Saturday, December 31, 2011

Alternate Scenario #1

Welcome to the first of a potentially infinite number of entries in my new, Alternate Scenarios series. Not all of my future posts will contribute to this series, but I have a feeling that many will.

This series of posts are and will be inspired by Natasha's verbal commentary to me about other blog and forum posts she has read elsewhere. No names are ever shared with me, so I will have no names to share with you. These posts she comments to me about concern situations that involve partners or spouses, which is why I thought it would be appropriate to comment about these situations here.

So, on with the show! Today's scenario, "#1," is subtitled, "Post Facto (After the Fact)."

Let's say that Natasha, as Jonathan, had determined that he was a TS and, fearing my reaction, began HRT without telling me. After a few weeks, the fact that she was hiding not just one big secret but TWO, she wondered when and how she should tell me. After all, who knew when the HRT would begin to show, if it hadn't already?

Here's my first thought on this, from my spousal point of view: How selfish! Really?

I know perfectly well how difficult just coming to terms with being TS can be, but when a person is married or in any kind of committed relationship and the partner is not consulted IMMEDIATELY upon discovery of the situation, the TS is inherently being selfish. Who are you thinking about when you keep a secret that involves someone other than yourself? You are thinking only of you and that you might lose out, be left or kicked out, be yelled at or cursed. You are not thinking of the promise of honesty you made with your partner. You are not thinking about her/his feelings or what's best for that person when you keep a secret: especially one so life-altering for both of you. I'm not knocking those fears. Nobody wants to lose. Nobody wants to be yelled at or kicked out. However, if you truly love someone (besides yourself), you owe it to that person so know the truth as soon as the truth is realized.

But according to this scenario, the damage is already done. Jonathan knows and he's begun HRT without telling me. I'm referring to Natasha as Jonathan because this is how I would still recognize her to be if this were the case. So, Jonathan has been on HRT for a few weeks and if I know him at all, I'll notice some emotional changes that I just can't put my finger on. I'll ask him if something's wrong and he'll either say that nothing's wrong or that his job or something is really starting to get to him. In that case, I'll probably focus on those issues and try... ultimately in vain... to help him. So the hole he digs for the both of us gets deeper. I become frustrated because I can't help him and he continues to get more emotional and his secret gnaws at her, which puts her further on edge.

Finally, Jonathan decides to tell me. He sits me down, the kids are out of the house, and he tells me that he's TS. How long has he known? What, a few months? And he hasn't told me until now? How do you think I'd react? Do you think I'd trust him? And then the pieces would suddenly fit together and I'd conclude that his emotional outbursts were his fear of telling me. And I'd say as much, but since this would be the come-clean day, he'd tell me that he's been on HRT for weeks.


When do you tell your partner after you've already begun treatment? ASAP! And you understand that you have broken your vow of honesty. You understand that you made your situation that much worse by keeping these secrets from your partner. Especially with the HRT, you chose, without consulting with your partner, to take drugs to alter your body and body chemistry to make you physically into someone your partner did not choose to be with. Ultimately, you have broken her/his trust and if you expect acceptance and open arms after that, you are dreaming.

This is not to say that it won't ever happen. You might convince your partner, after a time, that your fear of losing him or her drove you to secrecy. But here's the thing: the drugs were your selfish decision to continue on a path of no return ALONE. It's one thing to know for a time that you are TS. I can understand that. It's entirely different, however, when you voluntarily take medications... potentially dangerous medications... without including your loved ones. That says to me that you care more about your own path than that of your partner and family (especially if you have kids).

The bottom line is this: if you do love your partner at least as much as you love yourself, you should never have popped one pill without your partner's knowledge. He or she may not consent, and if that is the case, then you have to decide which road to take. What is more important to you: following the draw of your true self or resisting and respecting the wishes of your partner? You must assess the nature of that relationship. Are there already other problems in the relationship? Would it be better for everyone if you did not stay together? Do you trust in the bond of your relationship that your partner would eventually understand and support you? Do you put yourself through that, continuing to fight to keep the relationship in light of your changes? Whether you are just discovering that you are TS or whether you have already begun the irreversible journey in secret, you owe it to those who love you to be truthful and then face those consequences, because all of these what-if questions will happen at any point on the journey. Natasha told me at the beginning, mainly because she can't and doesn't want to keep secrets from me (unless it's about presents!), but also knowing that I could have made the spot decision to leave with the kids or kick her out. She trusted that I loved her enough to work past the changes and she was right. Perhaps a person keeps a secret or two like this because he or she is NOT confident in the strength of his/her relationship.

Natasha could have been wrong. There was a time when I didn't want to stay. It was a rather long time, I must admit. But I also could not deny that I loved the person I married and if she was, indeed, my best friend, who was I to stand in her way of finding inner happiness? Would I stop being a friend to someone I wasn't married to? Of course not! So, if I actually went ahead and MARRIED a best friend, wouldn't it be even more ridiculous to just give up the relationship because of something she could not help? Fortunately for the both of us, I gave myself time to work though my feelings before deciding whether to give up or not. But trust me: if she had begun HRT without me knowing, I'm very certain that we would not have a future together. Lying is lying. Withholding information like that is a slap in the face. She would have demonstrated that she did not trust me and that she was probably lying about all manner of things. Trust would be lost. And would I ever get over that? I don't know. Our friends and my family would probably have convinced me that I could never trust her again. It would have been like cheating. Knowing me, though, I might have consented to couples therapy. Either way, our futures, and those of our children, would not be as certain as they are today.

When do you tell your partner? NOW!


Ariel said...

One comment to start: Someone who is transsexual doesn't just discover it one fine day. They've known it since they were young, even if they didn't understand what it was or couldn't admit to themselves that it was true -- or foolishly thought they could ignore it.

Otherwise, I very much agree with what you have written. And you touched on something that I think is sometimes at work in a scenario like this. Starting HRT establishes a "fact on the ground." Starting without telling the partner is an attempt to manipulate the situation. The TS person needs to transition but does not want to lose partner and (if there are any) children. Subterfuge is an attempt to get away with something.

As you say, though, the more likely outcome is that the partner will feel betrayed, and rightly so.

It's possible to regain trust once that trust has been broken, but it's not easy. It might depend on the two people involved. Better not to get into such a situation in the first place.

Sophie said...

Not sure about this. In the context of deciding to transition taking hormones is part of a one way street. But actually it does take a while before it's physically so, assuming you've some reasonable medical expertise available to you. How would you feel if the story came that Jonathan really needed to be absolutely sure of being TS before doing something as radical as considering full transition, and sought an answer in HRT ?
Not saying that there wouldn't be trust issues of a serious kind, but perhaps more general in nature rather than rooted in hormones.
Maybe more important is how early in the process of the TS partner coming to terms with herself she reaches out to include. Certainly the earlier the better, in theory. But where along the way of experimentation to be sure of being TS that your partner gets involved - thats difficult to lay down, though obviously playing with hormones is extremely late. I'd actually have thought that if one goes through a therapy process then informing during that would be critical for trust.

Marni said...

@Ariel - Oh, I completely understand that: discovering that you are TS is not sudden. I didn't mean to imply that it was. I think what I meant to say in regards to anything happening quickly is the admission that it is real. I think, once she started seeing a therapist, Natasha came to terms with it as "fact" rather fast. I also think that it's possible to regain trust, even after so much water has passed under the bridge, but as you said, it would depend upon the people involved.

@Sophie - You asked, "How would you feel if the story came that Jonathan really needed to be absolutely sure of being TS before doing something as radical as considering full transition, and sought an answer in HRT?" Do you mean what if Jonathan wanted to explore being a woman before starting TS?" He kinda did. He cross-dressed for a few years, which I didn't mind. And then, when she told me that she was TS, she did not begin HRT until 1) her therapist approved it and 2) I said okay. But if you are asking what if Jonathan explored being TS without my knowledge, I'd still be really pissed. That's still hiding something, even if it turned out to be something different. I need to be on the same journey as my spouse, and that's the bottom line, in my opinion. :-)

Sarah Wilson said...

I agree with Ariel's statement in that TS is something that long exists beneath the surface even if hidden or misunderstood. Even so, it's still there and makes itself known like a dull persistent ache in spite of our attempts to ignore it or lie to ourselves about it's importance. This was my experience.

Even early on when I decided that it would be a good idea for me to learn about this and not hide anymore, I knew this was something I could not keep secret. When I started blogging, I wrote the following on the subject of, "Now that I know, who else should know?"

"A spouse should be at the top of the list of people who must know."

I agree TS is a very strong litmus test for any marriage. My spouse and I went through the roller coaster of emotions that most everyone goes through dealing with this. Some of us who are very lucky get to come out the other side with our marriages tattered but still intact. The test is not only on the marriage but also the people in it. We'll sometimes surprise ourselves there.

I agree and understand that being able to get answers to the question, "What does this really mean?", is key. However by the time one starts HRT, that question has long since been answered. By now one is in the process of going forward on the path. Yes, HRT does as Ariel stated establish a "fact on the ground." But if HRT is a test in this context, it's only to confirm what has long been suspected.

On the morning that I went in to be evaluated for HRT, my spouse came along and reassured me that the journey we travel together will continue to be together. It is my personal experience that sharing everything along the way can pay great dividends.

Let's put this another way and remove both the TS and spousal aspects of the story. If you had a friend who was dealing with cancer, would you want to know before they go for testing, or would you rather learn about it when they've been in hospice for a month?


Marni said...

@Sarah - Very well stated! :-D