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A tale of two needs March 12, 2008

Posted by Tina Simmons in Uncategorized.
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I feel as if sometimes I am caught between the pull of two opposing needs.

On the one hand, I am married to a wonderful woman, and have two great children.  I love them so much, and the last thing I would ever want to do is to cause them any pain.

On the other hand, I have a strong need to assert my female identity.  Accepting my trans-ness was important for me to become more honest about who I am and to others in my life, but that was only a first step.  The issue of what does it mean to me and how I need to express it has come to the forefront for me.

To be totally honest, it’s not as if this is something new.  It has always been inside of me.  It’s just that now that I’m not hiding it from people I care about I want them to know exactly how I feel about this.

And there’s the rub.  To let them know how I feel can cause them pain.  And causing them pain causes me pain.  And so I tend to go back to my comfort zone and repress my expression of my female side, which causes it to build inside of me like a dam holding back a river – without an adequate mechanism to relieve the pressure the dam will burst.

Put another way, these needs are so strong in me that I feel as if I’m being pulled in two opposite directions, and I am afraid that the pull is going to rip me in two.  And sometimes it is very hard for me to bear, and it makes me very depressed, and worsens the depression I’ve been keeping inside of me for years.

So my solution has been to get help.  I recently started to see a psychologist who I spent a lot of time vetting out.  I had her name in my speed-dialer for at least six months, ready to make the call when I thought I needed it.  I finally needed it.  While she doesn’t have gender training, she has a very good background in handling depressing, family matters, women’s issues, and even gay and lesbian issues.  I found a lot of quotes from her in newspapers, and I read a couple of journal articles that she co-authored.  I had a feeling that she knew her stuff, had a good background in working with people, and would be very sympathetic to my plight.

And so far, it’s been good.  I’ve had two visits so far, but it’s somewhat early in the process.  Both have been basically me telling her my story, sharing with her some of my blog postings, and suggesting some books she could read to learn about gender issues.  I helped her order a copy of My Husband Betty as I thought that is a pretty good introduction to trans-people like myself.

Again, I have a long way to go to resolving my struggle balancing these two strong needs in my life.  I really cannot tell the outcome.  Walking the middle-path that I am walking is very uncharted territory for me, and there are very few role models for me to follow.  But I’m going to deal with it, and I have faith that I will eventually find that peace for me.

Newsweek – A good article May 14, 2007

Posted by Tina Simmons in transsexual.
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The cover of this week’s issue of Newsweek magazine is focused on gender issues, specifically transgender issues. This is real progress for us. I thought the articles were well-written and quite interesting (and I’m including those on the web as well).

My only complaint is that there are too few examples of non-transsexual transgendered people. At first I felt like it’s a Newsweek problem, but on reflection I have to say that perhaps it’s more of an “us” problem.

Let me use myself as an example. I’m pretty well closeted. I’m transgendered, closer to a cross-dresser than a transsexual (but I really don’t think either of those labels applies to me – I identify strongly with the feminine as well as the masculine). Trying to find an out cross-dresser is tough. There are a few role models (such as Alice Novic and Eddie Izzard) but for the most part we’re so terrified that we keep ourselves hidden.

Now, I do also think we scare people. We cross the line many times, and we unnerve people by this. And there’s the Hollywood images of us as scary psychopaths.

So why, then, don’t I rush out of the closet? It’s simple, really. I am not ready. I have a wife who is not ready. I am not out to my kids, and the last thing I want to happen is for them to discover this about me by some third-hand mechanism.

So do I want to come out some day? Yes! I want to get beyond the fear. I long for the day I can present myself as how I feel, not just as the way everyone knows me. I want that personal confidence to be present.

*Sigh* Someday.

Thank you again, Newsweek, for the start. We need to take it further.

Married but Transgendered May 8, 2007

Posted by Tina Simmons in coming out.
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I am a transgendered person who came out to her wife last year after 20+ years of marriage (actually, I was originally discovered by my wife in the early 1990’s, but I spent a good part of the time afterwards in denial of my transgendered identity). I spent a lot of years suffering with fear and shame about being transgendered and avoiding the Big Questions (Am I really transsexual? Am I a fetish cross-dresser? Stuff like that).

I accepted myself last year and had developed a one-year plan for coming out. If I had stuck to my plan then my wife would still be in the dark about who and what I really am. My reasons were two-fold: 1) our youngest child would be entering college then, and he’s been a lot of work for both of us to manage because he has some issues that are very tough for a teenager to deal with – by putting it off until then my wife wouldn’t have to deal with this on top of that; and 2) it would give me time to do more research and also to understand myself and be able to better answer her questions.

There was also an unrealized third reason: I was convinced my marriage would end when I finally came out and told her the truth about me. When she had discovered me she almost threw me out of the house then – only by going into denial did I feel I salvaged the marriage. I had to be at a point where I could accept that I could not change and that she might not accept me as I am before I could come out.

Fortunately, only a scant few days into my one-year plan my wife came out and asked me if I still think about dressing. I hesitated for a second, then I realized that I had to tell the truth, so I did, fully believing that I was going to be looking for a hotel that evening. Let me tell you it has not been easy, but it has gone down a road that I did not think possible – she accepts me, even though it is one of the hardest things she’s ever had to do. She has even bought me clothes and made me jewelery (some of the prettiest earrings and bracelets I ever did see!).

But she also cries a lot about this. She is torn by this. Her ideal man is a manly, masculine person, hair all over, muscles, the works. In short, a hunk. That is not me. But I said she’s torn because some of my personality traits are what drew her to me – how I didn’t force myself on her like some other guys did, and my nurturing nature that has helped encourage her to find out what she would love to do and taking care of the kids, and other aspects that are normally associated with the feminine side. But she cries a lot, and I know this.

I’ve spent a lot of time since then trying to understand what a wife goes through when her husband says I’m transgendered. This led me to the book My Husband Betty by Helen Boyd (and to Helen’s blog and online discussion groups as well). This is a great book for the spouse of a transgendered person to read – it’s very well researched and it’s very honest. Her latest book, She’s Not the Man I Married, is a much more personal book that details how Helen and Betty have coped with Betty’s realization of how much further down the slippery slope she had to go and the changes it caused in their relationship, both in private and publicly – to me the book is ultimately a love story about the two of them.

Another book I read is Peggy Rudd’s My Husband Wears My Clothes, which is another good book about dealing with a cross-dressing husband (Peggy and Melanie (her husband) were featured on the episode of the Women’s Entertainment Television show Secret Lives of Women entitled “Married to Cross-Dressers”).

A new entry into this area (that I’m reading right now) is the book Head Over Heels: Wives Who Stay with Cross-Dressers and Transsexuals by Dr. Virginia Erhardt. I’m not finished with it yet, but this is a gold mine for the spouse of a transgenderd person. It contains stories written by 28 spouses about their experience dealing with all aspects of transgenderism – from those who have a husband who cross-dresses occasionally, those whose husbands have become women and had Sexual Reassignment Surgery (SRS), and lots of other stories in this vein. This is a very hard read for a person in my shoes (heeled or otherwise) as these wives are very open as to how they struggled to handle their spouse’s relvelations and the consequences for them. “Struggled” is the key word – very few of these women find it easy to embrace this in their husbands (as if you would expect otherwise?).

(One other place I would like to mention is also Annie Rushden’s blog Garden’s in Bloom about her life with her husband James who is transitioning to Claire. This is another fantastic love story involving a transgendered marriage!)

What’s amazing about all this is you discover that coming out as a transgendered person is not necessarily a death sentence for a marriage. I’m not going to sugar-coat this and say that staying with a transgendered spouse is the norm (especially in a world where the divorce rate for all marriages is over 50 percent), but there is hope in all of these stories. I realize that love alone is not enough to keep a marriage together, but other forces that come into play (economic issues, comfort, pragmatics, and external appearances are part of it as well). I know in my own case it’s some combination of these and more, but love is the biggest part of what keeps us together.

In our relationship we’re realistic – there could come a day where something happens and it’s just not good for us to be together. But we both want to make it work, and sometimes that’s the key to making it work. I do love her so much, and she has shown me so much love and kindness.

There are other issues that I’ll address – such as religious views and our marriage, perceptions internal and external, societal and family concerns and the like – but this is more just setting the situation as I describe our life together.

Dear, I love you!