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July 4, 2019 10:42 am  #1


My husband is trans. I have no idea what to do

Hi All-

 This is my first post.  My husband of 17 years recently told me he was transgender.  Since then he has started full hormone therapy, got his facial hair lasered, and grown his hair out.  His closet is now 1/2 male clothes and 1/2 high heels and dresses.  We have told our two children and our immediate families.  After he was disowned by his father and rejected by his mother he decided he 'had gone too far' and stopped his hormones and now says 'he doesn't want to be labelled' and that 'this shouldn't effect anything in our relationship.'   Nonetheless, he/she still has no facial hair, a feminized face, long hair and hips, and D cup breasts.  He is bewildered that I am not sexually attracted to him and refuses/drags his feet in getting a couples therapist.

I have never suspected that he was trans.  Our relationship has always been a team - we've gone through med school, residency, fellowship, two children, and now have a very successful practice in a small town together with five other physicians.   When we were first in college together and he didn't ask me out I did ask him immediately - 'hey, are you gay?' - to which he adamantly said no and then asked me out on a date.  I found him to be very attractive, but now in hindsight wonder if my physical attraction to him was one-sided and he proceeded with the relationship which I was driving forward because I fit into his lifetime false persona he had carefully cultivated over the years.  He has since admitted that he did in fact create this hypermasculine, successful, driven persona to 'hide' his true identity from his family.  I'm not sure how to proceed.  Even typing this makes me nauseated.

I know that things had become 'ordinary' in our relationship over the years, but about two years ago I noticed that he started suggesting strange sexual acts and things that we hadn't ever done before.  Then I caught him with women's lingerie and discovered he had secretly been looking at pornography.  I again queried him - are you gay?  to which he admitted and 'swore' he was 'only a crossdresser.'  About that time our sex lives became consumed by his new interests, and I eventually told him I was really uncomfortable with the way that 'kinky jones' activities seemed to be the only way he could have sex anymore.  Then we moved from 'only a crossdresser' to 'I am transgender' to transitioning, and now suddenly he's 'against being labelled' and off hormones again.  It's like my 40-something male husband is now a 13 year old teenager.  When he works out he wears a 'straight looking' tank top and sports bra with his hair up with neon hair ties.  Now when I look at him I see a woman.  

I am lost.  I have no idea what to do.  I don't know what this means - who he is, or who he is going to become.  I'm not attracted to women.  We have successful lives which are delicately intertwined.  We live in a very small town which is very conservative.   There are extremely limited therapists in town - I have seen two on my own, the first of which had me physically act out 'strangling' him several times until I displayed 'an appropriate degree of aggression' and the second (who was a lesbian) said at the start 'are you gay?' and when I said no advised me immediately to divorce him and 'get over it.'  

LL

 

July 4, 2019 1:06 pm  #2


Re: My husband is trans. I have no idea what to do

Another (ex)wife of a transgender spouse here.  

What you describe is very familiar to me, and to other women who've seen their mid-life husbands suddenly declare they "feel like women" or are "women in men's bodies" and begin to transform themselves.  Once they express their belief and begin acting on it, it tends to snowball, and like an addiction, the need for it increases over time.

 They tend to do and say the same things, like "this shouldn't affect our marriage because I'm the same person inside" even though they alter their bodies and begin thinking of themselves as women, even though they transform our sex lives and turn us into instruments through which they can play out their inner fantasies, and expect us to be fine with their claim they are now lesbians and we are in a "lesbian relationship" with them.  (A reality check: if they're really "the same person" then why is it so necessary for them to transform themselves?  If it shouldn't matter to us, why does it matter so much to them?)

   From what you describe, your husband in an autogynephile.  Autogynephilia is a little understood sexual paraphilia, "an erotic targeting location error" in which the object of romantic attachment and sexual attraction is a woman, but one located inside the man.  Once you begin reading the psychological literature, you will no doubt recognize your husband in the description.  

   Below I'm pasting in a list of resources that can help you make sense of what you're seeing.  You can also search the forum here by key word, thread topic, or poster's name (there are a number of us here who are or were married to men who decided they were transgender and who are/were in various stages of feminizing.

Resources for wives of men who decide they’re transgender:
Academic and Professional:
  Michael Bailey, "The Man Who Would Be Queen."  It's available online and downloadable.  Bailey is a research psychologist at Northwestern Univ.
 
 Donna Chapman and Benjamin Caldwell: “Attachment Injury Resolution in Couples  When One Partner is Transgender”
Journal of Systemic Therapies, Vol 31, No. 2, 2012, pp36-53
(full text of article available online)

  Anne Lawrence, "Men Trapped in Men's Bodies/Becoming What We Love."  Lawrence is a trans person and an MD, a psychologist who treated (now retired) trans identified males.  Lawrence maintains an online presence and there are articles there.
 
http://www.annelawrence.com/autogynephilia_&_MtF_typology.html
 
Autogynephilia: An Underappreciated Paraphilia Anne A. Lawrence Department of Psychology, University of Lethbridge, Lethbridge, Alta., Canada
 
https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/3eb9/a449b840ef525436454c4f658b8d364d194f.pdf
 
 
Memoirs/Accounts by Wives
 
Those who left:

 Christine Benvenuto: "Sex Changes."     A memoir

   “Naeferty”  (a pseudonym)  Naeferty ran a blog about her experiences with her own trans identified male partner.  Read the post "Gas Mark Six" and the comments.
 
A podcast: How my ex-husband’s transition made me feel
https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/p06xvbsc
 
 

  Transwidow: My Only Path to Power.  Also a blogger.  She, too, was married to an apparently happy man who decided he was trans.  Her original blog posts constituted a real time diary of what she want through, but when she began writing a memoir of her experience, she pulled a number of these posts, so you can't follow her journey as she lived it.  There are still a number of really good posts remaining, however. 
 
 
 
 

 

Last edited by OutofHisCloset (July 4, 2019 1:08 pm)

 

July 4, 2019 1:23 pm  #3


Re: My husband is trans. I have no idea what to do

A follow up of more personal reflection.

I see that you wrote about being in a very small and conservative town, in a small physician's practice, and I wonder if you are trying to engage in "damage control."  If so, it's a form of "let me get control over this out of control behavior that my husband is exhibiting."  Pardon me if I'm reading in, but that was certainly one of my first responses when my then-husband, after disclosing to me his belief about himself, began exhibiting what I thought were alarming behaviors (making public announcements about his emotional responses, telling people how he was crying at one thing or another) at work (tenured professors in the same department as a small liberal arts college) that I now believe were early attempts to work up to coming out publicly.  
   I was desperate to limit the damage, both to preserve his professional standing and reputation, and to protect our son, whom I did not want to have to undergo the same dizzying destabilization I had gone through.  As a result of my efforts, I discovered the literature on autogynephlia, and after reading it and agreeing he fit the profile, my now-ex ended up deciding not to go public, and remains in the closet, acting out his sexual fantasies at home.  Yes, by himself, now that I'm gone--I have the evidence--because autogynephiles are romantically and sexuallyattracted to themselves (as women).  Any love or attraction they feel to us, their wives, always competes with their desire for the woman they want to believe themselves to be and become.  We are, that is, "the other woman" in our own marriages.  
   Ultimately, my desire to manage and contain his actions meant that I ended up staying with him almost three more years, years that in the end did a great deal of damage to me psychologically.  I now wish I had let him go full speed ahead and do what he had planned to do.  I would have saved myself two plus years of my life and so SO much grief.  Others would have seen the transformation and the crazy, I would not have had to live in a closet, and my colleagues would have a first hand understanding of why my marriage broke up.
  

Last edited by OutofHisCloset (July 4, 2019 1:30 pm)

 

July 4, 2019 10:58 pm  #4


Re: My husband is trans. I have no idea what to do

wifeoftransgenderspouse,

I have no experience with trans.. (I have a still closeted gay ex).        I urge you though to change your forum name...  you are so much more than just a wife of a trans gender  spouse.      This is something that happened to you.. but it is not who you are.     These spouses do not define who we are.     


"For we walk by faith, not by sight .."  2Corinthians 5:7
 

July 7, 2019 10:55 pm  #5


Re: My husband is trans. I have no idea what to do

thank you guys for the support and responses.  Autogynophilia sounds like what we've got going on.  In the past 48 hours I've gone from:  "I am off my hormones.  I know exactly who I am - I am a MAN inside a MANs body" to my husband staying out all night at a PFLAG transgender support group and coming home "I'm just not sure what I am and I'm really sick of people trying to label me.  Gender isn't just male and female."  It makes my head spin just trying to watch this happen.

     Thread Starter
 

July 8, 2019 7:49 am  #6


Re: My husband is trans. I have no idea what to do

         Your husband is most likely parroting the standard line now being pushed (with no scientific backing whatsoever), one that treats "gender" (socially constructed expectations for roles and behavior, imposed by our biological sex, e.g., female necessitates feminine behavior) and "sex" (our biological condition of male or female) as one and the same thing.  Gender and sex have been conflated.  It used to be that if you were biologically female, you were urged to act and assumed to be, think, and feel, in particular ways--the social construct of femininity; to a certain extent those feminine characteristics were also "naturalized," meaning people would say, "You're female, so you're "naturally emotional," and males were considered the opposite--rational.  It's a binary system in which the masculine gender qualities ascribed to males were considered superior.  Men were strong, women were weak; men were rational, women were emotional, etc. etc. ad nauseum. 
     Now the causality has been reversed.  if you exhibit or are drawn to those feminine attributes--like the color pink, etc--you are deemed female/woman!  So anyone, male or female, who adapts those feminine qualities is labeled "woman."  Pink or blue baby blankets used to denote the sex of a baby; now wearing pink or blue clothes means you are that sex/gender.  
    The new gender orthodoxy says that gender includes biological sex, which is not seen as a real or separate biological attribute, but "assigned" (you will see terms like "assigned female at birth," or AFAB).  This is how they justify the idea that male/female is "on a spectrum."  So when your husband says "Gender isn't just male and female," he means, "Male and female are just two possibilities of the many."  Transactivists like to point to the condition of intersex people to "prove" their point, as if the existence of people with this biological condition invalidates the larger biological reality of dimorphic sex.  (Intersex people, by the way, object to their being appropriated in this way.)
   My ex fell for this same unscientific cant, because it validated his need to feel he could actually be a woman, or, better, had always been one, just in "the wrong body."  The literature on autogynephlia says this need to believe one can or is a woman rather than a man is part of the profile of the autogynephile.   Even after my ex had accepted that he was autogynephilic, he still half believed, and at the least sympathized with, this "in the wrong body" "gender (meaning biological sex) is a spectrum" nonsense.  There were many confounding aspects of the transformation of my spouse, but watching a man who had always been an intellectual, who reasoned well, was highly intelligent, and at home with abstract theory, lose his ability to reason and jettison the most basic tenets of biology, left me shaking my head. 
   Subject their "reasoning" to actual logic, and it falls apart like a house of cards.  They claim they're "smashing the gender binary" but they're actually depending on it and defending it, because their claim to be men or women relies on masculinity and femininity.  The claim biological sex is a social construct, but the actual social construct, gender, they believe is immutable.  They claim biological sex is a construct, and irrelevant, but argue reach for biology and sexual dimorphism when they claim, for example, that there is such a things as a "female penis."  They claim the sexually (biological) dimorphic body is irrelevant, and but go to great lengths to alter their own to resemble the body of the opposite sex they otherwise say is irrelevant.  They deny biological sex here, they rely on it there.  Really it is more than enough to make your head spin.  

 

July 8, 2019 8:22 am  #7


Re: My husband is trans. I have no idea what to do

My husband of 30+ years announced he was gay and wanted a divorce. He was in love with a man, moved out and then, apparently after a falling out with the man, was dating a woman. I was confused to say the least.

Somewhere I saw the phrase "Whatever he is he isn't for me" and it became my mantra. I did not want him back: why would I want such a hot mess? .

I hope maybe this phrase will help you move beyond trying to understand him and focus on what you know about yourself as you decide how to move forward.

Life doesn't have to be this complicated. 
 


Try Gardening. It'll keep you grounded.
 

July 8, 2019 9:23 am  #8


Re: My husband is trans. I have no idea what to do

OOHC you nailed the logic fallacy of the entire fluidity argument.

 

July 8, 2019 2:39 pm  #9


Re: My husband is trans. I have no idea what to do

Whatever, he isn't for me sounds like a good one!

 

July 8, 2019 4:41 pm  #10


Re: My husband is trans. I have no idea what to do

Abby: thanks for chiming in here!  Your phrase, “whatever he is, he isn’t for me,” has helped me almost every day for months!!  Thanks!

And, what a great discussion here. My thoughts, connected I hope!

When my husband first began speaking with a therapist to come to terms with his sexuality (though I am not sure if he ever will come to terms with it, and “terms” is interesting here), the therapist pointed out that “gay,” “lesbian,” and “bisexual” are in many ways political labels, political terms:  These labels do not define the essence of a person. And this is why someone may or may not want to take on a certain label.  However, those labels also mean general things—especially to groups like us here on SSN.

I mean “political label” in a very broad sense here—not Republican/Democrat, but as a social construct used for various purposes by different groups in our public and even private discourse. 

I think this “political label” concept is similar to OOHC’s comments above, but that there are big differences between the labels being tossed around in the trans and autogynephilia groups vs the LGB labels—not just in how they are appropriated by different cultural groups, but in how the individuals themselves understand them, use them, and decide to apply/not apply them to themselves.  Just lots more confusion overall in the trans discussions.

I think it can be confusing for a person dealing with any of this to be immersed into the groups and discussions that politicize things.  I mean this a little sarcastically but also truly:  what is a person to do, with so many confusing messages, especially someone who possibly lacks a solid foundation in their own sense of self.  All that denial and hiding for so many years.

To think of the labels as political labels did help my husband.  Although ...yeah ... I also think this has made him more able to just say whatever he wants about himself.  I guess ultimately, only the individual has the right to define themselves, but in real life with real people, how people define themselves affects the other people closest to them.  So this all means my husband continues to hide and obfuscate (luv that word still), and especially:  he gets to distort reality to suit his purpose and justify his behavior, and never allow me a place to be at ease with him.  Which is where Abby’s mantra comes in.

All that said, it really has also helped me—a word person—to consider all the ways we use the labels. 

From things my husband said, one of the only things that recently kept him from just going all out gay, was that he imagined gay to equal a certain lifestyle.  Like, he imagined the view in the  “Bohemian Rhapsody” movie, all-out drugs and parties and orgies, including bondage images.  Sure, this is part of that, for some, But there is obviously more—real people, living real lives—beyond parties. I am straight, and I like Pete Segar: that does not mean images of Woodstock define me.

I read an article a few months ago that said that young people who finally get the courage to come out, especially gay not lesbian, will often then go to areas where they think they will be accepted and helped, maybe find mentors, and learn more about how to be a mature person in their identity. So they go to places they hear about—meaning they frequently end up in geographical areas and specific locations pushing a stereotypical “party” scene, with all the issues that would be there whether gay or straight.  So these young people go looking for help and acceptance, but instead there are a lot of predators looking specifically for these young people.  And it leads to all kinds of destructive experiences. 

My husband during some of his recent frenzied time of looking elsewhere on the sly—was also looking at gay erotica novels (like Harlequin for gay men).  He SAYS that this and the porn were so he could understand better what it meant to be gay.  He SAYS that his approximately 25 years of looking at gay hookup sites was because he just wondered “if there were people like me,” and that “maybe what I just needed was a friend.”  On the one hand, I want to say, “bwahahahaha!  Are you serious?! That is not how you find a friend!  That is NOT how you learn what it means to be gay.”   On the other hand, I also know he is probably lying and self justifying.  And if I were an alien with three hands, then on the third hand, I would also tap into my compassion for his struggle and take him at face value, because I honestly believe my husband has a hard time imagining real people in real relationships at all:

For example, my husband was an early opposer of same sex marriage, while I was always a supporter.  It is funny to me that he seems to have this barrier of being able to imagine real people and only sees the stylized lifestyle.  But this goes along with his other significant personal/interpersonal issues—that are beyond his sexuality. Having been raised in an alcoholic home, he really does not know what “normal” is in any intimate or family relationships. 

Much of the abuse in my marriage is related to him trying so hard to react against his comtempt and pain toward his alcoholic father, that he tried to make me and our kids into whatever changing image he had of “what a wife and children and happy family should be.” I see this clearly, and in him, it really rose to the level of abuse because of how much criticism, control, and psychological manipulation have been a part of it.   So it makes sense to me that his ability to imagine—or EMPATHIZE—with ANY vision of real people living a gay relationship or gay “ lifestyle” would also be incredibly limited and based on stereotypes.

IMO, with all of this, just the word “lifestyle” itself is politicized too.

This all helps understand or accept part of the confusion and pressures our spouses may feel or may have felt at some point.  But at a certain point, their confusion is not confusion, but just denial of all reality.  And they are happy to take these pressures and impose them on us.

As Abby says, “life doesn’t have to be this complicated.”  And as a_dads_straight_journey has written, one of the things he most values in his new spouse is that she knows herself.

Last edited by OnMyOwnTwoFeet (July 8, 2019 4:47 pm)

 

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