Monday, March 21, 2011

Being the Partner

Okay, so it's been a long while since I've written, and I am sorry for that. As much as I love to have my family around all the time, the downside is that most of the things I get done when they are not here don't get done. :-)

Today, I want to write to the partners. I hope that the trans folk will find something at least entertaining in this post, but my audience is the partners. I mentioned this was coming in my last blog, so here it is. It's not an angry blog, though, if you were concerned. :-)

Why is it that some partners stay and others don't? Are you in this position where you are trying to decide which way you will go? My spouse, Tasha, has not completely transitioned, so I can not guarantee that I will always be married to her, but at this point, I feel mostly certain that the likelihood of my departure is very small. How can I say this with such sureness? I have asked myself... many times... certain questions that I think every partner, whether married or not, should ask before making the decision to stay or go.

When all of this first started, I insisted that I could not live with my husband being a full-time woman. I couldn't imagine it. I think that was my problem: I tried to imagine it. In reality, you just can't do that. I finally sat down and asked myself, "Why did you marry him?"

I married my husband because of a long list of personality traits and a short list of physical traits. Earlier on in her transition, I worried a lot about the disappearance of those personality traits. So far, none on this list have disappeared. Now, my husband was not perfect. He had little quirks about him, as does everyone, but these never outweighed the positive things. Unfortunately, most of the quirks have stayed. :-)

With the personality items safely secured, I turned toward the physical attributes. For me, I have an attraction to height and build (build being stocky, not buff). Sadly for Tasha, neither of these items will ever be changed with any amount of estrogen or surgery. I don't happen to be a very "physically oriented" person. I might find someone cute, but ultimately what attracts me to a person is his personality. I was lucky to realize that the few physical traits that attracted me to him would stay.

So, there was my package... complete. But then, why was I still having doubts?

I've mentioned my pet name for Tasha before (well, it's not the actual one). It was not until only a few months ago that I started asking myself what that name meant to me. In a nutshell, that name was a personality. Just like on my list, these items of psyche were gender neutral. If what really mattered to me was that I would not lose my Bubbow, and if my Bubbow had no gender definition, then what was the problem?

This is where I am now.

So, I continue to read about so many partners who end up leaving. Some leave in the beginning, some during transition and some after transition is complete. There are two major reasons why this happens... at whatever period. Either the physical aspect of the partner means more than the personality or there was something wrong with the partnership/marriage before this ever came up.

For the former, it's not unusual to be highly sexual and if this is the case and a person is a definite heterosexual, then I can totally understand not wanting to be with the transitioning person. Non-transitioning people don't just switch sexual orientation. I don't buy the mid-life swinging door. Either you are or you aren't and either you admit to it or you don't.

For the latter, I also understand when this is just the last straw. What I don't understand is blaming the split-up on the TS and not the real issue. It is my guess that this is what happens most often. Personally, I think most people get married for the wrong reasons and to people the don't really have a connection to anyway, so when something big like this comes along, the partner has the perfect excuse to get out and place the blame on the TS. It is this latter group that I suspect is the larger of the two and is the main audience for this particular entry.

Why did you marry your spouse/start a relationship with your partner? Was he or she your soul mate? Did you feel that connection? If you say, "I thought I did," then you really didn't. I'm sorry, but if you really know yourself and you listen to your instincts, you really do know and you aren't mistaken. That isn't to say that there can be extenuating circumstances that cause a breakup, but even after it's over, if that person really is a soul mate, you continue to admit it but also move on.

Why did you marry your spouse? Did you have any doubts? Did any little red flags go up while you were dating that you chose to ignore?

Do you believe that if things don't work out, there's always divorce?

Did you marry your spouse because he or she was everything you hoped for? Did you make a list and cast a spell? Did you pray for him or her?

When your partner told you that he/she was TS and needed to change genders, what were you afraid of? For me, I thought about our kids. I wasn't sure how it would affect them. I still don't know if there will be adverse reactions in the future when they enter puberty and such, but I have been assured several times by professionals that children most often are influenced most heavily by the reaction of the non-transitioning partner. In this case, it was me. Since I never argued with Tasha about it, because I never blamed her (it is NOT their fault, by the way. It's not like anyone with half a brain would CHOOSE to do this to themselves), because no matter how I was feeling I supported her, our children do not see her TS as something "wrong" or "bad." I suspect that if the kids had been much older when this started, there might have been more to it than that, but still, kids tend to react to their parents' reactions.

Were you afraid of what your friends or neighbors or community might think? That's a valid concern, but in the end, what really matters? Is a friend a true friend if he/she shuns you for something you can't help? What could your neighbors possibly do to you? Not talk to you? Will your church excommunicate you? What about that... If you accept your spouse because you love him/her, would you really want to be a member of a community that preaches love but with conditions?

What about your family? I ask: did your family marry your spouse, or did you? Were you afraid that they would no longer speak to you or perhaps even your children? If that did happen, I ask: what does that say about your family?

Were you afraid that you would lose your job? Well, that's against the law, so you'd have a giant settlement. If you were afraid that your spouse would lose his/her job, that's definitely justified. Hopefully, you and your spouse discussed this and have a plan. It's hard in this economic climate. Trust me: I know. We don't even know if our little two-year plan will work because if I can't find a job with benefits (or our new little baking business doesn't take off enough to provide benefits), then Tasha can't leave her job and begin to live full-time.

One really amazing thing that comes with being a partner of a TS is that both of you must face certain realities. You get to learn who your true friends are. You begin to understand your own levels of strength or weakness and those of your family members. You are suddenly faced with having to analyze the true nature of your relationship with your partner. Even if you choose to leave, you have revealed something about yourself. Are you running from a stressful situation? Are you going to be friends? Will you still support his/her transition? Do you hate him/her for doing this?

Many people leave because they find the situation very stressful, which it definitely is. But I want to say again that you discover under not uncertain terms what kind of person you are. When you get married, the idea is that you have chosen to be with this person no matter what comes at you and this is key: transsexualism COMES AT YOU. It happens TO someone. No one chooses it. It's not like your partner cheated on you or has a gambling or drinking or drug habit. These things are CHOSEN. When you are married, things that happen TO you are supposed to be dealt with together. Choosing to stay has not been easy sometimes, but when I chose to marry, I did not make that choice lightly.

Did you?

Not every couple that decides to end the relationship does so from a malicious or insensitive place. I am certain that, if I find myself unable to stay married to Tasha, I will continue to love her as my soul mate and I will want her in my life as much as possible. I would never blame her for any of it. Yet, there are so many couples whose relationships end in fire and brimstone and hatred and blame. Partners must realize that someone who is transsexual really can't stay in a body that doesn't match the brain's gender. They might try... for decades... but notice the sadness... it's there... and they are staying that way either because they can't afford the transition or some other extenuating circumstance, or they're doing it for you, the partner, because you value your own happiness more.

Have you read all you could about transsexualism? Do you know the difference between it and being transgendered? Do you know what Gender Identity Disorder is? Do you know about the politics surrounding this issue, both within and without the TS and LGBT communities? Have you seen a therapist who knows about this stuff? Have you done EVERYTHING YOU POSSIBLY CAN to understand what's going on?

If you have, then I ask: If you are thinking of ending the relationship, what are your true reasons for doing so? Are they really the truth? Are they really based on sound reasoning?

Just like the TS community, we spouses are also not alone. The more we share our experiences with others, the less alone we will feel. We will be armed with even more information with which to choose our next steps. If you really do love your spouse, but are simply angry with what is happening, you can be angry, but be angry at the situation, not at the person who brings it to the table. Remember that he or she is having as hard a time as we are, only in a different way. Remember to TALK about your feelings and be willing to listen and to ask questions. And also, if you don't think you are handling this as well as you thought you would, before making any decisions you might regret, don't be afraid to go outside of your marriage or friendships for professional help. To ask for help is to show STRENGTH, not weakness. Weak people run; strong people fight and seek support. If, after you have tried your best, you find that it is best to end the relationship, do so with open eyes. Use your strength to rebuild for the both of you; don't be weak and hide away from your past.

You owe it to yourself and to your family (especially if you have kids) to look closely at your life to discover what really drives you and your decision-making. Know that every move you make defines you and sets an example for your children, family and friends. Even though the transition process is about your partner, YOU are the true hub of the wheel. Your actions determine the future at least as much, if not more.