More About First Event

Posted by – January 25, 2007

One of the revelations I had at First Event came as a result of talking to one trans woman after I did my talk and she ripped me a new one about partners needing more support, precisely because hers was a wife who refused to learn anything & refused to accept anything & left. She spoke to me from a place of pain & I appreciated her honesty. Later, someone else told me that her wife requested a divorce & the date of separation listed on the decree was the day she told her spouse she was trans. Those two experiences explained the resistance I feel sometimes when I talk about having partners become more involved in the larger trans community, or even when I speak as an advocate for partners at all: there’s just too much pain for a lot of trans people around the subject of relationships, that too many trans people don’t think partners need support because their own partners didn’t want it, didn’t look for it, and just wanted out.

The second half of that revelation is that partners really do need the support. The group I hosted was varied: some lesbian-identified partners of FTMs, mostly wives/girlfriends of crossdressers and transgender and transsexual MTFs, and one male partner of a younger MTF. We didn’t always share outlooks, or life experiences, or even attitudes about transness (though we did agree that nobody knows what causes it). But the one thing that came up over & over again was the sense of isolation we all experience, of not knowing others like us, of not having anyone to talk to about the most intimate parts of our lives.

What occurred to me is that I feel like I have to stand up, & want to keep writing & being visible. I thought later that trans people have so many role models, so many sources of (various forms of) success: the Christine Jorgensens and Virginia Princes and Jenny Boylans and Kate Bornsteins and Robert Eadses and Jamison Greens and Leslie Feinbergs. So many I can’t even list them all. But is there any partner of a trans person whose name people know? Is there anyone partners can point to and say, “She did it”? There isn’t, not one. & I don’t really want to be that person; I’d argue that I’m NOT that person. But in some ways I want, at least, to keep talking about partners and partners’ issues not just because partners need the role models, but because trans people should know that they can and will be loved for who they are. I want trans people and partners alike to be able to see that trans people do not exist in a void, that they have lovers and spouses and children and parents and siblings.

Sometimes I don’t think trans people realize just that simple fact of it. You all may have paths that are difficult to find, that leave off just when you think they’re going somewhere, or that stop cold, but partners are still standing at the edge of the jungle, machete in hand. There isn’t even a bad path visible.
But mostly I don’t think the pain of how badly things have gone for some people should dictate all our lives, which is why I keep talking, and keep pushing therapists and the trans community at large to find ways to support the partners who have at least made a commitment to try. What I want to see is not for all couples to stay together, but more that couples separate without the kind of bitterness & hostility I’ve already seen too many times.

8 Comments on More About First Event

  1. lizzy says:

    perhaps, another “well known partner of a TG woman” will come from the short but choice list of MHB wives and SO’s.
    For now, Helen, it’s you.
    I’d like to add, you wear it well, I’m always proud of you, what you write, and what you say.

    Lizzy

  2. tinasim02 says:

    I’ve used that path imagery with my wife to discuss how our future looks. I think you’re description of spouse’s/so’s being left behind is very accurate. I feel so sorry for mine, and there are so few people who’ve let themselves be public role models (yourself and Peggy Rudd come to mind).

    And an accepting spouse finds herself as the main support system to the very person who is the source of the issue. That makes the road so much tougher to go for them. Add to that the number of trans-people who tell a person that you (as a trans-person) should just do what you want and not consider the wishes of others and it becomes that much tougher.

    Thank you for being there, Helen!

  3. Anonymous says:

    Hi Helen,

    Yours is certainly the most visible voice on these issues but some of us are out there as well on a more limited but no less dedicated level.

    As you know, Marti (my genetic wife of 35 years) and me also gave workshops at First Event; one on Stealth and Passing and the other lengthy workshop on “Surviving The Transsexual Marriage: The Story Of Two Who Did”.

    We discussed heavily the now-in-vogue term, “monosexual” i.e. falling in love with a person and not a gender assignation.

    All of this is in it’s infancy in scale, and hopefully not too late for ultimate public comprehension.

    As to what causes trans, I agree that not every orientation has been defined nor isolated medically. But as far as my own ilk of the Community, the post-transition Transsexual, the Dutch brain study recently completed and featured in the HBO Special, “Middle Sexes: A Redefinition Of He & She” emperically proved that the reasoning centers in the brain of the M to F or F to M Transsexual are identical to their genetic counterparts, and thus dictate our behaviour.

    As I usually say, I did not go through all of this transitioning to satisfy a lifelong desire to wear pantyhose in public.

    It is a matter of time before science discovers that cross dressing, fetishism etc. all have similarly comprehendable explanations in nature/nurture.

    None of us are “purely” anything at all, only differing hormonal mixes as we learn so early in high school.

    I found it very thought provoking when you stated that you are not certain what feeling like a woman actually is supposed to feel like (I’m paraphrasing and sorry if innacurate). But spot on, Helen! And that is all of our conflict to one degree or another even with those non-trans identified.

    Your visibility is highly welcome……..But there are indeed isolated others who try extremely hard to enable this understanding that trans marriages can function and thrive. Don’t feel alone……..The responsibility of sole spokesperson would be far too much to bear for one lifetime!

    Love To All,
    SLB

  4. Alessa says:

    Although I and other transsexual rights advocates have won some rights in California, those rights don’t extend to personal relationships. Understanding is a beginning, but few of us even understand ourselves. We sometimes reach for concrete answers as to why we are who we are. Sasha (in the previous comment) points out the Dutch study featured on HBO recently. What HBO didn’t say, but is a red flag concerning the study, is that the scientists didn’t know whether it was years of female hormone therapy that caused the brain anomalies they found in their transsexual study subjects. That is as likely a possibility as being born with a condition.

    Yet reasons don’t allay spouses’ fears—concerns about their own identity, sexuality, children (if any), and the future. My spouse was confronted on many fronts when I began transition from male to female in 1999. She was consoled by co-workers when she didn’t want consolation; her family ridiculed her for even considering trying to salvage our relationship; angry parents and neighbors confronted her about our lifestyle, our children didn’t have friends to play with anymore, and more. The brief trial period we experienced ended shortly after it began. Divorce quickly followed; we become a broken home. Contact was nonexistent after that. Our three children never wanted a relationship with the new woman who killed their father.

    I was heartbroken and bitter for years. She and the children were too. The family relationship blew apart as if a nuclear-bomb were dropped on it—the radiation from the initial explosion keeping the hot-zone of any possible reconciliation off limits. Too often we transgenders believe we are not different—we’re the same person we’ve always been. But that isn’t so for our partners and other close relatives. It simply isn’t true for them.

    If partnerships and family relationships are to survive the trauma associated with tg transition, more must be done to recognize and deal with their issues. I’m not sure what the answer is, but it is likely to be a slow, grueling process; no one individual can make it happen.

    It’s been seven years since my transition. My ex and I don’t speak with each other. But the bitterness has passed—for both of us. Of my three children (mostly grown now) only my daughter (21 years old) and I speak occasionally. We have seen each other one or two times in the last couple years. I can see the look in her eyes when we’re together. The look of trying to find the father she used to know; I can see her trying to reconcile the new person sitting in front of her with her memories. She hasn’t succeeded yet, and eventually she may have to accept that there is a new person there who is partly her father and partly this new woman. Or she may not.

  5. mzmartipants says:

    “I’d argue that I’m NOT that person. But in some ways I want, at least, to keep talking about partners and partners’ issues not just because partners need the role models, but because trans people should know that they can and will be loved for who they are. I want trans people and partners alike to be able to see that trans people do not exist in a void, that they have lovers and spouses and children and parents and siblings.”

    ;) I’d argue that you are… and I’m glad that such a prolific voice is out there.

  6. rhea daniels says:

    Helen has sensitively and eloquently pointed to the healing that needs to occur for trans people, their partners, and loved ones. I’m convinced that such a healing process is neccessary and needs to be inclusive process if we hope to move forward as a people.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Dear Alessa,

    Yours is an interesting question but would assume that a large group of scientists dealing with genetics failed to use what would be very common controls of their study. I can’t vouch for that one way or the other but the study has been published widely and should be on the Internet.

    I did my own study of brain sex for over four years prior to coming out to my wife. Although I had nothing to prove to myself having feelings of dysphoria as far back as the crib, I had to have something other than my own bias and history to tell her.

    Let’s just say that something is amiss, as an albino or a person with two different colours of eyes. I see it that simply……..Why should our gender identification suddenly become the only pure aspect of nature?

    The truth lies in that when we at last identify within our own TG realm or even if we don’t, no one has exclusive ownership of it if in fact variations exist. And we all are aware that they do.

    Perhaps what I am trying to say is that we are overanalyzing a situation for the seeking of the approval of others and to make it palatable.

    If no explanations truly exist, are we to have no relationship rights?

    Perhaps also we will be a “work in progress”. for all eternity. But that work exists and must somehow be counted.

    Love,

    SLB

  8. deborah says:

    Whether there be spousal icons or not, the efforts that you have made will not be lost Helen. And has it not always been the ‘plight’ of women (essentially the spouses that we talk of here) that they are overlooked. I realize that our society worships idols and it seems that there is a belief that you need a charismatic figure to sway the masses. But anybody who has been in a relationship that is of substance knows that it is not fanfare that carries the day. And at the end of the day you, Helen, may be battle-weary but you have fought the right battle.

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