Our trip to Phoenix and the Glitz was a little nutty thanks to the usual trans community in-fighting. I’d written this speech about partners and family, but when I got there I realized an entirely different speech was needed.
So I never delivered this one (though I will use it for an upcoming speech elsewhere, no doubt).
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Thanks to G____, B_____, and to all the people of Transgender Harmony who put the Glitz together for inviting me to speak tonight. An especial thanks for the excellent timing â€“ even a few daysâ€™ escape from a NY winter is more than welcome!
There are moments when Iâ€™m at an event like the Glitz, talking to another wife while our pretty husbands share beauty tips, and I wonder, â€œHow did this happen? How did I get here?â€ and then â€œWhat did I do to deserve this?â€
Do you ever have those moments? Times when youâ€™re just astonished at how things have turned out? I donâ€™t know how many years you have to go back, but Iâ€™m sure all of you can remember a time when the only place you went en femme was from the bathroom to the bedroom. Your heels had never walked on pavement. Maybe there was a time when your wife didnâ€™t know, or your best friend â€“ maybe they still donâ€™t. But everyone in this room has made some kind of progress to be here â€“ whether this is your first time out (first timers? Where are you?) or if youâ€™re in the middle of your real life test. How big a step, or how many youâ€™ve taken, isnâ€™t always the important thing.
One of the things a wife has a really good view of is how hungry for progress you are; itâ€™s the thing that scares the dickens out of us. More than one CD has gone from telling his wife that he likes to wear womenâ€™s clothes to him planning their annual vacation around a trans conference, so he can spend a week en femme. You can call it euphoria, or kid in the candy store syndrome, but no matter what you call it, it makes wives nutty. Thatâ€™s especially true when theyâ€™re initially accepting, in any way, because somehow, coming out as a crossdresser, or a transsexual, affects your ability to measure, and every mile only looks like an inch. As a result, we start to feel like weâ€™ve been taken advantage of, with the ever-escalating needs, the ever-increasing purchases. There are times now I feel surprised when I see a man WITH underarm hair.
And of course itâ€™s not just wives. For some of you, the loved one you drive most crazy might be a close friend, a parent, or a child. No matter who it is, thereâ€™s almost no doubt that your need to express yourself will make them a little crazy remembering the right pronouns. Iâ€™m here to tell you â€“ we need your help.
A very mature but young transman told me recently that he dreaded telling his mother heâ€™s going to live as a man. He wasnâ€™t worried about her being accepting â€“ in fact, he was pretty sure she would be â€“ but he understood what he was taking away from her, and how much he was pushing her. He said to me, â€œShe already accepted me as a lesbian, and lost all of her dreams of planning my big-white-dress wedding, and now sheâ€™s going to lose her daughter altogether.â€ And I thought, when he told me, that all of us should be raised as women until a certain age, where some of us can then decide to live as men. Transmen are â€“ in my experience â€“ the coolest guys ever. I like to joke with Betty that if Iâ€™d known about transmen when I was single, we might not have ever met. But my point is â€“ he got it. He got the loss, the change, the sense of feeling that we have to accept more and more â€“ that sometimes, it feels like the changes never stop.
What that transman knew and understood was that his transition wasnâ€™t just about him, and that his own happiness was also the cause of his motherâ€™s disappointment. His concern for her had the potential to enable him to help her through his transition. It gave her the chance to have a good relationship with her new son.
Itâ€™s not just people living fulltime who need to help their loved ones through change. A wife who is told her husband is a crossdresser has to adjust just about everything in her life as well. Her ideas of her marriage, her man, and her future all change. Her sex life might change. She has to start thinking about gender and so-called â€œdevianceâ€ in ways she probably never has before.
The thing is, I hear too many stories of things not working out. Whether the cause is transition or euphoria, I donâ€™t really hear much in the greater trans community about how to think about others as part of your self-expression, and what I do hear seems to be kind of condescending, along the lines of â€œhow do I get this person on board for what I want and need?â€ Which is not quite the same thing as â€œhow do I help this person I love deal with the changes Iâ€™m about to thrust upon them?â€ or even â€œhow do I modify my needs in order to keep this person I love from running as fast as she can?â€
There are workshops on fast track transition, but never any on transitioning slowly enough so your partner can keep up. There are workshops for CDs on how to remove hair but never one on how to do your wifeâ€™s makeup, so she can feel glamorous too. Endless makeovers, photo shoots, and receipts â€“ all add up to a lot of time and energy and money, and the wives, and girlfriends, – especially the ones who are willing to be here, or join an online support group, deserve to feel pampered too. Look at it this way: if you spend as much on your partner as you do on your femme self and you wonâ€™t run out of closet room so fast. Honestly, would you go to a week-long conference for whatever her gig is? Would you want to be around a bunch of women who scrapbook, knit, write fiction, do yoga? Do you know as much about her as she does about both of you?
The bottom line is that your loves ones are your best allies â€“ potentially. If you can help them understand, they can become the people who will stand up and say youâ€™re not crazy, and that this isnâ€™t a joke. We donâ€™t have the shame to get past, we donâ€™t have the internal conflict. Once weâ€™re on board, weâ€™re on board. You want us on your side. Nurturing our change â€“ along with yours â€“ will go a long long way toward getting us there.
I donâ€™t say all this only because Iâ€™m a wife. I say it because I donâ€™t want to see anyone else end up on the other side of the mirror alone. I say it because I’ve seen too many relationships â€“ romantic, familial, friendships â€“ strained to the breaking point. I know itâ€™s not easy â€“ that youâ€™re impatient, that the revelation of who you are is HUGE. Itâ€™s easy, when youâ€™re online, reading message boards or mailing lists, and coming to events like the Glitz, to think that everyone knows about gender. But they donâ€™t. The education isnâ€™t out there â€“ on TV, transsexuals are still shown as serial killers when theyâ€™re seen at all. Crossdressers are still a joke. You know that when you tell family and friends, you have to start with transgender 101. I’ve yet to meet someone trans who isnâ€™t on their way to a PhD in trans studies, which means, of course, that youâ€™re way ahead of us, a Chief Financial Officer of a global corporation teaching someone how to balance a checkbook. The chasm between is what causes the difficulties. What we need â€“ as your potential allies â€“ is to get you to slow down, and yes â€“ please repeat that.
We can all do something to help couples and families through. When a married CD friend says, â€œI went shopping,â€ you can ask: â€œwhatâ€™d you get your wife?â€ When your favorite transwoman starts listing her hormones, WITH dosages, ask her how her mother, father, wife, or child is. Remind each other that youâ€™re not in a void, that youâ€™re not alone, and amazingly enough, that thereâ€™s more to life, and gender, than hose, heels, and hormones.
You deserve for there to be more. You deserve love, and happiness. Being trans is not easy â€“ not ever. Youâ€™re reinventing yourselves in ways that are mind-blowing, but you innately understand why you need to. We donâ€™t. Weâ€™ve never thought about gender. You have no choice. Most partners can get that. We can see the difference, even when we donâ€™t like it. Sometimes we know it even when we know we canâ€™t go with you. The liberation â€“ the sheer joy â€“ yâ€™all exhibit is obvious. Hold onto it in your dark moments. Hold onto it when your mom screws up your pronouns for the Nth time. Hold onto it when you look in the mirror and donâ€™t see what you want to see. Hold onto it when your wife cries about her loss. For you, thereâ€™s struggle and joy, but for us, itâ€™s just struggle and loss. You need to find a way to let your joy, your liberation, infect us, recharge us. Itâ€™s your joy, your freedom, that will win over not just partners, but friends, employers, family â€“ and the rest of society. And itâ€™s way better than Angry Tranny Syndrome.
When most of us canâ€™t make up our minds how to cut our hair or quit a job, youâ€™ve gone and imagined the impossible â€“ and started making plans to have it happen. If you give your loved ones a minute, once in a while, to catch their breath, theyâ€™ll be there for you when things look bleak. Your wife will remind you not to tuck your dress into your pantyhose. Your best friend will help you figure out the line between being a manâ€™s man and a macho jerk. Your mom might be the one to see that after all, you DO look like her. Give us time, give us love, and give us hope. Some of us will get lost, or stuck. But lots of us â€“ I mean look at this room! â€“ will be the ones who help you go forward with grace, confidence â€“ and far from alone.
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