A transgender dad revealed what it was like coming to terms with his gender identity and what it meant for his family.
But the journey to Chris’ coming out as transgender wasn’t an easy one.
Chris, now 36 years old, explained: ‘At 21, I came out as a lesbian. I was attracted to women [so] I assumed that was what I was.’
During this period – around ten years ago – Chris met Chelsea at their local Middletown, New York bar. Chelsea worked part-time at the bar, which held a weekly LGBTI night.
Chris only went to the bar that night because his long distance girlfriend at the time wanted him to make friends with other couples.
Chris said: ‘I brought my sister with me and we walked in and Chelsea was the first person to greet us.’
Over the course of that night, Chelsea’s boss was trying to flirt with Chris’ sister, so Chelsea had to be the wingwoman.
Chelsea said: ‘He sent me as a decoy to distract Chris, so then my boss could talk to his sister. That’s the only reason we started talking.
‘If my boss didn’t tell me to talk to you, it probably would never have happened,’ she said.
Chris kept coming back to the bar with friends of his. Chelsea joked: ‘He was already hooked because he would come back every night.’
Chris then revealed he deliberately got into a fight with his girlfriend about wanting her to come visit more often.
When they broke up, he went back to the Middletown bar that same night.
He told Chelsea: ‘I just got dumped – I’m so heartbroken! Here’s my number’.
A whirlwind romance
After Chris gave Chelsea his number, Chelsea’s friend called him to ask him out.
Chris explained: ‘I’m on my couch watching TV and I get a phone call.
‘[Chelsea’s friend] was like “hey, what’re you doing tonight?’ And I was like “nothing” and she said “great, meet in 40 minutes’ and that’s how it went,’ Chris said.
The pair revealed in the early stages of their relationship, it moved very quickly. They met in September and became engaged by December that same year.
But not everything went according to plan.
Chris went to the jeweller to pick out a surprise engagement ring for Chelsea and absent-mindedly gave them his home phone number instead of his mobile number.
They ended up calling when Chris was out, so Chelsea picked up the phone.
She explained: ‘So the jeweller called my phone saying “your piece is ready – can you please let Chris know?” So I did that and I acted like I didn’t know what that meant, because I knew you wanted to surprise me.
‘I knew it was coming,’ Chelsea admitted.
After Chris picked up the ring, he had a subtle plan to propose.
Chris explained: ‘She would always sleep with her left hand on my chest, so I had this thought – a big secret plan. I got her ring size and I got my mom’s ring and then I just slipped it on her hand.
‘I wish I would’ve said the words “Will you marry me?” but I didn’t, I just slipped it on her hand,’ Chris said.
The pair tied the knot two years later in Connecticut.
Journey to parenthood
Chelsea has two children – Xavier, 16, and Dyleena, 14 – from a previous marriage.
But Chris wanted to create a child of his own with Chelsea. About two years after they got married, Chris planted the seed of having their own child.
‘She kept saying she was done,’ Chris jokingly said. ‘And then over time, I kind of wore her down.
‘Our friends had a little girl and they told us we needed a baby. So that really made Chelsea take a second look at it,’ Chris said.
Chelsea explained her own thought process behind it all: ‘I was pregnant before but I never had an experience where I had a supportive partner throughout the pregnancy and agreeing to raise the child.
‘I figured this could be my last chance to do it the right way, where I’m actually planning it,’ she said.
The couple tried intrauterine insemination (IUI) – the process of inserting sperm into the womb. They chose a donor who closely matched the characteristics of Chris and Chelsea would carry the baby.
They tried four rounds of IUI but were unsuccessful with every attempt.
Chris and Chelsea took a break for about a year to reevaluate. The couple then decided to try in vitro fertilization (IVF) and it was successful on their first attempt.
Baby Carter was born in July 2015.
Affirming your gender identity
A year after Carter was born, Chris came out as transgender.
‘I always knew I was different,’ Chris said. ‘Growing up with two sisters and later a little brother, I was never into the typical “girl” things.
‘I refused to wear dresses at two years old. I was skateboarding when my sister was practicing dance with her friends,’ Chris said.
It wasn’t until he went to an LGBTI health conference that he had a lightbulb moment about his gender identity.
Chris explained: ‘There was an older woman who resembled my body type in attendance and in an instant, I had a revelation.
‘I knew at that point that continuing to inhabit that female body that I was never connected to for the next 20+ years could not be my future,’ he said.
He then came out to his wife as transgender and they began couple’s therapy to help them work through the transition period.
The transgender dad began his physical transition in 2016.
Coming out as transgender with a family
On transitioning, Chris said he wanted to do it the right way.
He said: ‘It was a lot of pressure of doing my transition “correctly” for my family.
‘At times, it felt like I had to rush to get my stuff together because I had my family at stake. After about six months into medically transitioning, that changed once I began to feel comfortable in my body and living my truth,’ he said.
But for Chelsea, it was also an adjustment.
‘The only challenge I have faced thus far is maintaining my identity though Chis’ transition,’ she explained. ‘Looking at us from the outside, we would appear to be a heterosexual couple.
‘It doesn’t necessarily bother me, except for in the instance where I am trying to stay connected to the LGBTI community because I still identify as lesbian.
‘Yes, a lesbian who just happens to be married to a trans man,’ she said.
Both Xavier and Dyleena understood the concept of mom liking girls. So Chris said when he came out as transgender, it ‘wasn’t a shocker for the family’.
Dyleena would even research along with Chris by watching YouTube videos of other FTM trans-experiences and procedures.
The transgender dad then explained: ‘Carter’s understanding is I’m daddy and Chelsea’s mommy. If she sees any old photos of me, she asks who’s that? She hasn’t connected it yet.
‘She’s very, very smart. It’s not going to take long for her to figure things out.
‘And then I’ll explain it along the way,’ he said.
Where to go from here?
The loved-up couple say it’s not been an easy journey to get where they are today.
Chelsea said: ‘The hardest challenge is due to the fact that we are a blended family. If parenting children was not hard enough, the older two are both high-functioning autistic.’
Earlier this year, the couple also noticed Carter had a cough and fever that just wouldn’t clear up.
Chris explained what happened next: ‘One day, I remember zipping up her jacket and I caught her neck a little bit with the zipper. Then I noticed a little freckle.
‘Over time, I saw another freckle and then another freckle and I’m thinking I’m just catching her in the jacket,’ he said.
Then he noticed there was a freckle in the white of Carter’s eye. He was immediately concerned so he took her to the paediatrician for some blood tests.
Chris then revealed they got home from the doctor’s office and about 10 minutes later, they got the news that they need to come back to the emergency room immediately.
Doctors diagnosed Carter with leukemia. This was in April.
‘It was jarring at first,’ Chelsea explained. ‘But Carter really has made this very easy.
‘Everything that’s supposed to make you tired or feel bad, she breezes right through it. She’s just as energetic. It does not slow her down at all,’ Chelsea said.
The transgender dad then added: ‘How she handles whatever pain she might be in, she manages it well. We’re not aware of her being in an extreme amount of pain or discomfort.’
Carter’s leukemia is currently in remission.
She’s in her final chemotherapy cycle for the maintenance phase so in July of 2020, she’ll be in the clear, according to doctors.
The family are simply taking everything one day at a time.
‘We’re a really great team,’ the transgender dad said. ‘Chelsea’s strengths are my weaknesses and vice versa. Anything we have to conquer, it’s easier when we do it together.’