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The One Year Anniversary, Part 2 September 24, 2007

Posted by Tina Simmons in coming out.
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This is a follow-up to my posting about the first anniversary of coming out to my wife (yes, coming out is a big deal to me – I think it’s very important for those of us trans-people who are married to be honest and open to our wives or other significant others in our lives). The day was very hectic, but finally in the evening we got to “celebrate” it (I don’t know if my wife would chose that term, but I couldn’t think of a better word).

I gave my wife a card the evening of the first anniversary of my coming out to her. I had spent a lot of time picking out the right card, and she loved it. I just wanted her to know that I was happy to still be with her after all that we went through.

We discussed how we felt about our marriage. It started because I told her that the day I came out I was convinced that our marriage was over, that she would throw me out. I had given her the freedom to leave because I didn’t want her to feel trapped. She has interpreted that as me wanting to get out of the marriage without making the decision. I didn’t want her to leave, but I wanted to be fair to her. Thankfully she chose to stay, and I have since withdrawn that offer.

I feel that our marriage is a little stronger, because we have opened up so much in the past year. She said that she’s learned that our marriage is not an unbreakable thing like she thought it was, but that it could fall apart for various reasons. We both feel that as long as we both want the marriage to work, and we both work at it, then it will probably survive. I think that’s a realistic common ground to be at.

But there was one magical sign for me: when we went to bed, just before I shut off the lights, I noticed that she has put the card on top of her jewelery armoire. She only does that for cards that she really loves. I was very touched by that, and I let her know how I appreciated it.

Wow.

My 1-year coming out anniversary September 23, 2007

Posted by Tina Simmons in coming out.
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Today is the first anniversary of coming out to my wife. I hadn’t planned on coming out then – I was asked by my wife if I still thought about dressing, and that led me to make the big decision – but I am very glad that I did the right thing and answered her question truthfully. It hasn’t been easy, but I have to admit that it’s been a lot better than I thought. It led to a year of discovery, both about myself and my wife, and it turned out that my secrecy here was a big part of what kept us from really discovering each other more fully.

I was lucky. I had accepted myself when I came out, which I think is critical for there to be any chance of us staying together. If I hadn’t accepted myself, I would probably have denied it and eventually come out later, only with yet another big lie to my name, and an even bigger blowup. I’m very lucky to have such a wonderful, understanding spouse who is trying to figure out what this is, where I am going with it, and what it means to her.

I still remember the morning – sitting on a park bench, her nervously asking me the question. I remember everything racing through my head trying to decide if I was going to stick to my plan or just be honest (I had a plan that involved me taking a year to figure things out and coming out after we empty-nested). That day (and several afterwards) I was so sure my marriage was over. But I also remember a few days later, coming home to an apology and a dress she bought for me. From such a little seed has come discussions on love, sex, orientation, honesty, lies of omission, and other things, with a range of emotions from fear and sadness to joy and happiness. Lots of tears, lots of laughter, lots of worried moments, but we found that love was a constant in our life.

I love my wife. We’ve been married over twenty-four years, and I look forward to waking up every morning next to her, and every moment we can have together. It doesn’t matter how I am dressed, how I feel inside about myself, or anything else. I feel guilt only insofar as me being who I am causes her pain, but I am so happy to be free of the secrets and lies we both were keeping from each other. Yes, I discovered that she had secrets, too, and that she kept them from me for the same reasons I kept this from her – to not cause the other pain.

One thing I would like to mention is some of the wonderful people I’ve had a chance to talk with over the past year. Karen at FemmeFever was a big help to me before and after coming out. I cannot say enough wonderful things about her – she was a godsend to me! Between her and the support I got from the FemmeFever support group I was able to avoid some mistakes I might have made in my relationship. A big thank-you to everyone there!

Another couple of people I would love to thank are Helen Boyd and Betty Crow. Helen’s books on her relationship with Betty are really must-reads, but they’re only the start. Helen and Betty also run a really fantastic on-line community where trans-people and their significant others can discuss all the issues that are important to them (and it truly is a community). It’s one of the few places that I’ve found spouses who are not only welcomed but also very active in communicating their feelings there. For many of us this is a very important dialog.

And one more thank-you to the numerous people who I have exchanged emails with or otherwise chatted with. Some have been infuriating, some have been hilarious, but most have been very patient and understanding with this clueless trans-person. And I’ve learned a lot from all your experiences, hints, tips, comments, and other things. Bless you all!

And let me take one more moment to thank all the significant others of transgendered people who decide to stay in their relationship – wives, girlfriends, boyfriends, whoever. This group is treated pretty bad by everyone. Family members and friends treat them as either stupid or enablers, out of control in their lives; often they bail on them rather. Many trans-people treat them as obstacles or road blocks to full understanding by their transgendered mate. The net result is that these SO’s are treated like dirt. And all because they decided that they wanted the relationship to continue. I think there should be a “Trans-SO Appreciation Day” every year so that we remember how these people give us emotional and other support, so that we all could just thank them for the love they show us.

I think my biggest discovery about coming out is that it is actually the beginning of a process of discovery. I had assumed that I come out and after a period of unsettled times we get to a new status quo and move on. It has led us to a process where we are continually discovering new things about each other. I think we’ve now gotten to a point where were better able to listen to one another and not just talk past each other, or at least we do more listening than we did in the past. That’s a good thing for us.

So here’s to year one of my life after acceptance and coming out! I have been incredibly lucky none the less. And here’s hoping the next year will be better.

Why I’ve been quiet. September 17, 2007

Posted by Tina Simmons in Uncategorized.
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I haven’t posted in a few weeks because my wife and I are adjust to our new life as empty-nesters, with both kids in college now. This is a little unsettled time – but not necessarily for bad reasons!

One thing we’ve been thinking about – as a couple – is that we’ve spent so little of our time alone. It’s easy when your younger and early in a relationship that you’ll get time, but the truth is that it’s as if we’re picking up just as we left off, only with 20 years of change in us. Including some bad habits. You get so comfortable with people sometimes that you think you can say whatever you want and they’ll understand. Well, that is definitely not true, and it’s been a major source of friction over the years.

It’s also unsettled because we’re traveling. We spent a few days in Maine after dropping off the kids, and now we’re going to go on a big vacation to Hawaii. We have been looking forward to doing something different once we empty-nested, since now we’re not tied to the school schedule, and it’s taken us a lot to make sure we could afford this, but somehow we’re making that work. And after the past year – between my coming to acceptance of myself, coming out to my wife and all that this entailed, and issues with our son – well, we really need it.

Speaking about the trans issue: After an initial bout of fear from both of us we found a way to start talking, and we’re doing what I call our “do-over” – not quite square one, but close – and we’re trying to go slower. I’m noticing that the do-over is extending beyond the trans-issue, though, and into other aspects of our life together. What’s amazing is that maturity has taken us to a place where we are slowly really opening up to each other, and we’re finding that there’s more that we like about each other than we realized. There are a LOT of differences we knew about but never really discussed the ramifications of (such as the fact that we were kids in different countries – me in America, her in Korea – and even simple things as vocal intonation are different because of the language differences). I don’t think we’d be doing this if we hadn’t gone through all the things we had – it’s more than likely we would have broken apart. But “what-if” games like this are really pointless. What is important is that we are both making that effort to make things work.

Once we do get back from Hawaii, however, we will be getting into the most intensive time of our life with respect to trying to understand each other. There is going to be tears, but if the way we’ve been talking lately is any indication, I think there’s going to be more understanding. I am scared more about how ineptly I might handle things more than anything these days, so going the slow road is the safest road to travel. And I will be spending a lot more time dressed.

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!