If you haven’t read Part I yet, I strongly encourage you to read that first in order to get the full perspective.
So my wife and I were high school sweethearts, while we were dating, I made what I can look back on now as my first attempt to explore my feminine identity with her. For Halloween one year we were going trick-or-treating with some friends and I decided I wanted to go as a cheerleader. Well of course she had uniforms so she gave me one that I could use as a costume. However, when we got to her friends house and I changed into skirt and sweater, upon seeing me she freaked and insisted I take it off and go as something else. As I look back on it now, I realize that I felt safe enough with her to try exploring my feelings of gender. However, her extremely negative reaction simply reinforced all the shame I had internalized throughout my childhood. So I continued to deny what I was feeling and tucked it neatly back in that little box.
Throughout the rest of high school and into our college years, I continued to crossdress in secret, fantasizing over what it would be like to experience being a woman for just a day, but still denying any possibility that this was more than a fetish. A few years into our marriage, I brought up my crossdressing in a more direct way. I told her it was a sexual fantasy, a fetish, something I wanted to try. She was very freaked out at first. She asked me if I was gay or if I was a woman trapped in a man’s body. Of course I told her no, it’s just a sexual fantasy, I said, nothing more. So she humored me for a while. I got to dress up, we did some role play, off and on, for a few years she indulged my desires. Little did I know she was merely suffering through. But when she went all out to give me one of my fantasies on my birthday one year, that all came to the surface. She couldn’t handle it anymore and told me how much she hated it and didn’t want it in our bedroom. So back into the closet I went, shamed and rejected again.
I continued to crossdress in secret. I looked for ways to feminize my body a bit. I wanted to shave my legs but she hated the idea. I searched for any legitimate excuse to do it but couldn’t find one. Then finally one year for Halloween, I got her OK to go as a drag queen. Finally, I got to shave my face, my legs, really my whole body. I won a prize at the party we went to for my costume but again when we got home I was reminded how much she hated it, hated my shaved face and legs, and how she couldn’t wait for it to grow back. Again, all the pressure to fulfill a stereotypical male gender role was placed on my shoulders and I did what I could to meet that obligation.
*** Now let me take a quick aside here. I realize as I’m writing this that it may come off as I’m blaming my wife for my repression and denial. That isn’t the case. She has her attractions and desires and she can’t help that anymore than I can help who I am. She has a right to feel as she does. I bring these up only to further explain how I got so far down the road without ever coming to terms with the reality of my gender identity. It’s easy to look back in hindsight and see these events for the part they played in my denial, but neither of us at the time understood that of course. ***
Fast forward to 2016. By this point I was learning a lot about transgender issues, in particular non-binary identities, from our oldest child who had come out first as bi-sexual and later as gender fluid. As I learned more about the experience of being non-binary, I began to identify with a lot of the feelings. On top of this, the repression I had been managing for years was really starting to take its toll. I was starting to feel resentment toward my wife over being forced to keep this part of my life hidden. I was experiencing depression and suicidal thoughts as a result of being stuck in the closet and living in my own personal shame. It was time that I sought professional help.
I made an appointment with a therapist and told me wife about it. I didn’t tell her why and didn’t plan to until I had an answer as to the reality of my gender identity. However, she cornered me a couple weeks before my appointment and I told her what was going on. I told her I thought I was non-binary but that I needed to explore it more to confirm. Despite her past reactions to my crossdressing, she had always been very liberal and open minded, even with our own child. So I honestly thought she’d find some relief in finally knowing what was going on with my need to crossdress. Well I couldn’t have been more wrong. She was destroyed, absolutely crushed, she told me she married a man, not something in between. It was horrible. Many tear-filled sleepless nights would follow between the two of us.
As I started to do things to make my appearance more androgynous, she really struggled with it. Many cruel things were said, and she slipped into deep depression. Later we would discover that my gender issues were not the only cause but rather the trigger that set off many mental health crisis for her. For months I talked to a therapist, explored female presentation, setup rules with my wife for when and where I could be more feminine and of course other boundaries too. The most important one she set was that if I made permanent physical changes to my body (i.e. Hormone Therapy or surgeries) that she could no longer stay with me. At the time, I told her it wasn’t a problem. To use her words, I told her I would not “go Caitlyn Jenner on her” and that I liked my male equipment.
But through the coming months, we had many talks in which she expressed a gut feeling she had that I was going to discover I was transsexual and that I would transition. Many of those late nights she spent asking me very direct and challenging questions. As a result, over time I became more open to the concept that maybe I was more than gender fluid. Maybe my connection to a male identity was just another form of denial, a way of holding onto what was familiar out of fear of the unknown. So I explored this more with my therapist.
Then, in February, everything hit in one fateful night. We went out for a nice dinner to celebrate the anniversary of our time together. While dinner went very well, at one point of the night she made a comment about me being something between a man and a woman and it crushed the mood entirely. There were a lot of tears and talking on the way home and then as we laid in bed that night. As she had done many times before, she reiterated her desire for me to be happy, that she wanted me to figure out who I really am, in many ways it was supportive and actually helped me be honest with myself. But she also expressed her fear that who I was would be more than she could handle. She again asked pointed questions, pressuring me to consider the impossible, that I might just be a woman born with the wrong body. At some point, I don’t remember what she said, but suddenly it just clicked. This IS who I am and the only way I’m going to truly be happy is to transition. Her last question was “Why is it that I just know transition is what you’re going to need to be truly happy”. My simple response was “Because it is”.
With those three words, I finally admitted what I had buried so long. With that short little statement, I completely broke my wife’s heart, shattered her world, destroyed the very foundation of the relationship we had built, and rendered invalid the hopes and dreams we had for the future. Yet I knew this was what I had to do. I knew that there was no way I could survive not pursuing an authentic life where my body and social roles match my gender identity that I had always kept hidden even from myself. With those three words, I opened the door to transition and living my truth. Finally it had become fact, I am a transgender woman.