SueZie, 51, and Cheryl, 55, Valrico, FL, 2015
SueZie: I never thought transition would be a reality in my lifetime. After struggling for years, I finally asked Cheryl, “What about surgery?” And she looked at me and said, “Go for it.” Finally she had realized how serious I was. Every night I used to sit in the lanai smoking away, and just thinking, “Can I do it? Can I not? Can I do it? Can I not?” Every night. For years. I also had bad asthma, COPD, sleep apnea, acid reflux, migraines, you name it. But when I started going through the motions everything pretty much vanished overnight. All those illnesses, all those stresses, gone. I said to Cheryl that I felt so good I could probably give up smoking and I wouldn’t even notice. Didn't have another one.
Years of self-administering hormones caused a complication that threatened my chances for surgery. I said to Cheryl, “I’ll die as female. Nothing is stopping that surgery.” If there was a 95% chance of failure, of dying on the operating table, that was a risk I was willing to take. I could not go on how I was. My greatest challenge, it came from within. It was having the confidence to face the world out there. The perception that everyone isn’t going to accept you, it’s a little unfounded. When you first come out, you’re pretty rough. You get a few people to support you. Plenty that don’t. As you start looking better, people start changing their opinions, they swap sides. They join the winning side. And you start getting more supporters.
I don’t care what other people think. “Peripheral blurring,” that’s what I call it. I am aware but don’t pay attention to those negatives to my left and right; I only focus on the positive reactions ahead and in front. So now I go out, bold. I’m in the real high heels, and I have the striking hair. How I see it is, if you’re bold, it’s very positive. It’s not wishy-washy. When you’re positive, it builds your confidence, and of course confidence is attractive, and with attraction comes acceptance. That’s my theory on the whole thing. Bold first, stand out.
Cheryl: When we got married, I never imagined that someday my husband would become my wife. Right from the start, SueZie confided that she identified as female on the inside, but transition never appeared to be an option. But, I never had a problem with her wearing lingerie. You know, it’s just clothes. I fell in love with the person inside, and what’s on the outside is more about what they feel comfortable with. In 2009, when she said she wanted to transition, I admit I wasn’t very accepting. It was more like “What’s going to happen to the kids and what are people going to think?” At that time we weren’t strong enough to risk losing everything, including each other.
I asked her when our son Jaison was born, “Are you even happy?” Because there was no emotion. After transition, it was a total 180. Her disposition improved and our life around here got better. I saw the difference in her and how much it really affected her. I had never seen happiness come out of her eyes before. It was truly amazing. It was difficult and a learning process, because, for instance, I was always heterosexual, never a lesbian. We say I became a lesbian by attrition.
But everything was for the better and it’s working out okay. Even our intimacy has elevated. As I tell people, “I fell in love with the person, not the appendages.” I’ll always love her and we are always there for each other, deeply connected. Jaison has always known that she wears “girlie clothes,” as he calls them, so he’s good with it, too. We’re doing well. The smiles. Never had smiles before. If you’ve seen the pictures of before, you could see the sadness, there was no light in the eyes, there was no smile on the face. Now you can’t stop it.
What am I looking forward to in the future? Maybe she’ll get a little quicker on her makeup in the morning! Gosh. The future. It’s a whole new way of life. We’ve had fourteen years now, and I hope we’ve got another fourteen years ahead of us. I’m excited to see what the future’s going to hold, but also a little nervous. The unknown can be daunting, but we will face it together. I’m really looking forward to it.