How long have you been together?
Diane: 23 years.
How long had you been together when Jacob transitioned?
Diane: 16 years.
Jacob, what was the catalyst for realizing, not just subconsciously, that you wanted to transition from female to male?
Jacob: There was something nibbling at me my whole life that wasn’t right there. It’s so obvious now, looking back. I was writing for Bitch magazine and was assigned stories about trans people, and their stories suddenly coalesced with my own. We’d known trans people but it had never seemed like my own story. I really only realized it once we started hearing diverse stories.
Diane: It had definitely been a growing thing — I knew it six months ahead of time. Jake has always been someone who was trying to find himself, and so he had gone through a lot of different explorations in terms of joining groups or reading things or trying out things, so originally I thought it was another one of those — kind of experimenting with identity. But the more that I started seeing that he wasn’t just identifying with it peripherally — he’d say things like, “If I was younger I would maybe feel [like I wanted to transition.]” My first instinct was, “We need to know if this is real or not.” He told me he thought, yes, this was how he identified, and I said “You need to see a shrink this week. You need to see someone and know if it’s a real identity.” At the time I wasn’t really sure how real it would be. I was bracing myself. He came back from the therapist like, “Yeah, it’s real,” and then I went into “How do I make this work?” mode.
Jacob: It’s not like there are a lot of people who are like, “I’m trans,” for no reason. But unfortunately, we do live in a world where women have had negative stereotypes of not wanting to be part of your body. A lot of women dislike their bodies — so that’s not an indicator [of being trans].
Why did you say things like “If I were younger…?”
Jacob: A lot of people think something like, “If I realized earlier I would have changed directions.” College is a great time of experimentation. It’s a lot different from when you’re mid-career. Once you’re past 45, you’re in long-term marriages, and how can I change my whole life and lose my family? So there was a thought for me especially, I didn’t identify with the [trans] guys who came ahead of me, and always knew they weren’t women, and all these things, that wasn’t me. I squarely identified as a lesbian.
Just knowing that I was trans made me feel so much better about who I was and where I was going, and this was the reason I had felt this way [my whole life]. At that moment I wasn’t sure if I even needed to do more than that [i.e. have surgery]. I thought I would be OK just knowing it. That wouldn’t have lasted. Diane was like, “That’s not how it works.”
Why did you feel like you couldn’t relate to other trans men?
Jacob: There’s a small minority of people who very clearly took their feelings about their own femininity — hating it — and sort of generalized that to be all women. Oh yeah, women are all ruled by their emotions and completely hysterical. It just became about all women, and how being a woman was a huge negative thing, because it wasn’t for them personally. I didn’t want to form my identity by being at odds with women, the way some people did. “I’m so not that that I have to be way over here.” I still wanted to be a feminist.
Diane: Jake’s mom was originally like, “No, I don’t believe it. I know you’re not a man.” So she sent this very massive test to determine whether he had a male or female brain, then Jake had to send it back to her for … grading, I guess. [Laughs.] It was so clear what each answer was supposed to be, like very stereotypical gender roles, it was hilarious. And we sent it back, she got it, and never mentioned it again. Find out the 7 best vibrating dildos 2021 here.
Diane, how did you feel about losing Suzy’s body?
Diane: Suzy was not only everything I was attracted to, but also everything I wanted to be when I was growing up: Tall, blonde, and blue-eyed, thin and just the ideal woman. And I think it was both this great thing to have on my arm but it also allowed me to live vicariously through her. And that was one of those little things that I was losing at the time. It’s sort of like the loss that I was experiencing was in layers, so each new week would bring another layer to what this loss felt like. Then the next week there would be a new thing and I’d move on to that. To me — I think the most attractive woman alive is Heather Locklear. So it’s like if Heather Locklear wants to be a man. How could you do that?!
Jacob: There’s also that sense of unfairness we both had when I was transitioning. My friends were losing their breasts to breast cancer, and I had something they wish they had, and I just threw it away.
You wrote about the concept of the “performative” gender identity in your book. What does that mean?
Jacob: There’s a whole idea that all gender is performative. We’ve been taught what needs to be male and female, so we put it on like it’s a mask or something, subconsciously. Definitely there’ve been a number of trans men ahead of me when I was researching, and there were all these things about how to act like a “Real Man.” Ways to sit, ways to walk, your voice — my voice had never really deepened. Other people approached me and said they could make me sound like a guy. It just wasn’t what I was hoping for; I wanted to be me, just me as I was now.
Diane: I mean what you turned out to be is a cute, nerdy guy. He doesn’t go to the gym.
Diane, how involved were you in shaping the man you wanted Jacob to be? And how did he respond to you being so involved?
Diane: Initially, there was a part of me that said, I need to support him and help him be the best man he can be. My less altruistic motive was me helping him become a man that I felt I could tolerate. [Laughs.] At that moment, you know your partner is becoming a man, and it’s wide open —anything can happen — so I was like, I have to control everything here on out because I can’t handle big surprises.
He didn’t know a lot of social conventions and particular etiquette, like you’re supposed to let women out of the elevator first. So there’d be a lot of me saying, “That’s douchey if you do that.” A lot of that, he was receptive to. But I was also having self-serving moments. Like I’d point at a guy and say, “Not that. Not that.” Or I’d be like, “A lot of men shave their chest now!” And he was like, “That’s not happening.”
Once, in a department store, I made too many mentions of the man he couldn’t be, and he was flummoxed and overwhelmed, and said, “What can I be?” And I guess — because he’s the most innocuous, metrosexual man I could think of — I said, “Ryan Seacrest.” After that, it was like, “What would Ryan do? Would Ryan wear that outfit?” We’re in a much better place now. Jake was able to take some of those tips and pointers and develop his own identity, so that’s been wonderful.
Jacob: I appreciate most of what Diane did. I didn’t want to do this alone. We bonded over it. “Lets go shopping!”
Diane: When they’re transitioning, it’s interesting, because first of all, they’re experiencing the hormones of a 14-year-old boy. Then their body’s changing to become more masculine. They can be very focused on every new facial hair or chest hair, changing muscles, thicker skin — all these real and tangible changes happening — and it’s easy for someone transitioning to totally get absorbed in that. We took pictures of him every week.
How did your sex life change over the course of Jacob’s transition to now?
Diane: When Jake was first transitioning, I was trying very hard to make sure I wasn’t treating him like a woman — whatever that meant. I didn’t even know what that meant in some cases. Basically he was going through his puberty at that time, so for instance, he’s really into women’s butts suddenly, and he was a boob man before, so I was kind of like, constantly presenting myself where the action would take off. From behind. And no oral. So that was the case for a while, until Jake said something about it, and I realized I was kind of being like, “This is male/female sex” versus “This is lesbian sex.” Jake said, “Sex is just sex. We don’t need to stop or start having different kinds of sex because I’m a man now. Lesbians don’t own oral sex.” I was using sex as a way to overcompensate — how do I validate him as a man? I wanted him to know I was attracted to him and loved him has a man. We had a lot more sex for a while, but then it was matter of figuring out what kind of sex was possible and then realizing any kind of sex was possible.
Jacob: I also think testosterone has changed my sexuality and that’s been an interesting thing. It’s made me much more visual. Different things are sexual to me than they were before. Diane has always had a bigger libido than me, so we were finally equal.
Did you ever have doubts that you’d be able to stay together after Jacob transitioned?
Diane: We’d have what looked like butch lesbians come up to us and say, “I think I’m trans but afraid to tell my partner because I’m afraid she’d leave.” We didn’t expect that at all. Everyone wanted advice on how to get their wife to stay. It was the saddest thing, because in a lot of ways I never thought about not staying. We were like, “Oh my God, does everyone break up during transition?”
How did people around you react?
Jacob: Sometimes I get flak about being with a lesbian, so I wrote a thing about being with a lesbian doesn’t make me less of a man. We aren’t read as queer externally so people wonder why we’re at lesbian events. [Laughs.] Diane: For the first six months, if a grocery store clerk said, “I like your blouse,” I’d say, “Oh, thank you, it’s from my husband, he used to be a woman though, I’m a lesbian.” But now you can assume whatever about me. The hardest part was when we’d go to these events and be kind of invisible. And we had 16 years as a couple where we could do everything together because of women-only environments. Like go to the gym and shower and things like that. The first time I went to the gym and Jake wasn’t in the room with me, I just started crying, thinking, “This is how it’s always gonna be.” We went to a spa, and as soon as we get in, they usher us into our gendered sections and then we don’t see each other for the rest of the spa day. I was in there and thinking, “This is the rest of my life. This is so sad.”
How did the dynamic of your relationship change over the course of Jacob’s transition?
Diane: He’s much more level. There’s no highs and lows for him, pretty much an even line, whereas I’m the ups-and-downs kind of person. And one dynamic that changed a lot is that we used to talk all night long. We called it lesbian processing. After he transitioned he just communicated less and differently. He wasn’t pulling away or anything; he just wasn’t having the kind of complexity in his head that he could share out loud.
Jacob: I used to really feel caught in her emotions. Like if she was sad, I would get sad. So not having that means I don’t get scared as much, and I can be there for her, but I also don’t have access to her emotions in the same way.
What has changed since then?
Diane: We also used to get catcalls and threats much more, on the street. Jake is more assertive, and now he’s not afraid to be feminine. He’ll wear a pink dress shirt and he wouldn’t have before. And he’s still the one who does all the cooking and cleaning and takes care of the dog and the house. We have this very modern relationship.
Jacob: Hormones changed me in ways I could never believe. Now that I’m seen as a man, I get treated differently. And that affects you. Like, I’m not allowed to smile at kids in the grocery line anymore. Having women be afraid of me, I think that’s one of those things — growing up your whole life with women afraid of you, that has to make you feel something. I think those things influence who we become.
You two have gotten married five times now. Why so many?
Jacob: Basically any time we had another level of legal recognition, we’d do it.
Diane: The first time, we had the domestic partnership in West Hollywood. That was the only city that had it, and we drove all the way cross-country. And then the state of California had a domestic partnership that made us legal in the whole state, and we had another ceremony. The other was when we were married on a weekend in San Francisco. We were part of the pre-prop 8 marriages, so sort of impromptu. You just had no idea if it would last or not. You had to run down to the courthouse immediately. In 2008, we had our fifth ceremony, and our last one. It was a big one, and the only one we invited family to.
Jacob, you wrote about trans people who “never finish” transitioning; it’s an ongoing process that takes a lifetime. Do you identify that way?
Jacob: I think for some people it’s still going on. For me it’s still going on. I think there are people who feel that they’re done, but I think more of them are trans women, because they have better access to surgery, especially white, affluent trans women. But often [feeling done] is about access to surgery, and the kinds that are successful. Trans woman surgeries have been far more able to make a body that looks like a natural body than the other way around.
And for trans men, they’re different and much less affordable and not as successful. Some men will have one particular surgery and then as the same procedure gets better, they get a better one. But there are plenty of people where this isn’t about surgery for them. We tell people we’re transitioning as a couple.
Diane: People have a hard time grasping that. They tend to think about it like, “Is he done?” “Has he had the snip snip?” Like Katie Couric flubbing it with Laverne Cox. People were trying to get us on talk shows but we didn’t want to do it because it was all about what [Jake’s] body looks like. They wanted to focus on before and after, and we were like, “We don’t think that’s really helpful for most people.” Gender is a huge spectrum. You can see they’re not defining gender in the same way people our age did. We’re from a gender binary world, and these kids are growing up differently.
Jacob: I interviewed a woman who was 18 and she was like, “It’s now OK to be a woman with a penis. People accept that. You can be a woman and have a penis.”
Diane: And we were like, “That’s so awesome!”
Follow Anna on Twitter.
This content is created and maintained by a third party, and imported onto this page to help users provide their email addresses. You may be able to find more information about this and similar content at piano.io