Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

So now, I will bring you up to, approximately, late August 2010. The year I'm covering went by in a very... systematic way. I say that because as I look back I can see a clear progression of mental shifts for me.

For you transfolk, I think this is the point where many of your partners could not or would not go. For you partners, if you are reading this it is because it is a point where you hope to go or are in the process of investigating yourselves.

So, in November of 2009, J, my husband, began taking the hormones. The first signs were the crying and then the slow but steady increase of breast size. For most of the year (Nov 09 - Oct 10) I was being reassured that there would be a point where the physical changes would stop and he would be a she on occasion. J dressed to go to his therapist. J dressed to go to his aesthetician to eliminate the facial hair. J continued to wear women's loungewear at night. I was okay with this, but I did not particularly like to see him dressed as a her. I knew it made him feel better, though, and I could tell that the HRT was calming him, but still, despite weekly conversations that ended up with both of us crying (especially me), I saw my J slipping away.

In December 2009, I began to see a therapist who specialized in transgender issues (Yes, I know. Don't nit pick right now). I knew intellectually that I needed to ask myself questions about what I really wanted and what I thought was best for the kids, but because I had absolutely no one to talk to, I decided to give it a try. Oh, there was another reason. Before J began taking the hormones, we had gone to visit our closest friends (I mentioned one, B, in my last post). I was in another room with B and her sister, also like family to us, when B commented to me that her husband really missed J. She said that J was the only male her husband really felt comfortable with. Oh, how that set me off! I burst into tears right in front of them. They were panicking, not knowing at all why I was crying. I was nearly delirious, saying "I can't tell you" and "He's not himself," over and over. They had no idea what I was talking about and I knew that, but all I could feel was that her husband would no longer have that kind of relationship with J. He would lose the only other male he felt truly at ease with. So, by December, I was quietly going crazy. By early February, I stopped seeing the therapist. I had spent about six weeks with her, telling her about my life and, mostly, my husband's past and his relationship with his father. We barely touched on the reason I was there. I thought of looking for another therapist, but I had a feeling that I would just spend another couple of months... or more... providing backstory. I was alone again.

During that year, about one day a week was devoted to discussing his condition and changes and then crying. It wasn't planned, of course, but inevitably, he would bring up his frustration with not fully expressing his femininity or I would make some unintentional comment that would upset him. Like once after she had come out to B, B and I were talking on the phone about J and "his boobs." An innocent question was asked concerning hiding them. As usual, I had shared the gist of the conversation with J and recited the question verbatim. The phrase, "his boobs" made him upset. "Her boobs." Why couldn't we have talked about HER boobs? Men don't have boobs. Bear in mind that she had said to everyone, including my parents, when dressed like a guy, use "he," and when dressed like a girl, say "she." Well, HE had been dressed like a guy and B and I were discussing HIM in a male role. But this was how things went. J got upset at a lot of things that did not further her quest to become fully female.

From November to about August 2010, while on my own, I looked at my children and wondered how they would cope. Knowing that one day, their daddy would be a woman and mommy and daddy would no longer be together. The thought broke my heart over and over. Divorce wrecks kids. Surely a gender-role change would do the same. J, whom many of you knew at the time as Virginia, insisted that she would always be Daddy, but seriously; what happens when the kids talk about their daddy Virginia? Most people are horrible. Most people stick to gender-roles like they stick to their religions. They fear difference and change. Understand that I never hated Virginia for what was happening. I hated "the other:" everyone else... out there... who could hurt my family because of ignorance, stupidity and intolerance. It was the kids themselves, too. Would they really understand? I had read a variety of comments from children of transfolk. Some accepted it and some did not. I vowed to show my children that, no matter what, I loved their father and I loved them. I hoped so hard that it would be enough for them.

I noticed that my children (about 5 and 3) did not seem to care that Daddy wore the same evening clothes as I did. They did not seem to mind that Daddy used a higher pitched voice when he read to them at night. They did not blink when Daddy dressed like a girl to go out every so often.

Whenever I thought about my children, I found myself asking how I really felt about what was going on. Again, I was not, nor will I ever be, a lesbian. So, what was it that made me so sure that I would not stay married to... her? It took a long time, but eventually, as I asked myself this question, I started to realize that there was nothing wrong with our marriage. This is, in my opinion, why so many partners leave their transitioning partners. The more I read and thought, the more I understood that partners leave for two reasons. Either they simply can not get past the physical manifestation of another gender on their spouse, which is ENTIRELY LEGITIMATE, or there is something else wrong with the marriage and this is just the last straw or the best excuse to get out. Regarding the first option, no matter how much one might claim that he or she is not "materialistic" or that he or she is attracted to what's on the inside of a person, EVERYONE has a tendency to be attracted to a certain physicality. It could be eye color, height, build, voice... or gender. The thing is that lots of people really are more physically comforted by a specific kind of person. This is natural and is okay. But when you are the partner and have to make the decision to stay or leave, you can not allow yourself to make a decision about gender changes without taking a good, long look at how important those physical attributes really, truly are to you. Height won't change. Hair color won't change (but some might grow back!). Build only changes slightly, since muscle mass decreases. Eye color doesn't change, nor do feet or hand sizes. And, usually, the face doesn't change. Only people with lots of money might consider some facial reconstruction, but if you look at the majority of transfolk out there, they simply are too poor to become the next top model. For most, just BEING a woman is enough. Most cis women, like me, are pretty plain. Now, I must say that for a long time, I thought Virginia would be trying to raise her vocal pitch. We both recently discovered that this is not necessarily the right thing to do. It's resonance, not pitch, that makes a female voice.

So, what about the other reason? Like I said, we had no problems before this. We were soul mates like you might have never experienced. We were different, but so much alike. We had fun together, loved each other, brought our children into the world because we felt that we would fill them with love that would somehow help them grow into people who would change the world... make it a better place. We had one of those marriages where we would tell people that we never argued and they would say that we must not be communicating because EVERY couple fights, right? Not us. We always communicated with each other. We certainly disagreed, but we did not argue. We discussed. We negotiated and worked things out. Did I want to lose that? Of course not!

I was thinking, he didn't do this on purpose. The one thing he could do that would make me divorce him was to cheat on me. He didn't do that. He was trying so hard to do what I wanted. I knew he couldn't do it forever, and we intend to live that long.

Trust me: I looked for a reason to leave. I looked for a reason to be mad enough at J so that I could pack up his stuff and toss it out. By the end of the summer of 2010, I sat Virginia down and said that, no matter what happens after, I would stay with her through everything. I said I knew she must eventually transition entirely. I wanted her to be happy. To remain in limbo would have brought little happiness, no matter how much she loved me and our children. I said I would stay until it was done, and then we would see how I felt about being married to a woman.

That, at least, was good enough for her for the time being.


Anne said...


I cannot even begin to say how much I am awed by your strength and loyalty. what you are going through IS, (NOT must be, but simply IS), incredibly difficult.

I also find you to be exceedingly reasonable and rational in what has to be a highly emotional and unsettling situation. What strikes me most about this last post is your willingness to help Natasha "get through this" and then "see how I, (you) felt...".

This committment on your part stands as a monument to your love.

I will hold you and your family in my prayers.


Ariel said...

Casey, you are a remarkable person. You seem to be solidly grounded in reality, and you have figured out clearly what is best for you and your children.

And you've done it mostly without professional help, which is amazing. My partner went to counselling several sessions, mostly to deal with the loss of security that comes from being in a heterosexual marriage. She and I also did a couples weekend that was all about "active communication." That was amazing for both of us. Complete sharing.

I feel like apologizing for that period when you were hearing that the transition would not be "all the way." I think we all do that. It's not purposely deceptive. We're actually trying to convince ourselves that we can work out a compromise. As you discovered, in most cases that's just not so.

My partner thought about leaving more than once, but in the end we decided that we just didn't want to be without each other. It also helps that we're both bisexual and old enough that sex is no longer front and centre in our relationship.

One more reason to add to your list of reasons to leave: one or the other partner, or both, needs a man. If my partner and I had been younger, I think that would have split us up. If it's not true for you, that's great. I don't know how sexual either of you is, and of course it's none of my business, but be aware that sexual orientation can shift. Not in everyone who transitions, but in some. And it catches you by surprise.

Thank you for this blog entry. I know you're busy, but I think it's important to hear your view on what is going on. Hope you will have time to keep writing.

Casey said...

@Anne, thank you very much. We still have a long road ahead, especially since Natasha has gathered information from a few surgeons and we now understand how much money we need to "find" in order for her to have SRS. It will be years (I'll be writing about that, too).

@Ariel, I'm glad you mentioned "needing a man." I'm going to get to that in my next post, but I was sort of hinting at it when I discussed the idea of physical changes and which ones stay the same throughout transition. I'm very glad that you and your partner are still together. Neither Natasha nor I are bisexual, and I have definitely read about orientation switching after SRS. It does concern me and... I'll be writing about that, too. :-)

I am sorry that it took me so long to write that last blog. I've been swamped since early December. But I think about what to write just about every night. I'm on a roll, so after I post this, I'm going to write the next one to bring everyone up to date.

Thank you BOTH... and everyone else, for reading. I do hope this helps someone out there in Blogistan. :-D

Ariel said...

Casey, did you see my comment in your email? It's not here. But then, considering that you responded to a lot of what I wrote in your next post, maybe it's just as well. It was probably TMI anyway. :)