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.
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
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