Over time, it seems we build up notions of how love should work, and we impose those notions with inflexible arguments about natural law, God’s plan or the plain text of an ancient document.
Then sometimes a story comes along that leaves you on the floor, gasping for breath, struggling to realize that perhaps we’ve had it wrong this whole time.
This spring, Les and Scott GrantSmith will mark their 25th wedding anniversary. The couple raised two daughters along the way. But 15 years ago, they hit a crisis that nearly shattered their family. Les was keeping a secret, and that became a problem. But they solved it as a family, in a way that kept them together and happy.
In the weeks leading up to that day back in 1997, Les was certain of two things: She was a mother who loved her daughters — and she was also transgender, the term for someone born in a body of the wrong sex.
After weeks of inner torment, Les sat down to talk with Scott, and NPR captured this reconstruction of their conversation:
“I said, ‘What’s going on?’ ” Scott recalls. “And then you said, ‘I can’t tell you. Because if I do, you’ll leave me and take the children and I’ll never see them again.’ And I said, ‘You’d probably better tell me then. Because you can’t … you can’t leave it hanging like that.’ ”
“You can’t leave it like that,” Les agrees. “So, that’s when I told you.”
“First thing I remember is that you, you said that you were in the wrong body, that you should be a man,” Scott says.
“And if it had seemed to me that I was going to lose you, and I was going to lose the kids, I would have said, ‘OK. I’m not transitioning.’ But you told me that we’ll work it out.”
“Early the next week, you were on the computer and you were researching all of the surgeries …”
“Surgeries …” Les says.
“The hormones,” Scott says.
“Hormones,” Les echoes.
“And I just freaked out,” Scott says. “It finally occurred to me to ask the question, should I stay or should I go?”
He sums up his immediate response to that question: “Well, I won’t be better off. Les won’t be better off. And the kids won’t be better off.”
Things changed. Scott isn’t gay. But he still loves the woman he married – and the man she has become.
“So right around that time, you had started transitioning and we just kinda fell out of holding hands when we were walking along the street,” Scott says.
“Spontaneous affection — we couldn’t do it comfortably anymore,” Les says.
“A lot of it was me,” Scott says. “Because it became clear that I would be perceived as gay. But I realized that I didn’t fall in love with a couple of body pieces. I decided this is the person.”
“And I was still the same person,” Les says.
“More so. More like the fun person I remembered from 30-odd years ago,” Scott says, “than before the transition.”
Les tells his husband, “Right … right. I mean … it’s just been amazing to watch you. You stuck with it. You persisted. And, every year my respect for you grows and grows.”
“I love you,” he says.
“I love you,” Scott says.
In Galatians 3:28, a famous passage and one of my favorites, Paul says, “There is neither Jew nor Greek; there is neither slave nor free; nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Did you catch that? Jew nor Greek. Slave nor free. Male and female. In Christ, the new creation has come. The distinctions of the old creation (“male and female he created them”) have gone.
Many Christians would likely condemn Les and Scott GrantSmith for their relationship. There was a time I would have, too. But love is a mighty, inexorable power. It leads a man to accept his partner’s new identity, and it leads a man to sacrifice himself for a people who despise him. It saves us all from the slavery of sin and death. When I read a story like Les and Scott’s, I see what I see when I read the story of Jesus: the beautiful, exquisite triumph of love.