As a resident of the nation’s capital, I’ve read plenty of news articles that document the dangers that are a reality for many transgender women. Deoni Jones being stabbed to death last month while she waited at a bus stop is the latest in a series of heart-breaking incidents in and around Washington, D.C., in the last few years.
My knowing about all these horrific crimes made me even more amazed as I read about another phenomenon that the News & Observer in Raleigh, North Carolina, recently reported.
“On Nov. 16, 2010,” read the first-person story, “I drove my husband to Rex Hospital for the facial surgery. Twelve hours later, I brought my wife home.”
The article by a woman named Diane Daniel described how she has remained married to her spouse—a woman named Lina Kok who previously was a man named Wessel Kok—despite Kok’s gender transition. The story was titled “Gender Change: Losing Him, Loving Her.”
Diane Daniel and Wessel Kok had been married only two months when he told her, in 2005, that he wanted to become her wife instead of her husband.
“I detached emotionally and physically” after that conversation, Daniel wrote in the article. “I cried often. I wondered what else he hadn’t revealed. I feared something was wrong with me to attract this kind of mate. I was angry and ashamed.”
Most important, though, Daniel didn’t give up on her marriage.
Daniel, who is 54, found a therapist and joined a transgender support group. Kok, who is 48, did the same. They also began attending transgender events, such as a party that one of the therapists organized in a Raleigh hotel, where they met other women and men who were struggling with the same issues they were.
Telling close friends and family about the transition was “terrifying,” Daniel wrote. The couple had no idea, for example, how Kok’s parents would react to the news. “The first thing they said,” Daniel wrote in the article, “was, ‘You are our child and we love you.’ We sobbed with relief.”
Like many other transgender women who can afford it, Lina Kok consulted with a surgeon about having facial feminization surgery. In this procedure, a surgeon carves out a femininely proportioned version of a previously male face. In Kok’s case, she chose to have her eyebrows raised, her nose made smaller and her chin made more pronounced. She also took estrogen supplements and testosterone blockers that narrowed and softened her face.
“Lina also told her supervisors and colleagues at the medical diagnostics company where she works,” Daniel wrote. “Not only were they supportive, they set a welcoming tone.”
In the article, Daniel made a reference to the physical attacks that many transgender women and men have experienced, writing, “although violence against transgender people is a horrifying reality, Lina and I haven’tfaced it.” She also said, “If people have reacted negatively toward us at all, they’ve kept it to themselves.”
One of the most poignant parts of Daniel’s story came when she articulated why she’s stayed in the marriage. “While the path has been complicated,” she wrote, “the reasons are simple. Love, happiness, comfort. And because the things I admired in Wessel are what I still love about Lina, and, yes, in a romantic way. She is big-hearted, intelligent, emotionally mature, athletic and adventurous. She has great legs.”
By Rodger Streitmatter
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