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Tina’s Discovery

Copyright © 2007, 2008 by Valentina Simmons

This is my recollection of the time in the early 1990’s when I was first discovered by my wife. I was not ready to accept myself as trans at the time, so it did not go all that well. The end result was a decade plus of trying to deny who I really am.

I publish this in the hopes that it will help someone else not make the mistakes that I made.

Initial Discovery

I was working a job that involved travel. I didn’t like being away from home, but one way that I would find solace travelling was that I would take a little bag of women’s clothing with me and dress up in my hotel room. I hoped that one day I would get up the nerve to dress fully and go out, but that day was years away, and fear would keep me under wraps.

But then it all fell apart.

My wife’s sister was visiting us, and I had to travel for a work project. I kept my bag in the basement until I travelled, and because of sister-in-law and family it was a little harder to get my bag into the car, but I somehow managed it. I knew her sister was leaving the day I was coming back, so my wife wasn’t as upset as usual about me travelling. Anyway, on the way back, my plane was late, and when I got home that evening I was very tired. I left the bag in my car trunk, in the open, and pretty much forgot about it. The next morning I had to take my wife’s minivan to the garage. What I didn’t know was that while I as out my wife decided to take my car to go pick up some groceries.

When I came back home, there was my wife, clearly upset. I went into our kitchen.

She pulled out my travel bag. It was open.

“Dear,” she said. “I found this bag in the back of our car. I thought at first it was my sister’s, but I called her and she said that she didn’t have a bag like this. This stuff is too big for her anyway, and what’s this?” She held up the wig.

“Do you know what this stuff is?”

Uh-oh. My wife had found the bag I had left in the car. So stupid! I started to panic. I wasn’t ready to come out to her yet. I didn’t know what to do, what to say, anything. I’m sure I was shaking visibly. Luckily, our kids were out playing with friends so they couldn’t see or hear this.

I tried what I always did about my cross dressing – I tried to lie my way out of revealing the truth. “I don’t know,” I said. “You sure it isn’t your sisters?”

“She said it wasn’t,” my wife said. She had a look of fear on her face as she pulled out a shoe. “This is way too big for her feet.”

I needed air, but I couldn’t leave. Panic was becoming blind terror for me.

“Are you having an affair?” she asked, finally. I didn’t know what to say. If I lied and said yes then I would have to make up a woman, and I knew my wife would leave me, and I would have problems seeing my kids, and my whole world would fall apart. If I told the truth and said no, then at least I was being honest, but I felt like my whole world would still fall apart. I was comfortable lying about my cross dressing to her, but not this comfortable!

“No,” I said. “I would never have an affair!”

It was another awkward silence. “So who’s is this?” she asked.

I was trapped. There was no place to run and hide. I wanted to just die at that moment. Lying wasn’t working. I didn’t know what else to do.

After an awkward silence, I finally said, “It’s mine. They’re my clothes, that’s my wig, those are my shoes.”

My wife looked as if someone had punched her in the stomach. She was silent for a while, staring at all the clothes. “Yours?” she finally said.

“Yes,” I said. “They’re mine.”

She had the bra and the panties out of the bag now. The shock on her face is something I can still see to this day. “So you’re gay?” she asked.

“No!” I said. “I’m not gay!”

And that was true. I have always been in love with my wife.

“So you want to be a woman?” she asked next.

This was a harder question to answer for me. Years of struggling and hiding my cross dressing had taken a toll on me. The only thing I was sure of at that point was that I that I didn’t want to go through the pain of a sex change operation. I liked the benefits of being a man, but I also wanted the freedom of being able to be viewed as female.

I guess you could say I wanted to have my cake and eat it, too. Sometimes I felt like I was so selfish, that I wanted everything my way and to hell with what everybody else wants, and that is why I would cross dress. The shame of my “selfishness” was also eating at me here.

“No,” I said after a pause. “I don’t want to be a woman.”

My wife seemed unbelieving at that point. “So if you don’t want to be a woman, and you’re not gay, why do you want to dress up like a woman?”

An even tougher question for me to answer. “I don’t know,” I said. “I just like the way I feel sometimes when I dress up. It makes me feel beautiful.”

My wife was obviously disturbed by this. “I don’t know,” she said. “You’d make a very ugly woman, so I don’t see why you’d think you’d look like one. You’d look like a guy in a dress to me.”

Then she started to think back to that Halloween in college. “You know, I always thought that was wierd, how you went so far to look like a woman, with the painted toenails and the fake fingernails, the make-up and everything. I thought it was different than the other guys we saw who were dressed up that night! I was right! You are weird!”

I just listened. The comments – the ugly woman comment, the wierd comment – they really hurt me, but I was so afraid of how she was reacting to all this. This I’ve struggled with since she first made these comments. No so much the ugly woman comment (it’s such a subjective comment), but being “wierd” was not what I wanted. One big fantasy of mine was that I could dress however I wanted but everybody would accept me as “normal” and being who I am. I wasn’t at the point yet where I was comfortable with idea that “normal” is different for everybody, and my “normal” includes being transgendered.

I started to go to another habit that I’d picked up over the years – apologizing for everything. “I’m sorry!” I would say over and over to her.

“You’re sorry?” she said. “I feel like our entire life together has been a lie. I don’t know what I’m going to do. I really think you want to be a woman, and I want a real man! I had to give up a lot to be with you, and you try to sneak around my back and have this secret. More than anything else, I’m upset that you lied to me when we were in college, and you kept lying to me by not telling me the truth all these years!”

“I was scared,” I said. I was crying. “I love you so much, and I didn’t want to lose you! I knew you didn’t like this, but I just can’t help myself! I’ve tried to stop a few dozen times, but it keeps coming back! I don’t know what to do! I’m so sorry about this!”

After talking like this for a while, she decided that she needed to get away, so she went to the mall to walk and shop for a while. Before she left, she stuffed everything into the bag and put it in a trash bag, with orders for me to throw it out. Then she was gone.

I was home alone, uncertain of what to do. I took the bag and dumped it in the trash can in the garage. I then just sat in our kitchen for a while, numb and scared about what had just happened, and what was going to happen. My wife has always had insecurities about our relationship as she was the child of divorced parents; this just fed into her fears.

I also didn’t know what was going to happen to my feminine side. Would this finally drive me to stop wanting to dress up? Would it put me on the straight and narrow path of “normallacy”? I had a part of me that wanted to be “normal” and not have these urges, but I just couldn’t stop it.

I was so insecure with this part of me, and all my fears were coming to the surface. I just couldn’t reconcile all my feelings – masculine and feminine – and needing to express them both. I had no one to talk to about this, no one who understood, and now I was suffering for my life “choice”. Only I now know it wasn’t a choice – it’s just who I am. Being feminine is just as important as eating and breathing to me. It was then, is now, and always will be. I just wasn’t at that point yet.

The kids came home, and that took my mind off of it for a while.

The discovery continues…

When my wife came home, she wouldn’t speak to me except when she really had no other choice. I tried to give her as much distance as I could – I knew that she was upset, and neither of us wanted to fight with the kids around.

After they went to bed, my wife was still silent with me. I tried to sit in the same room with her, but she go up and said, “I’m going to bed.”

“Do you want me to sleep downstairs tonight?” I asked.

“Do whatever you like,” she said. “That’s what you always do!” And with that she was gone.

I sat downstairs for a while, then went up and went to bed. She was lying on her side, I on mine. Silent, and unsleeping. I could hear that she was crying.

After what seemed like an eternity she turned to me and said, “I just don’t know what to think about this. I really don’t know what to say or what to do. I don’t know who you are or what you want from me.”

“Dear,” I said. “I’m not the only one. There are lots of men who like to dress like I do.”

“I don’t know,” she said. “It doesn’t make any sense to me. The only reason I can see for a guy to dress is to be a woman and to try to have sex with another guy. I just don’t see why someone like that would want to be married to a woman.”

“I love you,” I said. “And I’m so sorry.”

She was silent for a while after that. “I have to think about this,” she said. “I don’t know how I feel about you right now. I don’t know if you really love me or not, or if you’re just hiding what you really want from me. You lied to me so long, I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to trust you again.”

Again, the trust issue – I was so focused on the dressing issue, that I realized that the trust issue was even bigger to her. Not that dressing wasn’t big, mind you, just that trust was so hard for her to give, and so easy to lose with her. I’m sure she felt like I had tricked her into marrying me, and it was all my fault that this had happened. I’m sure she didn’t think I really loved her.

“I wanted to tell you, but I was afraid,” I said. “I thought you might want to leave me if you knew how I felt about this. I didn’t want to lose you. I’m so scared right now!”

“You’re right,” she said. “I don’t know if I’ll leave you or not, between you wanting to be a woman and you lying to me, I don’t know if I can trust you enough to be with you.”

I was crying now. She pulled away from me. I layed on my side of the bed, she on hers, neither touching the other. It seemed like an eternity. I kept looking at the clock for hours, both of us sometimes crying. Eventually, we both fell asleep out of sheer exhaustion.

The only good thing was that this was Saturday night, so I didn’t have to go to work the next day. Unfortunately, this also meant that the next day I would be home with her, and we would be talking about this more. Or not talk about this more – the silence was just as bad, if not worse. And I really dreaded the outcome. I felt like I had screwed up everything, just because I had this stupid urge to cross dress. I have never felt so low and so ashamed of myself in my whole life.

What I didn’t know at that point was that I was at the lowest point in this whole episode, and that things would get somewhat better, if very unsatisfactory for me.

The next day

It was Sunday, the day after I had been forced out by my stupidity and laziness. We got up and went to church as a family. My wife was strangely civil but nowhere near as warm to me as usual (not that I expected her to be).

When we got back home I decided to go into work for a few hours. I think my wife was relieved that I did that, as I think she wanted more time alone to figure out her feelings. When I got to work I called her and asked her to call me back so she could see that I was at work, so I could earn her trust. She did that, and she also called me a couple of times during the afternoon just to make sure that I was there.

I really didn’t do much work. I was trying to figure out what to do, but I had no ideas. What if she decided to leave me? I really didn’t want our marriage to end like this. I wanted to vow never to cross dress again, but I knew deep down that I couldn’t keep that promise to myself.

Somehow, the trust issue really hit home for me, mostly because of all the lying and hiding I’d done all these years. Some of it was because I knew she was uncomfortable with my dressing, but that wasn’t all of it. I was hiding my shame at this “wierd” desire to dress and act like a woman. I still couldn’t reconcile how a guy like me would every once in a while have such a strong urge to be female and dress as sexy as I could. I loved the feeling of stockings on my legs, I love the way high heels make my legs look, and the feeling of airflow that came from a skirt. I also loved having that curvy, womanly shape to my body, and I loved wearing makeup. I do become another person, and I love being that female persona.

At one point I thought that perhaps I should leave my wife. I wasn’t feeling worthy of her, and I really didn’t want her to suffer with this pain. I also realized that if I was free I could explore my feminine side more aggresively. I thought about moving to a new city, and of having my own apartment where I would have men’s and women’s clothes hanging in my closet, working as a man by day and being able to go out either as a man or a woman at night. What stopped me was that I really did love my wife (and my kids), and I knew that I would have a big empty feeling in my heart. I’m not a quitter, and I wasn’t about to just let it get away from me.

My self esteem was about as low as it could go. I felt like I wasn’t a man, and I felt like such a heel and an idiot. I know now that by accepting what I am, both male and female, and that only by accepting my love of a feminine appearance and the female part of me can I truly be happy inside, but I was not as emotionally mature. I still believed that I could put it all behind me, and that I could now open up and get over it. I could become trustworthy only by dropping the female me and being a “real man”.

I called just before I left to let her know I was on my way home. I drove straight home and made it in record time, just in time for dinner. We were awkward to each other, and she wouldn’t let me kiss her. The kids were happy to see me at least.

After a strange evening we put the kids to bed, and after a while my wife asked me to go into into the basement so we could talk without the kids being able to hear us. Wow – she was willing to talk to me about this now! I was scared that this was it, so it was with some trepedation that I followed her down and closed the door behind me.

“I’ve done a lot of thinking,” she started. She was crying lightly. “I don’t know anything about this stuff, or why you want to do this. I really hate this!”

I just listened silently. I was trying to prepare myself for her announcement that she was leaving me. I was trying to figure out how I could fix the situation, what I could say to make it right. What seemed so easy at the office earlier (me dropping my feminine side) seemed a little harder to me right now.

“I’ve thought about how you lied to me about this for all these years, and how you must feel. Are you just a bad person who’s trying to trick me? A gay guy who’s hiding this from his family? I just can’t understand why you’re doing this.”

I was still silent and scared to death. Then she said the one word that changed everything.

“But…”

I didn’t expect “But”.

“But,”, she said, “I thought about how I feel about you. I’ve always been afraid that we were going to fall apart, that you were going to wake up and see who I really am and leave me. And I realized that I don’t want you to, because I do love you. I don’t want to lose you, either. I still don’t know why you want to do this, or if you might really be gay or want to be a woman.”

Her face still had that look of shock on it. I felt like I was in some kind of netherworld, some place that I had never planned. Was she going to accept me after all? I didn’t think so, but I didn’t know what to expect.

“I want to understand why you are doing this,” she said. “I don’t believe you when you say you don’t want to be a woman. I can’t figure out why anybody would want to do that.”

I looked at her face. “I don’t want to do this, but I can’t help myself”, I said. “I really love you and never wanted to hurt you! I’m so sorry that I have.”

“Sorry is easy to say,” she said to me. “You know that I look at deeds, not words. I still have a lot to figure out about this. We both do. I don’t like it one bit, and I’d like you to stop, but even if you said you would I don’t believe you.”

“I really want to,” I said. I was back in the mother of all purges. I thought I had to make it work to save my marriage.

“You know,” I said. “My company has an employee assistance program to help them with counselling and stuff like that. I could get in touch with them and start talking to someone about this.”

“No!” she said quickly. “I don’t want anybody to know about this!”

“Okay,” I said, “but I think we could use some help.”

“NO!” she said with a finality that made me drop the subject.

We were silent for a while. I was surprised by what she did next – she hugged me. I gave her a kiss and broke down crying. “I’m so sorry,” I said again.

What we decided to do was for me to give her a copy of a book I had picked up on cross dressing that I had stashed away in the house (My Husband Wears My Clothes by Peggy Rudd). I bought it so I could understand more about myself, but in all honesty I hadn’t read much, and I was reading it with scared eyes instead of from a more intellectual viewpoint.

I had a little hope at this point. It was a lot to swallow in a couple of days. I knew that I would have to be patient. But I was sure that I could keep to the true path and finally put it behind me. Well, as sure as I could be about anything. On this subject I could be both convinced that it was over for good and have enough doubt to know that I could fall off the wagon, so to speak.

One thing that I believe – if you have a problem with only two possible solutions, 99 times out of 100 you’ll end up taking the third solution. I was convinced that I would either never dress again or that our marriage was over. No other solution was possible to me.

Another thing I’ve since come to believe – once transgendered, always transgendered. I had more binges and purges in me, but they were about to change into very tiny binges with very long purges, one lasting for about four to five years. But it never totally left me.

The resolution

Things were starting to get back to some semblence of normal. My wife and I were interacting pretty much as we had before, except there was a big topic that we were going out of our way to discuss – my dressing. I would go to work, and my wife was at home with the kids (one was in school at the time, the other was home) and, I’m sure, reading the book I had (I wish I remembered what book it was!). In the evenings we would do our separate things, and we would go to bed at the same time as always. Our interactions were polite, but not what they were.

I was still considering my options. I was still shell-shocked by all the events, and I kept wishing that things could go back to the way they were before. I was so convinced at this point that I would never dress again, and I was trying to convince myself that I could do it and that this would get me out of my fear and shame. After all, how could I be afraid of being discovered if I didn’t do it any more?

After a few days, one evening my wife decided to break the ice. “I’ve read that book,” she said. “I can’t say that it really makes any sense to me, but it does seem like there is no way that you can stop it. Like I told you, I don’t want our marriage to fall apart because of this, but I don’t know if I can accept it like this women did.”

“I can stop,” I said.

“You know,” she said, “if you really have to do it, you can do it in the basement. Just make sure that I know that you are doing it so I can keep myself and the kids away. I really don’t want to see you do it, it would just disgust me so much.”

I was stunned by this. I was offering to not do it again, and she was trying to find a way to let me.

“If you are away by yourself on a business trip, you can do it, too. I just don’t want to see you or any reminder that you do this. The biggest thing is I want you to tell the truth to me and stop lying. I really can’t trust you right now, and I want you to just be honest to me.”

I felt like she was really trying to overcome her disgust with the topic and try to make it all right for me. She was stretching beyond her beliefs to try to accomodate me.

She continued. “The thing is at least you say aren’t having an affair, although I’m still not sure, because I’m not sure what’s true and what’s false from you.”

“Dear,” I started, “I’m not having an affair. I wouldn’t lie to you about that. I was really trying to protect you from this so that it wouldn’t affect our married life. I was selfish, and I’m sorry about that and hiding this from you. I’ll try not to dress up again.” I really believed myself then, it was honest and heartfelt, but I know now that’s like saying I’ll stop eating.

We talked for a little while again about choice, honesty, trustworthiness, love, and us. After a little bit my wife said, “I know you will try not to dress, but I don’t think you can do it, not because you don’t want to right now, but because you can’s stop. I love you, and I want our marriage to work, so I know I’ll have to put up with this. I just want you to understand that I really do not like it. But I like it better than the lying.”

I hugged her. “It’s going to be hard for me for a while,” she said. “I don’t know how long it will take for me to trust you or to be comfortable around you.”

“I will try not to dress,” I said again. “I really don’t want to lose you.”

“And I don’t want the kids to know anything,” she said. “If they find you dressed up ever I will leave you, and I will take the kids!”

This was my biggest fear besides losing my wife. I always wanted to be a father. My kids mean so much to me, and if there was any way that I might lose them I was going to fight it. I was not going to dress because I would lose them.

So we discussed it a little more, and the agreement we reached was that I would try to not dress, but if I had to dress it had to be out of sight and out of mind for her. It did not have to be in the house. Or so I thought – there was a nagging concern in my head that this was going too easily. But I was too happy that it had gone this easy, and that I had more or less gotten what looked like everything I wanted, so I didn’t think it through thoroughly enough to understand.

As the days, weeks, and months passed, I did lots of things to fill my time. I took a second teaching job to fill my time – I thought that if I was too busy to think about dressing it would go away. I was also looking to find a job in parts of the country where my wife had family – she had none where we lived, and she was very family-oriented. I really am not all that close to any of my siblings, and my wife was even less comfortable with them.

Slowly I was building up her trust. Slowly is the key word here. She would ask me occasionally if I felt like dressing, and because I was so busy and afraid I could tell her no, and no was the truth at the moment.

One awkwardness was whenever we watched any movie that had a cross dresser or transsexual in it. They were usually comedies, and the woman was portrayed as either sex-starved for men or as a deranged killer. My wife would give me these awkward looks and we would either turn the channel quickly or have to discuss how that wasn’t me. One film that came out around this time was The Crying Game (an excellent movie). I watched it one night when she was out with friends. It was a really good film with what I thought was a very thoughtful portrayal of us.

Anyway, things slowly moved to a new normal, which felt a lot like the old normal. At least I felt like it, anyway.

Lessons from the future

In retrospect, I made some classic mistakes when I was discovered:

My wife also realizes that her reaction caused me to just push down feelings that I could not resist and to learn that I should keep things from her. We went through years of me getting mad if she even dared to question whether or not I was transgendered, a cross-dresser, or even just wanted to wear a dress. The truth was that I wanted to more than ever, but I was so caught up in the “I need to quit” and “our marriage will end” mentalities that it was easier for me to hide it through intimidation than by being honest. So I ended up getting mad at the one person I treasure more than anyone.

Just plain stupid.

—-

There is a little addendum about my daughter and that day.  Read it here.

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