Saturday, August 12, 2006

Views of a Wife Who Opposes

The wife of a transgendered person replied to my earlier post, though not the same wife as she to whom my letter was originally written. This bystanding wife raised several points, which I do appreciate her for voicing them. Though I prefer not to quote her directly, what she said will serve as a thoughtful reference to us, which highlights the common concerns that many other wives have.

She stated that a wife is not solely responsible for her husband's happiness...

She is correct, we must lead our lives in such a way that we are happy inside. If either partner prohibits the other from being their true self, it is against their respecitive abilities to exercise this choice to happiness. She is not responsible for his happiness, nor is he responsible for hers. Yet to needlessly deny happiness to one another is to either live with a very miserable spouse, or worse to put an early end to an otherwise good marriage.

She questioned why he "hid" this for so long...

Some people feel TG individuals "knew all along" the full extent of their gender identity, and chose to be "deceptive". I feel this is unfair to the TG person. How could the TG people of today's generation have known? Growing up in the pre-90's, there wasn't much information available, common understanding of the TG phenomenon was slim to none. Without any frame of reference for their TG feelings growing up, how could they have "known" something NO ONE really knew of at the time? The only thing they knew for sure was the feelings were confusing and frightening because they were all too compelling. They knew that others wouldn't approve, and perhaps they even suffered harsh punishment for attempting to express themselves. As "men" of this generation their only coping mechanism for the unnamed feeling was to try and shut it away, block it out. He didn't "hide" this, but rather it is a revelation to him/her as well, coming to accept and understand what's inside after shutting it away for so long.

She claimed my earlier letter made it sound as if the wife is "obligated to accept" the changes...

I did not mean to imply either party is obligated, as I pointed out a few times that these matters are highly individual choices. 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.

It's true that many people would be unwilling to stay and/or unable to be happy with a partner who changes gender, even if it is only on a part-time basis. I never say that unconditional love should be "expected", or an "obligation", for it cannot be. Rather it is a gift and a blessing that some couples share, but unfortunately it does not apply to everyone. 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 appearance or physical body.

She argued that changing one's physical anatomy is "a major deal", one which violates the terms of the marriage contract.

Put into context then, it is a major deal if either spouse fundamentally changes in appearance during the course of years. Does the same standard apply to the wife? What if her own looks change after marriage? What if she gains weight or has a physical ailment that changes her body? What if after 20 years of marriage she no longer resembles physically the person he married? Is this a violation of the terms of the marriage contract? Unfortunately, many men have thought so, and either cheated on their wives or divorced. Yet, does this make it right? Or is it possible they were loving for superficial reasons?

The question is whether maintaining your spouse's body and/or physical appearance according to your specifications, is more important than his happiness? Does he impose the same standards on you? Or does he see past your appearance and still love the real you no matter how you look?

No matter what we do, even through the aging process, our appearances and bodies WILL change over time. When we marry someone, our *hope* is that they can love us through these changes.

She pointed out that a marriage contract would be breached if they had agreed to have children which were as yet unborn...

This is a good point, although many/most TG people don't intend to permanently alter their bodies using hormones or surgury, so this wouldn't be an issue. This would only be a viable concern in the case of someone transitioning permanently. Fortunately there are sperm banks for those who know in advance that they may want to have children who are genetically their own. If this is no longer an option because the TG spouse has already been taking hormones, still the transition does not affect the wife's ability to bear children and artificial insemination is a well-established process.

She concluded by noting her opinion that "one can choose" alternatives to transitioning, and that the spouse "electing" to make such a decision is deliberately making life more difficult for others around them.

I cannot fathom why anyone would "choose" to feel and live something so challenging. Being TG is one of the most difficult paths imaginable due to hostile societal conditions, and the potential risk of loss of family and friends. Why would anyone freely choose this if alternatives existed?

For many TG people, wanting to transition is not a factor. Many TG people enjoy having and keeping both male and female sides of their gender identity intact. In such cases, the femme self is revealed on a part-time basis. Yet his femme self has no less desire to be accepted and loved by those around her, than her male counterpart, your husband. With a dual gendered TG spouse who has no desire to transition permanently, their wife can enjoy both sides of his/her personality without fear of permanent change.

For TG people who do "want" to transition, my understanding is that it's not a choice at all. It is more like a "dire need", which has often been accompanied by "life or death" type of urgency. They are willing to risk forfeiting everything they've worked so hard to achieve in life because they are drowning inside of themselves. For someone married to such a person, this change must be met with loving compassion, or loss is inevitable, either through divorce or death.

The ultimate catch-22...

Some people argue that it is selfish for a TG person to come true, while others proclaim it is selfish to lie. Is it better to live a miserable existence, lying to oneself and the world, becoming repressed, bitter and angry in the process? Or is it possible that would be a disservice to others and a waste of precious life energy? Should it not be considered that mental and emotional balance are prerequisite to reaching our potential in life, thus enabling us to have a far more positive impact on our loved ones and the world at large? Without this reference point, transgender people are often put between a rock and a hard place in the views of others.

The good news...

While the response to my letter by this particular wife was disheartening, she gave us much food for thought. On the upside, the original wife to whom I wrote the letter has also responded, except her response was most encouraging and will be available on our site in the near future. Among much else, she said "I love my partner with all that I am and I am willing to make whatever adjustments need to be made to make her happy and to make our life together the best that it can possibly be." In fact, both her and her TG spouse have decided to become regular contributors to our blog so anyone who is interested will soon be able to share in their journey with us.

3 comments:

Jo said...

I am in the midst of this - stuck between two rocks. Her happiness (premised on all of this going away, denied, buried) versus my happiness (premised on it being acknowledged, respected and honoured). 20 years of marriage during which I've tried to be truthful, but often didn't know what that truth was.

Now we are under pressure, and it's all - family, work, everything - looking shaky. Unconditional love? I have discovered it was never unconditional at all.

Stephanie Yates said...

Wives of the transgendered face a very difficult challenge, one for which they are not well-prepared. We all agree that our transgendered natures are part and parcel of who we are, and indeed science seems to be confirming what we've suspected all along--we're born this way. But we need to recall that our wives are "hardwired" too; they have outlooks and identities that are part and parcel of their beings too. Plus they have a lifetime of socialization that generally leads them towards expectations of a husband who fits her definition of masculine. And love by itself is not going to overcome a sense of fear and shock and anger when the wife is faced with the challenge of a transgendered spouse. But the challenges can be managed and even though things sometimes turn ugly even in the best marriages; overcoming these negative emotions is indeed possible through a focus on communication and on the basis of the relationship--love and commitment. Rational discussion is essential to overcoming these emotions; I'm glad we have the tools (such as GE) to facilitate that.

Anonymous said...

From everything that I have listened to about crossdressers,I don't think that it will ever be accepted into society!There are many reasons why it happens. I can only speak from experience! When people are saying that women don't approve ,I can prove you wrong. I was never married because I had strong feelings about being a girl when I was 5 years old. My sister and I talked about it a lot. She decided to try something as long as I would go along with her.My sister decided to see if it was a phase ,or that there was something there that needed to be addressed.She talked with me and decided that she was going to dress me up as a girl.I was also given a girl's name,she didn't want her friends to come over and see a boy dressed in girls clothes,so she gave me a girl's name so that nobody would know.We would sit and have tea partties.Then along came her girlfriends to join the party.Her friends got along with me just fine.We all did everything togetgher.I was the sister that she never had.I enjoyed it,because that is when I was the happiest,being a little girl!As I grew up ,I had no girlfriends.In the 90's,I ended up with a girlfriend. The first time she saw me naked,she told me that I had the body of a girl!So she wanted to prove a point.She wanted to dress me up as a Hooker for Halloween!Her girlfriends helped her with the transformation.I felt like I was something being created on an assembly line!When they got done ,they took pictures,and we went to the party. I never had so much fun in my life! We ended up going to a club after the party. At the club,I was treated like a woman all night.I danced the night awaywith men I had never met before in m,y life! My girlfriend and her friends looked at me with astonishment,they couldn't believe what they had created!We all became good girlfriends. Mygirlfriend had taught me how to walk properly in tall heels,and how to match outfits together.I had tried to stop crossdressing,but it keeps coming back with a vengience.I ended up getting married.Before we got married ,I sat her down and I told her what I have been doing with my life and that I was a crossdresser.She was ok with it and she accepted it.Now the urge has gotten so bad that my sex drive as a man has deceased.I am started on hormones to get to my final goal -- to be a woman! My wife is ok with it now,but who knows how she will be when I change? It was a gamble,andI just threw the dice,what ever happens ,happens. She is very understanding,and she knows what kind of pressures were on me ,and she sees the difference in me and she likes it.Not everyone was born to be a Barbie Doll,but the ones that are shouldn'tr pass it up! I had to wait as long as I did because of it being a burden on the insurance and my parents because they did not have the money it took to have me seen by specialists. I hope that thios put a little light on the subject!!