Trans­gen­der cou­ple’s wed­ding joy

They started out life as dif­fer­ent gen­ders – to­day they’re their real selves and madly in love

YOU (South Africa) - - CONTENTS - COMPILED BY NICI DE WET

IT WAS some­thing she didn’t dare dream of as a child – boys just didn’t wear beau­ti­ful gowns like the girls did in the Dis­ney movies she loved to watch. But when Cap­tain Han­nah Win­ter­bourne, Eng­land’s high­est-rank­ing trans­gen­der sol­dier, stepped out re­cently in her white wed­ding dress to say “I do” to fel­low trans­gen­der per­son Jake Graf (40) she proved to her­self and the world she was ev­ery inch the princess she’d al­ways yearned to be.

“It was a pipe dream,” the 31-year-old told The Sun news­pa­per. “Un­til I met Jake I never re­alised it was a goal I could achieve. It hasn’t sunk in yet.”

Her ac­tor hus­band, who was as­signed fe­male at birth, shared her sen­ti­ments. “I never thought any of this was a pos­si­bil­ity. Now I’ve got this beau­ti­ful army cap­tain wife and I’m so happy.”

The new­ly­weds have been dubbed the world’s fore­most trans­gen­der “power cou­ple”.

But Jake, who ap­peared in The Dan­ish Girl, the Os­car-win­ning movie about artist Lili Elbe’s trans­gen­der jour­ney, says they’re just like ev­ery other cou­ple.

“We have our flaws and ups and downs,” he says. Their his­tory is just a lit­tle dif­fer­ent from other cou­ples, he adds.

He de­scribes their recent wed­ding, at Lon­don’s his­toric Chelsea Town Hall, as “ab­so­lutely mag­i­cal”.

“Han­nah looked stun­ning and we both cried as she walked down the aisle. We had two beau­ti­ful read­ings and sim­ple vows. We cracked the glass un­der­foot in a throw­back to my Jewish her­itage.”

In­stead of presents, guests do­nated flow­ers and a cake and con­trib­uted to the cou­ple’s sur­ro­gacy fund as be­com­ing par­ents is their next goal.

Af­ter their wed­ding the love­birds – who’ll hon­ey­moon in Tel Aviv, Is­rael, in May – held aloft the baby blue-, pink- and white-striped flag of the trans com­mu­nity as they posed for pic­tures.

“We’re just like any other bride and groom,” they said in a recent in­ter­view. “As you tran­si­tion and meet some­one new you kind of for­get about your past.”

THE pair met three years ago af­ter Jake saw an ar­ti­cle about Han­nah in The Sun, which told of her de­ci­sion to be­come a woman while on ac­tive duty in the Bri­tish army. “I saw her on the front page and thought she was beau­ti­ful,” he says. He men­tioned his feel­ings to a mu­tual friend iden­ti­fied only as Re­becca, who a week later came back to him with some good news.

“I spoke to Cap­tain Win­ter­bourne and she thinks you’re cute too,” she told him.

“It re­ally was play­ground stuff,” Jake says.

They first made con­tact on Face­book be­fore swop­ping phone num­bers.

“In our first phone con­ver­sa­tion I asked, ‘Do you think you’d like to have

kids be­cause I re­ally want them?’ ” says Jake, who knew from early child­hood he was trapped in the wrong body.

“It seemed like the right thing to do be­fore we met. I like to get things out in the open quite early.”

Han­nah ad­mits she was “ab­so­lutely ter­ri­fied” to go on their first date as she’d never had a boyfriend be­fore. But know­ing Jake was trans­gen­der helped a lot.

“I didn’t have to ex­plain my­self. He knew how to deal with it. I’ve got a low voice but he un­der­stood.

“I was re­ally in­se­cure about dat­ing. But I de­cided now was the time to push my­self and see if there was a per­son out there who could love me. And I hit the jack­pot the first time.”

Things moved quickly. “Jake wanted some­thing se­ri­ous,” she says. “He didn’t want a fling.

“When I told my fam­ily and friends I loved him they were con­cerned I was just caught up in the emo­tion of hav­ing my first boyfriend.

“But three years on he still makes me feel I’m the cen­tre of his uni­verse.”

JAKE popped the ques­tion in Septem­ber last year while they were on hol­i­day in New York, go­ing down on one knee in a row­ing boat on a lake in Cen­tral Park. The Bri­tish ac­tor, who fea­tures in the up­com­ing movie Co­lette with Keira Knight­ley, says most peo­ple don’t re­alise they’re a trans­gen­der cou­ple.

“We’re lucky enough that we both look like any other per­son walk­ing down the street. By and large we pass through life with­out the abuse and ha­rass­ment a lot of trans peo­ple get.”

He had a tough time grow­ing up though. “I used to pray ev­ery night I’d wake up a boy. It made me an­gry and I cut my­self off from ev­ery­body else.”

At the age of 25 he met a trans man while vis­it­ing New York and re­alised there was hope. He went on to have suc­cess­ful gen­der re­as­sign­ment surgery.

Han­nah, who’s from Wales, was “quite young” when she knew she was dif­fer­ent. “But as a young per­son I couldn’t pin­point the fact I felt I was a girl.”

She fi­nally un­der­stood who she was when she was at univer­sity but didn’t do any­thing about it un­til af­ter she’d joined the army.

Af­ter serv­ing for a few years as a man, she un­der­went re­as­sign­ment surgery at the age of 25.

“I tran­si­tioned be­cause it’s who I am. There’s no choice. You can no more choose than you can choose to be black or white or left-handed.”

She doc­u­mented her jour­ney on so­cial me­dia and in the process be­came the army’s trans­gen­der rep­re­sen­ta­tive.

She says the mil­i­tary has been fan­tas­tic in its sup­port.

“They’ve had a pol­icy since 1999 to sup­port trans­gen­der peo­ple. The army re­ally gets it be­cause we have a re­ally dif­fi­cult job to do. You want the per­son next to you to be good at their job – you don’t care whether they’re trans­gen­der, gay, black or Mus­lim.”

SLast year Jake wrote and di­rected a short film called Headspace about the tri­als and tribu­la­tions faced by the trans com­mu­nity, which went vi­ral on the in­ter­net.

“Trans peo­ple look to us and say we’ve given them hope about find­ing love,” he says.

“My big­gest con­cern when I was start­ing my tran­si­tion, and I think it was Han­nah’s as well, was never find­ing love be­cause trans peo­ple are of­ten made to feel ugly and not wor­thy of love.

“So if we’re inspiring a new gen­er­a­tion of trans peo­ple to find some­one for them, that’s a huge hon­our.”

He says peo­ple shouldn’t worry about us­ing the wrong terms around them.

“We don’t want peo­ple to be walk­ing around feel­ing like they’re on eggshells. For years my mom used to call me by my old name but it was com­ing from a place of love. It’s a learn­ing process for all of us.”

They’re for­tu­nate in that both sets of par­ents are sup­port­ive. “For many it’s a huge shock but I’ve been lucky – my par­ents have al­ways said, ‘If you’re happy, we’re happy’,” Han­nah says.

Jake says his mom “cried for her lit­tle girl” for a year af­ter his tran­si­tion.

“Ob­vi­ously it was heart­break­ing but she’s just been amaz­ing since then. She’s my own per­sonal cheer­leader.”

The cou­ple – who are pa­trons of the UK trans­gen­der chil­dren’s char­ity Mer­maids – will live in the mar­ried quar­ters near Han­nah’s army bar­racks.

“I’m just an­other girl,” she says, “mar­ried to an­other guy.”

‘My big­gest con­cern when tran­si­tion­ing was never find­ing love’

SOURCES: PINKNEWS.CO.UK, THE­SUN.CO.UK, DAI­LY­MAIL.CO.UK

Jake Graf, who was as­signed fe­male at birth, and Han­nah Win­ter­bourne, who was as­signed male at birth, re­cently got mar­ried in London.

ABOVE: They say they’re just like any other cou­ple. BE­LOW: Han­nah and Jake in Cen­tral Park, New York, where he pro­posed.

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