(CNN)– When Tiffany Woods met Bridgette, she was at a crossroads.
It was February 1987 and Tiffany was 23 years old. She had been married for two years, but she saw how her marriage was failing and a divorce seemed imminent. At the time, Tiffany was training to be a police officer, but her heart wasn’t in it.
Also, Tiffany, who is a trans woman, had not yet shared her sexual orientation. She for much of her life had tried to hide her identity.
Tiffany wasn’t sure where her next destination would be. At the moment, she was concentrating on queuing at the Sacramento bus station to catch the Greyhound bus that would take her back to San Francisco.
Travelers were beginning to deposit their bags in the hold of the bus. Tiffany wasn’t paying attention, but then a young woman in line approached Tiffany to hand her a luggage tag.
“You’re going to need one of these to check your bag,” the stranger said, smiling.
“Thank you,” Tiffany said, snapping out of her fantasy.
The woman with the extra luggage tag was Bridgette. She was 18 years old. She lived and worked in San Francisco, where she returned after spending a weekend visiting her parents in Sacramento.
Bridgette and Tiffany started chatting, first about luggage tags and then about the trip ahead.
The person between them, sensing that the conversation was not going to end any time soon, asked them if they wanted to change places so they could be together. Why not, Tiffany and Bridgette thought, and changed.
“We were talking back and forth. We were waiting in that queue for a long time,” Bridgette, who has asked to be called only by her first name for personal reasons, tells CNN Travel.
The two were enjoying each other’s company. When they finally got on the bus, sitting together seemed like a no-brainer.
The drive from Sacramento to San Francisco usually takes about an hour and a half. But with the multiple Greyhound stops and the inevitable traffic, the bus was on the road for several hours.
Tiffany and Bridgette talked the entire way.
Tiffany describes this moment as one of “those conversations where you meet a stranger and spend several hours with him like you’ve known him forever. But you assume you’re not going to see him again and let your guard down.”
The two talked about everything, but also kept some things private. Tiffany didn’t mention that she was still married. Bridgette added a few years to her age, telling Tiffany that she was 21.
After a couple of hours of travel, a woman sitting across from the couple, who was charmed by their obvious connection, chimed in with a question:
“How long have you been together?” she asked.
Tiffany and Bridgette looked at each other and laughed. Then Tiffany turned to the woman and told her that they had been together since kindergarten. Wasting no time, Bridgette named a fictional teacher who had taught them an imaginary class in which they had supposedly met.
“We started playing together like we’d known each other since kindergarten,” recalls Tiffany. “We had quite a bit of chemistry.”
The bus ended up pulling into the vicinity of the San Francisco Transbay Terminal, where a friend of Tiffany’s was waiting to pick her up.
Bridgette planned to catch the Bay Area Rapid Transit train to go to her aunt’s house, where she was living at the time.
The bus being late meant she had missed the last train, so Tiffany offered to give Bridgette a ride home.
Along the way, they detoured to a pizzeria and then to a bar and exchanged phone numbers. When Tiffany dropped Bridgette off at home, she kissed her goodnight.
“It was very sweet,” remembers Bridgette. “And the rest is history, as they say.”
Sincerity and communication
Bridgette and Tiffany still hadn’t made plans to go to Sacramento next weekend. But one day they called each other on the phone and agreed to travel together.
Bridgette was planning to stay with her parents for the weekend, so she suggested that Tiffany stay there too. Tiffany agreed, and so, less than a week after they met waiting for the bus, Bridgette introduced Tiffany to her parents.
“I spent the weekend with her. We went to her parents’ house and then to her sister’s high school play. Then she introduced me to her friends,” Tiffany recalls.
Since that weekend, she adds, “we have never stopped being together.”
That Friday night, the two of us were together on the couch in Bridgette’s parents’ living room. It was 3 in the morning and everyone else was asleep. They had been drinking champagne. Sparks flew from the fire in the fireplace.
“He stroked my hair and said, ‘What’s your favorite color?'” Tiffany recalls. “And I said, ‘Purple.'”
That was an unusual choice for a straight, cis man in 1987, Tiffany suggests. By telling Bridgette the truth about herself, she hoped to spark a deeper conversation.
“I think I have issues with my gender,” she said.
The next morning, slightly hungover, Tiffany panicked and tried to take back what she had said.
“It’s okay, we’ll work it out. Everything’s fine. You’re perfect just the way you are. We’ll work it out together,” was Bridgette’s response.
“No one had ever told me that before,” Tiffany recalls today.
It was everything she wanted.
“Because there was no expectation in the relationship. There was honesty and total trust. We understood each other. And as the relationship grew, that stuck,” says Bridgette.
“I think we’ve always had a soulmate connection,” says Tiffany.
As March began, Bridgette and Tiffany still knew each other. Their relationship was growing more intense, but Tiffany wasn’t sure how to bring up the fact that she was still married.
He hadn’t mentioned it at first and now it had become a secret.
In the end, Bridgette found out. The situation was tense.
“I was very upset,” says Bridgette. “It took me a while to get over it.” She Now she says this memory “is a little scar.”
“I took it on as my responsibility,” says Tiffany.
Tiffany and his ex-wife, who were already separated, have divorced. In September 1987, Tiffany and Bridgette had moved into a small apartment in San Francisco.
The two began to build a life together, working on themselves, their professional careers and building a family.
Tiffany had decided that being a cop wasn’t for her.
“I was going to be a police officer because I was never able to transition,” he recalls. “And that’s what trans people were doing in the ’70s, ’80s and ’60s, we were into hyper-masculine professions.”
But the unconditional and supportive relationship he had with Bridgette allowed him to rethink. Together, Tiffany and Bridgette began to search for a way for Tiffany to be herself.
“If you don’t figure out your gender identity, identify your issues in a healthy way, and start building a healthy foundation, you’re always going to have a struggle,” says Tiffany now.
In the late 1980s, there was no Internet to turn to. There was also a lack of trans representation in the media or in public opinion.
“It was very different, there were no resources and there was a lot of stigma, there still is now,” says Tiffany. “I mean, we’ve come a long way now—although obviously we still have a negative response to trans visibility—but at the time I was trying to figure out if this was even a reality.”
As the years went by, the two began to feel a part of the LGBTQ+ community in San Francisco.
“We found a lot of kindred spirits, a place, a belonging and a purpose,” says Tiffany.
It was a turning point, but the impact of the AIDS epidemic on her community, as well as the “double life” Tiffany was living at the time, as she still hadn’t spoken to her family, was harsh.
When she decided to fully transition, Tiffany stopped talking to her family.
“Fear is a big barrier,” he says. “I was afraid of rejection. So I rejected them first, because that way I could control the rejection. But then I didn’t give them a chance to support me. That’s the other side of the coin.”
a casual wedding
Bridgette had always wanted to get married. Tiffany wasn’t so sure: she had already been married and it had ended badly.
But in 1996, the two agreed that it was the best thing for both of them.
The enthusiasm of his homosexual friends, who could not marry at that time, was added. They told Bridgette and Tiffany that they should “get married for us” and the two were married on December 28, 1996.
Tiffany and Bridgette weren’t sure how the pastor would react if they both dressed in a traditionally feminine way, so Tiffany donned a masculine tuxedo with light makeup and her hair up.
But later, the couple’s roommates, who were drag queens and styling experts helped Tiffany get ready for the evening party. After this, the newlyweds went out to eat cake with their closest friends.
A few years later, with the dawn of the new millennium, Tiffany and Bridgette decided to have children.
Bridgette had always wanted children, but it had taken Tiffany longer to make that decision.
“I thought the kids would reject me, because I didn’t know how to have those conversations, you know, there weren’t many trans parents at the time,” she says.
The two decided that the first step was to rebuild the relationship with Tiffany’s family.
“We wanted to change the narrative and create a new path that was healthy for our family, while also knowing that we needed the support of our families, navigating a world as a trans woman and perceived as a lesbian couple,” says Tiffany.
After the years of silence, there was some pain there, but Tiffany’s family was excited to support Tiffany and Bridgette through parenthood. The old wounds gradually healed.
Today, Bridgette and Tiffany have three teenage children.
Tiffany’s fears of her children’s rejection turned out to be unfounded, as Bridgette always said they would be. They give her, Tiffany says, “nothing but unconditional love.”
“Things happen for a reason”
Today, Tiffany and Bridgette say they are focused on doing what they can to make a difference in the world and raising their children to do the same.
Bridgette has her own company, while Tiffany works for the California Department of Public Health as the state’s transgender health specialist.
Tiffany is also on the executive board of the California Democratic Party and co-chair of the LGBTQ group.
Today, every time they see a Greyhound bus on the road, the two think of their chance meeting. They haven’t been on a Greyhound together since, but they do enjoy road trips from time to time.
Tiffany and Bridgette say they are both proud of where they are today and how they have grown together during their 35-year relationship.
“Anything is possible, you just have to believe that you can make things work,” says Bridgette.
“Don’t be afraid to take risks,” agrees Tiffany. “I think we all know each other for a reason, things happen for a reason. And we may not understand what the reason is, but be open to them. And don’t let fear hold you back.”