I was married once--briefly. It's odd to think of myself as having been someone's wife; that's such a traditional female role. But I went into it thinking it wouldn't exactly be a traditional relationship, because the man I married had been born female. "FTM" is the term he usually used to describe himself--it means female-to-male transsexual.

I'd known my husband-to-be casually for several years before he gender-transitioned, and in those days she was about the butchest dyke on two feet. While most butch dykes don't want to be men, there was just something about her, even then, so I wasn't terribly shocked when a friend said to me, "Hey, guess who's taking testosterone and becoming a man?"

"Well, that's interesting," I thought, and then I forgot about it until, some months later, I had occasion to telephone my future husband's office about a professional matter. A resonant bass voice, indisputably male, came on the phone, and when I said who I wanted to speak to, that voice replied, "This is he."

"Wow," I thought, "her voice has really changed. I mean, his voice has really changed." And then, "That's a pretty sexy voice, actually."

Soon afterwards I ran into him at a social event, and I discovered that not only did he sound like a man, he looked like one, too. He had a beard, the shape of his face and his body had changed--his whole appearance was unquestionably male. He'd done all the paperwork to change his driver's license and birth certificate, he told me, and he was now legally a man in every way. Yes, some family and friends were initially unsettled by the change, but he had to do what was right for him.

Not only did he look dramatically different, but he seemed happy and confident in his new self. In fact, he seemed rather attractive. Perhaps, I decided, I should get to know this new person a bit more.

Once I set my sights on something, I am an irresistible force. Fast-forward a few weeks, and I was sitting with him at a stylish waterfront restaurant, wearing a summer dress with flirty ruffles and smiling at him over a margarita. He was returning my smile, with interest, but as I savored the anticipation of what was surely to come, I was suddenly pulled up short by the realization: "Oh my god! I have no idea how I'm supposed to make love to a transsexual man!"

In retrospect, my flash of panic seems foolish. But at that time, I knew very little about genital surgery options for FTM men. I wasn't even sure if he'd had any kind of surgery, and if so, what the result was. Even if the man sitting across from me still had the same basic genital configuration that I did, I wasn't sure how, exactly, he'd want me to touch them. So, as sexually experienced as I was, this was a whole new territory for me. "Well," I thought, "I'll give it my best shot, and if it doesn't work, then I guess it wasn't meant to be."

As it turned out, the sex was just fine. In spite of the fact that his genitals didn't look like a non-transsexual man's, my future husband had created ways to be sexual that were both congruent with his identity and fun for me, and I liked that about him. I liked a lot of things about him. But then we got married, and things changed.

Looking back, I can see that I approached the marriage with the same nothing-ventured, nothing-gained spirit with which I'd approached the sex. But this time, it didn't work. Because while in some ways my husband was as much an outlaw as I was, he also wanted to be a traditional man in a traditional, monogamous marriage. I wish I'd understood sooner that being in such a relationship is as unnatural for me as living as a woman was for my husband, because realizing I had to leave the marriage was a painful thing for us both. But when I got the paperwork that signaled my rebirth as a single woman, I knew that, just as he had, I was moving towards being the person that I was meant to be.

matisse@thestranger.com