WOMEN
04/23/2014 09:19 am ET Updated Apr 23, 2014

My Self-Made Man

Tim Robberts via Getty Images

Having learned almost everything I know about dating from watching teen dramas like The O.C. and Gossip Girl, I expected to do some crazy things for love: get wrapped up in a lover's drug-smuggling ring, perhaps, or steal a rival's yacht. But helping my boyfriend in his transition from female to male was not an act of devotion I could ever have anticipated.

I first met Liam in a coffee shop in my Bronx neighborhood three years ago. When he started a casual conversation in line, I was struck by his country-boy charm and cute gap-toothed grin. "What's your name?" I asked. His slow, swaying voice sped up: "Liam, but that's a recent thing because I'm transitioning—I'm transgender. I was born a girl, but I've always known I was a guy. Is that OK?" From looking at him, I never would have known about his recent past. "Of course," I said, posturing behind my liberalism and years of gender studies classes. But I wasn't actually so confident. While I'd met other transgender people, Liam was the first to come out to me directly. I felt like I was handed a live grenade—weren't confessions like that supposed to be explosive?

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