By Paula Niemiec
Once in awhile you run into a person or a couple whose story is truly unique. On March 26, at the Transgender Day of Visibility celebration at the Five15 in Royal Oak, one speaker in particular described a story which is both rare and in need of recognition. Carla Manion is a natural-born (sometimes called “cisgender”) woman who is legally married to Jay Elbrecht, a trans-man who became legally male while living in Oregon.
Although he has obtained legal status as a male here in Michigan, it was not without incident. The state would not recognize the fact that Elbrecht had his name and gender legally changed while living in Oregon and the couple needed to go through many legal procedures, including having his sex and gender changed on his passport to reflect his male status. “It’s so frustrating here in Michigan what one has to go through to be recognized as the gender and sex (you identify with),” said Elbrecht.
And despite all the legal and technical challenges, Elbrecht and Manion are now a very happy couple. “I’m here to support my husband in every way I can,” she cried out to the audience. “I want him and you all to know how proud I am of him. I support all those who are transgender.”
Afterwards, Manion spoke about what life is like for the couple. “For me, I guess it was love at first sight. I met him and that was it. I knew I’d be with him. We met at a ‘Dark Lady’ event in Portland, Ore. Nine months later, we were married.”
They have remained married for three years. Manion described how Elbrecht has been involved in the LGBT community for 25 years. “I play the role of advocate as often as I can,” she said with a smile. “It matters to me that I’m there to help.”
As for any advice Manion might have for others who marry a transgender person, she said it can be hard but well worth it. “I would say choose your words carefully. Jay is fragile and has been jaded by others in society. I don’t want to say anything that would hurt his feelings or his cause,” she explained.
Manion is the mother of two children from previous relationships, and although Elbrecht has not officially adopted them, Manion said he is “a very fatherly person and treats them both as if they were his own.” The four of them live in a county they ask not be revealed due to Elbrecht’s work and life situation. They are both very happy now that everything has been worked out legally here in the state, and at the end of the evening the smiles on their faces said it all.