To the Wife of a Transwoman Coming Out

I received a letter from the wife of someone who recently revealed their transgender status after 10+ years of marriage, and who intends to transition permanently to live full time as a woman. After reading one of my earliest pieces, "Best of Both Worlds", she reached out to me in the hopes that I may be able to help her to cope with these changes in her partner, particularly in regard to sexual orientation. Fortunately she loves her spouse immeasurably, and wants to accomodate their needs if she is able. While I was only able to scratch the surface of this topic in a single letter, my hope is that I provided her with a few important points to consider. I expect that this will be an ongoing discussion, and plan to post again on this topic in the near future. I would really like to get your feedback, because I am considering writing a book on this topic. Please tell me if I am on the right track.

*****

Please forgive my delay in responding honey. I wish I could provide some easy answers, but I don't want to make light of the situation you are facing because I do understand how you feel. First off I should note that I wrote "best of both worlds" about a year ago, and in all honesty, I have personally evolved in the year since writing that piece. At the time, I was still under the impression that my partner needed to have a penis. I have since reconsidered that notion, because quite frankly, it is not the penis that I love but rather the person. A penis does not make or break the sex life, but rather, the passion and intent of each partner to please one another is the real key; the body parts are just details.

The only real certainty in life is change. Nothing remains static forever. This is especially true with human beings. Because we have minds, hearts and spirits, we are constantly evolving, changing, growing. This is obviously more true for some people than others, but yet everyone does evolve through the course of life, even if in very minor ways. Some people change drastically, for various reasons, be they intentional or otherwise.

One way or another, change is inevitable, and the only way to remain connected to another person over the long haul is to change together. As your partner evolves, you must also evolve in ways that accomodate and/or inspire your partner's growth. Otherwise, you will grow apart and find yourselves no longer compatible. To resist changes which your partner feels are essential to their happiness is to deny them the right to blossom, whereas to support their evolution is to enable them to reach for their best. A happy partner makes the best possible partner for you, so it's a win-win, provided the changes bring no harm to you.

The thing you will have to face is that as your partner transitions, she will be less inclined to assume the male role, especially in bed, mainly because it reminds her of what she doesn't want to be. If you demand this of her during intimacy when she is most vulnerable, she will come to resent the pressure. Whereas if you focus on pleasing her in the ways she needs to be pleased, quite likely she will be happy to reciprocate in whatever ways she is able. Have confidence that your partner will be far more sexually responsive if she is contented with herself, in which case she will be a more attentive lover to you.

I understand your misgivings about your own sexual orientation, as you noted you've never considered yourself a lesbian or even bisexual. I have come to realize that there is no label for my sexual orientation, because what I really love about a person is their heart, mind, and spirit, whereas anatomy is secondary. Therefore I am not a lesbian, nor am I hetero, nor am I truly bisexual (because it does not account for loving gender-fluid people). I guess if someone had to label me, it would be something like "queer" because I don't fit into any pre-defined box.

The question is whether your sexual orientation defines you as a person? Quite likely, in the grand scheme of you as a whole person, sexuality is just one fraction of who you are. Thus, to get hung up on this detail to the point where it might lead to questioning your love relationship, seems giving too much importance to something that doesn't even define the totality of you.

You loving your spouse, no matter what her anatomy, does not mean you are suddenly a lesbian attracted to all women, it simply means that you have the ability to love your partner in any form.

The fundamental point to ponder is, are you harmed by the changes?

You may feel that the changes will bring negative social stigma to your life... in this case, ask yourself whether the opinions of outsiders matter more than your partner's happiness?

You may feel that your children (if any) would be confused by the changes... in this case, ask yourself whether you wish to raise your children to understand only what's inside the old box of societal norms, or if teaching them to be open-minded and accepting of diversity may actually be a service to them?

You may feel that the changes will diminish the excitement of your sex life... in this case, ask yourself whether you are more excited by the totality of your partner as a person, or by their body parts?

You may feel that having a partner who changes gender will mean having to change the label of your sexual orientation... in this case, ask yourself whether the label is more important than the love?

I can't answer any of these questions for you dear one, only you know what's right for you. All I do know for sure is that your heart is in the right place in asking the questions you did. Your spouse is very blessed to have you as a partner, because it is clear that your love for her is pure and strong.

I wish you all the best, in whatever path you may choose.

Comments

Amara said…
I think your response was wonderfully correct. I don’t see that you missed a single aspect. My loved one had to deal with my transition after we had been together for 4 years in which she knew me as “all man”.
She ultimately came to the same conclusions that you draw, and stated the same issues. As leading as the questions you asked may seem, in the end they are the only questions to be asked, ultimately it is a question of love…how much do we love that person and do we have the presence to understand what it is we love in each other. The whole story is one that shows we are truly more than the sum of our parts and that can be a very confusing thing to understand at first after all it is that we are taught.
And change?...Who knows it?...Its as if we have that idea boxed up like everything else...how can we not be confused when a change comes outside our "normal" expectations? My heart goes out to her! But she has love, and so with that, I think she will be just fine.
Wonderful Michele, I would like to share your letter with my loved one as a confermation.
By the way, perhaps “pansexual” would be a label to your liking? I actually prefer that label for myself.

Peace and Love Sister
Kelly said…
I know I am probably going to take a lot of heat over this, but I'm going to say it anyways. First off, let me state that this is only my personal opinion and I would never tell someone in real life what to do.

I just find it incredibly selfish and totally unfair when I see someone come out as transsexual after being married or having kids. I for one have known for a long time that I was transsexual and while I waited until my early 30's to do something about it, I knew enough not to get married and have kids. I suspect those that do get married and then come out were living in a state of denial.

If it works out and the spouse is okay with the news, great, but it seems to be just the opposite in so many cases. To ask someone to stay with you after coming out as transsexual is not a fair or realistic expectation. Were I not transsexual and was married and my wife came out to me as transsexual after years of marriage, I would most likely leave him. Why? Because I didn't marry a man, I married a woman. I would still love this person and wish them nothing but the best, but to expect me to stay married to someone after they do this would be foolish.

That's my two cents worth and if I made somebody angry, I am sorry. I do not want to judge anyone but you asked for reader opinions and that is mine. Thanks for giving us a voice.
Amara said…
Hi Kelly,

I am a transsexual that lived most of my life not knowing I was one. Also, I made similar mistakes like those that lived not understanding what they were and wanting even to "cure" my self from my gender.
But don't worry no body is mad at you. However, I would point out how small your point of view is. Perhaps in YOUR world, it would be selfish of YOU to come out after marriage. But not everyone lives in your world or comes from where you come from.
So perhaps for someone else it would be selfish not to tell a spouse...see what I mean?
Not everyone is you Kelly, and therefore not everyone is possessed with such great understanding such as yourself so as to avoid such painful traps in life.
Personally, I feel lying to your spouse about what you are far more selfish. But that’s just me.

Amara

For those that have opened their hearts in truth to their spouse, I would say always remember that no one can judge your actions as right or wrong. No one fully understands your situation but you. Looking back it may all seem simple to you now but the journey is seldom simple. People can say all manner of things in their simply understanding of your situation, but it will ultimately be you to say whether its all your fault or that you are being selfish. We do the best the can, and sometimes we come to an impasse and when that time comes, we do the best we can again.
Its called life.
Kelly said…
I never said that one should lie to their spouse, I just don't see why you would get married if you know you are a transsexual. If you don't know or something that is different, but I suspect that most of us know on some level from a very early age. It's kinda like if you are gay and you still get married, which happens all the time. I never see the wife stick around for that kind of relationship. For the life of me, I just don't get it, that's all.

I can only speak for myself and while I have known for a long time, it is true that I didn't decide to do something about it until a few years ago. But the thing is, I knew not to get married to someone because I knew that it wouldn't work and that eventually i would have to do something about it. If I had gotten married and decided that I had to transition, I would never expect my wife to stay with me. That just wasn't part of the deal for her.

Again, if it works for some people, great, I am very, very happy for them and yes probably a bit jealous but Michelle asked for our take and that's mine. It is not my intention to disparage anyones relationship or decisions, you are right it is called life and we have to live it the way we see fit. I was just offering my opinion and how I would personally handle it.

Thank you for a healty conversation and I wish everyone going thru this the best of luck and hope that it does work out for the best.
Stephanie Yates said…
Michele,

I think you make a number of perfectly valid points, and do so in a very sound way. But, it seems that--and this is common on GE--there is an assumption that being transgendered is one unified thing and that thing is that a TG is someone who is moving to live full time in a transgendered state (with or without the accompanying physical modifications of transsexualism). This simply doesn't encompass the whole community (i.e. us part-timers) and while there are common issues, there are also many different ones.

All this is to say, that advise to anyone needs to be specific to their circumstances. You probably know those circumstances, I don't in this case. If this woman's spouse is more in the realm of the ambigendered (the part-timers, where I live), you may really shock her. But I'm guessing if the woman is to the point of investigating the TG phenomenon by looking at GE materials, she's probably of a mindset that can handle what you're saying. I know I'm rambling a bit here, but having just had a major discussion with my wife of expanding my activities, I understand all too well what sort of complex emotions and fears tend to swirl in the wake of such revelations.

Let me sum up by saying that I think you handled part of the situation with sensitivity and wisdom, but not knowing the woman's and her TG spouse's situation I can't really say that what you've offered will be helpful or disturbing. But you do emphasize the key point in terms of focusing upon their love and keeping communication open.
Michele Angelique said…
Hi Steph,

Thanks so much for your comments. Strangely enough, when I was initially posting this I was just about to publish it when my computer crashed. I had to try and remember what I'd written in the intro paragraph and retype it. I realize now, there was one important point which I forgot to include in the second version... that is, this woman's spouse wants/intends to transition permanently and live full time as a woman, SRS included. That's certainly a key point here, so thanks for reminding me I need to include that point for clarity. Indeed, in many cases TG people can and do switch back and forth without permanently transforming their male body. A letter to the wife of a bi-gendered TG would be somewhat different, to be sure. Perhaps this can be another article in and of itself.

About the "common assumption" of everyone who is TG intending to live full time, I don't think that's true. If you look at our contributor base, there are only a small handful of transsexuals among us. Part-timers are the large majority at GE, and there has never been an emphasis at GE on going full-time. I've always thought that having the ability to transform temporarility from male to female to male again is a fascinating characteristic, and we've never taken the position that any one form of transness is better than any other. Hence our frequent use of the terms "best of both worlds" and "gender gifted" to apply to the part-timers, whereas I perceive transsexual women to be generally female in essence.

Again thanks for speaking up Stephanie, as I am sure others felt the same when they read my latest piece. I'll add a few more details to give more context about the specific situation.

Much love,
Michele
Shari Williams said…
Hey all,
Very nice observations Steph! The TG spectrum is indeed large. And just because one choses not to move on the TG spectrum does not lessen their importance or struggle for acceptance. As always you seem to have an amazing grasp of the human condition.
Peace
Shari
Michele Angelique said…
Hi again babes!

Thanks for your thoughts Shari dear. Like Steph and others, you also have an amazing grasp of the human condition. I always enjoy reading your perspectives. I agree Stephanie made an excellent point. In fact, it might the one point all transgender people can agree on... that the TG spectrum is large and no single explanation works for all people. Therefore, context is criticial when considering an individual situation.

In fact, the population of "part-time" transwomen is much larger than the number of full time transsexuals who are known of. As well, many part-timers are in heterosexual marriages, and could benefit from support in explaining the merits of their femme selves to their wives. So let's get started writing about this aspect, shall we?

For any of you to whom this applies, let me ask you this... if your wife asked me to help her understand what you are going through, what would you have me tell her? What are the main points of confusion about your TG status she faces? What obstacles does she impose on this aspect of your nature? Have you found any compromise solutions that are effective for both of you?

Please share anything that might help to give the foundation for our bridge of understanding.

Lots of love,
Michele
Hi Kelly,

Thanks so much for sharing your perspective, which is as valid as anyone else's. It's true that many people would be unwilling to stay and/or unable to be happy with a partner who changes gender. By no means did I mean to say that unconditional love should be "expected", for it cannot be. Rather it is a gift and a blessing that some couples share, but unfortunately it does not apply to everyone.

In situations where the spouse resolves that a change in their partner's gender is totally out of line with their own ability to love, than dissolution of the marriage is inevitable. I cannot say that this is wrong, because each person has to choose what is right for them in this life. I am only suggesting an "ideal" love, one which some couples are able to achieve. Yet I fully recognize that many people do not believe they are capable of such unconditional love, and therefore choose to end a relationship because of a superficial element like the condition of their spouse's physical body.

My letter is geared more toward a spouse who wants to love unconditionally, yet has confusion about coping with a change such as this. Unfortunately, many people are still very hung up on appearances, other's opinions, and societal norms to the point where these factors take precidence over their marriage. I do not pass judgement on these people, I just offer a perspective outside of the box for those who wish to consider it.

Much love,
Michele
... one other thought about what you said Kelly...

I don't believe that many transpeople enter into a marriage knowing full well that they are trans and intending to deceive anyone. I think it is more often a case of believing their TG feelings can be buried, cured, or will simply disappear once they get settled into a "normal" life. Very few transpeople have a crystal clear understanding of their gender issues. Even psychology does not yet understand it. Most TG people would not have been able to describe or reveal their TG status to their spouse any sooner than they did. Some are 50 years old by the time they are finally able to even be honest with themselves, let alone being able to tell anyone else.

I believe it would only be in the absolute rarest of cases that the TG person knows full well in advance of getting married, but chooses to put themselves into that situation anyway. Quite likely it is more a case of denial and repression for as long as the TG person is able, rather than a conscious knowing all along. Remember, hindsight is always 20/20. We can always look back in time and see clearly what we "ought to have done", yet all we have is the present, and everyone does the best they can knowing what they know today.

I don't see revealing one's TG status after 10+ years of marriage as deceptive. Rather, it is merely the result of the TG person finally coming to terms with the truth about themself, and being honest about it with their spouse soon thereafter.

Thanks again Kelly, for giving us food for thought!

<3
Atsilv Alasqida said…
Dear Sisters,
As the wife of the TG in question, I can honestly say that she told me as soon she was able to do so. The way she was raised is what caused her to bury herself under the mask she wore for so many years.The children she had from her previous marriage, at the time they were born she did not fully understand herself.So none of this came out until the children were grown and gone from home. I can also tell you why she felt able to tell me. I am an avid reader and have studied the Native American ways of the past for many years.Through my reading I knew of the man woman. Called Kokwimu by the Anasazi,or berdache by the spanish when they came in contact with native peoples. I did not know of the term/label of transgendered until recently.I knew from the beginning that she had many feminine traits because that is what attracted me to her to start with. I have always had the male dominant role in our marriage.And am happy and comfortable with it, I always have been. I was the one who started talking to her about two spirit people that I had read about in my books.And let her know that I knew she was two spirit.I did not know at the time how deep it really went but now that I do it has not changed the fact that I love my partner with all that I am. I loved her that way at the start of this relationship and I love her more now that I know the depth of her true feelings and her true self. My love for her children (since I am unable to have children of my own)is un-conditional.Even though I did not give birth to them they are mine. I raised them, and no matter what they may do in life I will continue to love them no matter what.That doesn't mean I have to like what they do in their lives, it just means I love them period.
I love my spouse un-conditionally. I realize that some do not have that depth of love. It doesn't make me any better by any means,It just means that my love for my partner goes beyond the physical.I can and do love her physically and spiritually.It is just who and what I am.The Great Spirit gave me the gift of being able to love her as she is.I am eternally grateful for that.Yes I will say that it took me awhile to adjust to the idea.But let me say that when she told me she gave me the freedom to go on with my life without her if I chose to do so.I did not want that, I do not want that.She is a part of me and always will be. I must also note that we were best friends for 3 years before our marriage 10 years ago, and regardless of the fact that she is transgendered,I will love her always.Even if our marriage for some strange reason did not work out we would still be best friends as we were in the beginning and as we are now.She does not own me as I do not own her. We each have things that we do apart from each other but there are far more things that we do togther.We have spent pretty much every minute of every day with each other in the years of our marriage.How many married people can say that and that they have a strong relationship because of it.From the people I know,not many can say it.
Each and every person is different with different points of view and its all okay.It doesn't make one right and one wrong.It just makes us different from each other.What fun would the world be if we all thought, acted, looked or felt the same about everything?
All I know is that I love my partner period. There are no limits, no conditions, it just is.If we could take a walk in others shoes would we like their life or would they like ours? Think about it. We are not all cut from the same bolt of cloth.
Atsliv

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