Real-life couple Jennifer and Marika are soulmates who dream of being two moms raising a family. Six months after their wedding, Marika announces she wants to transition to become a man. A true story, Who Am I If You’re Not You? explores Jennifer’s reactions—Should she stay? Can she love Marika as a man? Jennifer goes through hell to find out.
Lifestyle Narrative Nonfiction
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What if your spouse said they wanted to become the opposite sex?
Jennifer and Marika are soulmates, best friends, and lovers with dreams of being two moms raising a family. Until Marika drops a bomb six months after their wedding day: she wants to become a man.
Who Am I If You’re Not You? is a deeply intimate look at the effects of gender transition on a couple. Based on the true story of Jennifer and Marika, it documents this real-life pair as they journey together through Marika’s gender transition to become Marc.
We get to know Marc before, during, and after his transition: a quirky extrovert who hides his social anxiety behind jokes and quips. Growing up with a bipolar mother and a saint of a stepdad, his family's many moves made it tough for him to make long-term friends. He may be a 30-something, but in many ways, he’s as impulsive as a 10-year-old.
And then there’s Jennifer: sweet, somewhat reserved, with a natural maternal instinct and a heart reserved for Marika. Classmates in her private school bullied her incessantly, leaving her all too familiar with the heartache of not belonging. An sometimes-judgmental mother and a hands-off father reinforce her belief that no one will ever truly understand her. She’s in her early 20s before she accepts that she is a lesbian, and she falls head over heels for Marika, who represents her safe place, her chance to love and be loved without fear of hurt, rejection or abandonment … until Marika’s announcement.
Who Am I If You’re Not You? is told from Jennifer’s perspective: the partner who has to come to terms with her lover’s choice. Should she stay in the marriage, despite feeling blindsided and resentful? Can she love her spouse as much when he’s a man? Can she love herself enough to care how it turns out? Her journey to discover the answers takes her to hell and back—including self-injury to ease the pain, an eating disorder that hospitalizes and almost kills her, and an emotional blackness that nearly swallows her whole.
Keeping love alive in a marriage can be a struggle even in traditional circumstances, and the scenario Jen and Marc face is anything but ordinary. Through deep introspection, staggering amounts of therapy and sheer will, they navigate Marc’s transition successfully. Today they are a contentedly living as a hetero couple, complete with the child they once dreamed about.
PROLOGUE Who am I If You’re Not You? begins with a look at Jennifer and Marc’s current life as they move into their first home with their 2-year-old son. It underscores the notion that from the outside looking in, they appear to be an average heterosexual couple, but what you see is not the whole story.
CHAPTER 1: VALENTINE’S DAY AND OTHER SURPRISES. What began as an ordinary Valentine’s Day turns into anything but a normal night. We first meet Marika and Jen as newlyweds looking forward to their first married Valentine’s Day. This chapter details the first time Marika introduces the concept of a possible gender transition, and Jennifer’s stunned reaction to the idea.
CHAPTER 2: WE USED TO BE US. The morning after the Marika’s bombshell, Jennifer comes to grips with the notion that her marriage and her future are quite possibly facing a radical shift. She is still uncertain about whether Marika will move forward with a transition but she already knows things will never be the same as they were just the day before.
CHAPTER 3: THAT GIRL. A look at Jennifer’s formative years leading up to meeting Marika. This chapter details Jennifer coming out to her parents. It touches on Jen’s strained relationship with her mother, and hints at the enormous impact that will have on how she navigates the transition process. This chapter concludes with Jennifer’s poem, That Girl.
CHAPTER 4: WHAT’S IN A NAME? Jennifer’s poem entitled Marika and Marc opens this chapter. Marika has decided to change her name, and this covers that discussion. More than a legal document, the name change signifies a reality check for Jennifer. The transition is happening, and she is once again powerless to stop it.
CHAPTER 5: MARIKA. This chapter gives Marika’s history: when she first acknowledged that she wasn’t a girl, when she first came out, and her life experiences as a lesbian leading up to meeting Jennifer. A military brat, Marika attended four schools in 4th grade alone—making it nearly impossible to build lasting relationships. She joined the Marines during the well-documented, “Don’t ask, don’t tell” period within the U.S. military, providing another interesting – and unusual – perspective.
CHAPTER 6: MOVING FORWARD. Marika starts taking hormones and experiencing their effects. She talks with her boss at the radio station, explaining she is now taking hormones that will change her voice and affecting her on-air position as a DJ. At the same time, Jennifer copes with friends who’ve heard about the transition and have questions they all direct to her—questions she can’t answer because, like them, she doesn’t understand. She is caught between trying to defend her spouse and resenting the position in which she finds herself.
CHAPTER 7: THE FIRST CUT IS THE DEEPEST. Jennifer turns to self-injury, specifically cutting, to cope with a life that seems out of control. Her mood and mindset are carefully detailed, giving insight into the relief she finds as she spills her own blood. Her poem, entitled Blood, is included.
CHAPTER 8: MOTHER. This chapter covers Jennifer’s relationship with her mother, who has been less than supportive of Jennifer for most of her life. Jen’s feelings of inadequacy turn to resentment and anger as her mother attacks Marika/Marc for Jennifer’s mental health issues. Jen is forced to defend Marc’s decision even in the midst of deeply resenting it.
CHAPTER 9: CAN’T CUT DEEP ENOUGH. Jennifer trades self-injury via cutting for life-threatening anorexia in an attempt to cope with her pain and control some aspect of her life.
CHAPTER 10: BREATHE. Jennifer’s poem, Breathe, constitutes this entire chapter. The work conveys her deep despair, her loss of control, her feelings of invisibility, and her desire for eternal sleep.
CHAPTER 11: WHO ARE WE? Jen struggles for control and finds some more level ground as Marc’s transition continues. They attend couple’s therapy together as each continues individual therapy to navigate the changes in their lives. The bulk of Marc’s transition is complete and both are coming to terms with their newly defined life as a heterosexual couple.
CHAPTER 12: GROUNDED. This chapter shows Jen and Marc in a fairly stable place. By this point, Marc is back on air at work, producing voiceovers and commercials. While he has completed the hormone part of his transition, he is now considering top surgery so he can quit binding. The surgery is expensive and the couple can’t afford it, but his parents and a close friend loan them the money to pay for surgery. The decision means they must postpone pregnancy plans yet again.
CHAPTER 13: LOOKING AHEAD AT WHAT’S BEHIND. In this chapter, Marc is fully transitioned and the couple begins the process of finding a sperm donor and IUI procedures to get pregnant. Finding a donor proves easier than expected, but a series of unsuccessful (and expensive) treatments leaves both Marc and Jennifer concerned that pregnancy may not be in the cards.
CHAPTER 14: AND BABY MAKES THREE. A positive pregnancy test offers reason to celebrate. But like the rest of her life, Jennifer’s pregnancy and delivery story is anything but easy, with health scares before, during, and after their son is born.
CHAPTER 15: BEYOND THE PICKET FENCE. A final look at what brought – and kept – this couple together through an incredibly challenging life experience, and a look inside their lives today.
Who am I If You’re Not You? will be approximately 65,000 words. Beyond the text, it will include photos of the couple before and after the gender transition, as well as deeply personal poems Jennifer wrote throughout the period that detail her feelings during the entire process.
The book will have 15 chapters that span the couple’s journey together. It opens on Marc and Jen’s current-day life with their two-year-old son. It will cover Marc’s decision to become a man, Jen’s reaction, and the entire process—focusing intently on Jennifer’s psychological and physical experiences as a result of the transition. Readers will get to know both of the main characters before they met and will learn about the life experiences that gave them the courage to face this transition together.
Who Am I If You’re Not You? appeals to several strong, and growing, markets.
1. The Trans community. The primary market for this story is the transgender community, who will relate to the scenarios and situations Jen and Marc face throughout his transition.
2. The Gay and Lesbian community. From a lesbian couple to a now-heterosexual one, Who Am I If You’re Not You? carefully chronicles Marc and Jennifer’s journey and will appeal to other gays and lesbians, married or not. According to the Williams Institute of Law at UCLA, there are an estimated 780,000 people in same-sex marriages within the U.S., with almost half of them occurring just since Obergefell was decided in June 2015. This is a growing population that already accounts for 1 in 10 marriages. When you combine the gay and lesbian community with those who are transgender, 10+ million people in the U.S. alone are in the target market for this book.
3. The Biographical reader. This book reveals such a deeply personal perspective on the transition process from the partner’s point of view, it holds strong crossover potential as a biography. Jennifer shares an intimate and raw look inside the mind of a partner who’s forced to either leave the relationship or accept her spouse’s decision despite an almost unstoppable urge to fight it. It chronicles her thoughts, moods, actions and reactions from the beginning of the transition to its end, offering a unique perspective on a growing—and widely misunderstood—trend within our society. Those directly impacted by LGBT issues will relate, and those who are not will learn about the culture and the gender transition process.
Lynn Thorne is the author of Word Of Mouth Advertising Online and Off: How to Spark Buzz, Excitement and Free Publicity for Your Business or Organization With Little or No Money (Atlantic Press, 2008). The book garnered a five-star rating on Amazon.com.
Lynn is also a successful freelance journalist. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post Express, The Washington Post Southern Maryland Extra, U.S. News Ventures, Access Wireless, Wireless Wave magazine, and several local publications in the Charlottesville, Virginia region.
A former broadcast journalist (B.S. from Virginia Commonwealth University), Lynn appeared on local TV and radio stations across Virginia and Wisconsin.
She is an active blogger on www.thatswhatlynnsaid.com, which focuses on LGBT issues, and regularly communicates with her 500+ connections on LinkedIn, where she uses use her blog entries to spark conversations within the LGBT community.
Promotion for Who Am I If You’re Not You? should be multi-pronged and diverse.
1. Advertising via social media and paid sites.
· I will launch a website specific to the book with a domain name that ties into the title and use a plugin to update visitors about publication status.
· I plan to start an author Facebook page that is solely dedicated to the book. Followers can read excerpts, follow the publication timeline, and stay updated on LGBT issues and same-sex marriage news.
· I also am a member of LinkedIn’s biggest LGBT group, a global network of LGBT people and allies seeking to network and communicate about social issues that affect the larger community. It’s a built-in readership for this book, which will hit so close to home for many of them.
· I use Twitter under the handle @whatlynnsaid to tweet about LGBT issues and have multiple followers. I will begin promoting under a handle that is specific to the book title.
· I plan to ask fans to post reviews on Goodreads and Amazon.
2. Sales channels are also planned. All mentions of the book will point readers Amazon and Goodreads.
3. My blog, www.thatswhatlynnsaid.com, focuses on LGBT issues. I’ve been developing guest blogging relationships with other authors and LGBT experts to help gain exposure and increase traffic. I respond to each and every comment so readers know I’m accessible and responsive. LGBT is still a taboo subject for many, and often I receive private messages from readers who don’t want to publicly respond but do have a message for me in response to a post. I respond to them as well.
1. I also plan to do online book tours. I’d like to schedule a blast-off tour of five days to share an excerpt of the book and an author interview on multiple blogs simultaneously to drive sales. I have compiled a list of 25 blogs with a readership who will be interested in this book.
In addition, I will combine the blast-off with an Amazon promotion, providing all purchasers with an offer to autograph their copy or another bonus gift to be determined.
5. The book will be marketed offline too.
· I am definitely open to and available for book tours, and envision collaborating with LGBT events to draw in readers who have a personal interest in the book and its message.
· I have multiple connections with local media and will utilize them extensively, writing press releases, requesting interviews with area TV stations, radio stations and newspapers.
· I plan to promote the book in conjunction with local and regional Pride events.
· Because the book goes into detail about Jennifer’s eating disorder, I will promote the book at the annual National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) Walk, which occurs each spring.
· I am available and willing to do book signings and speaking engagements, both locally and those requiring travel.
Goodreads lists roughly 1,300 books on gender transition; however, there are only a small handful of books that focus on the transition within a marriage and from the partners’ point of view. While the below selection of books is the closest to Who Am I If You’re Not You?, each currently available selection differs in a substantive way.
1. Head Over Heels: Wives Who Stay with Cross Dressers & Transsexuals by Virginia Erhardt, Haworth Press, 2006. This book encompasses the stories of several couples’ journeys, and mostly older couples who have been married for 20, 30, or 40 years. This is vastly different than my book, which chronicles just one couple's journey--and a newly married couple, at that.
2. She’s Not the Man I Married: My Life with a Transgender Husband by Helen Boyd, Seal Press, 2007. Helen Boyd’s husband was a cross-dresser who was considering living as a woman fulltime. Boyd’s book examines gender in relationships, the nature of marriage, passion and love. Boyd had years to adjust to her spouse’s leanings before his ultimate transition, unlike the newlyweds featured in Who Am I If You’re Not You?
3. Sex Changes: A Memoir of Marriage, Gender, and Moving On by Christine Benvenuto, St. Martin’s Press, 2012. This focuses on one couple’s story but varies greatly from Who Am I If You’re Not You? in that the couple has been married for more than 20 years. Secondly, as the title suggests, this couple does not successfully navigate the gender transition and ends up bitterly divorced.
4. Queerly Beloved: A Love Story Across Genders by Diane Anderson-Minshall, published by Bold Stroke Books, 2014. Like Who Am I If You’re Not You?, this book focuses on one couple’s story; however, this wife and husband were married for 16 years as a lesbian couple before the gender transition, with a strong core of a marriage in place. Another differentiation is Jennifer and Marc’s successful post-transition pregnancy, which brings a much different element to their now-hetero marriage.
5. My Husband’s a Woman Now: A Shared Journey of Transition and Love by Leslie Hilburn Fabian, VirtualBookworm.com, 2014. This is the real-life story of a couple who successfully navigated one spouse’s gender transition. This story varies drastically, in that the wife in this couple actually encouraged her cross-dressing husband to undergo gender transition to become a woman. Her support and encouragement gave her spouse the nudge to make a more permanent change; Jennifer neither suggested nor was in favor of Marc’s transition.
They lug the last box through the door, exhausted, aching and sweaty. High fives all around, toasts to the new house and happy memories. Friends clink plastic glasses of soda and water while a few enjoy the cold wash of beer down their throats after their labor. There are the expected jokes about being too old for this, even though most of them are early 30s and don’t have a clue what being old is all about. The air is warm but comfortably so, allowing them to relax for a bit and revel in a moving day without any major hiccups, injuries, or breakages. But soon they all drift off one by one, hugs and more offers to help unpack, until at last it is just the three of them left. They are home.
The new house is a huge milestone, as it should be. Homey, comfortable, with room to spread out. A decent yard that’s big enough for privacy but not too much to maintain, partly shaded for those hot summer days. The porch that offers a taste of time gone by. He thinks about where to plug in the gaming stations so the cords will reach; she’s focused on whether the baby could squeeze through the porch railings. You see an all-American family excited about their future. Father, mother, baby boy. Their reality looks like any Hallmark movie.
But how did that movie become our expectation? Who sets the stage for what life is supposed to look like? The script plays out time and again, generation after generation: Boy meets girl. They fall in love. They pledge their lives to each other. There’s a baby or three who completes their family and provides living proof of the legacy they’ll leave. And a home, always some sort of home, a cozy nest to call their own.
That’s where Jennifer and Marc are right now. Home.
The next few months will find them making it their own. Of course, the big stuff is easy. Couch on that wall, love seat over there. Bed has to go here because of the window. That all gets put in place pretty quickly. A whole lot of boxes marked in “kitchen” in her neat penmanship, every one of them carefully packed and full of the utensils they’ve been convinced they can’t live without but somehow rarely use. Whisks and sauté pans, cake knives and juicers. More Tupperware than anyone could ever use (but at least every container had a lid, Jen made sure of that) is tidily stacked away. Spices and glasses and forks all found their space in cupboards and drawers in fairly short order.
In the meantime, there’s every day life. Jobs and daycare drop offs. The biting phase of every almost-two-year-old who can’t quite figure out his emotions, so he sinks his teeth in to let his feelings out. The date night for a friend’s wedding. The maintenance appointment for the car. It all goes on, just as always, as normal as you please.
From every angle looking in, they are a perfect family settling in to their new life. But peel back a layer and you’ll catch a quick glimpse of something quite different. Old photos of a little girl who doesn’t exist anymore but bears an uncanny resemblance to him. Dig just a tiny bit deeper and, surprise, there’s a needle in bathroom (safely out of the baby’s reach – they both make sure of that). There’s the serum in the medicine cabinet at the ready for his next scheduled shot. And when the light hits her arm just right, you can see the scars, a small series of them lined up like matchsticks. But only when the light is just so.
What you see from all the angles is still true. It’s not a mirage and it’s certainly not a façade. They are, indeed, a sweet family filled with love, laughter and memories in the making. But what’s not so easily seen … what isn’t at all obvious … is what got them to this place, living out the storyline whose scenes we all know so well. Those who see this happy little trio in their first home don’t know that Jen and Marc, stars of this would-be Hallmark movie, very nearly never made it at all.
Because a bomb ripped their lives apart. A verbal kind of bomb, of course, but one that was every bit as catastrophic as the kind that leaves physical wreckage scattered for miles. The debris ripped apart the very fabric of this sweet family when it was just the two of them, newlyweds still in their newly wedded cocoon who approached each day as a sparkling opportunity to share their lives and deepen their love. And this bomb, like so many physical ones, claimed its own kind of collateral damage.
Because once upon a time, they were two women. And once upon a time, these two women pledged “in sickness and in health.” And then one of the women told the other she wanted to become a man. And both of them went through hell and back for very different reasons: to find themselves; to save each other; to cling to the love they shared despite having every justification under the sun to simply let it go.
Living just beyond their perfect picket fence is a story you rarely read, the script that’s unrehearsed and not played out in front of us every day. Grief. Fear. Blood. Denial. Resentment. Agony. Despair so deep it nearly swallowed them up. And it can’t be seen just by looking at them. They could be your neighbors, shopping for the best deal on detergent and you would never, ever know they were anything other than a couple with a baby trying to save a few bucks.
But that’s now.
Then, the bomb was dropped on what Jen remembered for a long time as the last normal day of her life.
And irony of ironies, it came on Valentine’s Day… a “gift” she never saw coming and almost never recovered from.