I’ve recently come across some posts from women who are the wives or girlfriends of transgendered males. The posts are often variations on the same themes: fear, anger, feelings of betrayal and loss.
Yep. Been there, done that and got the divorce decree.
As I’ve mentioned before, I was married for 11 years to a man who told me he liked to crossdress on our first date. In my typical fashion, I went into denial – for a short time. I figured he must be joking, and I let it go. It was maybe a week or two later, he reminded me that he was, in fact, sincere about it. But I was told it was just a “hobby,” and that he would never, ever consider a sex reassignment surgery (this was so long ago, that’s what it was called then.)
Flash forward a decade, and the same man was coming home after an day out, waving a brochure, talking about spending $1,200 of OUR money on electrolysis (with no prior consultation) – and trying to deflect my anger by at the same time bringing home a new, orange kitten.
I’m happy to say that my time with Pudge (the aforementioned kitty) has outlasted the remaining time I had with my now-ex-husband. My ex, who – the last time we talked about it – had moved back in with his first wife, had stopped working and was trying to figure out how to transition while having no job and no money.
Talk about dodging a bullet. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
In the early years of our marriage, I tried damn hard to understand his “hobby” and be supportive. This included buying him clothes and makeup, treating him to days at the spa (do you think he ever returned the favor? Hint: no), going to support groups and drag shows with him and even doing my own bit of crossdressing. I mean, I tried. I get an ‘A’ for effort.
But this funny thing happened. The more I thought about things regarding gender, the less what he was doing and saying made any sense at all. And as I went to more and more of his support groups, the more apparent it became that while the men were having fun dressing up like their idealized version of Lucy Ball or Elvira, the women were gathered in the next room, often tearful and sometimes angry. And more often than not, I heard the men talk about how unfair it was that their wife just couldn’t accept all of this, and how dare she say I can’t take hormones, and on and on…
There was talk from time to time about a “wives’ bill of rights,” which addressed things such as your right to have your husband be a man if that’s what you got on your wedding day. And your right not to have your husband steal your panties and wear them. Which is good, I guess. But there was a lot of propaganda, too.
I don’t know how many times I heard variations of “Now you have a new best friend to go shopping with!” or “Won’t it be fun to do each other’s hair!?” No, and no. I hate shopping, first of all, and there’s nothing to really be done with my hair. And I hate makeup. And anyway, what’s with all this stereotypical girly bullshit?
Oh, yeah. That’s what this is all about.
I’m here to say that from my experience, at least, this was not all good times at the mall and getting our nails done side by side. In fact, it sucked. And that bill of rights needs an edit. So here I go.
1. You have the right to say no.
This doesn’t mean you can stop him from crossdressing or wanting to be a woman, because you can’t. But at any time, you have the right to call a stop to it all for yourself. Even if you’re married and made a pledge before god and sonny Jesus, you have a right to say you can’t do this anymore. Because what’s asked of a spouse or girlfriend of a male-to-transgender person is a lot, and not everyone can – or wants to – be part of it.
Bottom line: If he has the freedom to decide if he wants to dress or not, or to transition or not, then you have the right to take it or leave it, and don’t let anyone make you feel guilty if you decide it’s just not for you.
You have a right to be happy, too. If you get nothing else from what I’m writing here, let it be that.
2. This is your life, too. You have a right to talk about it.
Another thing that was really difficult for me was the pressure my husband put on me to never talk about his “hobby.” I was told not to talk about it to my friends, to my coworkers or even to my mother. This is a sick and unfair thing to do to someone who is likely struggling because of your actions. This shit has got to stop.
Look, I get that men who crossdress are often paranoid about being outed, and with good reason. The world can be a harsh place for men who don’t live up to expectations of manliness – or women who don’t resign themselves to the gender prison, for that matter. I understand why, if you’re walking down a street in full drag, you don’t want attention called to you.
But that doesn’t mean that you as a crossdresser have the right to tell your wife or girlfriend, who is likely struggling with your transgenderism, that she can’t talk about it with the people in her life who support her. What a selfish and cruel thing to expect of someone. On the one hand, you’re putting her through a kind of hell, and on the other, you’re forbidding her to cope with it the best way she knows how.
As the saying goes, you’re only as sick as your secrets. And I saw a lot of sickness and a lot of secrets in that community.
3. You have a right to not participate.
I also witnessed a lot of transgender men who were angry or hurt that their wives and girlfriends didn’t want to be with them when they crossdressed, and some who were angry that their wives didn’t want to be with them when they were “en femme,” and some who felt betrayed because their wives divorced them once they became more and more feminine. I can understand feeling hurt – that’s natural. And so is feeling disappointed. But what’s not right is expecting that a wife or girlfriend will stick around while you crossdress, undergo electrolysis, take hormones or even get surgery when doing so is tearing her apart.
If a wife says she doesn’t want to see it, respect that. If a girlfriend says she doesn’t want to be around other crossdressers at the meeting, respect that. If a wife says she doesn’t want to go to bed with her husband who is now wearing a wig and lingerie, for the love of anything holy, respect that. Browbeating someone into going along with something isn’t the same thing as having the support of a partner. Support can only be given freely. It can’t be guilted or shamed into existence.
In my case, I suppose there may have been the presumption that because I’d been with women before, that I should be accepting of my husband as a woman. But nothing was further from the truth. First – and call me shallow, I don’t care – he was not easy on the eyes when he put on a pair of fake boobs, a bad wig and copious amounts of makeup. I was not attracted to him in ladyface. And I wasn’t attracted to him in that state emotionally, either, because in trying so hard not to be masculine, he became some kind of phantom – a person with no personality or spirit. And that’s not something I wanted to cozy up to. The whole charade was a turn-off. I suppose the ultimate irony is that I left him for a real woman. Just because I am attracted to women as a class doesn’t mean I am attracted to ALL women, and certainly not to all men who are trying to be women.
4. Important decisions require the consent of both partners
Like I said above, my husband one day came home to announce that $1,200 of or savings was now going to fry the hairs off his face, and oh by the way, have a kitten. Don’t you like the kitten? Nice kitty! Aren’t you happy?
You can imagine how that went over (though I do admit, the kitten – now a 7-year-old slug – was a fair trade for the husband).
I’ve also heard tales of husbands who decided to take hormones without discussing it with a wife, or who start moving toward surgery without talking it over at home first. While I would agree that a person does have the right to do these things, there is also an obligation in a committed relationship to come to sort of an agreement between the two partners first. Because she has rights, too. (See: Right No. 1, above).
5. As long as you a wife or significant other, you have the right to be recognized as a wife or significant other
Admittedly, this one is a little geeky, but hang with me. In the last year or so of our marriage, my husband and I avoided each other by spending a lot of time in an online virtual world. In it, we each had our own ‘avatars’ and carried on a make-believe life that was far more tolerable than our real one. In it, he was a she and I was a she. And because we weren’t yet quite ready to call it quits, we spent a lot of time together in that land of make-believe talking to the same other people.
But the catch was, I was to never let on that we were married, that I was his wife or that he was, in fact, a he. It got to the point where he had a virtual wedding to one of those other avatars, and in his vows, he proclaimed that he’d never felt that way about someone before. Because maintaining that lie was so much more important than the respect I was due as his wife. And you know what? That really fucking hurt.
A wife or girlfriend should never have to pretend she’s not a wife or girlfriend just so her husband or boyfriend can pretend he’s a girl. Not in a virtual world, not in a chatroom, not at a support group, not at a drag show, not at a gay club, nowhere. It’s cruel. Don’t do it, and sisters, don’t put up with it.
- Narcissism = Crossdressing (crossadams.wordpress.com)