Being transgender has its nuances — from learning new bathroom etiquette, to choosing a new name, to learning to give yourself weekly injections…even dating as a different gender. For some, this means they are now perceived as straight, for others they are now perceived as gay. For me, I went from being in a “lesbian” relationship (I literally never used the term “lesbian” for myself — a foreshadowing to my trans identity? Definitely.) to being in a heterosexual relationship.
My partner, Natalie, and I started dating in March of 2012. I had been out as gay (again, never used the term “lesbian”) for a couple of years at this point, and this is when I started really questioning my gender. I remember saying to Natalie early on that even though there’s no man in our relationship, I wanted to play that role. Whether that meant dressing up in a tie or paying for our dates, that’s who I wanted to be in our relationship. Naturally, my loving partner obliged but also pushed me to explore why that was important to me and what it meant if she paid for dates once in a while and what not.
Cue the intense gender confusion!
Finally, in 2014, I learned what the word “transgender” means. I remember reading about individual’s experiences with dysphoria, their desire to remove their chests, have a deeper, more masculine voice, and, of course, facial hair. This was my “aha” moment. I analyzed my life and realized all this time I just wanted to be seen as a boy, because that’s how I felt on the inside. I started wearing even more masculine clothing, getting more involved on campus with the Gender Inclusivity Committee, and generally getting connected with the trans community.
I don’t remember exactly when I came out to Natalie, but when I said “I think I’m just a boy” her response was quick, anticlimactic, and beyond reassuring.
“Yeah, I know. I’ve been waiting for you to tell me.”
All of my fears quickly rushed out of my body. I was no longer worried about losing her. I was no longer worried if she’d find out through someone besides myself. I was no longer hiding this huge part of me from the most important woman in my life.
I felt relieved.
I remember Natalie asking me what name I wanted to use, what pronouns I wanted to use, and how I wanted her to refer to me to others. I went with my gender neutral childhood nickname, AJ, for a while and had Natalie use he/him pronouns when it was just the two of us. It wasn’t always easy, but she never gave up.
Natalie and I had several discussions and did ample research together about starting testosterone, dysphoria-relieving remedies (binders, packers, terms, etc.), talked about our fears related to me transitioning, what name we thought fit me best, what terms made me feel best (Natalie telling me I looked handsome instead of beautiful, for example), and so much more. Natalie helped me with every step of the process, and I truly believe I would not be where I am in my transition today without her.
Before I started testosterone, Natalie expressed her concern about me changing as a person after starting hormone treatment. I remember telling her that I am me, I already am a man, I just need some extra testosterone to look how I want to look. I assured her that I wanted to know if I started to change in a bad way so we could work through it. That was a scary thing to hear from my partner -- what if I do change as a person once I’m on testosterone? I already had some anger issues, so was that just going to get worse and cause Natalie to leave me?
Spoiler Alert — No, I didn’t change as a person when I started hormones; I just became much happier with and comfortable as myself.
After Natalie helped me decide on “Drew” as my new name, confirming I wanted to start testosterone and Natalie was ready to embark on that journey with me, I decided to come out to my parents and siblings via email. My dad replied “love you,” my brother said something along the lines of “you’ve always been my brother,” and that was the most we talked about it for nearly a year. This was probably the most difficult piece of my journey so far. We spend a lot of time with my family, so both Natalie and myself were in sort of weird positions — What does Natalie call me when we’re at my parents’ house? What does she call me if they’re at our house? What do they think about this? Are they even ok with it?
Natalie was beyond affirming during this phase. Leaving situations where she didn’t know how to refer to me, she’d make sure to say “Drew” and “he” as often as possible, and eventually, we’d talk about what I wanted to be referred to as in specific situations. Sometimes it was awkward. Sometimes Natalie would slip up and call me Alicia because that’s what everyone around us was calling me. But, we communicated and tried to do better next time every single time. Eventually, we stopped needing to talk about it and I was “Drew” and “he” in all situations.
Finally, in February 2016, I called my parents over to our place to inform them I was starting testosterone…the next day. They had questions, which I gladly answered to the best of my ability. Natalie was at school when my parents first got there, but joined us towards the end of the conversation. I remember my mom asking Natalie what she thought about me transitioning and her saying something along the lines of “I love this person. I want them to be the happiest them they can be. If that means, transitioning, then so be it. But I’m already in love with this person regardless of their gender.”
I don’t think I could have scripted a better articulated, more supportive, or more affirming response.
The next day, Natalie and I went to the informed consent clinic I’d been working with to get my first shot of T and to be shown how to perform the injections. We both watched as the doctor gave me my first injection. The following week we went back and Natalie administered my shot. The following week we went back so I could administer my own shot with my doctor there. After that, we did my shots at home.
After about 4 months of doing my own intramuscular injections, I started having a LOT of shot anxiety. Natalie stepped up and started doing my shots for me. They were still taking an hour to get done because of my anxiety, though. We continued with this method, having on and off “good weeks” where my shot would take 30-45 minutes, for another 2 years or so. Natalie was beyond patient each week with me. We’d sit down to do my shot, I’d request she let me get ready/sit/relax/etc., then give her the go ahead to do the injection. Several times I’d stopped her inches from penetrating my skin due to my anxiety, starting the process all over again. Despite both of our frustrations with how cumbersome my shots had become, Natalie happily and with a smile on her face continued sitting with me for as long as I needed to make sure my shots got done each week, even if they were a day or two late.
Finally, when I switched primary care physicians, I asked about switching to subcutaneous injections. My doctor said that was a great idea and I started administering my own shots again with little to no pain at all back in early August of 2018. After I did my own shots for a few weeks, Natalie admitted to me that shot day had become dreadful and anxiety-ridden for her as well, and she was relieved to have that stress released for both of us.
While there were some weeks I could feel her hesitation doing my shot, I didn’t know how severe her anxiety had become surrounding my shots. It wasn’t that she wanted to hide that from me, but she knew I already felt guilty for my shots taking such a long time and was dealing with my own anxieties. This was probably the best way for Natalie to handle this, honestly. I would have felt even worse about my shot day every week had I known how dreadful it’d become for her, too.
Since day 1, Natalie has been my number one supporter, my rock, in my corner, ready to talk me off the ledge on hard days, and, ultimately, the best partner a guy could ask for. I’m incredibly grateful for her love and support on this journey. We’ve been together nearly 7 years now.
On May 19, 2018, I got to marry my best friend and become her husband, a title I’d only dreamed of as a kid, thinking it was beyond my reach because I was born a girl. But here I am, alive and well, nearly 3 years on testosterone, top surgery within arm’s reach, happily married and Natalie’s husband. I retell the story of our relationship for those guys (and girls, and people) out there who might think that love isn’t in the cards for them for one reason or another. I found true love even though my story didn’t start out how most other people’s stories do. I had to find and love myself first before I could live “happily ever after”, but both journeys were well worth the wait.
Happy Valentine’s Day!