by Amber Leventry
“Hi Babe,” says Jamie. “Hi Baby,” answers Phil.
After four years together, this exchange sounds comfortable, but still a little flirty.
The Canada-based couple’s love story started the way many do these days: with nerves, excitement, and a dating app.
The two were living in different parts of Ontario in 2016, and wouldn’t have crossed paths but for Bumble. Jamie was working in the fashion industry while Phil’s day job was in construction. Both were ready for more than a fling or a one-night hookup, though, and Phil had heard that Bumble was the place to find more serious and meaningful relationships.
“It was my first time with online dating,” he says. “When I was younger, I would go to the bars and meet people the old-fashioned way, but at the time I was busy focusing on my career and trying to find a way to open up a restaurant , so I didn’t have spare time for myself to go out. But I still wanted to put myself out there.”
For Jamie, Bumble was a place that allowed her to feel safe. “When I connected with Phil, he didn’t know I was transgender,” she says. “He didn’t know for quite some time.” After several dates with Phil, she knew there was something magical between them. They were falling in love, and she was ready to tell him her story.
“Things moved pretty quickly, and the whole time I had this secret I was holding onto,” she says. “I didn’t want to lose him and didn’t know how or when to open up. After a few weeks, I decided I was going to take the chance and tell him.”
Phil was shocked, but still saw Jamie for who she was—a woman who had stolen his heart. “I identify as a straight male and am attracted to women,” he says. “I was attracted to Jamie because I saw a woman, and I am still attracted to her because she is a woman. You get to fall in love with the person for all of who they are.”
Phil admits that he did take time to work through his emotions and process fears for both himself and Jamie. There is still an element of stigma attached to the queer community, but also to people like Phil who didn’t think they’d ever fall in love with someone who’s transgender or identifies as LGBTQIA+. “Was I okay with this?” he remembers asking himself. “Can I provide her with what she needs? Do I have the strength to be there and be strong for her? Because this isn’t easy.”
After some time and deep thought, Phil grew to believe that he could be a support system and partner in life for Jamie — and that she could be the same for him. “You fall in love with the person for who they are,” he says. “I was traditional but open-minded, so I guess that made [Jamie being transgender] easier. We have had our ups and downs but at the end of the day, we are there for each other.”
After several months of dating, Jamie and Phil moved in together in Toronto. After four years of unwavering support and two dogs to parent, the couple got engaged on Italy’s romantic Amalfi Coast in August 2019.
Now, after being engaged for well over a year, the two are still hoping for an August 2021 wedding, but the COVID pandemic has made planning difficult. “We don’t know if it’s going to be the way we want it to be with the ability to enjoy it with all of our friends and family,” Phil says. “But I told [Jamie] that if it’s not 200 people, it may be 50 or 10, but it will be with close family and friends.” Jamie adds that the wedding is going to be extra special because the day will serve two purposes: to celebrate their love, while finally honoring their authentic selves.
Jamie came out to her family as a transgender woman at age 14. Since that time, she’s lived a stealth life, which in the transgender and queer community means she kept certain facts secret in order to stay as safe as possible and to try and lessen stigma and discrimination. She wanted the life everyone deserves, no matter how they identify. Until the fall of 2020, when she and Phil decided it was time to publicly and proudly come out, few people knew that Jamie is trans.
“We didn’t want people to come to the wedding to just to celebrate another [heterosexual] marriage,” says Jamie.
The couple hopes that sharing their story will help normalize romantic relationships with transgender folks. “Our strength as transgender people and people in the LGBTQIA+ community is in numbers,” she says. “And for me it was important to show visibility and create awareness, not just for me but for all of the other transgender people out there.”
Jamie is certain she couldn’t have come out without Phil. “If I didn’t have his support, I don’t know if I could have done it,” she says. “But Phil is so proud of me and us. I know he will be there for me no matter what.”
When it’s safe to travel again, the couple will plan a honeymoon and find ways to become more involved in the LGBTQIA+ community. Until then, Phil’s new Portuguese chicken restaurant, Jamie’s YouTube channel, long walks, and Netflix take up much of their time.
“If this isn’t love, says Jamie, “I don’t know what is.”