jump to navigation

Thinking more about spouses and coming out to them November 25, 2008

Posted by Tina Simmons in coming out, spouse, transgender.
Tags: , , ,
add a comment

In a previous post, I made the statement “Spouses have the hardest road to travel when a spouse comes out”.  This is something I’d love to talk about for a moment, from a trans-person’s point of view (and it sort-of ties into another recent posting, “I’m Still Me”).  (Note: when I say “she” in what follows, it’s my own experience coloring this.)

When you come out to your wife/spouse/girlfriend after years of hiding, it’s a huge change for them.  So few people consider gender identity as anything other than tied to physical characteristics (okay, genitalia).  Your spouse probably has no idea what this means.  What your spouse needs is some time to understand this – not an infinite amount, but maybe a few weeks or a couple of months.

Realize that one of the things that will be hard is that she will probably not feel comfortable using her usual support system.  Most of them will have the same reference point as she does, but they will lack the direct connection to you that she has.  So you become the sole support system here.  She will want to talk with you about this, and that will be hard for you.  It’s not easy to start talking about this after years of keeping it under wraps, especially if you haven’t prepared to come out.

That’s okay.  What’s important is you start communicating.  Just be sensitive to her, and don’t get angry (hard) or frustrated (harder) or impatient (hardest).  She’s got trust issues and a lot of fear.  Is the marriage over?  Does it mean that you are gay, or that she might be gay?

When you come out, realize that if she has any reference points about this, it’s what she’s seen in the media – films, television, books, or the news.  Most of the media references often discuss transgender people as having made a “lifestyle choice” or something of that ilk, as if it’s yet another option for your life like whether you bring your own lunch to work or buy it at the cafeteria.  I know a lot of us would love it to be a choice (I used to be that way).

Another representation is common in movies – the crazed/psychopathic cross-dresser (think “Psycho”, “Dressed to Kill” or “Silence of the Lambs”).  Thankfully, this is usually easy to overcome, but it puts us on the defensive.

Another representation is the trans-person who preys on unsuspecting straight men or the transgender hooker (think of films like “Bachelor Party” or when transgender people are shown in current TV shows like “Law and Order” and “CSI”).  This is a lot harder to get around, because to many people sex and gender are tied together in one big knot. (And while there are statistics that say the majority of transgendered people are hetrosexual cross-dressers, even if true, group statistics don’t apply to individual situations).

And, finally, there’s the fetish dresser portrayal.  Let’s be honest – there ARE fetish dressers who get a thrill out of being cross-dressed when they have sex.  That might even be you.  The image of these people in the media is as perverts or wierdos, however, and it’s sad.  While this isn’t my “flavor” of transgenderism, what bothers me here is that it says a lot more about our society’s sexual and moral hang-ups than anything about the cross-dresser’s preferences or desires.  What’s wrong is that the dresser keeps it under wraps from the person they chose to spend their life with, because they’ve been made to think it makes them less of a person or is bad.

Back to your spouse – remember, she’s going through a lot.  She needs you to be at your best – caring, sensitive, loving.