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Top Trans Officer Bree Fram on the Military, Marriage, and Joining Space Force

Top Trans Officer Bree Fram on the Military, Marriage, and Joining Space Force
The young Bree Fram was obsessed with dinosaurs—the stegosaurus, to be exact—and becoming a paleontologist. (Her elder daughter Kathryn, 12, has inherited this fascination.) Then, when Bree was about 9 or 10, a friend of Fram’s dragged her “kicking and screaming” to watch an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. “And suddenly I wanted…

The young Bree Fram was obsessed with dinosaurs—the stegosaurus, to be exact—and becoming a paleontologist. (Her elder daughter Kathryn, 12, has inherited this fascination.) Then, when Bree was about 9 or 10, a friend of Fram’s dragged her “kicking and screaming” to watch an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. “And suddenly I wanted to be Geordi La Forge and make the warp drives go,” Fram tells The Daily Beast, laughing.

Now Lieutenant Colonel Bree Fram is an active duty astronautical engineer in the U.S. Space Force, currently assigned to the Pentagon to lead space policy integration for the Department of the Air Force. She is also president of Sparta, the advocacy group supporting trans service-people and trans recruits to the armed forces.

Fram, 42, is currently the highest ranking out transgender officer in the Department of Defense. According to Sparta, she previously served in a wide variety of Air Force positions, including a Research and Development command position and an oversight role for all Air Force security cooperation activity with Iraq.

Fram is “very excited” to have been offered the chance to recommission into Space Force. Sadly, this will not include going to space; earlier in her career Fram was not able to gain the necessary medical certification because of eye surgery. “But as prices come down I hope to buy a ticket to go into orbit some day.”

“Not being able to go into space was really hard because it was a dream I had worked so long for,” Fram says. “It was a huge setback, but it was also one of the things that helped build my resilience, my passion for space, and to participate on a policy or technical level, and enable others to do amazing things. It was crushing, but it also helped make me realize I could do other things to make a difference.”

Fram did a masters in astronautical engineering, which focused on the design and development of space vehicles, including rockets and satellites, and the communication systems between space and earth. “Star Trek was science fiction. Now it’s a reality. We’ve surpassed the capabilities they envisioned in those days.”

Her family—Fram is married to wife Peg; as well as Kathryn, they have a younger daughter, Alivya, 8—has just moved to a new home in the D.C. area, and Fram is speaking from her office, a trans flag and American flag in the background. There is a picture of two space shuttles on landing pads, shrouded in fog. There are also pictures of both her grandfathers, who served in World War II.

Paul Fram, a first lieutenant in the army, was one of a four-person team who captured an entire German company through subterfuge, Fram recalled proudly, noting he had kept a German officer’s sword. Her other grandfather, Fred S. Hirsekorn, was a German Jew who got out of Germany and made it to the United States in the early 1930s. When World War II began, he enlisted in the army, and rose to become the youngest first sergeant in the European Theatre of operations. “His claim to fame was that he got yelled at by (General George S.) Patton,” said Fram. He also was awarded two Bronze Star medals for valor.

I wanted to be part of something larger than myself, protect all the amazing things I had been given, and be able to defend those things for my family, friends, my children, and future.

Joining the military wasn’t on Fram’s mind until after graduating from college in 2001 with a degree in aerospace engineering and looking for jobs in the civilian sector or maybe NASA. Before she found a job, 9/11 happened, which “absolutely changed my outlook. I wanted to be part of something larger than myself, protect all the amazing things I had been given, and be able to defend those things for my family, friends, my children, and future. That day, the way we live, who we are, were attacked—and for senseless reasons, just to kill people.”

The weekend afterwards, Fram was driving up to see then-girlfriend Peg in Duluth, a two-hour drive, and saw an American flag hanging from an overpass, “something you didn’t see prior to that. I broke down in tears on that drive. By the time, I got to my-now wife’s house, I walked in the door in tears and said, ‘I’m going to join the Air Force.’ It was my way to give back. It also allowed me to begin a space career and do other things I am passionate about. I never looked back. It was a great choice for me to serve in the United States military. I’m still taking one assignment at a time.”

She laughed. “I still don’t know what to do when I grow up. I don’t see my service ending anytime soon. I am excited to stay in the service until it makes sense not to do it anymore.”

Space Force officially began life under the Trump administration. “It has been talked about and debated for a long time. Regardless of when it was initiated, we need to advocate for space power as an important part of defending our nation well into the future. We need to do this to move forward as a 21st-century military, without political or partisan motivation.”

Lt. Col. Bree Fram, right, joining Space Force, August 2021.

Peg Fram

Critics of Space Force say it simply helps open space up as another potential arena for international conflicts. But Fram says, “This is not about aggression, but defending the way we live today.” The way information is transmitted and how we consume is dependent on “space-based capabilities,” she said. “Space Force expands and protects the capabilities we all live with.”

But if space is an inherently contested space, that will inevitably lead to conflict? “We already acknowledge space as a contested environment, and we have to be prepared to defend our space assets and capabilities should conflict occur,” said Fram. The hope is to avoid conflict, she added, “but should conflict arise, Space Force there is to protect our space assets and enable the rest of our joint forces to accomplish the mission in whatever ways it needs to.” The challenge is to achieve the hopeful visions of space exploration and innovation, and overcome the conflicts and challenges of space becoming a shared and contested international frontier.

Fram is not a critic of Sir Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos’ adventures to the fringes of space. “There are a lot of exciting aspects about what they are doing for space enthusiasts. It’s great. Whatever we can do to drive down the cost of space travel and evolve technology to do incredible things to change life for all us living on earth. Experiments in space help us develop new drugs and medications and new ways of communicating, I know Branson and Bezos may be seen as doing passion and glory projects, but I’m more interested in them getting people excited about space advancing technology and expanding frontiers.”

When Fram looks at a clear night sky, she loves seeing satellites, and the excitement of a fiery meteor, and the International Space Station. She says she has never seen a UFO, but, “We don’t know what’s over the horizon, or what the next thing for us to see. Look at the vastness of the universe. To believe we are not alone is a reasonable belief. Is something else out there? I kind of hope so. How exciting it would be to get that confirmation. It’s an exciting thing to investigate, and consider what it might mean for us on all sorts of levels.”

We need to build a culture of acceptance. We need to hear this from senior leaders in the military. We have a ways to go before everyone is comfortable.

Over the last few months, Fram—who was Sparta’s spokesperson before becoming its president—has observed the effects of President Biden ending-by-executive-order Trump’s ban on trans people serving in the military earlier this year.

In a press release announcing the move on Jan. 25, the Biden administration stated “that all Americans who are qualified to serve in the Armed Forces of the United States should be able to serve. President Biden believes that gender identity should not be a bar to military service and that America’s strength is found in its diversity. This question of how to enable all qualified Americans to serve in the military is easily answered by recognizing our core values.”

“Things are looking up and going well,” Fram told The Daily Beast. Sparta is gathering information about what has been working effectively, and what hasn’t, for trans service-people and new recruits as policies have been updated across the services, and whether service members are receiving “the best care possible to keep them serving at the highest levels of performance, so they can reach their full potential.”

Some areas “do need work,” said Fram. “The societal pressures haven’t evaporated around coming out. It’s not easy for people to reach that place. It’s not comfortable to be out in all places. We need to build a culture of acceptance, and valuing people for who they are. By doing so, we give value to them and the organization. We need to hear this from senior leaders in the military at all levels. We have a ways to go before everyone is comfortable.

“There are also pressures outside the military—family, religion, and other personal circumstances. Some individuals are still experiencing challenging circumstances with their commanders. Not everything is perfect. This is a new policy. We have to not only give time to allow the policy to work, but also educate people on what it means.”

“It took me a long time to get to the point of, ‘This is who I am, not what I do’”

Fram was born in St. Paul, Minnesota, living in the suburbs until she left to join the Air Force, aged 23. Growing up—her father was a lawyer, her mom a housewife—Fram says she was both academic and athletic, outdoors almost as much as playing computer games. Her oldest daughter loves them too, reminding Fram of when she would play games “until the sun came up, and I would sleep for an hour until school started.”

She still affectionately recalls endless games of capture the flag played around the neighborhood with her friends—many of whom she is still close to today. She had a younger sister and brother, with whom there was “little interaction” when younger, although Fram and her brother still talk about playing games on their Sega Genesis together 25 years ago.

When she was a child, long before her transition, her parents caught the young Fram dressed in women’s clothes. “It was something I didn’t know enough about to really understand who I was at the time, and what it meant to grow up different. I always had this different feeling about me, but couldn’t express it. I was drawn to the feminine. I was Wonder Woman two Halloweens in a row. Through the years I continued to get into my mother’s things. I thought it was something I did, not who I was.

“As a teenager, I wondered if it was sexual, or my identity. Well, everything at that age is sexual, it’s hard to separate. It took me a long time to get to the point of, ‘This is who I am, not what I do.’ I knew I had something that was part of me that was not going away, but also a part of me that I had to hide.”

Fram eventually found books at the library that helped her realize, “Oh my god, there are other people like me out there,” and the she came of age at the advent of the internet and “drew courage from others” whose stories and experiences she found online.

It was really hard to get past that, but she needed to know. In my mind it would not have been fair for that to be a revelation 5, 10 years down the road.

For a long time, the only person who knew anything of Fram’s identity was her now-wife Peg. Three weeks after they started dating Fram told Peg “there was something different about me, and that it was important and not going away. Because there was something developing between us, it was something she needed to know. But I couldn’t do much more than express my confusion, and that I liked to wear women’s clothes. It was really hard to get past that, but she needed to know. In my mind it would not have been fair for that to be a revelation five, 10 years down the road. It would not have worked for me, and it would have been devastating for her, for her to have found it out later.”

The couple married in 2005. Until Fram hit her mid-30s, no one else—apart from Peg—knew. At that time, she started going out into the world in women’s clothes, meeting ‘folks’ in the Denver area where she then lived, and reaching out to people on Facebook who she had taken inspiration from to say, “Thank you for being there and out there.”

Fram came out as trans to her mother in 2014. “She had to think back, and said, ‘Oh, I probably should have known.’ She was wonderful and incredibly supportive.” In 2016 Fram came out on the day that the Obama administration lifted the ban on trans service (before the Trump administration reinstated it).

Much later I had the opportunity to realize that being open let me be a better me, better for my service, and better for my family by being who I am.

From 2000 to 2016, Fram said she wouldn’t have said she was transitioning. “I was still wondering, ‘Who am I?’ I didn’t know. I didn’t want to answer that. I had other things at the forefront of my identity, goals, and life at the time.” Fram joined the military in 2003. “If I had come out, I was risking my career and everything I was passionate about. It’s hard to think about how much not doing that introspection affected me, because I knew what I might lose if I had done it. It wasn’t until much later I had the opportunity to realize that being open let me be a better me, better for my service, and better for my family by being who I am.”

Fram wants to make it clear that she doesn’t feel she suffered over those years. “I’m lucky. I’ve never suffered from depression. There are so many good things in my life I am thankful for. I’ve had an amazing career and opportunities. I have an incredible wife and family who love me. My friends, still many from elementary and high school, have supported me my entire life. We get together whenever we can. On so many levels I was fulfilled, and had amazing things to do and focus on. This last piece—being out—has truly been incredible. I wouldn’t say it was the icing on the cake or the cherry on the sundae. It’s more than that. It’s about being my best self.”

The Fram family: Kathryn, Peg, Alivya, and Bree.

US Air Force

For Fram, unless people can be authentic selves they cannot be their best or reach their full potential. “I had a lot of amazing things going on in my life. It’s even better now. It’s so nice to be able to reach for the stars.”

Changing times has brought changing terminology, Fram says; what was once appropriate at one time is no longer. “For the longest time I considered myself a cross dresser, then that I was gender-fluid,” says Fram. “I look at all this as under the trans umbrella of time. Trans people exist in all sorts of ways. Gender is not binary, nor is gender presentation.”

It wasn’t until 2013/4 that Fram started seeing “transgender” as applying to her, as language and her own presentation evolved. “I thought, ‘That really does fit. Clearly that’s who I am, a trans woman.’ When I reached that point, when I got there, I thought ‘OK, yes, now is the time I can transition and reach my full potential. It’s who I am.’”

She has given me incredible support. The love we have for each other is powerful. I’m so thankful to have her through all this.

Lt. Col. Bree Fram on wife Peg

This reporter asked how things had been for Peg and the couple’s children.

“You should speak to her. It has not been easy by any means for her,” Fram said. “I’m so thankful for the love, support, and grace that she has shown during this journey. What I have done in my transition and coming out isn’t just about me. It affects her and affects how society views her. Whether or not her identity has changed, the social perception of her changed—in terms of what sort of relationship she is in and in so many other ways. She lost friends and family when I came out. Her parents didn’t speak to her for over a year. Other members of her family have gone for good. She ended up having it far worse than I did. She has given me incredible support. The love we have for each other is powerful. I’m so thankful to have her through all this.”

[The Daily Beast’s interview with Peg follows at the end of this article.]

Their daughters have been “wonderful and incredible.” Fram laughs that they have become the “pronoun police,” making a siren sound and correcting whoever uses the wrong pronoun for her. “They are fantastic and a lot of fun, and amazing defenders of me,” Fram says. “I’m so thankful of their love for me.”

When telling the girls about Fram’s transition, Fram said, she and Peg told them that they loved them, that the transition didn’t change that, or how Bree and Peg would be “there for them, and for whatever they needed. Any parent needs to be there for their child, and make them know that they are safe. We made sure they saw and felt that throughout the transition process.”

It seemed an ambiguous, potentially damaging definition that I didn’t want it on my record.

It was Trump’s incendiary tweets, announcing the ban on trans people from serving, that led Fram to fully transition two years ago, aged 40. Alongside figuring out who she was, she also initially resisted the description of “clinically significant distress” as a condition associated with gender dysphoria.

“That was something I never felt,” Fram says. “It seemed an ambiguous, potentially damaging definition that I didn’t want it on my record because to me that implied an impairment in my functioning, or an inability to be great at my job because of this thing you’re supposedly suffering from. I wasn’t suffering, but I wasn’t as good as I could be. I fought against it for a long time.”

When the Trump policy was announced, it forced trans people serving to get a diagnosis of gender dysphoria before April 12, 2019, or risk having the opportunity to transition within the services closed to them.

“That was a crucial moment for me,” Fram recalls. (At the time she spoke to The Daily Beast’s Samantha Allen in 2019 about it, as did Peg in another article.) “I had 30 days,” Bree says now. “It was my ‘now or never’ moment. If I didn’t act, I might lose any possibility of transitioning. And so I thought, ‘OK, I am willing to accept the diagnosis to protect my future.’”

Fram also describes traveling for work, attending meetings with senior officials, and one day pulling on a sports coat, looking in a mirror and realizing, “This isn’t me.” She says, “I realized I was not representing myself authentically.” She had more discussions with Peg, received her official gender dysphoria diagnosis, and then pursued her transition “to make me a better leader and human.”

“It was a huge moment in our marriage,” Fram said. “Peg had feared me fully transitioning one day. She already had negative experiences of losing friends and family. We were both worried, ‘Would what happened next be a repeat of that? What’s going to happen? How do we get through this? What are other people going to think? How are the kids’ friends going to take it? What will happen to the kids?’ There was a lot of fear there. Thankfully, none of it has really come to pass. We are very blessed and very fortunate in how we’ve been able to navigate everything since then. It’s still not easy, but I’m so thankful for the opportunities we’ve been given—and the opportunity to get together and stay together has been fantastic.”

At the time of Trump’s tweets, the reinstatement of the ban, and the fight to lift it (achieved under Biden), Fram was the spokesperson of Sparta—and also herself at the sharp end of the ban itself. As she dealt with the concerns of trans service-members as well as many media inquiries, she was also transitioning herself.

I still had a responsibility in the Air Force. I couldn’t abandon that to take on the advocate’s mantle full time, but I also had to ask myself, ‘If not me, then who?’

“It was certainly a lot of stress,” Fram said. “I had to figure out, ‘What’s my focus?’ I still had a responsibility in the Air Force. I couldn’t abandon that to take on the advocate’s mantle full time, but I also had to ask myself, ‘If not me, then who?’ As one of most senior trans individuals at the DoD, I have a lot of privilege in the circles I am able to operate in, doors I have access to, and the ability and freedom—thanks to a record of performance that I have built up—to be able to go to things junior personnel are not able to do so. Why did I join the service? To be part of something bigger than myself, to give back, to defend future generations, to exercise the freedoms we have. I don’t know how and why I internalized that, but it became so important for me to help others if I could. And because I had privilege, I had to do that.”

In a way, Fram says she is grateful to Trump. “When he tweeted those first tweets about trans people being a burden and disruption that could not be allowed in the military, public support for trans people serving was around 50 percent. What Trump did was shine a spotlight on our service. It allowed trans service-people to show what we were capable of. Suddenly we were in People magazine and on Ellen. A few months later public support was at 70 percent. Now it’s around 80 percent. Even if he placed immense burdens on trans service-members by his tweets and actions, President Trump did a lot for social acceptance, while intending to do the opposite. He also helped sharpen our arguments about why trans service is so valuable.”

Obama lifted the trans ban, Trump reinstated it, and now Biden has lifted it again. Fram says that the only way for trans service not to be a political football, at the whims of presidential executive orders and the prevailing ideology of the administration in power, is for a federal law to be passed covering the military that outlaws discrimination. “That would be a solution so future administrations could not overturn equality. It may be difficult to sell that notion, but difficult doesn’t mean impossible.”

It is “certainly feasible,” Fram says, that a future administration could choose to target trans service-members again, “so we must do all we can to buttress public opinion, show the amazing things that trans people do in the military, and also advocate for equality under the law.”

Trans people are the last group standing, capable of being demonized and othered.

Surveying the raft of anti-trans bill-making in recent months around trans teens’ access to sports and health care, Fram says, “We are the last bogeyman for forces that don’t want us to exist. The same arguments used against African Americans and lesbians and gays in the military were used against trans people. And it’s the same in wider society. I see the trans movement as 10 to 20 years behind the gay rights movement. We’ve been through all this before.

“Trans people are the last group standing, capable of being demonized and othered. But we also have all the knowledge of other groups who have worked so hard, even though the stigma and challenges exist for them. We know what they have done, and we can learn from people who fought those battles in the past, and gather with them and work together against transphobia, homophobia, racism, and misogyny.

“I am hopeful we can get through this, and we need to make sure that trans people of color, non-binary folks, and smaller subsets are along for the ride and not forgotten. They’re the ones really suffering, particularly trans women of color who are being beaten and murdered at insanely high rates. We must push back at a society which demonizes them. I’m confident. To solve it completely will take a while, but we absolutely have to fight to make things better.”

Fram is convinced that emphasizing the contributions trans people make to society can move the dial. “When trans people can be viewed as this tiny subset, it can be utilized as a threat or something to drive fear. That’s going to remain a challenge for all of us for quite some time to come. I focus on a positive message—how we provide a different narrative to show the good of inclusion and talents of everyone. We should show what trans people can do to counter some of the fear out there today.”

Sparta members.

Sparta

As Lt. Col. Fram suggested, Tim Teeman next spoke to her wife Peg Fram, who candidly discussed her own experience and perspective of their twenty-plus year relationship.

I was 21, Bree was 20, when we met. Three weeks into our relationship, and I will remember this until the day I die, Bree, who was then my boyfriend, said, “I need to tell you something. I’m in love with you.” Oh wow, that’s fast, I thought. And then she told me she liked to dress in women’s clothes. We of course had no idea what it would turn out to be in the long run. Something in me at the time downplayed it, rightly because she didn’t understand it herself. It was something she liked to do on occasion.

I remember my 21-year-old brain thought, “Well, it’s not so bad. You’ve dated worse people. We can get through it. It’s not a big deal. I will deal with that and move on.” Our relationship continued, and over time she explored that side of herself further. Honestly, I think when we were that young, we didn’t understand what “transgender” was, even if we knew the term. It was 2000, a very different time.

I think Bree realized more about it than I did, and didn’t tell me for a while what she thought was transgender and what that meant. It was incredibly difficult. I think it wreaked a little havoc on my mental health. It was just so hard because we had to keep it a secret. Bree was learning about herself and trying to connect with people, and couldn’t tell the military or back then she’d get kicked out—which meant I had to keep the secret as well.

I felt like I couldn’t tell friends, who were mostly military spouses at that time. I had other friends from high school, but I didn’t feel comfortable saying anything, as this was Bree’s secret and I would be outing her. She told me I should talk to someone, so I didn’t go through it alone, but I felt she had to tell people herself. Now I tell people to talk to someone. Don’t do what I did, because you’re afraid of betraying your spouse’s secret. It’s yours, as well as theirs, and you need support too.

I was so scared she would lose her job. But whatever happened, I knew she would not lose me or her daughter.

We moved to Colorado in 2011, and Bree had begun to meet other trans people. She would go out occasionally to trans-friendly hangouts in the Denver area once or twice a month. Once she felt that freedom to express herself she began to go out more. I was terrified, so afraid, that someone would hurt her.

At the time, she wasn’t passing as a woman. I don’t want that to sound horrible, but understand that at the time I was looking through the lens of someone looking at the male partner she had been with for 7 or 8 years at the time. To me, it seemed obvious that this was a biological man dressed as a woman, and I was so scared someone would hurt her for that. This was the love of my life, the father of my then-one child. I was also scared someone would recognize Bree, and she would lose her job.

At the time I didn’t have a job. I was pregnant with our second child. The Air Force was Bree’s life. I was so scared she would lose her job. But whatever happened, I knew she would not lose me or her daughter. I was scared and angry. And fear bred more anger, as it often does.

I had kind of guessed Bree was trans in 2011/2012 when she was going out in Denver. She was trying putting on make-up and wearing a wig. I was excited for her to finally be herself, and afraid of what it meant for us. At the moments she pulled back from exploring, I was relieved.

I think for both of us it was around 2011/2012 when we started to realize Bree was transgender, and what that was and what it meant. When Bree finally told me, it was definitely a gut-punch moment. I talk to a lot of other spouses of trans people, and it’s a “gut-punch moment” because at that moment you feel the floor fall out from under you, and you can’t understand what will happen to the life you envisioned and the person you love. You initially feel a terror and deep anger: “How can you do this to me. I don’t know what to do with this information.” But you also understand logically what is happening, and you don’t want to be angry at this person you love. You know this is not their choice, this is who they are.

The Fram family, August 2021: left to right, Peg, Kathryn, Alivya, Lt. Col. Bree Fram.

Bree Fram

In 2016 Bree came out as transgender, and wanted to embrace Bree and her old self—to live a dual gender identity life. I said, “I can do nothing about this, it’s your decision and choice. I have little or no say in this. It’s what you need to do to be happy.” For a lot of spouses, there is a lot of anger we are afraid to express because we are afraid it makes us seem transphobic or cruel—not to be all forgiving and accepting of what your spouse needs.

We’re not only afraid of hurting them, we’re afraid of how people will perceive us. It sounds bad when you say, “I’m angry for you doing this to me.” So, you push it down, and try and hide it. I know now that it’s healthier to just accept the anger and live through it.

That period was difficult, to see and be with my husband one day, and then all of a sudden Bree was there, and she was very different to my husband in terms of physical mannerisms, and how she reacted to situations. When Bree was around it felt like I was living with another person I didn’t particularly like.

Some days I would wake up and Bree was standing there, talking to me. I felt like I wanted my husband back. Of course, hindsight tells me that Bree was exploring what being a woman was like, and the woman she wanted to be. At that time, it felt like I was married to two different people, and every day it seemed another part of my husband had gone.

The important thing is that I knew I loved Bree, and I would never leave.

I suffer from major depressive disorder and anxiety anyway, and I just lived in a pretty unhappy state in those years. It was like a rollercoaster. I’d be down if Bree was around too much, and happy when my husband was there. I also had my second child in that time, and had postpartum depression. For the 18 months after the baby was born, I was where fun went to die.

Around that time, 2012/2013, our marriage had stopped being a marriage. We were more like roommates. I pulled into myself and my children, and kind of abandoned Bree. I could not handle the two parts of my life, and I could not handle Bree. I was also focused on what I perceived to be my failings, not being accepting enough of Bree. Now I would tell people it’s OK to work through your feelings as best you can. But I hold myself to a more perfect standard.

The important thing is that I knew I loved Bree, and I would never leave. When Bree came out publicly in 2016, when the Obama administration lifted the ban, I was like, “Thank you god. I don’t have to edit myself, or lie by omission.” I could tell my mother and friends—although this was a tightrope, as some people in my family definitely had negative views of LGBTQ people.

Bree emailed people and posted on Facebook about it, very excited to be taking the next step. I was relieved, and also terrified about what was going to happen next. Some of my friends were supportive; one wrote to me that they still loved me and the girls, but not Bree, and Bree could not be part of our friendship group.

I was shocked that they could tell me that they could accept me and not my now-wife. I lost quite a few friends, some I was expecting and others I was very surprised about. I was concerned about the reactions of about 5 people, but I probably lost a dozen or so friends. It was horrible. Extended family—cousins, uncles, and aunts—stopped speaking to me. It’s very painful. I’d like to think it’s just discomfort, and not knowing how to speak to us. But it’s gone on so long, at this point I think it just must be down to transphobia.

My parents tried to understand, then communication with my dad seemed to cease for a while. My mom would call and check on the girls, but I felt a real pull-back from her that lasted about a year. Then, all of a sudden, they started speaking to me again, and now it’s much better. (Peg laughs) Mom is actually a little overly supportive of Bree!

I started to like Bree a lot more after she came out in 2016, and began to feel more comfortable. She settled into her personality and mannerisms, and her emotional response to things seemed to even out. She started to become who she is. She stopped exploring how she would talk or who she would be, and just became her. In 2019, when I told my oldest friend that Bree was going to fully transition, she said I had to make a decision about my future, that my husband was not only transitioning into my wife, but that it would lead to other medical and emotional changes. My friend said, “You’re no longer going to be married to a man, you’re going to be married to a woman. You have to think about whether that is the life you want.”

By that time, we had been together for 19 years. I couldn’t see my life without Bree in it. Since she fully transitioned, she has been so much happier.

She was trying to get me to see the full picture. I said to her: “I’m not going to leave her. We have kids, a marriage, a mortgage, a life. I love her. I don’t want to leave.” In my mind, it was never a question of leaving. By that time, we had been together for 19 years. I couldn’t see my life without Bree in it. Since she fully transitioned, she has been so much happier.

I still miss my husband so deeply I could cry talking about it. But I love Bree very much. That feeling of love has grown in the last three years, when I realized how incredibly thankful I was to be with her. I think I was angry at Bree for so long because I perceived her as destroying the person I loved more than anything. Sometimes I see him peek out now and then. But I have come to love the more understanding and forgiving person Bree is.

I love Bree for who she is. She is so much more open to talking to our daughters about their choices, and what they’re doing as opposed to bringing down the hammer as a dad who was more disciplinarian. It’s amazing watching Bree with them. With me, Bree is much more attentive to my feelings too, which is really lovely, and a lot more focused on us being happy and creating experiences which we will always remember, as opposed to saving for the future and retirement as my husband had been. We are definitely enjoying life more now. I love Bree very much. Considering how I felt about her at the beginning, when I look at her know I know that it’s love—that welling in the chest, that knowledge without saying it. I am so happy with her.

When Trump did those tweets my first response to Bree was to ask, “Can’t we just hide, and pretend it’s not happening.” Bree said we couldn’t do that, that I had 48 hours to curl up in a ball and watch The Golden Girls, seasons 1 to 7, with a bag of M&M’s, and then we had work to do. The Golden Girls is my favorite show in the world, ever. It has helped me through so much. If I think, “What would Dorothy do?” we’re good to go. My 8-year-old loves it too. Well, Bree was right. It really helped to have a focus, and fighting for trans service-people made us closer. Maybe that was a turning point for me. It was like, “I can be angry with Bree, I’m her wife. But nobody else better attack her.”

When Bree fully transitioned, it was a huge relief. She wasn’t going back and forth all time. Everyday things about a dual gender life—explaining things to the girls’ school, explaining things to their friends’ parents—suddenly were not an issue. I hadn’t realized how upset all the back and forth had made me. One thing is, I’m definitely more tomboyish. I never felt very feminine. So, watching my husband become a very feminine woman made me question my sexual attractiveness to other people. (Peg laughs) She is more of a girl than I am. The only thing I was afraid of was that we were going to become roommates, The Golden Girls in our old age. The sexual part of our relationship was definitely slower to develop than the emotional part, but in the last 18 months or so I would say it has really come back, and is now active and alive.

I am still very much struggling with my depression and anxiety. There are definitely days when I struggle to get out of bed, but do because my kids need me to. I still have fears—that Bree may not happy be with me, and may find someone else, or that other kids will be mean to my kids. One of my younger daughter’s friend’s cousins messaged her to say she had two moms and her dad had died. I worry our lives and choices will hurt our children, but every parent is terrified of that. When I am beset by all these thoughts, I tell myself, “You have come out of this before, you will come out of it again. You have just got to keep pushing through.”

Our 12-year-old, Kathryn, is outspoken in her support of us. She is so strong and opinionated, and will tell people, “That’s my mom, and that’s my other mom.” She calls Bree, “Maddy,” and says, “My Maddy is happier now than when she was my daddy, and if you don’t like us you don’t need to be part of us.” To hear that coming out of a 12-year-old mouth is amazing. I wish I’d had her confidence when I was 12.

It’s also been brilliant for my children, from a young age, to be surrounded by a large community of LGBTQ, and specifically trans, people who have shown them it’s OK to be who you are.

The great thing is that Bree and I are in a place that’s happy, and I know we will be a happily married couple. It’s also been brilliant for my children, from a young age, to be surrounded by a large community of LGBTQ, and specifically trans, people who have shown them it’s OK to be who you are. I cannot thank these people enough, who have loved my children as if they were their own, taught them wonderful lessons, and helped make them such amazing people. My youngest, Alivya, doesn’t understand why anyone would not be accepting. At the moments when I’m down in “the pit,” I can also see the future will be wonderful, and if I can just get out of the pit it will be so much better.

For the future, I am hoping to go back to school to get a social worker license, or just volunteer. I would love to help other spouses and children who have a partner or loved one transitioning. I didn’t have someone to talk to when I was going through it those first 16 years. If my experience and my traumas and happiness, and going through the process, or even just me sitting and listening, can help anyone that would make me happy and feel like I am contributing to helping someone else. I went through it alone, but you really don’t have to go through this alone.

Fear cannot hold us hostage. It needs to be faced head-on and continually challenged.

I hope my talking here helps people, and gives those in a similar situation the message that your marriage can make it through. It may be bad for a while, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel. You can still be happy together, indeed make a leap to a new kind of life. You can make an entirely new future with the person you love, and that future can be just as great as the previous future you thought you had.

I worry so much how people will perceive me after reading this. Honesty is terrifying. I fear for the future—politically, emotionally, for my children, for my marriage. But that fear cannot hold us hostage. It needs to be faced head-on and continually challenged. In sharing myself this way, I am challenging that fear and winning.

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