There are days when this entire process seems to be about me being a beauty school. Hair. Nails. Makeup. Clothes. I’m like a finishing school for a trans girl. Which is hysterical because I stopped wearing anything but Chapstick and sunscreen years ago. I gave up makeup and cut my hair short and stopped wearing anything but whatever happens to be clean. But for some reason having to do all this for my wife has made me feel like I should do it again too. Am I girl enough in leggings and a T-shirt? Do I need eye-shadow? So instead I died my hair purple and started wearing slightly crazier clothes. My wife says I went LGBT friendly. I think in part it helped me see what not being invisible would be like. It’s not always easy from for me. I kind of like invisibility. But I’m testing my boundaries too. While I buy training bras and nail polish for my wife.
So you might notice I switch from “he” to “she” and sometimes “husband” to “wife.” Here’s the deal with pronouns and gendered terms. Some trans people care A LOT about being properly gendered, meaning that people use “he” or “she” based on how they identify. If someone tells you they wish to be identified as female or male you should USE THE PRONOUN THEY REQUEST. Not doing so is rude. Similarly if someone changes their name you should use their new name. But if you make a mistake, apologize and move on. It’s ok. Good faith matters. Perfection isn’t possible.
My use of pronouns and gendered terms in this blog and in life isn’t political. It’s practical and part of the process of confusion and transition in our life. Because my wife isn’t living as a women and very few people know, I am extremely careful to say “he” and “husband” in public, on social media, and with anyone who doesn’t know. But I think of my wife as a girl. However, this blog is in part about my process of coming to terms with transition. Part of that is trying to figure out what pronouns to use. In our private communication I use “girl” and “wife” and female emoji. In the interests of consistency I will try to do so here going forward but when talking about my process I think it’s important to use “husband” when explaining how complex this process has been for me. I was married to a man for seventeen years.
There are other effects of HRT. It makes you tired. It makes you crave salt. In our relationship what this has meant is it’s almost impossible to convince my husband to do anything active. Which I hate way more than him being a woman. Because I love to move. I’m always moving. Can’t help it. It’s somewhere in my genes. I have to exercise or I go crazy. At one point my dear spouse was obsessed with running. Sadly running is the one exercise I despise. I tried. But I couldn’t maintain it. It just made everything hurt. But then he hurt his back. Not a little. A lot. He couldn’t sit up. He couldn’t walk. He was in constant pain. So no more running. During that time of pain and immobility is when he realized he was trans. And he got better. But he never really regained a desire to run or exercise. The HRT doesn’t help. But as I said, I have to move. Need to move. It would be nice to share that. And he talks about wanting to get in shape, lose weight. But I think it’s about wanting to be a cuter girl. And as a girl who dieted and exercised for years in pursuit of being a cuter girl, that never lasts. It’s impossible to maintain. The pursuit of cute isn’t a good way to find a love of exercise. It’s a sore spot. But you can’t make someone want to move.
A standard treatment for trans people is hormones. Trans women take estrogen and testosterone blockers. The right combination and dosage can be complicated. The hormones have various effects. They make your skin softer, can result in a reversal a male pattern baldness (now I have your attention), grow some breast tissue, and result in fewer and less firm erections. That last one I’m not a big fan of but it is what it is. They can also make you moody and, in my estimation, behave like a teenage girl.
So when my husband went to the doctor and got a prescription for hormones I was shocked. We had discussed him going to the doctor but I didn’t think they would just hand over a prescription. I was wrong. When my husband announced this to me we were getting ready to leave for a romantic weekend on the beach in Florida. He started taking the hormones just before we left. And I’d estimate he become the exact replica of me at 13 in about a day. He was moody, anxious, paranoid, and well moody. Which is great when you are in a small hotel room with someone for several days. I had no idea how to respond. I saw my life falling apart. I cried alone on the beach and tried to reconcile the levelheaded, reasonable man I had lived with for eighteen years with the teenage girl upstairs in the hotel. Finally we talked and he agreed to cut the dose in half. But the weekend was a sign of things to come. I knew I was in for a lot more. Maybe it was good I had trial by fire that weekend. It prepared me a little for the months that were to follow.
I’m not the first person in history who’s ever gone through this. If you read the Reddit sub r/mypartneristrans you will find many many women (and some men) in similar situations. But when it happens to you it feels like you are completely and utterly alone. After all the thing about being trans is trying to pass. It’s a secret club. Unlike being gay where you are loud and proud, the goal of being trans is to be invisible. So we as wives are invisible too. Yes, there have been a few books written and there are some secret FB groups. But for the most part, I was alone. When I tried to reach out I found two kinds of support. There were angry wives who were divorcing their spouses, some of whom had kids, were religious, or were just mad. I didn’t fit in there. And there were the “you are with us or you are against us” wives who had accepted everything and thought any crack in the support facade was a sign of trans phobia. There was even one lovely woman who runs a FB group who claimed that any failure to support your spouse 100% in transition was emotional abuse. Sigh. I’ve always hated true believers of any kind. Nothing is that simple. There must be room for other feelings.
My therapist of many years tended to look kind of deer in the headlights when I talked about all of this, so I found a second therapist who specialized in treating the LGBTQ community. I called him out of the blue one day while literally walking down the street on my cell phone and pretty much poured out the entire story. He remained calm. So I started seeing him. He listened to my complaints about the changes, the hormones, the instability, the ridiculous amount of change. Without him I think it all would have fallen apart. He was the only person I could share my doubts and fears with. It was great. But my spouse wanted a gender therapist too. So I thought we could see this therapist together. And that ended my confidant and my support as we engaged in what has become horrific couples therapy which I dread and wish I could get out of. I continue to look for support.
My spouse started going to a support group for people in transition. And I admit I was jealous. And scared. Both that she had found more people to talk to and I was still all alone and that now she would be sharing all this with other people while I sat at home. My spouse said I was afraid she would be influenced by “the trans agenda.” But I was mostly worried that now she wouldn’t need me anymore. Suddenly it wasn’t our process anymore. I lost any sense of control or input. It was just her process and I was along for the ride. I don’t even get to hear her process, now she does that with her group. I was sullen and sulky. Which as you can imagine made my wife so much more willing to chat and share. Yeah, I know. But it did feel like she came home from group with new ideas and new courage about transition. So maybe I was worried about the trans agenda. It was hard to face that I wasn’t really ready for what was about to happen. As this became more than the two of us my anxiety level rose and I started to wonder if I had gotten myself into more than I had bargained for.
Lately I feel more alone than ever. That’s why I started this blog. You dear readers, imagined or real, are the support group in my head. And I thank you for that.
So the friend from college was supportive. If fairly noisy about our sex life. Seriously? Here is a good lesson in manners. Someone being trans doesn’t change the fact that asking about their sex life or what they have or don’t have below the belt is rude. Geez.
But in general it went well. We are happy to have one person who knows and supports us. Or supports my spouse. I admit to still feeling out here, on an island. Alone. Why is it so hard to find support as a spouse?
You might notice a change in pronouns going forward. Pronouns are a big thing for a lot of transgender people. They don’t want to be called “he” when they are a “she.” I’ve decided that as we start to become more public I’ll start to use “she” and “her” and “wife” to refer to my spouse. But it isn’t a big deal in our house. In part because so many people don’t know and I don’t want to screw up in pubic.
The who to tell saga continues as the holidays approach and I am trying to decide if I should tell my family. I admit to being scared. I think they will be supportive but that doesn’t change that it’s difficult and awkward. So I keep kicking the can down the road one more day. But Christmas approaches and it’s time to shit or get off the pot as my mother might say.
When you figure out you are trans deciding who you should tell or if you should tell anyone is complicated. If you tell the wrong person you could lose your job, be the victim of violence, or get kicked out of your home. For us the decisions were more subtle. We own our house. We have relatively safe jobs, although you can never be sure. But deciding if we should tell anyone terrified me. On the one hand I felt like I should tell people. It seemed honest. It seemed like my relationships with family and friends could suffer if I was hiding something like this. But not least of all because I needed someone else to talk to. However, my terror won out and I told no one. Well, I told my therapist. But I stayed silent other than that. I didn’t tell my mother, my sister, my friends. And my relationships did suffer. I cut myself off a little. Maybe a lot. Because how do you talk to people when the biggest thing going on in your life is something you aren’t talking about?
Until recently that stayed true for both of us. We told no one. Then my spouse decided to tell his best friend from college. By email. And I was terrified.