It's been a few days since the interview and in those few days, the transgender conversation has exploded. Within the community, I've seen both overwhelming support and overwhelming damnation of Bruce Jenner coming out on national television.
Dawn Ennis, a friend of mine (whom I have yet to physically meet :-D) in the trans community, made an excellent point in her TV interview that everyone has their own experience in how he or she discovered and figured out what to do about being transsexual, and I think people need to be conscious of that. Jenner is a celebrity and has been for about 40 years. No one could ask him to remain closeted just because his coming out would invite so much press. In my opinion, he handled it well. I can think of several other ways this could have gone really badly.
As the spouse of a transsexual (I'm still not sure why no one used this word instead of transgender, but I'm no expert either), I found the interview fascinating. Much of what Jenner said was true for our experience - albeit from my perspective. We have two kids, but they were much younger when Tasha began her transition than when Jenner's transition started. I was amused at one of the wife's quoted comments calling transition a "journey" because that's what Tasha's father called it. It's a very impersonal comment. I would never call what a trans person goes through a "journey." "Ordeal," probably. "Process," maybe. But when you wish people luck on their journey, it means you are not coming along. It's that person's journey, so send me a postcard when you get there.
I think Jenner will have a lot of support throughout the transition, even outside the family. People will accept the woman Jenner is and that will be good for trans people. But what about the other trans people? The ones who are not celebrities. The ones whose name we don't know. The ones whose only person looking at him or her is himself or herself in the mirror.
I thought mostly about the wives as I listened to the interview. I'm a spouse, after all. It was nice to hear that the ex-wives were supportive (although if they weren't they wouldn't say since they were quoted on national TV). I thought about having torn feelings toward Tasha's transition. I thought about being angry at the universe for all of it.
I remembered thoughts that went through my head only a few years ago that still echo sometimes in my head. As I was taking the last of Jonathan's things out of our closet and putting them into bags, I had this crazy revelation (however irrational it might have been) that I didn't marry a man after all. I married a woman. The only person who wanted to marry me was not even a guy. I'd had relationships before, but none of those led to marriage because clearly guys didn't find me to be marriage material. It made perfect sense to me at the time. If you know me personally, you'll agree that it fit nicely into my self-image.
Jenner said that as a man, he was being himself under the circumstances. That was not authentic to how he really felt about who he was, but in the man's body, he was who he could be: a woman's brain in a man's body. But did that make him a "man" while he was in that body? He certainly had that body's sensations. Like Tasha, he acted and reacted like a guy. Tasha tried to convince me of this, and I finally just let the idea go, but I maintained that a female brain was responsible for guiding the testosterone-driven body, so it was still not quite the same. But does it really matter in the long run for me as a spouse? It shouldn't. People come in all colors. Some guys with guy brains are more emotional than other guys with guy brains. I, for one, do not act like a "girly girl." So, should it have mattered? No, but it did. Have you ever doubted your attractiveness because your partner changed genders? Do you think the average person ever would?
The interview made me wonder about all of the other spouses out there. The ones who, like me, have gone on "the journey" with their partners/spouses. I know that there are many spouses who say they're bi-sexual, so the gender change didn't matter to them. What about the other heterosexual spouses? That's why I started this blog: to share my experience with other spouses out there. Maybe it was a selfish thought, but I kept thinking about the stories of those women and men who chose to stay and how many of those trans people never tried to end their lives because of it. I felt for Jenner's wives. I cannot have a shared experience with the transsexual person, but I can with their partners. I also thought about stories of partners who left.
If you haven't watched the interview, you should. I wonder what people who have absolutely no exposure to this felt about it. I mean really. I'm not talking about the people who post responses under articles. My perspective is different as a spouse to that of a transsexual. My experience is different from other spouses/partners. My experience is different from someone who has never had to think about it. What this interview did was start a bigger conversation, and that's super important. Sure, it's going to cause all sorts of reactions. Some will probably be bad. But the elephant is in the room and nobody can get around it without touching it now (unless perhaps you live under the carpet). So much good can come out of this. It's true and proper education at its finest. It's a "real world application," as they like to call it. Your perspective on the interview is important. The interview itself can be a jumping-off point to meaningful conversations.
Take advantage of Jenner's vulnerability, no matter what you thought of it.