(Artwork by me, watercolor and ink)

–Warning, some sex talk

Not so long ago, I was married to a man.

My sexuality has always been confusing to me. I knew my desires were probably normal. I’ve never been interested in anything really taboo or kinky. I just knew I was attracted to women– but in a visceral, sexually explicit way. The problem was, I didn’t have the configuration for that.

So, the next best thing was– marry someone that I had a good friendship connection with, and the rest will follow. I wasn’t, and am still not, a lesbian. The idea of a lesbian relationship felt very wrong to me. My mind likes and enjoys sex. Really, really likes it. But, it likes it in a very masculine way. I have an active imagination and since I hit puberty, it constantly thinks of naughty images. My thoughts confused me, because they did– in fact– involve a man. But the roles were reversed. I longed to be in the male role. That’s why role-playing online appealed to me. I got to pretend to be a man through an avatar and live out my fantasies.

“We both kept secrets from each other,” I said to my Depression, in regards to my ex. “We both hid who we were.”

“You could have been more honest,” he said coolly.

“I didn’t even know how to verbalize my problems,” I replied, my tone bitter and mixed with pain. “I didn’t know how to say, ‘I don’t want to be a woman.’ And besides, there is nothing I can do about it, even if I don’t like it. It seemed like a useless conversation to have. It is like being upset that the sky is blue.”

We sat across from each other on the bed, the very kind of place that my husband and I once shared. But this bed belonged to my wife and I.It was a large bed, the comforter a splashes of greens and browns. The sun slid through the window and stained the sheets. It was a much warmer place than my old bed. In my previous marital bed, we never slept together at night. Due to his medical issues, I spent each night on the couch. I’m a very, very sensitive sleeper and can’t stand even the smallest noise, especially snoring. I remembered being lonely in the darkness. I longed to share a bed with my spouse. It seemed like many things used to separate us.

“You hurt him,” Depression scolded me, like sudden strike across the face. I knew better than to take this lying down.

“It was a mutual hurt. He kept a lot of secrets from me.”

“You did, too,” Depression said.

I met my wife online through role-playing. When we began, we didn’t know one another’s face, gender, or age. All we had was writing. Stories. Fantasies. It was more than just sex– that was just the bonus. We connected in a way where our souls sang in harmony. She liked to draw, to paint. We had everything in common, and yet were so completely opposite. It seemed so many things drew us together.

I shook my head. “His lies were intentional. Mine weren’t. I didn’t lie to him. I didn’t have a face or a name to my problem. It was only after talking to my now wife for hours and hours did my identity come to a head. She knew the word for the feeling I had. We talked about it. She had dated transgender people before. He had been married to me for ten years. She knew me for a few months. And then, after meeting each other, she immediately noticed that being around me wasn’t like being around a woman. It was like she knew my soul, inside and out, in under just a few hours. She was actually scared to talk to me about it.”

I had never even heard the word ‘transgender’ until I was in my late 20’s. And besides, my sexual thoughts always involved a man, so I must be straight. I liked my husband well enough. We had always gotten along.

There were problems, though. They were just never talked about. I didn’t feel like I had much of an identity as a woman, since I didn’t feel like one. I thought, perhaps, it was a lack of self-esteem. I tried to lose a lot of weight to find it, buried underneath my layers of fat. Yet, after my bariatric surgery, it still wasn’t there.

Depression paused and stared at me. His non-face, his undulating darkness, seemed to wither.

“She said she was really, really frightened of offending me, especially since I had talked about struggling with my identity as a woman. She didn’t want to tell her new girlfriend, ‘you don’t act like a woman at all.’”

“And then you dressed as a man for Halloween.”

“I had never been so happy in all of my life,” I whispered, hanging my head low. “I had never felt attractive before until that very day.” I sighed. It was true. When you’re a person born with a different person’s face on your head, feeling attractive seemed impossible. That’s how being transgender feels, it feels like you were born body-swapped. Having self-esteem seemed like a dream belonging to other people. How can you feel good about yourself? It is a sick joke.

“She said it was the first time I ever looked happy.. when I dressed up as a man.”

We role-played for nearly a year before finding out what each other looked like. But, our avatars, our characters were in love. It was a whirlwind mix of fantasy that bleed into reality. I told him that I had feelings for her. I knew what I was doing was dishonest. I was both heartbroken and in love.

“Do you regret anything?” Depression wondered, oddly curious. His long, oily tendrils seemed calm today. His darkness was soft, and his voice like hissing, sweet smoke.

“No. Absolutely not,” I said, even knowing my decisions had left a trail of ashes and pulled, wrenched earth. “I was honest, finally. I don’t think you should ever apologize once you start being truly honest in who you are and what you believe.”

“Yes,” slithered Depression, before he vanished that day. I was left alone on the bed, the morning sun finally shining through the window. It burned away the ill feeling I had, knowing that tomorrow was likely another talk.