(WJLA) - For D.C. Police Sergeant Jessica Hawkins, this is not an easy story to tell.
"Nothing else has scared me more than coming out to all of my friends and family," she says.
Engulfing fear forced her to live as a man for 40 years - but now that time is over:
"Most people in this area are accepting, and even if they aren't, they at least have enough manners to keep their opinion to themselves."
So much was and still is on the line - for instance, a marriage.
"I am losing my spouse in a sense I am going to get upset," says Hawkins' wife, Staci.
Relationships at work were also put to the test:
"Everyone has been super supportive," says Hawkins. "If they don't agree, they just avoid me and don't say anything at all."
If you are wondering at this point in the story what Sgt. Jessica Hawkins looked like before her transition, you will have to remain curious. She asked that we not publish those photos for a reason:
"Once you see a picture of Wil, you will always associate me as a man. I am trying to live my life as a normal everyday woman," she says.
Her life became a series of secrets intended to maintain normalcy:
"I've known I was different than all the other boys since probably I was five or six years old."
She wore girl's then women's clothes in private only, which her high school sweetheart and now wife of 23 years says she thought was just a fetish:
"Never in a million years would I think I was going to end up married to a woman."
Hawkins is now receiving hormone replacement therapy, and says she will eventually undergo gender corrective surgery. And as the couple works hard to figure out how they'll land, Hawkins says she hopes for a life where the neighbors don't balk, and where the community in which she served for 20 years embraces her.
"That is the hard part...just getting past people asking, 'are you a lesbian?" says her wife. "Not that I think there's anything wrong with it, but I am not. That is the hard part -- trying to find attraction and stay in love with someone and they are changing so drastically."
"I would love to keep my marriage intact. Me and my wife, we are best friends," adds Hawkins, who feels she is finally being true to herself -- as well as to others.
"I am not lying to anyone now, I can just be myself...true to myself and everyone else.