What about her?
So I’m going to begin this week with a little bit of “behind-the-scenes” by way of setting up what I have to say. One of the things I normally do while writing for this blog is to review the comments that are submitted for possible approval. I can only approve or reject comments on the columns that I actually write myself, but I have the ability to see all of them, whether they are approved or not. Needless to say during my absence several pending comments accumulated and so I’ve been reviewing all those submitted while I was away. One of them, posted on an older blog caught my eye. While the comment was not one that I had the liberty to approve the subject matter has been on my mind and I wanted to try to respond to it briefly.
The comment is left in reply to a previous comment that’s some three years old and the particular context of the combat and the one to which replies is not really relevant to the point I want to make. But the end of it, which I will quote below, is heart rending:
“(He), recently told me he needs to support. what about me? my whole life was about him and our children. I am 50 this year. I feel as if I be better off dead at this point, esp if he leaves me, what would I have? no one, no trust anymore, no work or career, debt and sadness and loss. I think he may be taking hormones, I keep trying to be there for him, but feel no one is there for me. I have no close friends or family. I feel as if my life has been ruined. “
Anyone with a heart has to find such a comment tragic, but my question is this: where lies the true source of these tragic events? It is easy of course for the affected spouse or the outside observer to default to the idea that the trans person (assuming the premise that in context this self identified cross-dresser seems to be actually interested in transition) is solely responsible for her pain and that as such s/he bears the sole responsibility to forgo satisfaction for her sake. But I think that this premise is flawed and shortsighted.
The simple reality, and I state this as a fact because I don’t see any reasonable argument against it, is that we live in a culture which overwhelmingly force the premise that there is something inherently wrong with a male who even in the slightest way retreats from male privilege and the male stereotype. It is all around us, the mockery that befalls the male who drifts too far towards feminine no matter how irrelevant the tendency. We’re all, of course, aware that there is much more liberty for the female to slide along the scale toward masculine without excessive criticism. She has to get well over into “butch” territory in order to start to get some blowback. Not so for the male.
What this does is create a stern internalized transphobia (and I really don’t like that word, and don’t use it much, but if ever the implications of the suffix “-phobia” applies it’s here) which has led to far far too many male to female trans persons burying themselves in the closet for decades while building a life according to the gender binary stereotypes. Thus involving an innocent spouse in a situation which will very often end in pain and tears. Because we are all so very pressured into suppressing our condition and fronting the mask of “real man” up to and including building a life that would prove our manhood, innocent people inevitably how their lives destroyed. Moreover, because they – the innocent bystander – have been so indoctrinated by our culture to reject trans women there is often very little room for them to find it in their hearts to be accepting and to continue in a loving relationship, even if there trans spouse is hopeful of that. Until we build a culture that is trans accepting top to bottom, people like this will continue to suffer.
To be fair, I think we are on the cusp of having a culture for which young people transitioning before the age of 25 feel much less pressure to conform to the expectations of being male and those people, thankfully, will not as often if ever be in a position to involve a person in their life was not aware of their trans status. But where our society still needs a great deal of work is in opening the public consciousness to the idea that if you’re husband tells you that he is trans you do not feel the pressure to automatically reject him and feel like you have no future. Certainly there will be marriages, even those for whom the spouse is trans accepting, which ultimately end because of sexual incompatibility but these do not have to end and animosity and pain and heartbreak.
I will not stoop to the idea of offering the woman who posted this comment had answers or clichéd platitudes. There really is no comforting advice or backdoor solutions to her situation. I know from my own life experience that there are no clean-cut answers at present. In situations like this, where the non-trans spouse is unaccepting and unwilling to adjust there is not a solution in which everyone wins. The best you can look for is the least bad option. It’s too late in that sense both for her relationship and for mine. What we can do is learn from these mistakes and raise our voices and combat the prevailing attitude that trans people must be rejected by society, and try to build the world in which closeted people don’t make the mistake of involving others in their life while they wear the mask, and those already involved will find their spouse willing to rise above the pressure to reject them and let unconditional love prevail. It can be done, but it cannot be done as long as the vast majority of trans people remained silent behind their masks for fear of rejection. As long as you bow to rejection rejection is exactly what you will get.
In the county in which I live there are roughly 22,000 people. If the prevailing estimates of roughly .3% of the population is trans (and that may be low in the sense that there are probably quite a few trans-people who will not admit even to themselves what they are) then there are surely over 60 trans people in this county (assuming equal distribution, which is likely not the case) who are trans. As far as I can tell there are no more than six people who are known to be trans, and a couple of those are shaky. As long as 90% of us hide in the closet, trembling behind their mask, people like this innocent wife will suffer. Beyond that, it is widely understood that the only way that the homosexual movement gained critical mass in the public consciousness is because more and more hetero Americans found that they knew and loved a gay person. Survey suggests that very very few Americans can say that about trans people. How could it be any different if 90% of us continue to hide? Think about it.
[Noted for clarification: the phrasing in this article is focused around the male to female trans person both because of the context of the comment to which I reply and because of the reality that the feminine trending male is much more a pariah than vice versa. None of this should be taken as an effort to ignore or delegitimize issues concerning the female to male transition. Beyond that this site primarily caters to the male to female cross-dresser/trans person and thus is simpler to phrase things in those terms]
image by: Harvey