I feel like I’ve learned a lot about transitioning and I would like to share it. I’m not pretending I have any answers, but perhaps my experience will strike a chord with some others.
I guess the first thing that I’ve learned is that you have to be ready to risk everyting – spouse, family, home, friends, career – everything. Maybe you’ll be lucky and be one of those that gets to keep their job, but don’t count on it. Maybe not all your friends will abandon you, but many will. Maybe your family won’t disown you, but they might. And most of all, your spouse will VERY likely leave you.
When I started on this journey, I thought that my marriage would be one of the tiny number that survive the transition of a spouse. My wife and I are deeply, and totally, in love with each other. We have been together for over 27 years, and have survived many obstacles. But we have ALWAYS known we were there for each other.
This is why it hurt so badly when I came out to me wife and she said she can’t support me in this. I felt that if she really loved me, she would stand by me, help me through a difficult time. In short, I thought that love should conquer all.
But, this has nothing to do with love.
I have come to realize that having your spouse change genders is not a test of love. If it were, I have no doubt we would stay together forever. It is both a more physical and more ephemeral issue. It has to do with physical appearance, yes, but that doesn’t mean it is a shallow reaction. All the analogies like “Wouldn’t you stay married to me if I were a quadraplegic” miss the point. This isn’t about accepting a change in appearance, but more about accepting a change in reality. Those of us that are transgendered should be able to understand that physicality matters. If you truly are transsexual, you NEED to change your gender because at a most fundamental level, you just don’t fit. You don’t fit into your body. More importantly, you don’t fit into the world. We are like the last piece of a jigsaw puzzle that has only one missing piece – and it doesn’t fit. So we change our shape, so we CAN fit. But if we are in a relationship, we also are changing the way we fit into the piece that is our spouse or partner. When we change, we change everything around us – all the pieces around us.
Effectively, we may now fit into the world, but now our spouse no longer fits into us. In a few, very rare occasions, the changes work well enough…some spouses do stay with their trans partner. But the ability to accomodate that level of change is very, very rare.
For most partners of transsexuals, they can no more stay with us than we can stay our natal gender. To ask them to do so is to ask them to enter the hell that we are just emerging from. If we love them, how can we ask them to do that?
This is all quite independant of love. It isn’t that they love us any less, it is that staying with us is just not who they are. They can no more make that leap than they can levitate themselves.
So, to all the partners of transsexuals I say do not feel guilty. Whether your partner understands or not, you are doing only what you feel is right and possible for you. This is the most important thing I have learned: Being transsexual doesn’t make the ones we love suddenly turn against us. If they loved us before, they still love us and want us to be happy. We can only wish the same for them, even if it means we have to go on apart.
To my trans brothers and sisters I can only urge you to extend to your partner the same understanding and compassion you seek from them. Try to understand that they love us, and they want us to find peace within ourselves. If they can not remain with us, the fault lies not with them or with us. It is just a side effect of this condition.
When I “complete” transition (I’m not sure that you EVER really finish) I will be almost 56 years old. I have no illusions about the prospects of ever finding another life partner. I doubt I could ever find anyone to match the love, understanding and strength of character she has blessed me with for the past 27 years. But I know that we will always love each other and always be part of each other’s lives. That may not be having it all, but it is pretty good.