Leah Zurek, 20, Wodonga, Vic
This place is a tip! I thought, looking around. Staying over at my new boyfriend's house for the first time, Jared, 23, had left early to go to a car rally. But while I lounged in bed, I couldn't help but notice the mess. Still, other than being a bit on the untidy side, Jared was my perfect man.
We'd met a month earlier at the local dog park where I'd been walking my pups, Roman and Sooty. At 192cm with hair down to his shoulders and an attractive physique, Jared stood out to me straight away. 'What breed is your dog?' I asked him casually. Finding out his unusual pooch, named Oops, was a Murray River border collie cross, Jared and I soon got chatting. We had so much in common! As well as loving animals, we both enjoyed the outdoors and had laid-back personalities. Jared was also completely car mad and had a workshop in his garage. Leaving the park that day with his phone number, I was smitten!
Soon we were dating, but Jared seemed more eager to get to know me before taking things to the next level. Deciding his respect for me was a good sign, I pursued the relationship. Over time, Jared let his guard down and we enjoyed a physical relationship just like any other couple. And that morning, in his house, I decided I'd surprise my man by tidying up.
'My perfect man turned out to be a cheater,' I groaned.
I was organising the bathroom cabinet when I noticed some strange items - a tube of lipstick and a foundation compact. Why did Jared have make-up in his bathroom? Feeling hot and flustered, my mind started whirring with possibilities. Although I wasn't normally one to stickybeak, I couldn't control myself as I started searching for more clues. I was in for a shock. Opening the drawers in his bedroom, I found some women's nighties. Did Jared have another woman? I couldn't think of any other explanation. I was gutted. 'My perfect man turned out to be a cheater,' I groaned.
With tears stinging my eyes, I packed up my overnight bag and left. I'd really thought he was one of the good ones. Texting Jared, I told him what I thought of him. I know you've got another woman. You're a pig! I wrote. I was even more heartbroken when he didn't reply. Then I remembered I'd promised to feed his dog while he was away. So even though I was still reeling, I went back over to his place. His best mate Dale was in the garage borrowing some tools and suddenly the story of my shock discovery came tumbling out.
'Do you know who the other woman is?' I asked.
That's when Dale went a bit coy. 'It's not what you think,' he said sheepishly.
'Well unless Jared's a cross-dresser then I can't think what else it would be!' I joked.
'He is,' Dale suddenly stammered.
My mind whirred with questions. Did that mean Jared wanted to be a woman? What did that mean for our relationship? And why hadn't he told me earlier? Wanting answers, I waited for Jared to come home. As soon as I saw him, my heart melted.
He looked so sad and scared. Sitting down with him, I listened as he confessed he regularly wore make-up and girly clothing in private. 'I'm transgender and I want to be a woman,' he said. 'I just didn't know how to tell you.'
What did that mean for our relationship? And why hadn't he told me earlier?
My heart went out to him as he explained that only a handful of his friends knew about his cross-dressing. But I was the only one who knew about his desire to be a woman. I felt awful for ever doubting him. He wasn't cheating - he was the other woman! Instead of being freaked out, I felt a strong desire to help Jared become the person he'd always wanted to be. 'Let's start changing things,' I said, taking his hand. 'One step at a time.'
While some people might be frightened off, there was no doubt in my mind that we were still a couple. Knowing Jared was transgender didn't change the fact he was the kind and wonderful person I'd fallen for. I was in love with Jared and his secret woman!
I was in love with Jared and his secret woman!
Over the next two months, Jared gradually started revealing his true self. I began to refer to Jared as 'she' and 'her' rather than 'he' and 'him'. Wanting a more suitable name for the new persona, Jared legally became Jasmine. She also altered her clothes so they were more fitted and began to wear light make-up out in public. I also helped her tell her family and friends the truth. Thankfully, everyone was supportive and my own family welcomed Jasmine when I introduced them soon after.
Once everyone knew, her confidence sky rocketed. While she once stooped and hid away behind long hair, she suddenly stood proud with a beaming smile on her face. Then three months ago, Jasmine started taking hormone replacement tablets. Gradually her skin became softer, she had less body hair and began to develop breasts. Having only dated men previously, I worried about whether I'd still find her attractive with a more feminine body shape. But I needn't have fretted. I love Jasmine's personality and it doesn't matter what package she comes in. Besides, she's a very beautiful woman.
Jasmine's next step will be to have gender reassignment surgery in Thailand. However at a cost of $30,000, that could be a few years down the line. In the meantime we have frozen some sperm in the hope that we'll be able to have a family one day. One year on, our relationship is stronger than ever and I can see a very happy future ahead for us. I love my soulmate for who she is.
I love Jasmine's personality and it doesn't matter what package she comes in.
From the age of five or six, I used to fall asleep every night and hope I'd wake up as a little girl. Those feelings never disappeared. Prior to meeting Leah, I used to keep my desire to be a woman private but when she found the make-up I knew I had to confess. She has been really understanding. Without Leah I wouldn't be where I am today. In terms of transitioning into a woman, she has made me feel confident enough to be the real me. It's my dream that one day we'll have our own family and grow old together.
Originally published in that's life! Issue 4, 2016, cover date 28 January 2016.