Shortly after I found out that my husband was a crossdresser, I was watching TV and ran across the movie Normal starring Tom Wilkinson and Jessica Lange. I sat and watched it, and promptly felt sorry for myself. I had tears running down my face, and felt I truly understood what the characters were going through.
Part of the problem of discovering that your spouse is a crossdresser is that you may automatically assume two things:
1. You believe that they are gay. Based upon my observations and things that I have read/watched about the crossdressing community, it is hard for me to lump being gay and liking to wear women’s clothes in the same category. I know gay men that come across as very masculine (so much so it is hard to know that they are gay until they say so), and others who appear to act more feminine. It’s true that there are nuances of both in each community, but it doesn’t mean that we can assume that either community automatically takes on aspects of the other. So, we can’t automatically assume that homosexuals like to wear women’s clothes, and neither can we assume that crossdressers want to be in homosexual relationships.
2. You believe that they want to be the other sex. This assumption is also unlikely to be true. It would be like saying that just because a woman wears pant suits that she might want to be a man. Not very many people believe or say that because it has become culturally normal for women to crossdress in this way (and in other ways, but that’s another subject for another time). Yes, it is possible that your crossdresser partner wants to be the opposite sex, but more than likely he just likes feminine clothing. Even people who are dyed in the wool transgendered and feel they were born in the wrong body don’t always want to have sexual reassignment surgery.
On the first issue, we got the gay question out of the way in the beginning. He’s interested in women, and primarily he’s interested in me. Based upon my relationship and history with him, I have no reason to distrust him on this.
On the second, I’ll admit that there are still days that I wonder if he’ll ever want the surgery, and even he’s not sure how ‘transgender’ he is (he is seeing a counselor and working through these issues), but even if it were the case it isn’t the case now. I am in a solid marriage with someone who is my partner. Sure, it will be strange for me if he has the surgery, but if that happens we’ll tackle it when we get there. I imagine spending my entire life with this person because I’m committed to having a full and happy life with them. If he eventually becomes she, then I hope it will be okay. I hope I will be able to see past the vagina and boobs and see the person who is and has been my best friend.
I’m reminded of a book that I read a while back called My Husband Betty by Helen Boyd. The author wrote a candid book about crossdressing and how it didn’t mean that her husband would want a sex change. Later I saw her do an interview with her husband on a talk show where he admitted that he wanted to live full time as a woman. This may be unfortunate for her (and I do not know how she feels about this now), but I want to point out that her situation is unique, and that sex change operations do happen, but they are rare. Your husband or boyfriend may only like to dress up on occasion and that will be enough for him. He may dress up more frequently, but it is still enough. Your man very likely wants to stay a man.
I still think about that movie sometimes. It was a heart-wrenching film to watch, but it is just a film. Ever couple’s situation is different, so don’t have preconceived ideas about how this will turn out. But make sure you do sit down with him and discuss these things – discuss the regularly and encourage him to embrace his feminine side and communicate with you! Talk about how you feel, and try and be honest about where your feelings are coming from – and listen to him too, try to put yourself in his shoes. Hopefully he will do the same. Encourage your husband to see a therapist who specializes in transgender issues (and think about it for yourself as well if possible!) – if your husband hasn’t ever talked to anyone about this issue, it will be hard for him to know exactly what the feelings are, or how to deal with them. Even if he comes to the conclusion that he needs to transition to the other gender, just know that it takes a long time to complete the process (years) and that these things don’t happen overnight. You will have a lot of time to give your input, have your feelings be heard, evaluate your own feelings about it, get to understand your husband better, and each of you decide what your future will be.
More than likely he just want’s to ‘let his hair down’ so to speak. And once you spend some time researching crossdressing in marriages, you’ll find many examples of wives who report their husbands are less depressed, and better partners when they can draw themselves a sweet smelling bubble bath and escape from the worries of being “manly” for a while. If it’s good for you, it might be good for him too. And it might end up being positive for your relationship as well.
The single most important things you can do to answer this question is to remain calm, and communicate with him (listen to him). If you can seek outside information and/or counseling all the better. Check out our resources page for some great places to start. There are many people who live with partners who crossdress, or who even consider themselves transgender (in the wrong body) who have healthy, happy relationships. You’ll find a world of information and people like you out there, and you might be surprised how things turn out.
Did/do you experience any other doubts or feelings other than the two I mentioned?
Image credit: Liz Henry.