Monday, August 26, 2019

Acts of Love and Civil Disobedience

My wife and I in 2005. Oh so young!
This week my wife, E (abbreviated for privacy reasons), and I celebrate our 21st wedding anniversary. We've been legally married far longer than most same-sex couples in the United States. In fact, when the Obergefell v. Hodges decision was issued by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2015 (legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide), we were about to celebrate our 17th anniversary.

So how did we accomplish this act of love and civil disobedience? And in a conservative state like Arizona, no less?  Well, that is a funny little story.

When Dharma Met E

E and I are both transgender. Both assigned male at birth, but knew that's not who we were. I transitioned and underwent gender confirmation surgery before we met. In fact, the first time we met, I was married to my now ex-husband, R.

A group of mutual friends, most of us trans, met at a local Cajun restaurant. I was doing a lot of complaining that night because everything I ordered was super spicy, including the potato salad and the coleslaw. E's first impression of me was that I was the grumpy girl who didn't like spicy food.

When we met again a year later, I had separated from--but was still married to--my ex-husband. R was abusive, and I had finally hit my limit. I probably would have divorced him right away, but I was focused more on maintaining my newly found sobriety and didn't need the drama of a divorce to distract me.

The same group of trans friends was supposed to get together, but at the last minute, everyone but E and I canceled. So the two of us went out to dinner. Turns out our friends had conspired to put the two of us together. Sneaky bastards!

One thing led to another and by April, we were dating, then living together in June. I decided it was time to get divorced. R and I had been separated for some time, had no children in common, so the divorce would be cut and dried. He opted to hire an attorney. I didn't need one. The date for the court hearing was set for late August.

We Fought the Law and We Won

Meanwhile, E had scheduled a date for her gender surgery in early September of that year. We joked about the possibility of getting married since as far as the state was concerned, she was still male, even though she lived full-time as a woman and had since before we met.

My wife on our trip to Mt. Rainier
So in early August, E and I went to the court clerk in Phoenix to try our luck at applying for a marriage license.

When we told the woman behind the counter what we wanted, we were immediately rebuffed. "Two people of the same sex can't get married," she said.

We explained our situation, providing copies of E's birth certificate assigning her as male. The woman looked at it, then said, "You'll have to talk to my supervisor."

We waited an hour for the supervisor to get back from lunch. We provided our documentation, including E's birth certificate, legal name change, etc., never mentioning that I was transgender as well. As far as the State of Arizona knew, I was female and always had been. I had had my birth certificate changed shortly after my surgery.

Finally, the supervisor agreed and took us into a room to do the paperwork. We filled out the forms and then she typed them up.

"Please review this to make sure it's accurate," she said.

We looked at them. They were not accurate. They had E's old name, what we in the trans community call a deadname.

"Excuse me," said E. "That's not my legal name. I changed it per this court order." She again showed the supervisor the court-issued name change decree.

"We can't put two women's names on a marriage certificate," insisted the supervisor.

But my E, she's brilliant. She replied, "If my name were Farkle, could we get married or not? Show me the list of names that can and can't get married."

The supervisor thought about that for a moment and then conceded. "Okay, fine."

Ten minutes later, she brought us the corrected typed form and we all signed it.

Cutting Things A Little Too Close

We scheduled our wedding for the weekend before E's surgery was to take place in Bangkok. It also happened to be five days after the court date for my and R's divorce. We knew it was cutting it close, but weren't worried.
My beautiful wife on our 15th anniversary

On the morning of our divorce hearing. I showed up. R showed up. The judge was there calling cases. But when our case was called, R's lawyer hadn't shown up with the paperwork.

I was freaking out and was pissed. There was no reason to have gotten a lawyer involved in the first place, but R being the control freak he was had insisted since I was trans. And now his lawyer was MIA.

If he didn't show up, R and I couldn't get divorced that day, which meant E and I couldn't get married the following Saturday.

The judge agreed to continue calling cases. Shortly before he reached the end of his docket, R's lawyer showed up. He had forgotten about the case and had been spending the morning with his kid. Asshole!

Happily Ever After

Fortunately, all's well that ends well. R and I were pronounced divorced. Five days later, E and I got legally married, then traveled to Thailand where she got her surgery. And we've been a happily married same-sex couple for 21 years.

After more than two decades, we are still like two lovesick teenagers. To this day, every time I look at her, my pulse races. Happy biochemicals flood my brain. I am so crazy about this woman. And she is crazy about me.

Dharma Kelleher writes gritty crime fiction with a feminist kick series and is one of the only openly transgender voices in the genre. 

She is the author of the Jinx Ballou bounty hunter series and the Shea Stevens outlaw biker series. You can learn more about Dharma and her work at


Derek Farrell said...

Lovely story. Thanks for sharing, Dharma. <3

Chris Beckett said...

Thank you for sharing. This brightened my day.