In October, my wife and I married on beautiful Gundungurra Country in the Megalong valley in Australia, surrounded by our family and friends.
It was a big deal.
Not only was this my wedding day, but it was also the first time meeting much of my extended family and friends since transitioning and beginning to live my life as an out and proud trans woman.
Aimee and I met three years ago, in a crowded bar called The Bearded Tit. After speaking on OkCupid, we decided to meet up after work for a drink. A drink turned into dinner, and we ended up staying and talking until midnight.
She was stunningly gorgeous and had one of those cute straight fringes that punk girls have. I loved her silly sense of humour and how much we made each other laugh. But she was also kind, brilliant, and had an incredible aura of groundedness that drew me in. I felt immediately that I'd met a kindred spirit.
On the way home, we shared our first kiss at the train station.
Aimee and I dated for just over two years before we decided to get married. We ordered matching rings online that are made from recycled rose gold; hers with a white diamond and mine with a salt and pepper one. When they arrived in the mail, I burst into tears; Aimee proposed to me then and there in our living room.
For many queer people, we assume that getting married may not be for us, or may not be possible. The same is true for other conventional markers of important life stages, like graduating, getting a stable job and having kids. In my experience, this feeling is especially pronounced for many trans people.
When I transitioned, I basically thought I was leaving behind my chance at building a life with someone.
That date with Aimee was one of my first dates after a really horrific breakup. When I was starting hormones, it came to light that my fiancé at the time, and partner of six years, had been cheating on me and was planning on marrying someone else.
I had just started taking hormones at the time and was totally shaken. Over the coming months, I spiralled hard and developed a pretty serious anxiety disorder. It was a profound experience of rejection, the impact of which took years of therapy and thousands of dollars to heal from.
"When I transitioned, I basically thought I was leaving behind my chance at building a life with someone."
But unfortunately, this kind of rejection is a common trans experience. I have countless trans friends who talk about how their transition triggered the end of their long-term relationships. Often due to incompatible sexualities, communication breakdown and sometimes due to transphobia. Many others are forced to cut out family members and old friends, look for new jobs and move cities to find the freedom to be themselves.
Sometimes, even when people are meant to love us unconditionally, we find that being trans is that one condition that the relationship can’t overcome. It means that learning to love yourself and to trust others as a trans person can be really, really hard. Many of us are simply primed for rejection.
My therapist lovingly calls it ‘the trans schema’.
That’s why it was so special to meet Aimee. I had put on my OkCupid profile that I was non-binary (that's how I identified at the time) and included a trans flag emoji, to make it doubly clear.
I was a mess, but I was certain that I was never going to date someone who didn’t know I was trans ever again.
On that first date, I basically tried to scare Aimee away. She asked me at one point, “Can I ask you about your gender and what being non-binary means to you?”
I replied that I was trans. “I’m likely going to transition in the future, but I put things on pause after my last breakup. I am considering starting hormones again and I am not sure where I’ll end up gender-wise,” I told her.
She took this remarkably well and made it pretty clear that she wasn’t super concerned with the specifics, so long as we kept talking about it.
Aimee and I have built a deep, trusting love that's allowed us to enjoy my transition together, exploring the changes, the way the world sees us, and the ways in which it has helped us understand each other more deeply.
Having a partner with no hang-ups about my gender journey has allowed me the freedom to set my own course, not feeling like I need to meet anyone else’s expectations, or that there are ‘no-go zones’ that could signal the end of our relationship.
I feel so incredibly lucky and privileged to have experienced this kind of love in my life.
I knew I was trans at 23. It took at least five years for me to decide to transition and four more years to really find my path.
When I made the decision to transition, I felt like I was making a choice to burn down my life and start a new, more difficult, and more lonely one. It was a choice heavy with consequences and light on guarantees.
But by 23, I had gotten to a point where I couldn't move on with my life without addressing my gender. As my previous fiancé and I talked more seriously about getting married and our life plans, my dysphoria got worse and worse. My brain was obsessed, circling the same thoughts around and around. I can’t face being a husband. What if we have kids? What if we have a son? What if I am 40 and still living as a man? Could I even live with that?
I want to be clear: the only reason this was such a stressful decision for me was because of the stigma and discrimination that trans people face.
But it does not have to be this way. I have seen things change radically in the last ten years for trans people, not only in terms of representation, but also in access to healthcare, and protection under state and federal law.
One of the most significant ones is when Australia voted 'YES' to marriage equality five years ago, on November 15, 2017. Because of this historic win for our communities and the subsequent amendments lobbied for by community campaigners across the country, trans people are no longer forced to get divorced if they affirm their gender.
"On my wedding day... I felt waves of gratitude watching my gorgeous friends on the dancefloor, wasted on prosecco and gay love."
Our celebrant, the wonderful Liz Watson, was one of the people who got married almost immediately after the legislation passed, soon becoming a marriage celebrant herself so she could help other couples tie the knot.
My Wedding Day
On the morning of my wedding, my mum gave me a silver necklace with a little pearl pendant and watched as I got changed into my wedding dress, helping me flatten out the zip on the small of my back.
After a lifetime of negative messages and fears about how my life would turn out, to be there on my wedding day, surrounded by people I love, supported and celebrated by my family felt incredibly moving. I felt waves of gratitude watching my gorgeous friends on the dance floor, wasted on Prosecco and gay love.
It felt like an arrival.
This Trans Awareness Week, think about what you can do to help create a world where everyone has the same chance to lead a good life, regardless of their gender, whether it means implementing a gender affirmation policy at your workplace, reading more trans stories, or donating to a trans organisation.
Jackie Turner is the Trans Equality Campaign Manager at Equality Australia. She is passionate about community power, developing the leadership of LGBTQIA+ people, and building movements that can win. A dedicated organiser and campaigner, she is now working to build a movement powerful enough to win a society that guarantees the dignity, safety, and equality of all transgender and gender-diverse people. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.