Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope. Maya Angelou
Finding a life partner can present a particular challenge to transgender men and women, but just like with anyone else in the world, true love can and does happen. For transgender people, a legal marriage is dependent on many things, such as identification documents and attitudes of peers, officiants and venue providers, as well as countless other potential barriers. Many who are in love and wish to spend their lives together as a legally recognized couple are unable to do so simply because of laws, bureaucracy and discrimination.
Many transgender couples, however, have plowed through the barriers and entered into their legally-binding lifelong commitments to each other. These may be a transgender man who marries a cisgender woman, or a cisgender male who marries a transgender woman, two transgender men, or any other combination of genders who fall in love and marry.
Aydin and Jo are among the couples who were able to experience the joy of a legally recognized wedding on June 6, 2015 in Santa Barbara, California. They are happy to share their celebration of love with the readers of Gay Weddings Magazine.
Groom: Aydin Olson-Kennedy, MSW, ASW
Aydin jumped the hurdles, leapt the fences and penetrated walls in order to become the man in love that he is today. Thirty-eight years ago, Aydin was born in a small town in Oregon, and because of his girl body he was assigned female at birth. For the first 30 years of his life, Aydin lived as a female, but even as a young child he knew there was something not right. After years of struggling to keep his true self hidden deep inside, Aydin physically transitioned to his authentic male self. Aydin is transsexual man who dedicates his life to advocating for and supporting the transgender community as a counselor, trainer and educator.
Bride: Johanna Olson-Kennedy, MD
Johanna (Jo) is a practicing Pediatrics physician specializing in the care of transgender and gender-variant youth. She has appeared in various television broadcasts such as The Dr. Phil Show, Lisa Ling’s Our America, ABC’s 20/20 and most recently in Diane Sawyer’s interview with Bruce Jenner. Jo spends an enormous amount of her time advocating and educating society on the needs of transgender youth. She is published in several academic journals and other assorted publications, and is considered a national expert in the care of transgender youth.
Their Love Story
Aydin and Jo met in 2011 at the first UCSF Center of Excellence TransHealth Summit. Jo was presenting her work with transgender youth, and Aydin was there as an attendee. Jo happened to have a severe cold at the conference, and while walking behind Aydin, she let out a “significantly loud, ‘three-dimensional’ and loud sneeze.” Aydin turned around, and teasingly pretended she had covered his neck with infectious droplets. That was the beginning of their growing friendship. During the next two years, they continued meeting at various gender conferences such as Gender Spectrum, Philadelphia TransHealth Conference, and Gender Odyssey. Their friendship developed into love, and by the fall of 2013, they had officially become a couple.
Jo tells it like this: “Year after year I was struck by Aydin’s kind and gentle soul, and his incredible ability to tell you the truth and make it sound so nice. He is mindful and loving, and is not afraid to be vulnerable, and it is these qualities that eventually led me to fall unequivocally in love with him.”
Typical Family Concerns
When asked if they encountered any family or peer issues in regards to their relationship, their answer was “Our families have had mixed reactions. We think most of the concern has had to do with the timing of our wedding, which is happening almost two years after us getting together. As people who are both on our second marriage, we think we have a good idea what we want, and it’s not that unusual that the timeline gets shortened. Who has the time to spend a decade together before committing? For the most part, those that know and love us share our joy and overwhelming enthusiasm for our partnership and marriage.”
Legality of the Marriage
Although California’s laws state that same-sex marriages are legal, this law is irrelevant to them since Aydin’s legal documentation has all been changed to reflect his male gender. They are legally a male and female couple, and were able to marry each other regardless of same-sex marriage laws.
When asked if they encountered any issues in the wedding planning, they answered, “We feel like we have been so fortunate to have not had problems with aspects of wedding planning. Our officiant is a good friend of ours, who also does gender related work. With each wedding vendor, we verified their position about both same sex marriage, the presence of same sex couples and transgender wedding guests and have received nothing but positive reactions.”
Aydin and Jo have a child from a previous marriage, and have hopes of expanding their family even further since they both love parenting and indicated they would feel positively about doing more of it. They both plan to continue traveling and speaking at various gender conferences and other venues educating society on the needs and issues of transgender men, women and youth.
“Marry for Love”
When asked if they had any advice they could give to other transgender men and women who are considering marriage, the answer was an unequivocal “Marry for love. At the end of it all, it is our human connections that shape our experiences more than anything else.”
By Michael Eric Brown