Fran, Denise and Oprah

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Denise said goodbye to Don just a few years ago, but she says she's always been the woman you see today. "I've always been Denise inside," she says. "The way I look at it is I finally took my Halloween costume off."

Fran also had to say goodbye to Don, but she says she never considered leaving her spouse. "I wanted the family to remain in a stable family," Fran says. "I had three children, and I needed to make sure we had a stable, loving home, and we had that. The person [I married] didn't change...just the packaging."

When Denise first began transitioning, Fran says she was a little uncomfortable with public displays of affection. "I was a little leery about it—about people marking me as a lesbian—and of people staring and getting the looks, the disgusted looks," she says. "You just come to the realization that, you know, that's their problem. Not mine."

Both Fran and Denise say their 27-year marriage is stronger than ever. "If you asked me 10 years ago, did I marry my soul mate? I would tell you that I married somebody that I love and that loves me back, but I didn't feel that I had my soul mate," Denise says. "You ask me today, did I marry my soul mate? And I will absolutely, positively, say yes. That's not because she stayed with me. It's just that we've gotten on such a higher plane of a relationship than I think we've ever been."