This book is about many things, but above all it is about family. It is a subject I know something about. I have lived through the experience of an unhappy family, and the things I saw shaped me and led me to this moment in my life. I also know what it means to be part of a healthy family, to love someone unconditionally, to share all your hopes and fears with them, to make constant sacrifices for one another and to put each other's happiness above your own. I know the feeling of devoting yourself to making your family work—to prizing the intimacy of that bond above anything else in your life. I have some insight into this matter, if only because I have spent a great deal of time thinking about it, and because it means the world to me to have the family that I have. I hope that when you read this book, you will see something of your own family in my story, and that, if I have told it well, my story will make you take stock of the ones you love, and of how they love you in return.
Of course, the path I have taken to create my family is very different from yours. What Nancy and I have done is completely unprecedented. On the face of it, we do not look like an unusual couple at all. Yes, I am half-white and half-Asian, and Nancy looks Italian, but that alone would never earn us a second glance. It's also true that Nancy is twelve years older than I am, and sometimes we get asked if I am her son. But plenty of people in love come together at different ages. In many more ways we are just like any other married couple in our quiet community in central Oregon. We take walks around the lake and hold hands, we work hard and try to save money, we were thrilled to buy our first home together, and we practically live in Costco. And then, like millions of happy couples, we decided to have a family. In these things we are no different from anyone else. Our dreams are white-picket dreams.
But it would be naive to think that we are not different. I am, as far as I can tell, the first fully legal male and husband to get pregnant and give birth to a child. In 1974 I was born female, and I lived the first twenty-four years of my life as a biological woman. But for as long as I can remember, and certainly before I fully knew what this meant, I wanted to live my life as a man. When I was young I was a tomboy: I dressed in boy's clothes, I did boy things, I resisted the trappings of girlhood—dolls, dresses, all of that. I identified with the male gender in every way. I never thought I was born in the wrong body, however, nor did I ever want to be anyone else. I was happy being me, because I knew who I was inside. I was never confused about my gender identity—I always knew, long before I could articulate it, that I was really a man. If anything, I was sometimes confused about how to make the rest of the world understand my situation. But I never struggled with my identity, or fought it or tried to change the way I felt. It was just the simple fact of my existence: outside I was female, but inside I was a man.