Friday, March 24, 2017

National Women's Month: Leanne M Berry's essay "My Husband Became My Wife"

Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.
     I am married to a transgendered  woman who is literally feminizing her body. She started hormones, and is looking forward to and apprehensive about other changes that are forthcoming.
     Truth is, so am I. People are constantly asking me how I feel about the fact that I married a man who is now identified as a woman. My standard answer is, “I married the person. I’m in love with her and I’m so happy she has the courage to be herself.” All of that is true. But there are other parts of me that I don’t let come to the surface of my consciousness for any more that a few seconds. I briefly realize that I am not dealing with the change. Then I do my trick of compartmentalization (one that gets me in trouble because I am so good at it). I shove any confused or negative feelings out of my conscious mind.  I have not been ready to seriously address these emotions and thoughts related to her change. I’m going to take you for a trip on the way the journey began, and how it has evolved to today’s issues.
     When I was introduced to Ordo Templi Orientis, on my first mass I met a woman whom I realized that was not biologically female. I honestly did not know what to think. I had never even spoken with anyone who is trans. It felt weird, and I started to judge until I realized that it is not in my nature to dislike or fear others who are “different.” Furthermore, she was extremely inviting and cordial, helping to make my first encounter with an OTO mass a very positive one. I felt a bit guilty for my judgmental initial impression.
     I soon found out that there were other people in the Order that were also trans. I told myself that each was a unique and beautiful person and that gender identification is not the most important aspect of who they really are. It does not define them.
     When I first met my wife, she was a man. She was very androgynous, which is something I have been attracted to for as long as I can remember. We began dating and  one day of my asking out of curiosity if she had a dress or skirt she could put on. Not only did she put one on for me, but she immediately began using her feminine attributes, not displaying her fiery masculine part of her Aries nature. I admit, I was surprised to realize that this was arousing for me.
     Another chapter of our  journey had just begun.
     Over the span of a couple of years, two main things happened: she started looking more feminine on her own, and I vehemently encouraged her to dress as she truly wanted to, not obsessing on how she thinks others will perceive her. One momentous evening I told her that she must wear a dress or skirt to work the next day. It was hard for her, and I admire her ability to face her fears so that she could be herself. I encouraged her to express herself in a more womanly fashion. I did this more frequently after she told me that unequivocally if given the opportunity to press a button and instantly become a woman, she would.
     Part of what was happening, though, was that I was not addressing my feelings about the issue. I considered my feelings were secondary, knowing that we would end up fine, and that this wasn’t about me.
     I will never forget the day that it dawned on me that people will think I’m a lesbian. I don’t mind entirely. I’ve always considered myself to be a bisexual woman who had previously had several sexual encounters with women, but never a romantic relationship. I realized that that title bothered me a little and then I thought to myself that it really does not matter what people think of me and that I don’t have any negative feelings toward anyone for being a lesbian., It’s just a label, and in my case, not necessarily an accurate one. I’m quirky and strong-willed and people have generally always seen me as “different.” The truth is that I am still somewhere between caring and not caring about  being defined in that way. Part of me is still a little apprehensive about being seen as a lesbian.
     Part of me occasionally fears for Cathy’s safety in a world where people actually care where someone uses the restroom. Part of me also worries about my own safety, mostly a fear of emotional attack and judgment, but and knows that either of us may be in danger of the hatefulness of others. Will we be safe? It is my duty to protect her from those who would mock, judge, or even physically harm her. I feel little worry for my safety, but in some less open-minded places,  about hers. We live in a liberal area, but what if she has to travel to North Carolina? I could never step back and not defend her until my dying breath.
     Next major milestone occurred two nights before 2015 ended. He and I got a little tipsy,and both of us admitted it was time we did what we needed to do for ourselves; I was to go back to graduate school and he would decide by his birthday in April what he was going to do moving forward on the gender transformation. Both of us would seek assistance in therapy. I distinctly remember telling the man who was then Craig  that he knew deep down what he was going to do, but that it was prudent to explore and make certain that this is what he wanted; it would be a scary process, but it had to be done. forward to today. I just completed my graduate-level certification in Applied Behavior Analysis and she is called Cathy. I am starting a new job in my field, and she has started hormones. She has a list of steps she is going to take to make it official. I would say that on that fateful night, our worlds would be turned upside down, as often happens when magicians make decisions.
     People are always asking me how I feel about what’s happening in my life in relation to Cathy’s eventual gender reassignment surgery, and I give them the pat answer stated above. But my therapist, the woman who calls me on my B.S., got really stern with me when she asked me the same question and got that answer. She got upset, stating that she knows that I have feelings I’m not dealing with. I have used being busy with school and being in leadership in OTO as convenient ways to divert my attention.The closest I get to dealing with is was to admit that I’m not dealing with it realistically. I have not brought the issue up with my therapist since that time. I would like to talk to someone about it, but truth be told, I haven’t spend enough time figuring out how I feel. I just know that I have mixed feelings. I really want Cathy to be herself and to realize her life-long dream to become a woman, and at the same time, want things to be “normal” again.
     But how do I feel? I honestly can say that 75% is happy for her. There’s that 25% of me, though, that is confused and does not know how to express itself. That is because there are not yet words to describe how I feel.  In many ways, I don’t want to know how I really feel. Deep down, I have a fear that I might have an issue that needs to be resolved. Maybe I’m not the open, liberal sort of woman that I’ve always purported myself to be. I don’t think it’s true, but I remember how I felt before I became friends with and dated a trans individual, how I thought it was “weird” and did not understand what it might feel like to be born in the wrong body.

     No matter what, love wins. The person I married is my best friend, my lover, and is the world to me. She has treated me with more respect than my insecure self has ever received. I used to fight her attempts to make me feel loved, safe, and secure, and I still do at times, but in general, I know better. We have good communication, and we have never in almost nine years called each other names or gotten into a screaming match.
     I am aware that I still need to think about this further. I need to analyze that 25%. I was hoping that it would all be resolved by writing this paper, but deep down I knew it wouldn’t. I am hoping, however, that those who may be in a similar situation will get comfort from reading this, and that those who don’t understand will get a better grasp of what it’s like for the person you marry to completely change themselves, even if it is to become their authentic selves.
     I firmly believe that  she has the bravery of more than most people on this planet, and I’m proud to be married to her. I need to join her and be brave as a team.  I love the person I married with all my heart, and I am confident that I will slowly deal with this on a deeper level. We both will be true to ourselves, and love and respect will prevail.
Love is the law, love under will.
Leanne M. Berry
March, 2017

Leanne Berry feels as though she has incarnated to love, to heal, to laugh, and to assist others in maximizing their potentials to live happy and healthy lives. These qualities are manifested in her daily life. She works as a therapist, specializing in Applied Behavior Analysis and focusing primarily in Autism services. She is actively involved in leadership in Ordo Templi Orientis, a fraternal organization that welcomes diversity, and is an ordained Priestess of Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica, regularly serving as priestess or deacon in the OTO Gnostic Mass. She lives in Los Angeles with her wife, Cathy, and their cat, Kether.

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