Transitioning, Divorce, and Guilt
I’ve been mulling for a few day about where to go with this entry. I am (mildly) concerned on occasion that this just becomes yet another source for commentary on some current trans event, and while i value the opportunity to weigh in on the important moments, I’m conscience of the need for a wider variety of content.
Likewise, I recognize that I’m not well equipped to bring the good stuff when it comes to the more crossdresser specific content (clothes, make-up, beauty care, etc) so that compels me to sometimes get into the feels (is to too self-consciously “pop culture” to use that word?).
To do this without getting too self-referential (although there is a personal component to this issue for me) I kind of look around at the conversations I have access to and see what my fellow trans-folk are talking about. I came across this conversation and it hit home with me because I can in fact relate closely to this situation.
One of the big and almost universally unremarked upon issues concerning how our culture interacts with trans people is the message that is communicated to young and vulnerable youth who are dealing with gender identity conflict. Specifically, in that so long as the notion prevails that being trans is chosen, or a perversion, or a sin, or socially unacceptable in whatever other regard, we create a situation in which the primary goal of the young trans individual is to repress, suppress, and hide their Gender Dysphoria.
Not only is this psychologically (and spiritually) damaging in it’s own right, but it puts the young person on a path that too often leads to compounding their own misery by involving other innocent parties in the situation. To use my own past for an example, when I was young and single in the 80’s, I had the theoretical opportunity to accept myself and recognize that I neither want to be, nor was I suited to be, anyone’s husband.
True, of course, the culture 30 years ago was vastly different and coming out more challenging on ever level, but the principle applies. Instead, I was convinced both by the culture around me at large, and by propaganda close at hand, that I could “pray away” my “besetting sin” and be “normal.” Because I gave over to that lie, I sincerely entered into a married relationship with a woman whom I was certain would never have any need to know that I “used to” have gender identity issues. In time we had two children together. Now, over six years since she learned from me about who I am, she still struggles greatly with the (false) belief that the relationship was a deception and the (true) belief that it was unfair to not have told her when we were dating.
Because of this, whether together or apart, our relationship is forever tainted by the history of deception, no matter how innocent the intentions, and our adult children witness a years long stream of hostile conflict born of that deception.
Worse, it doesn’t even limit it to those of us who hid our status, the message our culture sends to the non-trans population is that it’s always our fault. If we enter into a relationship with disclosure or not, when the time comes to part, it still often gets twisted into a situation in which – if only we were not trans – everything would be fine. And that goes triple for any court that might become involved.
These realities are changing, of course, but while legal protections expand, as Jenny Boylan points out cultural understanding still crawls at a glacial pace towards the future we all hope for. So pervasive, indeed, is the attitude that we even internalize it ourselves. To return to my situation, again for example only, even though I know my intentions were pure, and I know that my transition is just, I STILL feel tremendous guilt for having offered her a dream and then killing it. It’s a sentiment which seems to me to be widespread. Even in divorce proceedings the emotional instinct is to surrender your rights and agree to unfair concessions in order to (unsuccessfully) assuage the feelings of guilt.
One of the best things about the reception that young trans people get from their peers is that it gives them a shot at avoiding those false-pretense relationships, but that does little to save the hearts of late trasitioners, or the people who love them or once did.
Photo by: Nano Anderson