I first met Cal in April 2012. That was, as I recall, a grim and directionless time for me. I had for several years given up on the hope of transition. At thirty-three I felt that it was too late – which seems bloody absurd now, I barely had a job at the time, I had failed at my last relationship (for various reasons, though dysphoria certainly did not help), and I had no settled accommodation. I was, in fact, in the midst of an extended house-sit for my parents, as they had recently moved to the Shetland Islands, but the house was imminently to be sold, and I could not see myself ever making a permanent move up there, although I would have been welcome with them. I had vague ideas of just spending my life as a drifting TEFL teacher, having done a year of that in Beijing, but I felt that too was setting myself up for a lonely and purposeless existence in its own way.
But part of the “unrealised me” must have been clinging on to some vague hope of emergence, as at that time I also joined a South Wales Fetlife group that had a pub meeting in Cardiff City Centre. Why Fetlife, one might well ask? Simply because I felt that I might make more friends in the company of fellow “transgressors” of social decency, whether voluntarily or just by dint of their inner weirdness. In the event, I found myself struggling not to be shy and tongue-tied even at those meetings… until Cal approached me at one of them.
He had just arrived from France, having been laid off after the library he was managing was closed, leaving behind a bad relationship with an emotionally abusive partner, and looking for a completely fresh start. He had the notion at the time that he was done with men, and would look to have his next relationship with a woman… though he had no sense that this would be realised in a decidedly ironic fashion.
Neither of us knew from the first that the other was trans. Cal saw a fey, shy, effeminate or gender-fluid young man, and I saw a proud, handsome, and erudite young woman, though it was not too long before we figured out that neither of those terms would quite cut it in our relationship, or at least not in that order. In every respect, at any rate, I could not quite believe my luck. Cal was everything I could ever have dreamed of in a soulmate: intelligent, compassionate, charitable, left-wing, hugely literate, a librarian, a gamer, a geek (and proud of it), and French… though don’t ask me why I idolise Frenchness.
My amazement was compounded when I talked about this new relationship with an old friend, who pointed out to me that I had once described exactly such a person to him, when we had been idly fantasising about perfect partners… right down to the details of mine being French and a librarian. That reminder is one of those moments I often look back to, when my faith is looking frayed and shaky. It was shortly after that, having decided we had so much in common that we could dare to make things serious, that Cal moved in with me… and he promptly confessed to me that he had suffered gender dysphoria since childhood. This, incidentally, explained why he, without the vaguest interest in fetish or BDSM, had been a member of that Fetlife group (I had wondered).
Geek, gamer, French, librarian, socialist, humanitarian… and accidental husband. In fact, the ideal husband whom I never thought that I could hope to have, even if I ever dared to transition.
Even so, it took us another two years before we actually decided that we would take that plunge together, but neither of us would have reached this point but for the support of the other. After twenty-odd aimless, lonely, and self-deceiving years, in the space of one year I had found both my soulmate and myself.
That story may fall short of the strictest definition of a miracle, but it keeps me going.