Gender Bender: An Aberration Story

August 07, 2009

I just wish my ex-husband had the opportunity to be who she really is a whole lot sooner.

When I was a little girl growing up in the Deep South, I wasn't allowed to watch The Sonny & Cher Show; the clothes were just too darn skimpy. However, every now and then, my brother and I were able to sneak a peak. In those brief moments when Cher shook those tassels, feathers, and whatever else she managed to creatively attach to her slim bodacious ta-tas, I was smitten.

I didn't think about how much skin I was taking in; that meant nothing to a six year old with two huge ponytails. But there was something she exuded that meant the whole world to me. Her thin frame and long dark hair reminded me of my mother ... a happy versio
n, singing and smiling. She was absolutely magical. And to top my fantasy off, low and behold, her little blonde daughter bounced across the stage covered in lace and softness. She melted into Cher's thin, loving mother arms with Sonny smiling down upon them. I wanted to be that little girl. I wanted to be part of a celebration, regardless of how tacky or sinful anyone in my southern neighborhood may have thought it was at the time. All I saw was love.

So I watched Chastity grow up, wondering if the love I witnessed would somehow support her journey. When I heard that she was becoming a he, I wasn't surprised. I don't care; I'm still just hoping that the adorable little girl I envied can have her happy ending ... just like I want mine. But after I heard the news of Chastity's sex change, I began to think again about what it all means. I admit that I find it tough to grasp. I love being a woman, and that would stand regardless of who might float my boat from a relationship perspective.

So what happens when someone like me, or you, is greeted by news of gender issues in someone we love? My guest today, Stacey, found herself in just that situation after being married for several years. Of all the long, winding roads life can take, few are as confusing and convoluted as this. How does one emotionally survive the shock, betrayal, confusion, and grief that can often be associated with the gender change of a spouse? Stacey has remarkably agreed to share her story.

While each divorce is unique, yours revolved around an unusual situation. Can you explain?

When my ex-husband and I had been married for seven years and our only child was about three years old, he told me about his feelings of wanting to change genders. This was completely out of the blue. He had not mentioned this before we got married. I always knew he was sensitive and not quite the masculine type, but I didn't realize that he was a woman trapp
ed in a man's body. It was even more of a surprise because we had not had any problems in the bedroom. However, after he shared this revelation, our sex life fizzled to almost nothing. We decided to try to stay together and see if we could make the marriage work. It wasn't until his father, my uncle, and my father all died within a three-month span that I couldn't do it any longer. I needed that physical closeness only my partner could give. Unfortunately, he began pulling away from me even more. That's when I realized the marriage was not a marriage any more. I filed for divorce before our 17th anniversary and it was final four months later.

Most of us have difficultly understanding sex change, much less being married to someone who desires the procedure/operation. When you first learned of your husband's desire to become a woman, how did you react? How did you cope?

A number of things ran through my head. First I wondered if I was woman enough to make him stay a man. If I lost weight, would that make him want me more? It's like the steps in grieving; I was in the bargaining phase. Then I questioned my own sexuality. Am I attracted to women because I want to stay married to him even thought he doesn't want to be a man? Could I continue a relationship with him as a woman? Then, as he started down the road of gender reassignment, I just started feeling nauseous. How could I have loved someone like that? How could I have been intimate with someone who now wants to be a woman? I essentially had a nervous breakdown when he started the process. I couldn't handle it even though we were already divorced by that time.

You remained married for some time after learning of your husband's sexual identity issues. How would you describe the marriage? How did you try to embrace his uniqueness/aberration, from the perspective of being a loyal and loving spouse?

Since we had a young child, I spent more time with her and at work, and tried not to dwell on the fact that my sexual desires were not being met. We
decided to go to therapy to see if we could work out our issues. I became more and more angry about the situation and he became more timid. It was like he was so caught up in the fact that he wasn't in the right body that he didn't realize what was going on around him. I felt that the weight of running the household was on my shoulders, and I was enabling his lazy behavior. It was like we were roommates and not lovers. We became more and more distant, and I suppressed my needs for sexual expression. I eventually began wondering why I was continuing down the path of doing nothing when I was dissatisfied with the relationship. We fought over small things and I began resenting him. I don't think I really tried to embrace his uniqueness at all, but instead hoped that it was something that would go away. It wasn't until 10 years later that I decided I couldn't ignore the fact that our relationship was not the way it used to be.

Like many people, I find the sexual aspects of changing sexual identity confusing. If a man becomes a woman, does he then seek to be with a man? If so, is he homosexual or heterosexual? Did these kinds of questions and issues creep up and how did you deal with them?

Sexual orientation is a separate issue from wanting to change genders. A person can go from male to female and still like women. A person can go from male to female and still like men if he was gay befor
e. My ex had experimented with both men and women (I found this out after I married him as well), and she currently is not sure which way she wants to go or if she wants to have sex at all. She says she's asexual right now. The main issue is that transgendered people are not really accepted by straight people or homosexuals. They are often caught in a type of limbo situation.

Ultimately, you and your husband divorced. While divorce is more common than we'd like, each situation is unique. What ultimately happened and how did you cope?

I was very distraught over my father's death. He was my rock and I was daddy's little girl. My brother had died seven years before and my uncle had died the month before. I had no close male members of my family left. I was trying to lean on my husband to replace what I had with my father, but my husband was not up to that task. I began leanin
g on an ex-boyfriend of mine who was between marriages at the time. My ex-boyfriend had always been my confidante, but this time I was wondering if we could rekindle what we had in the past. He also gave me good advice about whether I should get divorced or not. I was calling him a lot trying to find my way because I felt adrift after my father died. Since my husband couldn't be the man I wanted him to be and I was over 40 by then, I decided I could not live this sham of a marriage any longer. I needed to be able to have a relationship where my partner could be the man I need him to be. I decided to file for divorce and my husband moved out.

Then I had to do all the jobs my ex used to do. I was very angry about this. I also lost his companionship. Questions would come up that I would normally ask him, but then he wouldn't be there to help me with the answer. It took awhile to mourn the relationship. I coped by trying to find guys in bars and in Internet dating services. Neither worked. I lost money on the deal with two of the men I met that way. I was getting discouraged about ever meeting another man that would be good enough for me and would want me at the same time. I was really angry because I married my husband for life and it seemed as if he had stolen the opportunity I could have had with another man and now I couldn't have another man because they didn't want me because I was over 40, overweight, too smart, and too independent. It wasn't until I decided to stop looking for men and joined Facebook that I met my fiance, Kevin. Since meeting him, I have been able to cope with a lot of my problems because I have him in my life. I feel like I can start a new life with him.

What advice can you share with men or women who meet the news that their spouse want to change their sex?

I would say that the man or woman will have to decide whether they want to stay with that spouse and help them through the transition or leave and find another partner. If the transgendered person really feels that they are in the wrong body, that feeling is not going to go away. It's not going to be easy for that person to stay the sex they don't want to be.

I couldn't stay in the relationship because I want a man. However, some spouses are able to stay and appreciate the person regardless of the gender they are. I would encourage the spouse to read up on what transgendered is all about and even see a therapist that specializes in treating people with those feelings. It is a decision that each person has to make on their own. I didn't like having to make the choice I did, but I didn't see any other way to make the marriage work. Now I'm glad I made that choice because I'm struggling to deal with the person who is no longer the man I fell in love with. It's almost like another woman took my husband away and yet she is him. It's something I still struggle with and it's not an easy decision. I would not rush into a decision, but I would not stay in a marriage that's not what both partners want.

What do you think are the top misconceptions about sex change?

I think the biggest misconception is that the person wants to change genders on purpose--that they can make the decision to stay the way they are. This is something the person is born with. Another misconception is that transgendered people are just transvestites. Transvestites can be straight, but just want to wear the other gender's clothes. Sexual orientation is also something that is confusing about transgendered people. They truly are sepa
rate issues. Transgendered people may not change their sexual orientation when they change from one gender to the other. Even though transgendered people are lumped in with the lesbian, gay, bisexual group, they often aren't accepted by gays either. It's almost like they're a group unto themselves.

What do you think are the top misconceptions about divorce? Do we still have them in today's culture?

Divorce is not as much of a stigma as it once was, but I think people fail to understand that a divorce is like a death. I'm still grieving the loss of my marriage and of the relationship I once had with my ex-husband. It's like he died and essentially he did because he does not exist any more. She does now. Also I don't want people to think that I got divorced because I was tired of my husband. I used to think that when couples got divorced, they either should not have gotten married in the first place or that they are not trying hard enough to stay together.

I don't think divorce should be used as an easy way out just like abortion should not be used as birth control. However, sometimes divorce like abortion is necessary and I feel that in my case there was no way to keep the marriage going. The marriage was entered under false pretenses and it took a long time to see that. My ex-husband misrepresented himself and I would probably have grounds to get the marriage annulled if I was into doing that. I don't think a lot of people realize that sometimes divorce is the answer no matter how much the couple has tried to stay together. I think I waited too long to get divorced and should have done it sooner, but I don't think I was ready to be a single parent 10 years ago. I'm much better at being one now with an older child.

One thing I would like to say to the LBGT community is that it would be nice if you could be yourself and not try to pretend that you are straight. At least if you're going to marry a straight person, be open about your sexuality. Let that straight person decide if he or she wants to enter the marriage knowing that it may not be a traditional marriage. I don't think I would have married my ex-husband if I had known he had these feelings. I wish I could have been given that option. I don't regret the child we had together, but I regret that I was unable to have the marriage I wanted. I hope to try again soon, but I do feel that being divorced carries a certain stigma of failure that is hard to live down.

What have you learned through this highly unique situation? What has it ultimately taught you about yourself, life, identity, and relationships?

Well, I have learned to appreciate all kinds of people. When I was growing up, I was around children of all colors because I was a military brat. Some were mixed race even. I did not judge people by the color of their skin or the slant of their eyes. I was not exposed to LGBT people directly. That was not talked about. It wasn't until I was an adult that I even knew anyone who had a different sexual orientation than mine. I wish I had been exposed more because now I have a certain gaydar that I didn't have in the past. I can sense when someone is gay or not. I wasn't able to pick that up in the past. If I had, perhaps I may have recognized it with my ex-husband. I have also learned that people should not be ashamed to say if they are LGBT. I know some people may say that they can't come out because of the prejudice of others. I realize that is the case.

I would like to ask those who have prejudice against LGBT to really ask themselves why they have that prejudice. Are they afraid that the LGBT people are going to convert them to the dark side? Are they afraid that their children will be converted? It's not like that. Having friends in the LGBT community, I've grown to love them for themselves when they can be open about their sexuality. When they have to hide it, it's not comfortable for them or for me. I'm hoping that there will be a day when LGBT people will not have to hide their sexuality any more. What someone does in the privacy of their own home is none of my business. I will not like anyone less because they are LGBT.

I just wish my ex-husband had the opportunity to be who she really is a whole lot sooner. Maybe things would be different between us now. We might have been friends instead of having this antagonism between us. So what I have learned most of all? It is that everyone should be allowed to be themselves without having to worry about whether they will be accepted.

Comments

Penelope Przekop

Penelope Przekop said:

Thanks for jumping in Muffy. Fantastic comments!

Anonymous

Anonymous said:

This is Stacey again. Well said, Muffy. I want to say for the record that I know that this was not easy for my ex-husband to deal with. I feel for her and have even helped her with the legal fees to get her named changed, so I don't hate her as a person. If we had not been married, I think the situation would be totally different. My main issue is that my ex stopped being attracted to me before the transition and I am not attracted to her as a woman. Jim no longer exists now. He changed to Janet all through our marriage. It was like we were gradually drifting apart, but were still trying to keep it together. After awhile, I decided not to participate in the charade any longer. Sometimes this happens in marriages for other reasons, but I don't think I should be thought badly because I want a man and not a woman. I find it awkward to tell people that my ex-husband is now a woman. I am now going to have to put a woman's name as the father of my child on her school information forms. I am going to have to explain why I am not a Lesbian, but that my ex used to be a man. It is very awkward and something I did not sign up to have to deal with. I was not given all the information I needed to make a choice. It is not that I am upset that Jim became Janet, but that Jim didn't tell me he wanted to be Janet before we got married. He went along pretending to be someone he wasn't and that not only hurt himself, but his daughter and me. Luckily, our daughter is taking this well, but I wish I didn't have to deal with the stigma of being a divorcee in such a strange situation. I would like to ask the LGBT community to just be honest with themselves about their sexuality. Don't pretend to be straight when you aren't. I am happy for D. and her new partner. Her new partner knew about everything ahead of time. There was no dishonesty. D.'s ex-wife most likely did not get the same privilege. I realize D. didn't know what was going on. Jim did and tried to ignore it. Jim thought that he could be normal with me. He was wrong. My current fiance considers himself to have bisexual tendencies. He was honest about that up front with me and I was able to make a decision about the relationship with that information in mind. I have many friends that are LGBT and in fact one of my best female friends is bisexual. So I do not have a problem with relating to LGBT people, but I do have a problem when I am lied to and tricked into thinking that the relationship would be for life and it wasn't. I understand it is hard to be transexual, but it is hard for me to deal with the fact that the person I married is not the same person I thought he was. Now I have to deal with the aftermath of what the lie has caused. It is hard and it hurts to know that my ex-husband really no longer exists as he once was. Yes, it is the same person, but not really. I just can't love a woman like I can love a man. I am straight and that is how I am. I essentially became nauseous at the thought that the person I was intimate with wanted to be a woman. I was questioning my own sexuality. Could I love him as a woman? I just couldn't bring myself to do that. He couldn't bring himself to love me as a man any more. I don't know how else to explain it. I feel for my ex and I feel for you D., but you have to understand that I am hurting, too. I am hurting because my ex took his marriage vows knowing that he could not keep them. I don't think I would have married him had I known this was going to happen. However, I was not given that choice ahead of time. Now I have to live with the fact that my marriage failed and the one whom I wanted to share my life with really no longer exists. He is truly dead to me and she cannot take his place. It is just not the same.

armedwithjello

armedwithjello said:

D. tried to post here herself, but wasn't able to for some reason. She asked me to post this:

D. here.

I always find it educational to hear the perspective of those who have been lovers of people who turned out to be transgender. There appear to be many assumptions about what we are, or what our motivations are.

First off, I would like to put out there: do you think that you'd ever find an article about you in Aberration Nation? Do you think there might be an emotional impact to that? Do you think that being considered an 'aberration' might make one timid, especially when the person you trusted most and loved the most turns from you once they know what you are?

Also, I'd like to put out there that we don't get the option of learning what we are when we're little. We are told we're something we're not, and that's pretty much the only way we get acceptance. So even if we do figure out what we really are – which is challenging in and of itself – it is a HUGE challenge to actually accept it ourselves, let alone tell other people. Maybe we should get a bit more respect for having the courage to openly be ourselves, despite the loss and danger – both physical and emotional – we face just for being us. Look up the Transgender Day of Remembrance if you want more info on the dangers involved in being transgender. We don't go out of our way to trick others. We just don't have the chance to learn about ourselves or have the safety of being 'normal' to make it easy to reveal our confusion or knowledge of beng different.

Being trans and not knowing it is like being in the wrong world. Try finding your way through that and holding down a decent job. Transitioning is like being hit in the head five times with a hammer, having most things you care about ripped from you and dropped into a scary, alien, uncaring world – while not knowing just what the hell you are. Good luck holding down a job, or being 'confident'.

Finally, I myself have had a transgender lover. My first love, my elementary school sweetheart is trans. I still feel the same about him I did when we were together in high school. I accept him as the gender he is, see him as the same person although I do recognize and accept his true gender identity, and recognize that he's a very different person now. So I have to admit I don't understand people who appear to love others for what they are, and apparently not who they are.

Penelope Przekop

Penelope Przekop said:

Hi D.

Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts and experience. I hope you understand that the underlying concept of Aberration Nation is that we ALL have aberrations. Although they differ, the emotions we experience related to them come from the common kernel of human nature we all share.

I hope Aberration Nation, in some small way, is helping people to better understand that, and therefore gain insight into the emotions of others. I hope they can then “relate,” when perhaps they couldn't before.

Sure, some “aberrations” seem more serious or challenging than others, but my philosophy is that within the context of an individual's life, experience, upbringing, world, etc. their issue, whatever it may be, is important to them. Whatever it is, it matters, and we can move on, embrace it, learn from it, etc.

Anonymous

Anonymous said:

This is Stacey again. My ex-husband is not the same person she was when we first met. This process has changed her personality. Jim no longer exists and Janet has taken his place. I cannot love Janet like I loved Jim. Jim is dead to me now. I really wish I could have him back, but it is not meant to be I suppose. I just wish I had known that this issue existed so I could have made other choices. Did you give your ex-spouse the choice? Since you didn't know, I suppose you were not able to. I think I deserved to be able to make that choice with everything out on the table. Jim knew that he wanted to be Janet since he was three. He knew before we married what was going on inside of him. I realize that it is not an easy road for a transgendered person to come out. I realize that there are a lot of issues with society and I know that Janet is having a hard road right now. I do feel for her concerning that. However, I am also a victim to this issue. I went into the marriage thinking I was marrying a man and I was not. I didn't know it at the time, but I could have been warned. It would have been nice to know what I was getting into. I was not given that choice. Your ex was not given that choice, either. My daughter was not given that choice as well. She has taken this very well, but it is hard for a child to know that her dad doesn't want to be male any more. How do your children feel about the change? What are you doing for them to help them deal with the transition?

One thing I have seen in this process is that the transgendered person doesn't think about the people that are affected by the transition. There are a lot of victims that have resulted from the choices my ex has made. There are victimes of your choices as well. I understand that this issue is something you are born with, but how you deal with the issue also affects those around you. I am not saying you shouldn't have gone through the transition, but if I had known this was going to happen when I married my ex 19 years ago, I would not have done that. I would have been supportive of the change because I would have had my eyes wide open. As it is, my ex was only thinking of himself and not those around him that are left hurting in the aftermath. You say I should give support to this person who is going through this issue. Where is my support? Where can I find help in dealing with this? Where can my daughter find help in dealing with this? We are victims, too. We are hurting, too. I don't think the transgendered community understands that those of us that are left in the aftermath are just as hurt and maybe more so than those that have this issue. Do you support your ex-wife in dealing with this? My ex doesn't support me much if at all. I am not sure if she could anyway. I realize this is not easy for you, D., but it is not easy for me, either. I would like you to see my side, your ex's side, your children's side of it for a change. Essentially I am a wido even though technically my ex-husband is still alive. However, my ex-husband doesn't really exist as he was any more and she is not the same as he was. I bet that your ex-wife feels similarly. Have you asked her? Until you do, I don't think you will be able to understand the hurt I feel in this situation. It is a two-way street.

Muffy St. Bernard

Muffy St. Bernard said:

My first thought is that this blog entry is an examination of a wife's reaction to her husband's gender change, which is something we don't hear much about.

So I'm not quick to dismiss Stacey's impressions. This certainly was a terrible time for her ex…but, as she says in her comments, it's a two-way street. The marriage wasn't just her ex's, and the trauma of the breakup wasn't her ex's alone…hence this interesting blog entry.

D., when you say “I don't understand people who appear to love others for what they are, and apparently not who they are,” imagine if you were saying this to — for example — a gay man: “Why can't you just love a 'person' (a woman, for instance) instead of INSISTING on being attracted to 'men?' Why do you march for equal rights and suffer prejudice when everything would be so much easier if you just loved people for WHO they are, instead of WHAT they are?”

My point, D., is that your sexual spectrum is more flexible than most, but most people ARE attracted to a single gender (including those fighting an uphill battle for same-sex marriage in the States). Stacey — like many people — was attracted to her husband as a man. Should she be expected to still be attracted to a FEMALE mate, particularly one who has apparently acquired a new set of behaviours as well? Some people could, some people couldn't. Marriages break up for far smaller reasons than a sudden complete lack of physical attraction.

Finally, I also agree with Stacey's point that far too often the burden of acceptance, respect, support, and understanding is on the rest of the world, and not on the person who is transitioning. Thankfully that's not always the case but it's something that's been increasingly annoying me lately, and something I'm seeing more often.

To achieve anything the respect has to go both ways. I can certainly understand how difficult a time this was for her ex, but I can also understand how difficult it was for HER. Reading her story and understanding her feelings is the BEST way to make sure these situations go easier for others in the same situation. If we assume that the only person who is hurt, upset, questioning, and misunderstood is the one who is transitioning, then we'll never understand how to keep couples together (or understand why they have to part ways).

We'd do better to discuss Stacey's impressions in these comments, in my opinion.

KEV

KEV said:

Thank You for that, both to Penny, & to my 'Precious Princess'. Stacey

Kevin

armedwithjello

armedwithjello said:

Thanks Stacey for sharing your experience. I recently met a male to female transgender woman, and we have been casually dating. I am a straight woman and have only ever dated men before, but I became fascinated with D the moment I saw her. She, too, was married with kids before she realised what was going on inside her. I don't think it's that the gender identity was hidden, but that she didn't even realise it was there until very late in life.

Having met D and gotten to know her has been a great thing. I have always been very open and comfortable with queer culture, but I have never gotten to know anyone trans before. I don't know how I would have reacted to being in a marriage and having your experience, but meeting someone who is already blurring the gender lines has been a very positive experience for me.

I do hope you manage to make peace with your ex and lose your resentment. Regardless of gender, the same person is inside, just in a different package.

Anonymous

Anonymous said:

This is Stacey. Sorry for being anonymous.

First of all I am glad that you have an open mind to accept someone who is transgendered. There is a difference from your experience and mine. D's ex-wife would have more of a similar experience to me. My ex knew about his feelings since he was 3 years old, but his father and society did not allow him to express his feelings and this did not become an issue until he reached 40. That is usually the age when transgendered people realize that they cannot live as their birth gender anymore. Unfortunately, my ex did not tell me he had these feelings until we had been married 7 years because he felt that since we could be intimate with each other that there was not going to be a problem. If he had told me about his feelings, I would have gone into the marriage with my eyes open or not married him at all. As it is now, when I needed him, he was not there for me and cannot be there for me now. I was not expecting to be divorced and have to start all over again finding someone to love.

You may ask why can't I love my ex as a woman. The woman he has become is very weak and timid. I would not want this person as a girlfriend let alone a lover. I also don't think I can love a woman like I can love a man. What she is now is not what I signed up for when she was a he. I still have a lot of anger for being put into this situation without being able to make the decision for myself. Essentially he lied to me and my life has changed because of that lie. If we had not had a child together, I wouldn't have much to do with her now. I just don't like to be around people that are so dependent.

One good thing about the divorce is that now my daughter is learning how to be independent. Her father did everything for us and now we have to do it on our own. My daughter is happier now and is able to take on obstacles that she couldn't take on earlier when her father was around. She still loves her father and misses her, but I feel that this is the best thing that could have happened.

Maybe one day I will be able to get over my anger, but it is still fresh in my memory right now. I still feel like my ex cannot be on her own. She doesn't have a decent job. She is living with her mother. She finally got her name changed officially, but she hasn't paid child support in I don't know how long. I am having to cut back on things because I am in debt because I am not getting child support because my ex cannot get a decent job. I am not totally sure it is because of being transgendered. She couldn't get a decent job before I married her. She really is not the same person that she was when I first married her. She has become more timid and more passive. Edith Bunker had more backbone. I can't believe it is just the hormones that have affected her personality. If I met her after the change like you met D, I might have a different perspective. However, because of how it happened, I think it is going to take me a long time to deal with all of this because it has been such a shock to me. We will see what happens in the future. I am glad things are working out for you, though.

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