I want to start this post with a big "THANK YOU!" You guys are awesome! I received some great questions and beautiful emails. I really appreciate the time you all take to reach out to me and share your stories and ask your questions. Some of you have brought me to tears, some of you have made me laugh, and with others I respected your honesty and could feel your heart. Each one of you have come to me with your comments, from a place of love. I couldn’t have asked for more! So, thank you for your patience and support while I took the time to write this all out. I tried to answer all of the questions you had - a lot of you had the same questions, but I compiled the ones I thought would paint the best picture of understanding.
Without further ado…
Questions on Kris’ transition:
(In this Q & A I am going refer to Kris as “he” throughout. Also, this is going to be from my perspective. There will be another post later from Kris’ perspective.)
Q: Have you known all along that Kris wanted to identify as male?
A: Yes; from the very beginning of our relationship, Kris has been very open and honest with me about how he felt. He told me from the start of things getting serious between us that he felt like he was trapped in the wrong body. He told me straight up that he was "a male stuck in a female body". I know this was hard for him, especially in the beginning, because he didn’t want to scare me away and it made him feel super vulnerable. He had lived most of his life in shame for feeling this way, and fear controlled him. He never felt like he was enough (it breaks my heart to write that!). At that point he had never told anyone else this truth about himself. That's where our relationship took off and grew on a firm foundation. He trusted me with something that could make or break our relationship. Honesty and transparency was something he valued so much that even though it terrified him to vocalize his truth to me, he had to do it. He didn’t want to start our relationship without that clean slate. I couldn’t help but find that very attractive. I was already physically attracted, but this was a huge turning point for me. I was so attracted to his vulnerability and honesty. I believe those are key ingredients to build trust in a relationship. So, after he opened up those doors and let me in... I was head over heels. Those were things I wanted and I needed from him and it sealed the deal on our relationship. Even though it was very interesting and a bit confusing to me at first (it was foreign territory and I had never thought about what it meant to be transgender before that point), I was so open to learning and trying to understand. I wanted to help Kris see what I saw in him - that he was amazing and so beautiful! HE WAS ENOUGH! I always felt like he was too good to be true! How did I get so lucky to call him mine? I wanted to understand his pain and what it must be like to be “trapped” in your own body, feeling like you were never “seen for who you really are”. I couldn’t imagine growing up despising what I saw in the mirror (beyond the usual, "I need to lose weight" or "I have a poor complexion"), frustrated that it would never match how I felt on the inside. As much as I tried to understand and relate, I couldn’t - but I tried, and I never stop trying. I wanted to be his rock. I wanted to give him a safe place to land. I wanted to give him the love and kindness I knew he deserved. I had never met a more humble, caring, selfless, and gentle soul in my life.
Since that point, I have grown so much for the better because I was willing to take the time to learn about someone who was different from me and try to understand their perspective. I tried to stop focusing so much on myself and what I think is the “right way” and learn that there is more than one right way to this life. I learned that our love and respect for each other is enough. I was willing to stay on that path and took a chance, and I found so much love and hope. I learned to meet people at a place where there is only love. A love of differences. I had so many realizations at that point in time that my brain did a 360. Those realizations still ring true today. We are all so different, and it's supposed to be that way! It’s when I had the “a-ha” moment of, “We are meant to be colorful”, “Different is good” and “LOVE CONQUERS ALL”!
Q: When did Kris start his transition & how did he approach you about it?
A: Kris started his transition little by little. 2008 is when he had a first major change in his appearance - he removed his breasts. There was more than one reason why he wanted to do this. He knew that he didn’t want them to be a part of him and saw them as a reminder of being in the wrong body, but also he wanted to eliminate the possibility of getting breast cancer, one of the types of cancer that run in his family. At that point, after the surgery, he started to dress more manly and started being more gender neutral. That is where I thought the changes would stop and be good enough; no chest and wearing manly clothes… But, over time you could tell that for Kris, he still wanted more, he just didn’t know how to do that or if he could or ever would take that next step. Over the next several years he would confuse many people, not sure if Kris was male or female. He looked like a man for the most part… he still had long, bleached out, curly surfer hair, which could be seen as either gender (but more on the manly side of the spectrum for sure). But, his voice was still too high to be recognized as a male. We would go to restaurants and stores and everyone would refer to him as "Sir", "Mr.", and "man" until they would hear him talk - then you could see their wheels turn and they would start to wonder if they got it right or if they just made a mistake. It was hilarious for me to watch their embarrassment, because I could see right through them, but I also understood why they were confused. Kris, on the other hand, never noticed and never gave it a second thought. He was always pretty oblivious to that part, unless someone really messed up bad and made it super awkward (for themselves, not Kris). Kris never got offended, luckily for them! He has always been so understanding of people that way. No judgement - just the way he wanted to be treated. I thought we would stay in that gray area forever. I never saw it changing. This also made it so that over time, I became neutral in the way I viewed Kris. I didn’t see him as male or female. I just loved Kris, my person! I stopped using pronouns for a while and adjusted to just using “Kris”. This was a big adjusting time for me because, before our relationship, I just saw “her” and thought “she” wasn’t feminine, “she” was more of a “Tomboy” and I was very attracted to her. So, I had to change the way I saw her and view her as gender neutral, almost like non-gender. I have to say, this took time! It was my first real mind adjustment. I made plenty of mistakes and said things that were hurtful and offensive, I am sure… but I am not perfect and this was new territory! The thing that kept our relationship alive in the first few years was the unconditional love and forgiveness we had for each other. It wasn’t until we started to have kids that Kris became more concerned about making a more permanent change - to become a trans man. He works at a high school with lots of teenagers, where he saw a “rare few” start to make the transition between genders. He would ask a lot of questions around their transition to learn as much as possible about transitioning and also he wanted to help them however he could on their academic journey. Eventually, with the new details he had, he wanted the transition for himself. He had gathered a lot of the info involved with starting Testosterone, (what the process looked like, and who the doctor to go to was here in Utah…there is pretty much only one doctor, “The Doctor”).
We had our son, Boston, and I was pregnant with our second, Brooklyn, when he came to me and said he wanted to make “the change”. He was ready! I wasn’t surprised, but I did have the thought, “Why now? We have made it this far, things seem to be going great! I am comfortable with how life is now and I don’t really know what this means." He told me that he was saddened that Boston, our son who was 2 years old at the time, didn’t know if Kris was a boy or a girl. We would occasionally ask him, “Is mom a boy or a girl?” and he could answer right away, “GIRL!” We would do this questioning with a few other friends or family members and he could answer right away. But, when we would ask him about Kris’ gender, he would go silent and not answer. He wasn’t sure. This didn’t bother me, but it broke Kris’ heart. He didn’t want to be a confusion to our children. So, this led to making an appointment a few months later, after we had our baby, Brooklyn. Three months after Brooklyn was born we met with “The Doctor” and had our first consultation. It went really well and everything happened super fast from there. Kris started to take Testosterone in July 2016, and boy did the changes happen fast!
Q: Are you supportive in this transition Kris has chosen?
A: I am! I am his biggest cheerleader! I believe it is SO important to be who you are and not live in fear. Living in fear isn’t healthy for anyone! Fear and hope can not reside together. I try my best to stay focused on hope and being present, that is what brings me a lot of happiness every day and in our relationship. I can tell when my focus changes to fear and the feelings of despair and darkness that come with it. It is easy to get stuck there... We all deserve happiness by living our most authentic lives. You only have one life to live, so live it on purpose, in your truest form - for you and not for anyone else! That might sound selfish to some, but what I mean is that you can’t live your life to please everyone else. It is impossible! You can try and try to make them all happy, but you can’t win them all! (You will set yourself up to lose every time.) I think the people who are meant to be in your life are going accept, love, and be happy for you and your happiness. If they are meant to be in your life then they will stay in it! Otherwise, they are free to leave at any time. No one should try to force a relationship or understanding. In my case, Kris never force me to understand. He never got mad that there was a lot in the beginning that I didn’t get. He never demanded that I understand how he felt and he gave me lots of time. SO MUCH TIME! He was super patient and loving toward me as I accepted the journey and asked a million questions. The best way for me to understand someone is trying to see things from their perspective, and the best way to get someone's perspective is to ask questions - lots of them! I consider this one of my strongest gifts and it might be a little bit annoying too… I have always found it easy to imagine myself in someone else’s shoes, because I ask question after question until I have a good picture of whatever it is I am trying to imagine. Good thing Kris is very patient and never pushy. I do want add, though, that when I found out later in our relationship that I was the one who needed to give him the shots of testosterone, once a week…it was almost a deal breaker! I am terrified of needles and it was the hardest thing for me to get over that gut-wrenching fear of putting a needle into his arm (insert chills here). Before being pregnant and having to get my own blood drawn, I couldn’t even look at a needle. All I can say is he better realize how much I love him! I wouldn’t get over my paralyzing fear for just anyone. That is true love, ladies and gentlemen! I am proud to say that I am almost completely over my fear! I still get a feeling in the pit of my stomach every time I have to give him his shot, but I can work with it. And now, I feel like I can consider myself a professional! (HA! J/K!) So, to answer this question, I think there has been a lot of support coming from me to Kris in the transition... But, I also have received so much support from him.
Q: Do you care how far he goes in his transition?
A: Honestly, I just want Kris to be happy! I want him to love who he is and feel confident in his own skin. That is the goal! I want him to look in the mirror and love what he sees and feel like he isn’t scared. I asked him the other night while we were laying in bed if he has reached that point - I am proud to say that he is well on his way! He has never felt more confident and happy with himself. When he was telling me this, I couldn’t help but tear up. It gave me the goosebumps! I know that it’s hard for him to look in the mirror and not see all the little imperfections in himself, but from where I am sitting, he is perfect. He is perfect for me! He is who he is meant to be. He is my person! He is my everything! He doesn’t repulse me in any way - I am still very attracted to him. I just had to alter the way I see him, a little bit at a time, day by day. He still is the same person, just with some new quirks, but nothing I can’t work with. I think the fact that he is happy with who he is now, it's that confidence that brings me the most joy. Through this journey we have only grown closer. We had to push through the hard and ugly to get where we are. It hasn’t been all rainbows and butterflies. It has been a total learning curve, but I love adventure and this has been nothing less!
As for right now, I think we are at a point of contentment. I don’t think Kris has any plans to transition, physically, any further than where we are right now. With that being said, I have learned to say, “Never say never!” We are in the process right now of doing a name and gender change for his driver's license and all legal documents, so wish us luck! All the logistics are so tricky! I will keep you all updated on that when it’s finished.
Q: How did you adjust to the transition? What obstacles/hiccups did you guys go through as a couple and individually?
A: It has been a very slow transition. Luckily for me, that has kept everything in bite-sized pieces, easy to chew and swallow. I am not saying that this slow pace works for everyone, but it has worked for us. It helped keep Kris and me on the same page. I truly appreciated the slow pace because it kept me in a place of understanding.
At first, one of the hardest obstacles was transitioning from saying “she” to “he”. Even though in most conversations I had about Kris, I would just refer to him as “Kris” and not use a pronoun, eventually it made more sense to start using “he”. When I was around people who knew him as “her”, I had to really think before I spoke around them. I messed up a lot, and sometimes I still do! But, I am doing my best and Kris realizes it is hard and it's not going to be perfect. What matters is that I am trying. I am now at a point where it is so weird to say “she”, it feels wrong. And so it goes in life, time heals everything!
The shots!!! You guys, the shots have been a huge adjustment for me. I've gone from being so terrified that I couldn’t even look at the needle to giving a shot in the arm once a week! Huge learning and growing opportunity for me.
As a couple, I think the only thing that has changed noticeably is Kris’ sexual drive…TMI?? The Testosterone has kicked that area up, like, 100%. I have to laugh because that is A LOT of personal info right there, but it’s reality and I am being honest. (Kris, please don't kill me!) That was a huge adjustment for me. Being a tired mom with two littles and all of the sudden having to use what energy I had left at the end of the night just about killed me at first, but again, adjustments were made and we are both on the same page there too... (Wink!)
My biggest recommendations for anyone in any relationship is communication. Transparency is key! I try to be as transparent with Kris as possible so he never has any questions about what I am thinking or what my stance is on different topics (probably to a fault, I have no filter…). I have actually had to learn to be more sensitive in our relationship. Kris has always been the tender-hearted one and he is my constant reminder to be more soft, gentle, and kind. I have learned, and am still learning, to think before I speak, as I would never want to hurt anyone's feelings on purpose.
Q: How did you share the news with family and friends? What were some of the reactions you got?
A: When we finally made the decision to transition and started tell friends and family, I think everyone was a little shocked (but not too shocked). Anyone who knows Kris knows he has been more masculine than feminine since…always. I would say most of them probably saw it coming and were happy for Kris. I know there were others who thought, "Why fully transition now?", but they were few. We tried to tell everyone little by little on a need to know basis. Kris doesn’t like attention and didn’t want to make a public announcement. The only BIG announcement he did was at the high school where he worked. He sent an email out to all of his co-workers, just to make sure everyone was aware of the changes - especially for name's sake. They received the email really well, and from that point forward, everyone at work started to call him "Mr. Packer" or "Kris" instead of "Kristin". They all started to use the correct pronouns, too ("he" and "him") with some understandable mistakes here and there. It happened really smoothly, luckily! It was amazing, really! Even the parents and students that he worked with were supportive, or at least respectful to him. What more could you ask for?
For the most part, the reactions we got were all similar from both family and close friends. We got lots of, “Really? OK!” and, “Wow, that’s great!”, but there were a few others that were sad, thinking that this change meant that Kris would be different, that he wouldn’t be “Kristin” anymore. (I can totally understand that side of things and had a little bit of those same sad feelings in the beginning. It was a feeling of mourning the loss of someone you love for the birth of someone totally new and different…lots of uncertainties.) This change brought lots of new territory, but for the most part Kris has stayed the same loving person he has always been in his head and in his heart. The biggest shocks have been the physical ones!
Kris looks so much like his dad now, it’s kind of crazy. I don’t think most people knew what to expect in the pshyical changes, but I know lots of them have been shocked at how handsome he is. Honestly, before we began the transition, I would joke with Kris that he was going to come out on the other side looking like Smeagle from The Lord of the Rings…HA! I was nervous about him losing hair, getting acne, having a different voice, and becoming hormonally crazy. I think anything is an upgrade from Smeagle, but I have to say that I am shocked at how attracted I am to this new Kris. (even though he has A LOT more hair now... everywhere!)
Q: How did you explain this to the kids?
A: Because our children are still so young, they don’t even realize there was a change in Kris, and I don’t think they would understand what we meant if we tried to explain it. No questions have been asked from them yet, but I am sure that they will happen down the road at some point. For now, they have no clue. When the time comes. We plan to be as transparent and honest with them as possible.
Q: What kind of support groups did you reach out to, if any?
A: In this area we both could have totally done 100% better. I think support is so important! Surrounding yourself with people who love and support who you are can be life-saving! We haven’t been in connection with any programs, with the exception of Encircle in Provo, UT. I have recently started working there to be more involved in the community and to help however I can, especially with the individuals who relate to our story. Kris, working at the high school level, feels like that is his area to give as much as he can to help others in a similar situation. But, to be honest, we haven’t really sought out our own support group outside of each other. I think this is due to the fact that we have been so busy with other things that we didn’t make it a priority, but I wish we would have! It is always so amazing to connect with like-minded individuals who uplift and inspire. It gives so much hope!
Encircle is a great place to look into if you are in Utah: 91 W 200 S Provo, UT. 84601
Q: Do you think being a lesbian helped you understand where he was coming from?
A: Maybe? I am not 100% sure if it has. I feel like being transgender is something so different than what being a lesbian is. I can relate to the pain that comes from being misunderstood or treated like you are different, but over all, I can’t relate to what it must be like to feel like I am the wrong gender or in the wrong body. I am attracted to women because that is what feels right to me. Kris describes being transgender like he is attracted to the opposite sex, which is seen as “normal”, but his body hasn’t matched up with his mind until most recently.
Q: Do you think you were attracted to females when you met Kris? If so, how were you able to transition your own attraction from female to male?
A: This might be confusing for some, but I feel like I am attracted to the person more than anything, not the gender. It doesn’t become a gender attraction for me until things get more physical and intimate. I can’t get there intimately with a male - it’s like I hit a wall! Luckily with Kris, he isn’t all male…if you know what I mean! He is still attractive to me because our chemistry hasn’t changed through the whole process. I don’t feel like the transition has changed my overall attraction from females to males. I am still attracted to women more than men. With that said, I have to be honest and say that since we cut Kris’ hair and he started to rock it dark, it has SHOCKED me how much I like it! I think it looks so dang good! I never thought I would say that! I have always been so attracted to the long, curly, bleached surfer hair look. It really has surprised me that I am even more attracted to Kris now. Maybe because the transition has been so slow, I was ready for it. Maybe it is the fact that it has given Kris more confidence and I find that part more attractive. I love seeing him feel alive and see that light shine out of him! Feeling confident and comfortable in your own skin is super sexy, I don’t care who you are, own it!
Q: Do you both get hung up on the labels (Lesbian, Gay, Transgender ect.) or just two people who love each other and that’s good enough?
A: I can’t stand labels, honestly. They drive me crazy. I realize as human beings we try to understand each other through labels, but somewhere along the way, labels create the need for boxes and they divided us! (I am sure the person who thought up the first labels loved organization…) Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE BEING ORGANIZED. But, I believe that we are all imperfect humans on this one earth - here to connect, support, and love each other and our differences. We are not to be separated into separate boxes because of those same differences, we are here to learn tolerance and acceptance for ourselves, but mostly others. WE ARE MEANT TO BE COLORFUL! That is the only label I want to be hung up on!
Kris is my human, LOVE is LOVE, and I am grateful we all different! Let’s stop with the labels, shall we?