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Opinion | My Trans Journey Through Passport

Just before this passport picture was taken I’d learned that my father’s melanoma was back. Later, as I wandered along the Welsh coast, all I could think about was him. He died a year and three days later, on Easter Sunday. A few days before he last closed his eyes, he squeezed my hand from the bed in which he lay. In a morphine dream he whispered, “The young men shall rule.”

Credit…Photograph courtesy of Jennifer Finney Boylan

Issued Feb. 4, 1998

My wife, Deedie, and I had been married for 10 years when I got a job teaching at University College in Cork, Ireland. That same year, I’d started talking to her about my gender — awkwardly, inarticulately. I didn’t know whether I had the courage to undertake the voyage of transition. Deedie didn’t know whether she could stay with me if I did.

Our children were then 2 and 4 years old. I was determined to live a more honest life. But what do you do if living honestly means putting the lives of the people you love in jeopardy? How can you expect the person you love to help you become yourself if that very process threatens to change what she holds most dear?

We spent that year in Ireland drinking Murphys, shopping for wild Atlantic salmon, listening to modern Irish folk bands like Nomos and North Cregg. One day, toward the end of our time in Cork, I climbed to the top of the Church of St. Anne. What am I going to do? I asked myself.

Someone started ringing the carillon as I stood there, the bells as loud as they could be. The song was “You Are My Sunshine.” “You’ll never know dear, how much I love you. Please don’t take my sunshine away.”

A year later I was on hormones.

Credit…Photograph courtesy of Jennifer Finney Boylan

Issued Nov. 7, 2002

When I wrote to the State Department to ask for a change in the gender assigned on my passport, I had to enclose a letter from my surgeon. I provided a copy of my name change, too, stamped with the golden seal of the Probate Court of the State of Maine, the place we had made our home since I started teaching at Colby College in Waterville. Still, I was stunned when the envelope arrived in the mail with my new passport, my sex marked definitively: F.

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