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

Posted by Tina Simmons in coming out, spouse, transgender.
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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.

Letter to a Wife November 21, 2008

Posted by Tina Simmons in coming out, transgender.
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From Helen Boyd’s Blog: Letter to a Wife

Spouses have the hardest road to travel when a spouse comes out, especially after years of hiding and denial.  I wish there was some way for spouses to be able to find one another easily, so that more could share how they cope with the situation.

(And a plug for Helen’s efforts here – in addition to running her site, she also has a separate online group that she runs for spouses of transgendered people.  Even though I cannot join, I know how important this is.  Thanks, Helen!)

“I’m still me” November 8, 2008

Posted by Tina Simmons in coming out.
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“I’m still me” is one of the most common phrases we say when we come out to our wives after keeping it a secret.  What we’re trying to do is communicate how we feel we are still the same inside even though we are telling them a big secret about ourselves.  What we’re trying to communicate is how we feel inside of us.  We know we are the same person – we’re just being honest.  Now you know everything, we think.

But think about it.  We may feel the same inside, but this is a big change for our spouse.  Our society ties sex and gender so tightly together that people don’t think about it.  By coming out as transgendered we are taking what people thought was an axiom in their logic system and showing them that we think it’s a theory, and an incorrect or incomplete one, at that.  It’s out of the understanding of many people because they don’t think about it.

To our spouse (or kids or parents or whoever) we’re different now.  It might be how we dress or look, or starting to live as a woman (or man), but they don’t see us as the same.  “I’m still me” rings hollow, and saying it could actually be interpreted as a lie said to calm instead of being truthful about ourselves.  It’s rare that they buy it.

Why did we come out?  Did we want to “come to honesty”?  Was it us trying to integrate all aspects of our lives?  Do we want to transition?  Or is there some other reason?  And now that we’ve come out, how will our relationship change?  How will coming out change us?  Change you?

Maybe you still feel the same – that you are still you – but things have changed now, and how our spouse reacts will cause us to change more.  It’s like time – time is always moving into the present, not the future or past, but the present always changes.

Yes, you are still you, but you are a different you.