My spouse came out as trans during lockdown. Now she has to re-introduce herself to everyone she knows

She looks ten years younger without her signature bushy beard and buzzcut. Even her voice sounds different now. And not everyone has been affirming

Lauren Rowello
New Jersey
Friday 11 September 2020 22:05
Comments
Though trans rights have advanced over the past few years, they are far from guaranteed
Though trans rights have advanced over the past few years, they are far from guaranteed

My wife and I sat on our porch and edited the latest draft of a message she wanted to send her friends. We got nitpicky over wording. Should it read I’m transitioning or I’m a trans woman or something else? The format felt wrong. Should she hand-write a card instead — or is that too formal? She never expected to have to share the biggest news of her life from behind a screen.



Although my wife has always understood her gender identity, her family isn’t affirming. She’s tiptoed towards this life stage over the last five years, and before this summer, very few people in our lives knew that she’s trans. Her slow coming-out process has informed how I’ve navigated my own. To protect her privacy, I felt like I shouldn’t outwardly claim my queer identity until she was ready to share hers. When I finally began to label myself and our family as part of the LGBTQ+ community, I left out what specifically made us queer. It was difficult to keep quiet about aspects of our life I wanted to celebrate, and when I needed support for issues unique to our queer experience, I often felt alone.



We knew early in 2020 that she’d be transitioning this year, and I looked forward to sharing about our marriage in a way that genuinely reflects who we both are. We planned trips and outings to talk one-on-one with people who mean the most to her — but as concerns about the pandemic lingered, we knew we couldn’t take the risk to gather in person.  


My wife started taking hormones a few months before quarantine, and her appearance quickly shifted. She looks ten years younger without her signature bushy beard and buzzcut. She stopped wearing plaid button-downs and loose-fitting jeans when the curves of her breasts and hips started to develop. Her mannerisms, speech patterns, and subtleties are different now. Even her voice wouldn’t be familiar to those who haven’t seen her in the past few months.



Quarantine has given her the freedom to finally experiment with self-expression and discover her body as it changes without the burden of other people’s imposing questions or judgment. Without the pressure to dress a certain way, she’s gone months without slipping into menswear for the first time in her life. Instead, she’s played with fashion from the comfort of our home, embracing her own style without involving anyone else’s opinion.


Before she came out, she feared that anxiety would consume her in these early stages of exploring gender out in the world — but social norms during the pandemic helped her blend in when she ventured outside. Thinning hair inched onto her forehead in clumpy tufts as it started to grow out — but because everyone else lacked access to their own hairdressers, their Covid cuts looked awkward too. She was uncomfortable with her facial hair stubble, but masks and neck gaiters hide her five o’clock shadow whenever it pokes through.



She’d waited to tell her supervisor and colleagues, hoping they’d be back in the office soon so she could gradually come out to them in person — but now they haven’t seen her since February. Because much of her work is solitary, she’s resorted to communicating via text and email, only hopping on calls when it’s absolutely necessary and avoiding Zoom almost entirely. She’s introduced a more neutral-sounding voice during meetings but doesn’t know how to tell others about her truth. Like most trans people, my wife is nervous about job security, transphobic hostility, and whether or not her work buddies will drift away.



She’s desperate to make friends with trans people — but the pandemic has prevented that too so far. We’ve found a community on Twitter where we engage in global conversations about queer issues, but we both feel isolated without the ability to spend time with LGBTQ+ people in the wider world.



The rambling text we sent her friends was mostly greeted with love and kindness, but not everyone in our lives offers encouragement. One of her closest childhood friends said it’ll be weird to see her. I don’t know when that will be, but relationships might be different when we can finally be together again. Right now, those connections feel like they’re stuck in limbo. In an attempt to introduce her loved ones to a body they might not recognize, she’s sharing selfies on social media and speaking more freely about her trans identity. Now she’s anxiously awaiting the opportunity to introduce her femininity in real life.



We hoped for joy and liberation as we started living more authentically as a couple, but quarantine means she still hasn’t truly come out. A pause for Covid-19 will delay her next steps until post-pandemic.

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