Cree, my husband, and I struggle with mental illness. I deal with depression and suicidal thoughts, while Cree attempts to manage Gender Dysphoria. Both of these issues require help. Gender Dysphoria means Cree relates better with the opposite gender, making it difficult for him to behave as society expects. Generally, psychologists encourage people with this diagnosis to transition or live life in the role of the opposite gender. We call those who make this transition, transgender. This is our story.
Breaking News (Crystal)
Unlike Cree, who thinks chronologically, I should warn you that I think in moments. In 2016, I gave birth to our third child and Cree left me alone, across the country from any family, for about six months. Around this same time, Cree started looking for help with his issues. He told me about trying to get help while deployed, and I encouraged him. I had no idea how much that would change everything. Cree told me he struggled with Gender Dysphoria, and I tried to be okay with that, but I wasn’t. I never expected this when we got married.
Breaking the Egg (Cree)
On June 30, 2016, then-Secretary of Defense Ash Carter announced that Gender Dysphoria no longer disqualified any member of the military from service. I felt a surge of excitement, as it dawned on me that I could finally get help. From my earliest memories of understanding the difference between men and women, around age 3 or 4, I felt an overwhelming anxiety about growing into a man. Sometimes, that caused serious issues as it completely shut down my ability to function. The opportunity to get help that I desperately needed sounded too good to be true.
Then, it hit me like a ton of bricks, as I realized I’d never truly discussed this with Crystal. Dread quickly overwhelmed me and tried to put all thoughts of getting help away. That triggered an anxiety attack that left me unable to put any coherent ideas together. However, at the time, I served on a ship in the Atlantic and Mediterranean; I couldn’t afford the distraction. So, I did the only thing I could to try and initiate a discussion.
I sent Crystal a copy of the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH) v7 manual and gave her a page reference to describe how I felt.
Couples Therapy (Cree)
Arriving home felt super bitter-sweet. I missed my family during the six months I spent overseas, and reuniting with them, felt amazing! But, now that I began talking with Crystal, I needed to get everything out. That single task felt overwhelming, and instead, I just started going from psychologist to psychologist, ignoring the fact that I needed to open up to my wife. I felt so afraid of losing her, that I left her completely in the dark.
In the meantime, my care team began treating me for Gender Dysphoria with the only treatment they knew on September 29, 2017. Within nine months, my body transformed unquestionably from the medications I’d been given. Something else changed too; in that I suddenly felt a very strong chemical connection between Crystal and I. One day, in particular, I realized that I could feel the depression as she suffered in silence.
I took her to the emergency room immediately.
To paint a clear picture, let me describe a few of the changes that I saw up to this point. Cree’s body changed! Besides growing breasts and long hair, Cree removed all of his body hair and began dressing much more feminine. At this point, most people probably think Cree and I are a lesbian couple.
Breaking Trust (Crystal)
I value my religion and believe that to return to heaven we need to rely on Christ and obey his prophets. I worried that Cree’s physical changes would not be following the prophet. Because of this worry, I asked him to not do hormone therapy, the type that would make such drastic changes to his body. He agreed. He lied and I contemplated divorce.
Cree told me he was taking medications to help treat his Gender Dysphoria, but until I saw an email from his doctor I didn’t know they were hormones. Cree was deliberately changing his body. He knew it and he’d lied to me, even knowing how important trust was to me. It felt lost, not knowing what to do; you cannot expect a good and happy marriage without trust.
Getting It All Out (Cree)
Finally, a year after beginning “transition”, everything just came gushing out. Crystal and I sat on our bed, facing each other, and just talked, cried, and held each other. Instead of trying to guess each other’s thoughts and feelings, we just asked blunt closed-ended questions. Each yes or no answer launched us into another conversation, and by the time we finished, both of us felt exhausted.
I don’t exactly know to this day what clicked. Crystal told me on one of our drives from our therapy session that she wouldn’t leave me. She pointed out that some things I did had and would probably hurt her in the future, but she’d married me for eternity, and that’s what she wanted. With divorce off the table completely, Crystal and I began to open up to each other a lot more. Things just made sense, and the more honest we were with one another, the more we began to share. It took nearly four years to build the trust we have today.
Learning to Trust (Crystal)
During this time, I received so much support from my family. My parents and siblings each called to see if I was okay, and I assured them I was. I only knew two things for certain. First, I hadn’t decided whether to get a divorce or stay married. Second, Cree was still my best friend. With this in mind, I agreed to try and work on our relationship. Cree and I went to couples therapy, which seemed to focus on helping us talk to each other. We already knew how to do that.
I had the same questions continually running through my head. Should I divorce Cree, take the kids, and become a single mom? I knew that if I decided on that, my family would help, but I would lose our oldest, as she would stay with Cree. I also knew that I had no real marketable skills. Besides, Cree is a wonderful parent, and would it be fair to our children to take that away? Most importantly, was staying with Cree healthy for me?
My decision to avoid divorce changed things. One night as I quietly read on my phone, I struggled to know what to do. I read a talk by Dallin H Oaks on divorce and it struck me. No, I would not divorce Cree, and everything would work out, eventually. After I shared my decision with Cree, we began working to rebuild our trust and repair our relationship. Though we know we’re far from perfect, we still work on it. Some days, I still wonder if I made the right choice, but I could not ask for a better partner.
At this time, Cree and I keep going forward. I call Cree him/he because that is who I married. I would find it a struggle if I suddenly switched. Cree respects me and allows me this. We continue to work on improving ourselves and our relationship. As Cree’s wife and friend, I want him to feel better and receive the help he needs.
(Cree) This snapshot felt difficult to write. At that point in my life, I lied, I manipulated and came off the jerk. Crystal spent a solid couple of years watching everything she thought she had dissolved into a harsh, starkly different, reality. Somehow she managed to overcome that and still see me as her best friend.