My friend Shirene, who I met while I was researching My Husband Betty, and at a SPICE conference to boot, has contined to work with wives who have just found out their husbands are crossdressers. She wrote this letter recently to one such wife, and I thought it was worth sharing here, for any husband who might want to use it to help come out to his wife, or for any wife who has just found out.
I don’t necessarily agree with how she simplifies certain issues – like the “crossdressers are heterosexual” meme – but a lot of the rest of it is a good “talking down” for a new wife who might be completely panicking.
Hi.Â I hope you donâ€™t mind receiving a letter like this from a stranger, but my husband isÂ transgender also and I know that if I could have received a letter such as this when I found out, it would have made it easier on both me and my husband. My name is Shirene, Iâ€™m 43, we live in S******, IL and Iâ€™ve known about Shayla since â€˜98.Â Weâ€™re at 555 555 5555.
I will admit itâ€™s somewhat of an adapted form letter so please ignore the things that donâ€™t apply to your situation and please excuse the things Iâ€™m telling you that you already know.
Of course itâ€™s all a spectrum, but my husband identifies more as a crossdresser than transsexual. Iâ€™m not sure where Bob is telling you he falls?
Iâ€™m not sure how much you know about the TG community so first a few definitions, though know that there is not consistency in definitions even within the TG community.Â Crossdressers, like those who are gay, usually figure out as young children that they feel different from stereotypical gender expectations. However, most crossdressers (and since the majority are males Iâ€™ll always be referring to male crossdressers when I say â€œCDâ€ from here on) by definition are heterosexual, but need to present themselves in a feminine way some of the time. Often itâ€™s a stress reducer for them. So itâ€™s important to know that sexual identity (what one feels about their own sexuality) is separate from sexual orientation (whom we are sexually attracted to). Like other heterosexual males, transgender genetic men may only want to have sex with women. They adore the feminine qualities of the women they love SO much, that they want to become some of that themselves at times. I know itâ€™s hard to understand and hopefully in the coming years and decades weâ€™ll learn more.Â We do know that 1 in 20 heterosexual males are crossdressers, and thatâ€™s a lot.Â That doesnâ€™t mean they all do it.Â Some commit suicide before allowing themselves to give in to that urge. Once you start paying attention to it, you realize that it comes up all the time in our society. Can you name one actor that hasnâ€™t appeared in a movie, TV show, play or commercial in drag?Â There are jokes and references to it almost daily, which tells you how fixated our culture is on traditional sex-role stereotypes.Â Unfortunately, we laugh at things that weâ€™re uncomfortable or unfamiliar with so all crossdressing is shown as comedic, (or psychotic) which doesnâ€™t make it any easier for all of us dealing with this very serious issue.
There is a wonderful website www.myhusbandbetty.com hosted by Helen Boyd, author of â€œMy Husband Bettyâ€ and â€œSheâ€™s not the Man I Marriedâ€. I believe you email firstname.lastname@example.org to be added to the mailing list for the newsletter (it comes out twice a month). Thereâ€™s also a good quarterly magazine for us (weâ€™re called CDSOâ€™s, significant others of crossdressers) called the Sweetheart Connection that you automatically get when joining Tri-Ess, Bob can sign you up for that if he identifies as a crossdresser and you join Tri-Ess, which I recommend (if youâ€™re not already a member). There are also conferences where we can learn more. One, called Spice, is very non-threatening because the men are not allowed to â€œdressâ€. At other conferences some of the men will be dressed but itâ€™s really not bad once you get used to it. At my first conference, two CDs told me two things that really made it easier for me to accept Troy (my husband) when he/she is presenting as Shayla. One said, â€œYou know this has nothing to do with you, donâ€™t you?Â Itâ€™s nothing that you are or are not providing to him that causes this; he had this decades before he even met and fell in love with you.â€Â The other said, â€œAnd you understand that this is a need?Â Not a wish, want or desire, but an actual need that will never go away.â€Â From reading I knew both of those things in my head, but it was really hearing them from other CDâ€™s besides Troy, that enabled me to start believing it in my heart. Tri-Ess can also hook you up with a â€œbig sisterâ€ if you like, someone like me who is also married to a crossdresser and is at the point where they can be more accepting of it and help wives who are just learning about it.
Another thing that helps to know is that Bob did not ask for nor choose this, itâ€™s just the way God (or whoever) made him, for whatever reason.Â Many wives become less angry when they start to realize itâ€™s not their husbandâ€™s â€œfaultâ€ and that they were born this way.Â What is their fault is when they donâ€™t tell us before marriage, something they often later regret.Â They usually believe that the need would go away once they are wed, but, of course, it never does. Many transgender people donâ€™t or canâ€™t accept this part of themselves, and they must do that before they can own it and admit it to someone else. Then after theyâ€™re married, often with kids, the fear keeps them silent. Fear that sheâ€™ll leave him, fear sheâ€™ll turn the kids against him, fear that sheâ€™ll â€œoutâ€ him, fear that she could get him fired.Â So he stays silent, then when he finally tells her she has to deal not only with the crossdressing but the secrets and the lies. That, of course, is painful and he doesnâ€™t want to hurt her, hurt the kids, hurt himself, so he continues keeping the secret because he has been trained to do that his whole life anyway. So try to respect how hard and brave it is of him to have told you. (Iâ€™m assuming he told you and you didnâ€™t discover it on your own?)Â In other words, try not to punish him for telling you, you donâ€™t want him to regret his honesty. Thatâ€™s my advice anyway. I only want the best for you both, so I hope you donâ€™t mind getting this advice from a stranger.
The next thing to understand is that Bob would not be who he is if it wasnâ€™t for his female persona. In the Tri-Ess directory my bio says, â€œTo be honest, I wish that my man was my man all of the time. But Iâ€™m so in love with Troy, and Iâ€™ll never be able to know who Troy would be without Shayla, that I wouldnâ€™t risk changing Troy.â€ Like all American women, I was socialized to want my man to be strong all the time, always male. We actually have to go through a grieving process of losing our vision of Prince Charming, because in the fairy tales the Prince never has a need to dress like a princess sometimes. We want to be the only woman in the home and now I have to share some of my house and life with Shayla. And when Iâ€™m spending time with Shayla, thatâ€™s time Iâ€™m not getting to be with Troy. But I now know the reason Troy is such a good man, such a good husband, father, son and brother, is because of Shayla. In other words, theyâ€™re all package deals. And it is said that once a CDSO can not only tolerate her spouse, but actually come to accept â€œherâ€, that we can have the best marriages of all, because adversity that doesnâ€™t destroy the marriage makes it stronger. And they say eventually you can even have fun with it. I didnâ€™t understand nor believe that at first but now I do. I apologize if I sound preachy. I donâ€™t know if weâ€™ll ever communicate again so Iâ€™m trying to say everything.
Some women who try to deal with this eventually start feeling guilty, blaming themselves for not being more supportive. â€œWhy canâ€™t I be more like Shirene or whoever? Why is this so hard for me?â€ And I tell them itâ€™s never the CDSOâ€™s fault. None of us were ever given any instruction how to be supportive to a crossdresser. We shouldnâ€™t feel guilty for being mad or confused. We canâ€™t control our feelings any more than the CD can, and it was never taught nor modeled to us how to behave.
Having said that, I do want to say one more thing. You know so many women who will stay with a man who abuses them, who is convicted of a crime, who is alcoholic or drinks and drives. . . So many women will put up with men who PURPOSELY make horrible choices. But more women, when finding out this news, may consider leaving their spouse for something that he canâ€™t control and something that really harms no one (as long as he can learn to be totally honest about who he is, and respect your needs and boundaries). So what if he wears lipstick sometimes? Isnâ€™t it more important that he doesnâ€™t abuse the kids? But itâ€™s hard because we SEE women stay with an abusive man and we can understand it. The women who stay with CDâ€™s are invisible, so itâ€™s back to that lack of modeling thing. Troy didnâ€™t let me tell anyone about Shayla for five years, and that was a very lonely place. We didnâ€™t know about Tri-Ess or the conferences, and â€œMy Husband Bettyâ€ hadnâ€™t been written yet. Peggy Rudd had written â€œMy Husband Wears My Clothesâ€ and others but we didnâ€™t know then. So avail yourself of resources. And try to keep things in perspective. Wouldnâ€™t you rather have news about the type of threads of clothing Bob wears upon occasion, than news about a horrible illness? Itâ€™s not easy to always keep perspective but considering things such as in this paragraph helped me.
I wish you the best of luck. I donâ€™t know Bob, but I hope you feel he is worth going through this period of adjustment. Iâ€™m sure you must be very special. They say partners of TGâ€™s are ordinary women tackling extraordinary things! If thereâ€™s ever anything I can do please let me know.