Love Beyond Labels: Navigating the Uncharted Waters of Transitions, Marriage, and Unconditional Support

You have a unique story. How would you sum it up, or what’s at the heart of it?

My story might be considered outside the norm by some, but at its core, it isn’t about labels or societal expectations. It’s about love, understanding, and building a life with my spouse and our son. Perhaps the heart of my story lies in the courage to embrace my wife’s journey through transition and challenge stereotypes, specifically as it relates to the traditional family unit. Ultimately, the beauty of my story lies in its uniqueness. It’s a testament to the power of love in defying expectations and creating a space for genuine connection.

A decade ago, I used to joke with Ali (my spouse, formerly Alan) and say, “Well, this isn’t a Disney fairytale, but it’s our fairytale.” After a couple of years, I realized I was wrong. The traditional Disney fairytale is about two people falling in love and living happily ever after. That is exactly what we are doing. We just happen to be a woman and a transwoman as opposed to a prince and a princess.

When did you first realize your story needed to be told?

I realized that my story needed to be told long before we went public. It was the summer of 2021. At that time, Ali had been in transition for nearly a year, and I was still uninformed about the transgender community. I wanted to learn about what it means to be trans and the transgender community, but most importantly, I wanted to learn from spouses. I wanted to hear from wives like me who went through or are going through a transition with their spouses.

After buying every book imaginable, I found that there was a void as it relates to finding resources specifically for cis partners of transgender people. I needed to tell my story, not just for the community but also for myself. I wanted to let other wives know that they are not alone in their journey. Our stories are beautiful even though they are written in a love language the world hasn’t heard yet.

What was it like when you first started telling your story? Any surprises or regrets?

There have been moments of surprise and delight when my words resonated deeply with someone, sparking meaningful conversations and shared understanding. I’ve also encountered situations where limitations or biases were exposed, usually arising from a lack of understanding. This is when you extend grace, love, and patience while taking the opportunity to educate and highlight the importance of continuous learning and improvement.

What I found interesting and slightly surprising was that every person I spoke with knew someone who was trans or someone who was connected to the trans community. Prior to embarking on this journey, I had no idea how vast the community is.

While I haven’t experienced regret in telling my story, there have been instances where I’ve recognized the need for greater sensitivity in my communication. These moments serve as valuable lessons, pushing me to evolve and refine my ability to connect with whom I am speaking.

Who has supported you along the way?

Alan and I started dating in October 2013; nine months later, he sat me down and said, “Amy, I love you. I am a woman.” As you can imagine, I was shocked. I was on a tilt-a-whirl and couldn’t right the tilt. A long discussion ensued that I don’t remember. The only thing I remember is asking if that meant he was gay. I’m embarrassed to write these words. Clearly, I had no idea what it meant to be trans.

I drove home and cried, mostly out of fear. Fear of what this meant for us. What would our life look like? Would we be able to get married and have children? Would this person want to be with me? Mostly, I was afraid of the unknown, and I was desperately afraid I would lose the person I loved most in this world. I emailed my therapist and asked for an emergency session the next day.

I cannot stress enough the importance of therapy. She walked through what it means to be trans. She walked through my fears. She asked me to imagine a best-case scenario and a worst-case scenario. She told me to take a deep breath. “Amy, this is like any other new relationship. Just date. Get to know one another. See if this is your person. You do not have to make any decisions today; you can make them later if you want to.”

Without my therapist, I am genuinely not sure where we would be today.

Who’s around you now helping?

I didn’t share the news with my mother until December 2022, and I wish I would have told her sooner. In waiting, I denied her the ability to support me while I was struggling the most. There is no other reason than I was afraid. I was afraid she wouldn’t understand, I was afraid of what she would say, I was afraid she wouldn’t love Alan anymore, and I was afraid of speaking the words out loud. When you speak the words out loud, they become real. It’s like a bell you can’t un-ring.

Now, as a mother, I realize how ridiculous this was. A child is an extension of the mother’s soul. There is nothing that a mother wouldn’t do for her child to ease their burden, be a shoulder to cry on, prop them up when they are unable to stand on their own, and most importantly, remind them how very loved they are.

That being said, my mother is my biggest advocate and always has been. While I am advocating for my spouse, she is advocating for me.

Who do you want to help and support most?

For me, the process of telling my story has been a constant learning experience. There isn’t a manual or handbook for “coming out” to your family and friends. In my experience, family members often feel blindsided, but there isn’t a way to delicately ease into the topic. “Oh, hey, bro, how are the kids? Yeah, we’re good. Ali and I went dress shopping last night.” You can’t hint at news with this type of gravity. This is why I started sharing my story, which led to me writing a book. By sharing my story and experiences, I explain what worked well for me, as well as instances where I fell short.

Most importantly, I want to support the spouses of transgender partners. All marriages present challenges; ours are no different, but the challenges are. In the whirlwind of your partner’s transition, you need a safe haven – a place where the emotions you hide from the world can surface without judgment. Here, amidst shared stories and understanding, we can unpack our worries, celebrate triumphs, and navigate the twists and turns of our unique journeys. No need for masks, just open hearts and unwavering support.

How are you doing that, and can you provide an example of someone you served with your unique background and gifts?

Recently, there have been a couple of media outlets that have covered my story. After sharing a recent article on my Facebook page, a college friend reached out to me with the most amazing message I have received in a very long time. “Amy, I shared your story with a colleague who had indicated that trans issues were important to her. I had assumed she meant it was her daughter, and it turns out her wife is trans.” My friend went on to say how sharing my story really made a difference in this woman’s life because she felt like she wasn’t on an island. She felt understood for the first time. This one message made my entire year! It filled me with such joy. All I want to do is let others know that life isn’t binary, and it doesn’t have to be. Life is what we make it. It’s beautiful and joyful.

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