My wedding day.

I’m 24 years old. I am married to a man I’ve known for only 10 months.

We’re in the limo driving away from the reception. I’m drinking my third bottle of champagne and he’s sobbing.

I should have known then. Our secrets bubbled to the surface, but we pushed them back down. Put on our masks and continued with what we were supposed to do.

We leave on our honeymoon, and at first everything goes the way it should for a newly married young couple. On the third day of our marriage, however, he refuses to have sex with me. Not only does he refuse, but he throws me off of him, turns over, and starts crying.

Now, at that point, I could conclude that either something was wrong with him, or something was wrong with me. To understand my thought process, I have to go back.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I was raised in a very strict religion, filled with guilt. I learned that if anything was going wrong in my life, I had done something bad. I was taught to ‘save myself’ for marriage (which I didn’t do, but my new husband didn’t know that). I was trained to see my husband as the head of my household. He was ‘in charge’ of me and therefore always right. Because my husband wouldn’t have sex with me, something must be wrong with me.

And that’s how I lived through my marriage — constantly thinking I was bad, I was doing things wrong, and it was my responsibility to fix it. I had to, somehow, get my husband to sleep with me. We lived like roommates instead of a married couple for five years. Sometimes we got drunk enough to have sex. Other times I wondered if he was gay. At one point, he told me didn’t want kids, so we didn’t have kids. Another year, he announced he was agnostic and wanted both of us to leave the church, so we left the church. I was a little confused about how I could follow God’s rule to obey my husband when to obey meant not believing in God, but I went with it.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

It’s our fifth anniversary. We’re on a Mediterranean Sea cruise to celebrate. Our cabin had two twin beds, rather than one queen bed.

We’re laying there one night when he says,

“Would it be a deal breaker if I wasn’t a man?”

I didn’t think, “Come again?” or even “What the Fuck?!”

The very first thought that popped into my head was, “That’s it!!

The moment in the limo came back to me. That’s what he was crying about! I barely heard him as he told of his plan to go through a gender change. All I could think of was the joy in discovering that there was nothing wrong with me! I wasn’t bad at all, and neither was he!

He was transgender, a real ‘lesbian trapped in a man’s body.’

After a little bit, I started to listen to what he was saying and my brain said, “Wait, what?”

He had it all planned out. He had set aside money, chosen a doctor, and connected to the online transgender community. We would go to Thailand the next year, have his gender reassignment surgery, quit our jobs, leave our friends and family and move to the west coast where we would start over as a lesbian couple. He asked me to stay with him through all of this, and I said yes. After all, God says my husband is my head and always right, even if he doesn’t believe in God and even if he isn’t my husband but my wife. I didn’t know what else to do except follow him on this plan.

I stayed with him, and lived as if playing a part on stage for the next year. I quit my job, distanced myself from the few friends and family I still had contact with, and threw myself into planning our new life. As I did this, I had two thoughts constantly running through my head.

First was how much I loved this guy, even if he was a girl, and how fun it would be to start a new life adventure together.

The other thought was, “But I’m not a lesbian.”

Finally, one of my oldest friends got me to go out with her for her birthday. For the first time in many months, I was honest with someone. I told her of our plan, my confusion, excitement, and misgivings.

Her response was, “Are you crazy?! Leave him right now!”

She opened my eyes to how much control this person had over me. Transgender or not, we were not good together. Everything in the previous five years came into crystal clear focus.

We lived as roommates, rather than man and wife, because he didn’t want to have sex with me.

I wanted to have kids. He didn’t, so we didn’t.

He didn’t like me going out with my friends or family. So I didn’t go out with them.

When he became agnostic, I did as well. (Although, to his credit, leaving the church was probably the best part of the whole deal, but that’s another story for another time.)

He had married me with the intention of coming out with me. All the time secretly planning, living a double life, looking for the perfect time and opportunity to tell me of the life he had prepared for us after ‘he’ became ‘she’.

But he wasn’t the only one with secrets.

Trying to live a double life myself, doing everything I could to be the “perfect wife,” I had started drinking and smoking.

While he researched gender reassignment doctors, chatted in online transgender communities, and secretly saved money, I drank vodka disguised as mineral water, smoked cigarettes on our back patio, and spent most of my time hiding how drunk and miserable I was.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The night I came back from dinner with my friend, I told him,

“What if I wasn’t OK with this plan of ours?”

He said, “Then we’re done.”

On January 13, 2009, I left. Looking back, it the best day of my life, and her life as well.

The day we took off our masks.

The day we stopped living in our secrets.

The day we both began the life we were meant to live.

Writer, educator, mom, coffee lover. I write memoir and creative nonfiction about psychology and mental health. Twitter @running_shadows IG @s_annewriter