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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!)

The Luckiest July 10, 2007

Posted by Tina Simmons in love.
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1 comment so far

“I don’t get many things right the first time
In fact, I am told that a lot
Now I know all the wrong turns, the stumbles and falls
Brought me here”
– Ben Folds, The Luckiest

So about a week and a half ago I bought a very nice skirt for myself at Ann Taylor Loft (where both I and my wife love to shop). It was a skirt I’d wanted for months, but I couldn’t bring myself to spend list price. Patience paid off – I found it in the sale rack for $15 US! Because our life was filled with a lot of events, though, it took me a few days to let my wife know about it.

The other night we’re lying in bed and she turns to me. “That skirt you bought for yourself?” she started.

“Yes,” I said.

“It’s very pretty.”

I was in a combination of shock and happiness. I don’t know why I’m shocked by these comments now – it’s not the first time she’s said that – except that after all those years of lying and hiding and living in fear I am so surprised when my love lets me know she likes a purchase of female clothing I buy for myself. It’s such a small and stupid thing, but her approval means the world to me!

So anyway, these conversations don’t just end there. I never know what to expect except that I will be surprised by how much love she will show me, and this night was no exception. She used to tell me that my being trans doomed us to a life where one or the other of us would always be sad, but tonight she said that she thinks she’s getting over the sad feeling. Of course, given that I’m not out to our kids, and they’re home the times that I am, I haven’t had an opportunity to fully dress and go around the house like I’d like, so there is the likelihood that not seeing it for a while has put enough distance, and that the next time I do dress it will evoke that sadness, but perhaps not. (BTW, she feels bad that I don’t get those opportunities these days.)

The next thing she said that she was shocked at first to learn that even when I’m dressed or feeling feminine that I love her very much. It bothered her because it caused her to think about her sexuality when she perceives me as female. Now she realizes that it was silly for her to think that – and that she would be even more bothered if I wanted someone else (or a man). What was amazing is that she accepts me for how I feel inside, not necessarily how she sees me outside.

But then the most amazing statement – she said that she really wants to love me even when I am dressed, and she’s going to work towards that, but she’s not sure when or if she ever will get there. She is concerned about her sexuality, both how she feels about it and her perception of it. If I present as female and she loves me does that make her bisexual?

I think this is such a big question for many wives who try to accept their transgendered spouses, and how they can deal with their spouse and both the internal and external perceptions of their own sexuality can be a deal-breaker for a lot of marriages. There are now books that touch on this (it’s a big portion of Helen Boyd‘s book She’s Not the Man I Married, and it’s also discussed in some of the essays in Virginia Erhardt‘s book Head Over Heels).

What blew me away was that she’s wants to make me so happy she’s willing to try and reach out to me in my feminine state. It means she’s trying to focus on the core of me that’s unchanging and getting beyond the physical. She understands that I’m middle path and that it could mean that someday I could decide that I’ll transition to a full-time female. In fact, I’m sure that her fear is that I’m holding back deciding to transition because of how she would feel and react. The truth is that I’m not willing to commit either way on transition for more than just her feelings (although her feelings do factor into it a good deal). But that’s another discussion.

(One thing I wonder is that women in our society are raised to be more giving towards their husbands. This was a recurring theme in Head Over Heels, and I’m sure it plays a part in how she’s dealing with this. But her parents divorced when she was young, and we’re not at a place where if we were to get a divorce she is not worried about the kids any more. Of course, economics and inertia also do come into play here, but I don’t think that would be enough to keep her here. I am convinced if she really was unhappy with me it would be over.)

She also asked me if I wanted to come out to our kids or to my siblings. I told her that I think the timing’s wrong for the kids and that I don’t really care about coming out to my siblings either way. I would love to come out to the kids because I’m sick of the hiding and the secrets. In fact, I told my wife that I feel bad that the situation makes her have to join me in keeping the secret. She understands this.

“Next door there’s an old man who lived to his nineties
And one day passed away in his sleep
And his wife; she stayed for a couple of days
And passed away
I’m sorry, I know that’s a strange way to tell you that I know we belong”
– Ben Folds, The Luckiest

I think what’s really helped my situation with my wife is partly that I’ve been patient and listened to how she was reacting to my revelation. She did have 12 years of thinking about it (when she had discovered me before I went into denial) so it wasn’t a total shock, but that she has accepted it as much as she has is really a shock to her. That she’d even stay with me through a transition is even more surprising. I haven’t really pushed things like going out as much as I’d like to, or even as hard as I was early on (but by pushing I did get push-back which helped me to understand better how she feels).

I can’t take all the credit – coming out a couple of weeks before your youngest child shows you he’s cutting himself and had planned his suicide probably did as much for the acceptance and communication than any action I did take. But I have made it clear to my wife that she is the most important person in my life, and that I’m going to do things to try to make her life better and happier, and that I love her so much more than she realized.

If there is any lesson here, it’s that how you treat your wife – with respect, dignity, patience, and love – helps, but that you can’t discount timing or luck, either.

“I am, I am, I am the luckiest.”
– Ben Folds, The Luckiest

Married but Transgendered May 8, 2007

Posted by Tina Simmons in coming out.
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1 comment so far

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!