They say that true love can endure anything, time, distance, financial instability, but can it also endure a change of sex? Allyssa and Andrea Connor, who’ve been married for over 26 years, are proof that love always wins!
Allyssa, a 50-year-old from Utah, who was once part of the Mormon church, has lived the majority of her life as Kevin, living in a body she didn’t feel was hers, until recently, when she finally found the strength to come out as transgender, at 47 years old.
At the time they got married, Allyssa says, there wasn’t a term for transgender, or gender dysphoria yet, so she just thought she liked being feminine. She said: “I told my wife that for some reason feminine things were very important to me and I enjoyed wearing girls’ things. I didn’t tell her I was transgender because it wasn’t a word back then.”
Even though transgender people have existed throughout history, historians have only traced the earliest use of the term to a 1965 psychology textbook, according to research by National Geographic.
The ex-sales director and her wife, Andrea, had only dated for about six months before getting married, and telling her about how she really felt inside was just “a small part of the new information [they] were learning about each other”, said Allyssa, adding that it was only discussed as a private practice with no thought of transitioning since the concept was still foreign to them.
She added: “I was excited to share with my partner that I better understood her ‘girl’ world more than a lot of boys did. It always felt like a superpower that I was blessed with.”
Unlike what many wives would think, Andrea was very supportive of her partner after coming out as trans, and made it easier for her to be able to express herself. “Andrea was very respectful and sensitive of my feelings and would buy me things that she felt I would enjoy experiencing,” said Allyssa.
According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, there are no reliable statistics on what happens to marriages after a spouse comes out as transgender. And in a limited survey of 6,450 trans men and women, published by the Center for Transgender Equality, more than half of young couples stay together after a gender transition, whilst older couples over the age of 50 are more likely to split.
Their relationship has evolved in a very organic way from “[Andrea] buying [Allyssa] things to wear under [her] suit early on” to “walking down the street holding [her] hand as a girl in Los Angeles 20 years later” said Allyssa, adding that their journey has been “challenging and rewarding”.
Andrea knew her partner was “trapped in the wrong body” and that she wanted her to be as happy as she could be, with the resources they had at the time.
She said: “There were no words to explain what Kevin/Allyssa was telling me. I didn’t expect my husband to become a woman, but as time went on, it was clear to me that our future wasn’t going to be traditional.
“My strength came through a lot of conversations with Allyssa and figuring it out as we went. I saw that she was happier identifying as a woman and wanted my spouse, the love of my life, to be the happiest she could be with the resources we had.
“Our transition has changed the way I do things daily. I have become a stronger woman, mom, friend and spouse etc. I have gained a perspective that not many spouses can or are willing to understand,” said Andrea, adding that she also gained a deeper relationship with God during the process, as “God and Allyssa were the only ones [she] could talk to about it.”
Through the years the couple have faced criticism and lost some of their friends and families due to their life choices. Growing up in Northern Utah, Alyssa was part of the Mormon church, but the same church she once worshiped outcasted her once they learned about her transition.
Allyssa, who has been on hormone therapy for over 7 years but hasn’t completed a full transition. Her wife decided that they were going to wait until their children turned 18 before telling them about it, to protect them from the hate and stigma, and so still now, Allyssa has to live as Kevin most of the time, only allowing herself to be true Allyssa a few times per month.