Photography by Melissa Golden
Allyson: Danyelle and I met as classmates at West Point. You don’t really date as a cadet. We did a lot of homework and daily chores. It wasn’t until the annual Army–Navy game that same year that things turned romantic. We were out with friends, commiserating over the loss, and shared our first kiss.
By the time we were out of the military, I felt I couldn’t go on [as a man]. I was terrified to tell Danyelle—that it would cost me the relationship that sustained me. Like many transgender people, I lived in a state of severe denial. But I reached a point where that was no longer a tenable coping strategy. I had a 45-minute commute across Texas -- [one day I was] crying almost uncontrollably, as I had done for months, and I looked at an approaching overpass and thought, If I stepped on the gas right now, Danyelle and the kids would never have to be ashamed of me. When I got home, I flipped the phone book to the page of therapists. That started the process for me, of coming out to myself and of giving Danyelle the opportunity to get to know and choose the real me, the person she should have had from the beginning. I didn’t give her enough credit. I should have known that she was better than that.
This year, over Thanksgiving, Danyelle took me out shopping for a new wedding ring. She gravitated to the biggest and most beautiful rings—more than anything I’d ever imagined wearing. I said to her, “I’m not sure. It seems like so much.” She simply looked back to me and replied, “But you’re worth it to me.”
Danyelle: When I was a kid, my idea of married life was the fairy-tale romance -- the knight in shining armor coming in and sweeping me off my feet. I knew as I got older that wasn’t reality. My parents had a long, imperfect but loving marriage; I wanted something like that. I’d had a few boyfriends through high school, but nothing ever felt right. Then I met Allyson, and it clicked. I was head over heels in love with her.
We were thoroughly disgusting as a young couple; it was embarrassing. We were in love and expected everyone to be there for us. We knew within two weeks of that Army–Navy game that we wanted to spend the rest of our lives together. We got married three days after we graduated.
I stayed in the service for five years. It was at the end of those five years that we started having our four children. We were both busy, with careers that we were sometimes overly committed to, but we have always had that fairy-tale love.
I didn’t have to fall in love with Allyson again after she transitioned because Allyson never changed. In a married couple, when someone is going through such emotional turmoil, it doesn’t happen in a vacuum. When she told me, I didn’t have an answer, but I didn’t have the compulsion to run away. I didn’t know what our marriage would look like after something like this, but I turned to her and said, “We’ll work through it. I love you, and we’ll work it out.”