Credit: Jade Zhang/Xtra
Love Like Mine
7 min

You thought your coming out story was complicated?

I was a lesbian who turned straight overnight. Then my husband came out as a trans woman.

Seven years ago my gayness packed up in the middle of the night and it left, without telling me why, or if it was ever coming back.

I had already come out as lesbian to my Mormon parents. All of my friends were gay. But suddenly I was horribly, stubbornly, impossibly straight — and there was nothing I could do about it.

When the hot butch girl at the tea shop flirted with me, I felt nothing. When my ex wanted to reconnect, it was far too easy to tell her no. Even the lesbian literature I had clung to during the time when I knew I was gay, but was too scared to come out, lost its allure.

At first I refused to tell anyone. I was in the closet about my straightness the way I had been about my attraction to women years earlier. I wanted everything about lesbian culture in Salt Lake City, Utah — the nights full of good food and wine, the camping trips in the thick of the high Uintas and the gay bar where everyone got properly drunk — but there were never any wandering hands.

Women who date women have sex when they’re ready, not when they won’t be judged for giving in. Women who date women are prized for their brains over their bodies. Women who date women can move in with their lovers, and not be expected to do the dishes alone.

I was not a woman who dated women anymore.

As time went on I told my closest friends, but I didn’t tell anyone else.

However, one thing’s certain, I definitely didn’t become a woman who dated men.

Months later I got drunk with two women who were so in love with each other, they made me ache for what they had.

I took a long walk, and ended up at the state capitol building, doing yoga on the steps in the moonlight. That night, I decided that if I was brave enough to be myself when I was gay, I could be brave enough to be myself as straight, too.

Dating men again was a slow slide into accepting the sexism that dominated my youth.

If I wore something low or sleeveless, it meant I was easy. If I wore something nice, I was accused of trying to look like a politician’s wife. Every physical touch I allowed was an uncomfortable calculation more about what the man would think of me than what I actually wanted.

In my relationships with women I had always been the aggressor, but after I started dating men again, I turned into this passive creature of restraint. If you want to be respected by a man, you don’t need to be smart or strong — you just need to want sex less than he does.

But things were different with Steven.

We met at a singles’ event that we were both pressured to attend by our friends. Almost every man there was 10 years older than the event’s intended age bracket, even though there were similar events available for people their age. I had no interest in a man who valued my youth more than my mind.

But there was one man who was obviously younger sitting at the bar, playing what looked like Scrabble on his phone. He was handsome too, slim with a strong jaw and hair that was military-short.

Feeling brazen, I sat right next to him when I went to pay my tab. We only talked for a few moments but there was this energy between us that pulsed like it was alive. When he asked for my number, I said yes. When he asked if I wanted to play Scrabble with him the very next night, I said yes again.

On our first few dates I thought Steven wanted to be friends.

He stared into my eyes for hours on our second date, but didn’t kiss me. I invited him over to watch a movie with me on our third date and he stayed on the other side of the couch.

I wasn’t offended by his lack of interest because being friends with him was better than never seeing him again.

He was brilliant at Scrabble and had an unusual wit that made me laugh at the most unexpected times. When I told him I was alright with keeping things platonic, he looked devastated. He said that he was very interested in me, but he struggled to pursue girls he liked.

When I pursued him instead, he didn’t mind.

With Steven, being straight wasn’t so bad. He didn’t seem to know the rules of the game other men wanted to play with me. Or that’s what I thought at first.

In time, I learned that he simply didn’t like the rules anymore than I did.

Steven told me he loved me far sooner than the rules would ever allow.

When I met his mother, he made it clear that I was the first girl he’d ever brought home. He didn’t want to make a play for power. He just wanted to connect with me. We built a relationship that discarded the gender stereotypes we both felt burdened by in our youth, which gave us enough space to be who we truly were.

Steven was the kind of man who wanted to open my door, but also tagged along with me to watch my friend perform in a drag show at a gay bar. He was the first man my lesbian friends liked and the first lover my parents approved of.

It wasn’t long before I fell helplessly in love with him.

We married on a hiking trail in Arches National Park where the red rock formations look like a Dr Seuss illustration, and the bright desert flowers bloom despite the dry Utah heat.

It wasn’t a glamorous wedding. Our guests wore jeans and backpacks. We all reeked of sweat and sunscreen.

I changed into my wedding dress behind a blanket and some sagebrush, keeping my hiking boots on underneath. But Steven looked flawless in his military blues, leaning against the red rock of the Utah desert.

As I tried to remember the vows we both left in the car at the bottom of the trail, I didn’t get all of the words right. It didn’t matter.

We both knew that this was the connection we’d been looking for our entire lives, even if we didn’t understand just how strong that connection was yet.

A month after our wedding, he told me about the crossdressing. I didn’t mind. On the evenings he wanted to wear women’s clothing I got out my nail polish and face masks — it was fun.

It wasn’t something we told other people about. We understood that they’d think it was unusual. But gender variance was something I felt comfortable with after my time in the gay community, and it didn’t worry me.

For his birthday, I bought him a dress I thought would hide his wide shoulders, and I applied his makeup for him. As a cisgender woman I felt that I had more experience.

When he cried in front of the mirror, I knew everything in our lives was about to change.

The word transgender didn’t come up until weeks later.

He had just put our one-year-old to bed, and we were standing in the front room of the home we’d bought together months earlier. We were in the process of building a normal, socially acceptable life together.

He said the word like he thought I would be surprised. Like he was confessing to an infidelity, or telling me about an unwanted pregnancy.

I was scared. We both had Mormon families. We both worked for conservative bosses in the heart of Utah. I remembered what it was like to navigate that world while queer.

I wasn’t sure the world we lived in would have a place for someone like that.

The name Lori came as an afterthought.

Lori didn’t seem real at first — like a person being beamed up onto the enterprise who wasn’t completely there yet.

In the beginning, I was all smiles and bravery. Even though I realized I had become accustomed to the privilege our straight life afforded me — gone were the days when I didn’t have a place to go at Christmas, or when I had to weigh whether to bring my lover to a work party.

Most people liked the new, straight me. Not my gay friends, of course. Many of them had stopped inviting me to parties and camping trips long ago. Other than a few select lesbian friends, most of the queer world had forgotten me. Like my Mormon family, their love had been conditional, and their rejection no less painful. I felt wary about joining their ranks again.

Part of getting to know Lori will always be saying goodbye to Steven, and that’s still hard. But the night my wife walked across our front room in a dress that showed off all the innate curves of her slender frame without a wig or more than a dash of mascara and lipstick, but enough confidence to make any man or woman turn their head to watch — I knew that I had finally met her, Lori, full-formed and authentic to her true self.

She was more beautiful than Steven ever could be — and she took my breath away.

Seven years ago my gayness packed up in the middle of the night and it left, without telling me why, or if it was ever coming back.

Then, just as unexpectedly as it abandoned me, it slipped into the back door with a wink and smile, as if this had been part of its plan all along.

As if it knew about Lori before she knew. As if it foresaw how impossibly happy Lori would make me someday.

My gayness and I embraced like old friends, and the powerful comfort of its presence brought tears to my eyes.

Love Like Mine