What would you do if you fell in love with a woman who told you she needed to transition into being a man? Would you stay? Leave? Remain best friends but split up?
Tell us a bit about yourselves!
Nick: We are Nick and Anna. Although we’re feminists so maybe we are Anna and Nick. We live in small town just outside of Calgary, Alberta, Canada with our blended family of five kids. I’m 32, and I am a branding strategist and sales coach. Basically I help creatives sell more stuff. For fun I write, watch all the TV, rock climb and listen to so much rap music.
Anna: I just turned 40, and I’ve always been a city girl but I moved to the ‘burbs for love this year. It’s funny ‘cause we look like such a normal suburban couple– mom, dad, kids, minivan, dog… but the way we got here is pretty interesting. I’m a life coach and I help women become badass powerhouses. I love my work and my clients with a fiery passion. My idea of a great night is curling up in bed with a book.
What did your lives look like three years ago?
Anna: I was a happy solo mom in Portland and as single as you can possibly be, with a group of supportive friends who had become like family.
Nick: Hmmm. Wow. Well, three years ago I was a woman, married to a super nice guy, pregnant with my fourth kid. Super unhappy.
How did you guys meet?
Anna: A mutual friend hooked us up to have a phone conversation before we actually met. Because she knew that we needed to talk about kids who see ghosts and remember their past lives, LOL. Just the usual.
Nick: Then we actually laid eyes on each other at a Summer Camp in Pennsylvania for entrepreneurs that another mutual friend organized.
Was there a specific moment when you realized “Oh, this is something!”?
Anna: Not until much later– first we became fast, good friends. But just friends. Because Nick was married. And pregnant. But right away we just recognized each other, you know? I felt like, “Oh, it’s YOU!!!! I’ve been waiting for you!”
And then, much later, I realized that I might actually be falling in love with this person I loved so dearly, and I knew that that had the potential to really mess up his life, so I was all, “Lock that shit down, Kunnecke!!!” But eventually we had the “Oh man, I’m secretly in love with you too– now what do we do?” conversation, and it was always, “Do we walk away from each other forever or do we get married?” There weren’t really any other options.
Nick: I knew when I hung up the phone after our first conversation that she was the most interesting person I’d ever spoken to. Then I saw her and was like “WOW! She’s beautiful AND the most interesting person ever! I want to be her best friend.”
Everything sort of clicked a yearish later. So then I had to get divorced and admit that I was gay and really change my whole life because the idea of a second away from her was too awful. When I get really quiet and truthful I knew from this one moment, sitting on a rocking bench in front of a cabin, that I wanted her in all the ways, forever. I would just never let the feeling settle, because it wasn’t allowed to.
Nick, when did you realize you were trans?
Nick: I have all these memories of growing up knowing I was different.
I remember being 5 or 6 sitting on the stairs at my mother’s house crying because I just wanted to be a boy so badly. I remember protesting going to my father’s wedding because they were making me wear a dress. I kicked and screamed and cried.
I remember as a teenager when someone would think I was a boy being so embarrassed that they had found out my truth. Then eventually I just pushed it down enough until I believed my own lie.
Being with Anna, it changed all of that for me. It put me back in touch with myself. The way she touched me, the way she loved me. It just sort of opened me up again.
I don’t think it was so much one moment as much as a bunch of revelations. I would embrace my masculinity one step at a time and then realize that I wanted more.
I think it’s important for me to say that although I know this is who I am, and I feel more myself every single day, I still have intense amounts of shame from time to time about being this person. About not being normal. I feel angry that I didn’t get the right body. That I don’t get to experience things the way cis men do.
But I’m also so thankful to have lived life as a woman as well. That I know what it’s like to birth a child. I know what it’s like to be mansplained to. I know what it’s like to be made to feel less than for my gender. I have gotten to have all the experiences.
How did you tell Anna?
Nick: It wasn’t just one conversation. It was hundreds of little ones. I was terrified every time. She didn’t always say the exact right thing, but neither did I. She always reacted with love though. In the beginning she really embraced my expressing my masculinity.
There was a small moment, when we both realized that just being androgynous wasn’t enough for me, that she struggled. She likes being queer. It’s part of her identity. She loved so many of the feminine things about me, my soft skin, my voice, all these things that I hated. But she loved me, and she was always supportive. She just needed a little more time than I did.
As things have unfolded she’s been amazing. And it turns out she doesn’t hate all the ways I’ve changed. She’s particularly fond of the muscles.
Anna, how did you feel when Nick told you?
I’d always been super attracted to how androgynous Nick was. I loved it when he dressed up in a suit; so hot! It made sense to me that he would want to play with gender in a very fluid way. The bigger shock to me was eventually realizing that he didn’t want to be genderfluid– he wanted to live as a fully straight man.
I felt such a mix of feelings– so proud, so scared, so happy for him, but also grieving the loss of the woman I first fell in love with. I didn’t like the thought of going from being a queer couple to a straight one. And I had a hard time with the thought of his body changing so drastically when I was so very in love with it the way it was.
When you love someone + you see they're living in a cage, you just want them OUT of it. Click To Tweet My feelings matter, and it was important for me to go through my own process, but they also don’t matter at all. There’s something much bigger here than whether I liked having a pair of breasts in my life.
Can you walk us through the process of transitioning?
Nick: It really depends on where you live, especially in the USA, where the laws in some places are extremely backward.
We already had been seeing a therapist (who just coincidentally specialized in gay couples and worked a ton with Trans people) by the time I was ready to transition. I think she was just waiting for me to finally admit it.
You get a diagnosis of Gender Dysphoria from an MD or psychologist. Get referred to an endocrinologist, do a bunch of bloodwork, and if everyone feels good about things they write you a prescription for Testosterone. It took about six months from the time I pursued transitioning until I started my weekly self-administered shots of testosterone.
If I didn’t already have a therapist I’m sure the timeline would look different. I go in every 3 months for bloodwork to make sure everything is okay.
I haven’t legally changed my name or gender marker yet.
Nick, what has most surprised you about this process?
I think the biggest surprise was the emotional changes. I think I thought that only my outsides would change. The truth is that all the places I felt sad before I feel angry now. Although I’m still SUPER chill, but in comparison, there’s a difference.
It’s also easier for me to be emotionally distant now. I think watching the way people treat me differently now that I pass entirely as a man has an effect on me too. I’m not sure which things are hormonal and which are just nature but I notice I feel more entitled, as much as I hate to admit it.
Then there’s the physical changes. The biggest surprise there is that the more you change into the person you always wanted to be the more you WANT and even feel like you NEED to change. It’s all happening so fast but not nearly fast enough.
Also the sex drive is seriously no joke. When they say that guys think about sex every seven seconds it’s only a slight exaggeration. I could have sex at almost anytime. I could stop what I’m doing right now and have sex if Anna gave me any inkling that it was an option. Learning to deal with that constant distraction was a steep curve.
Anna, what’s surprised you?
It’s super trippy to watch someone morph drastically in front of your eyes. You know it’s coming, in theory, but it’s still wild. He’s outgrown EVERY piece of clothing he owns!
Everyone assured me that Nick would still be the same person– and in some ways he is and in some ways he isn’t. We’re not just souls and minds, we are physical beings, and he has a totally different set of chemicals coursing through him now.
He is basically going through puberty right before my very eyes, and it’s given me a lot more compassion for men. Some of the things that I attributed to them just being jerks are powerfully driven by biology, apparently. I hesitate even to say that. It’s such dicey territory and in NO way will I excuse poor male behavior based on “boys will be boys” bullshit.
But Nick has had to make really deliberate choices about how he’s going to channel some of his new and different energies. I’m so proud of him for working so hard to be the very best version of the masculine. It turns out it’s harder than it looks.
Nick, do you have in your mind a moment or an experience that will make you think you’re ‘finished’ transitioning?
Nick: Hmmm I’m not sure there is a moment like that in my mind. Like I said before, as soon as you get to one goal you realize that you’ve subconsciously set 5 more in its place.
Top surgery will be huge for me. I feel really held back by my chest now. Things like going swimming with my kids, or going to a spa with my wife, or even changing in a locker room at the gym are seemingly impossible or at least incredibly uncomfortable.
Also I think growing facial hair will feel awesome but that’s less about being a guy and more about not getting asked if my Mom is home when I answer the front door. Looking over 21 will be fantastic.
I’m sure you guys encountered more than your fair share of awkward, inappropriate questions. What are some questions we should NEVER ask a trans person or their partner?
Anna: Same rules apply as everywhere else: no questions about private parts or private functions, whether sexual, medical, or parental. It’s never good manners to ask someone what meds they’re taking or how they go to the bathroom or which kids came out of which loins, no matter who you are. A good question to ask if you aren’t sure how to refer to someone is what pronoun they prefer.
Nick: I’m bad at this because boundaries are hard for me. I love that Anna always steps in to protect me.
Are there any books/resources/websites/tools that have made this easier for you guys?
Nick: I am part of some good online groups, there’s lots of trans youtubers, but honestly there’s not a ton out there. It’s why I started writing TheVeryBestMan.com
Anna: Beware the google. It’ll scare the pants off you. The show Transparent is amazing. Drop us a line privately for the name of our amazing therapist.
What have you learned from this that ANY of us could apply to our daily lives?
Anna: I think Lin-Manuel Miranda said it best: Love is love is love is love is love is love is love. And I believe love wins.
Nick: I think it has taught me to have more of an open mind. It’s so easy to think that’s “weird” when the truth is that it’s just different from the way you are or think, and you never know when all of a sudden you might be the weird one.
Thank you so much for sharing your story, Anna and Nick! Do you guys have any (polite, respectful) questions for them?