after—they walk out that door: A Guy’s Divorce Survival Guide

Encouraging princess culture—however innocently—contributes to the sexualization of girls. Men can be part of the solution to the “princess problem”: Men and the Sexualization of Young Girls

The night­mare of fam­ily court is enough to deter a guy from even think­ing about tying the knot. Marriage: Just Don’t

For all the stories written by and for women on this issue—and there are few—men are more likely to be absent from the public dialogue about intentional childlessness. Why aren’t men’s stories also being heard? Two Is Enough

If you’re married and using Internet porn regularly, your sex life—the one with your wife—is probably a lot less satisfying than it could be: How Porn Can Ruin Your Sex Life—and Your Marriage

Men are more promiscuous than women, but that doesn’t mean we should buy the cultural fallacy that men are programmed to cheat; the vast majority of men are happily, naturally monogamous: Are Men Natural-Born Cheaters?

Tom Matlack talks to married men to find out when they knew their wife was “the one”: She’s the One

As Gabi Coatsworth’s son’s bipolar disorder gave way to full-blown manic episodes, she watched her husband slip deeper into drink and detachment: Reading Between the Silences

Monogamy sounds like “monotony,” but it doesn’t have to be monotonous. Hugo Schwyzer explores how we can have the security—and the novelty—we desire in our relationships: Red-Hot Monogamy

About Tom Forrister

Tom Forrister is a student, writer, and Georgia native who now resides in Massachusetts with his wife and ball pythons. When not writing, he enjoys singing, weight training, and exploring New England's nooks and crannies with his trusty video camera.


  1. Disasociated idenity disorder.
    It may saound like a love story and it may very well be that, but the fact is that he/she is still a female in denial of accepting who theyu really are. If a person choses there sexual orientation it should not be pressed onto the rest of the world to be accepted as a natural choice. The choice to love is what it is said to be all about but it is not natrual due to the fact that two people of the same sex cannot reproduce. If that were so then they would be another race of people. But that is not the case at all. Its about sex and the choice with whom you choose to make as you sex partner. Reproduce natrually as a man and a woman do and I will retract my statement.

    • Oh, go away.

    • Tom Forrister says:

      Hmm, you aren’t my therapist, so please don’t diagnose me.

    • A Dude Abides says:

      If you don’t know
      1a) how to spell “dissociated” or “disassociated,”
      let alone
      1b) that the proper term there is “dissociative” —
      or, for that matter,
      2) how to spell “natural,”
      3) the difference between “its” and “it’s,”
      4) the difference between “there” and “their,”
      then you should probably refrain from commenting, if only as a matter of prudence to avoid making yourself and your side of the argument look bad. It’s one thing to have an incorrect opinion, as at leat one person in every real debate must, is one thing, but being stupid is another.

      And what about attraction experienced by postmenopausal women and by men who have had vasectomies? For the ultimate case, what about attraction that the former feel toward the latter and vice versa? Reproduction isn’t everything, bro.

      I’d critique your argument in more detail were it not for the fact that your post’s disjointedness, missing pronoun antecedents, etc. prevent me from understanding what you’re trying to say.

      So come back when you’ve taken a logic course, a remedial course in writing mechanics, and preferably a keyboarding skills refresher. Until then, go hang out on 4chan or something.

      • A Dude Abides says:

        * delete redundant instance of “is one thing, ” (mistakenly left in as an artifact of editing) — nobody’s perfect, but even those of us who screw up once in a while write better comments than you do.

  2. Thank you for writing this article. Someone I know has recently transitioned FTM and has been in a committed relationship with a woman before/during/after transitioning, so this is a very valuable perspective to hear from. Congrats.

  3. aaron mauthe says:

    Tom, I feel that I must appologize, as Karey and Scott never told me of you and my mother’s marriage until after the fact. if I had known, I would have been there to support the both of you. I do hope that at some point, the both of you decide to renew your wedding vows so that I may have the honor of attending the ceremony. Until then know that I love you both, and that I wish you the best.

  4. Love has no gender. Why should laws governing marriage or couple rights be dfferent? May the trials you and Bella have fought through and overcome be inspiration to others in their trials. Thank you for sharing your story.

  5. Tom, what a lovely article. It’s well-written and clearly from the heart. I’m proud of you and Bella for all you’ve gone through to become the people you are today. I’m glad you found each other to love and be supportive of.

  6. Congrats; this just highlights how silly the civil liberties restrictions on marriage are, when what really is important are the people involved.


  1. […] get us. You get what we get, that there are men (many men, we hope) who want to read about sex and gender (often) and sports (often), and also media, the Internet, books, theater, dicks, hemorrhoids, […]

Speak Your Mind