Breaking free from fear
September 12, 2013
They felt something the first time they met — Oct. 12, 2009 — at a party for a mutual friend. Two weeks later, they went on their first date.
"We hit it off pretty well," Jeanne Lordier, 27, remembers. "We spent six hours in the moonlight just talking."
By December of that year, they were married.
In many ways, it's the most traditional kind of love story, but their romance has been anything but conventional. Two years into the marriage, Jeanne — then Jean — broke down to his young bride, Cherise.
He wasn't just an effeminate man who sometimes liked to dress as a woman, he told her; he really was a woman. At least that's how he felt inside.
It wasn't a complete shock, said Cherise, 24.
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"I already knew she was more feminine," she said. "That was part of the reason I was attracted to her."
Supporting her partner through the inner turmoil, Cherise finally acknowledged her own secrets.
"Having someone else be honest with their own life creates a disconnect when you have to be honest with yourself," she said. "I had to come to terms with my own sexuality. I knew I was a lesbian."
Neither woman grew up in homes tolerant of homosexuality.
Jeanne and her three brothers were not allowed to watch television or listen to secular music.
"They talked about gays and lesbians being hung from lampposts on street corners," she said.
She knew something didn't feel right, but she didn't know how to articulate it. She'd heard words like "trannies" or "shemales," but those didn't describe who she was.
"Something felt really weird when I started puberty," she said. "I wrestled with it for a long time. I was depressed. I had a lot of suicidal thoughts. Thankfully, I never went through with it all the way."
College was met with what she called more "troublesome years."
But with Cherise, she found herself.
"She felt like the first person who really understood me," she said. "I was able to break away from my fear."
Together, the two researched the process of transitioning gender, seeking help from a therapist, a doctor, the Internet, friends, each other.
"It made sense to me," Jeanne said. "I already knew how I felt; I just couldn't really express it."
The easiest part, she said, was the name change. Her French name, Jean Pierre, shifted to Jeanne (pronounced Zhahn) Pierrette.
Almost immediately after beginning hormone therapy, Jeanne said, she started to see changes.
"It was like going through puberty all over again," Cherise observed.
She was excited to see the physical changes in her body as fat and hair growth redistributed to create a more womanly figure, Jeanne said, but the emotional changes were most welcome.
"It was fantastic. What was most wonderful about it was the mental feeling. It was amazing," she said. "It felt like a cloud that was always in my mind lifted."
Cherise noticed it as well.
"There's a huge difference in her emotional state, a huge difference in her confidence," Cherise said. "The transition has been really good for us. We've connected a lot more. We communicate a lot more. It's made our relationship a lot easier."
Jeanne came out to co-workers in June at the manufacturing company in Carson City where both women work. Before doing so, she spoke with the human resources manager. Together, they worried about the reaction of Jeanne's co-workers in the maintenance department. It turned out, however, they had little to worry about.
"It actually went really well," Cherise said. "The staff has been really supportive. There haven't been any issues."
In fact, Jeanne received a promotion two weeks later.
Friends have been supportive as well, but responses from their families have been mixed.
"My mom said if I wanted her to commit suicide, this was the way to do it," Jeanne said.
They remind family members to use the proper pronouns.
"There is a certain period where that transition is acceptable," Cherise explained. "With family members, we're a lot more lenient, but after a certain amount of time, it becomes a way to invalidate someone."
When referring to Jeanne even before the transition, they said, it is appropriate to use the feminine pronouns.
"No matter what tense it's in, she is who she is," Cherise said.
The pair consider themselves fortunate to be going through the process now, when there is a greater amount of information available and understanding within the community has increased. There was a time when transgender people would be forced to forsake their lives, starting again with a new identity in unfamiliar circumstances.
However, they agree that there is still work to be done.
"In Northern Nevada, specifically in Carson City, people aren't necessarily hurtful; they just don't know a lot about it," Jeanne said. "Unfortunately, the bad information get sensationalized."
The women try to answer any questions people have while maintaining their privacy. They're hopeful the showing of the documentary "Trans" at the Galaxy Fandango on Sept. 16 will foster more understanding.
"It can help people see it's not a big deal," Jeanne said. "It happens all the time. You run into transgender people all the time and don't know it."
Jeanne started her hormone therapy in July and expects to undergo sex-reassignment surgery around the same time next year. The changes, she said, are just her body catching up to her mind.
"It hasn't been foreign at all," Jeanne said. "What felt foreign was the way it was before."
"It's been really exciting to see the changes just because the image I have in my head is finally coming to fruition," Cherise said. "This is who she's always been to me."