Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Hi, Carolyn: My husband of 10 years recently came out to me as a trans woman. She says she is a lesbian, and wants to stay and make it work. I am trying to be supportive, but I am feeling betrayed and weirded out and pretty sure I’m not a lesbian. When I hide my confusion, she’s ecstatically happy to be her real self; when I mention some aspect of my unhappiness, she goes very quiet.
I feel sad and alone and confused, and I don’t know how much of that to let show. I thought I had a best friend and that we told each other everything, but apparently not.
Should I “fake it until I make it,” or let myself flinch when she tries to hug me while dressed as a woman, or something in between? Separating is not an option: We have two small children who adore both their parents.
Please contact the Straight Spouse Network (www.straightspouse.org) and/or PFLAG (www.pflag.org). You need someone to talk to as you deal with your shock and figure out what to do next, while somehow being a seamless co-parent. Going it alone makes no sense.
As for how you act, just tell your spouse you need time. “I am not ready for hugs,” said kindly, is perfectly fair. She has had a lifetime to process this; you’ve had days. You can say that kindly, too.
So she goes quiet; being supportive doesn’t mean you can’t show feelings of your own. To deny you that is myopic. You can be both thoughtful and real.
As for separating: Supporting each other as people and parents means you can make it an option, if you want. You’re hetero, and your marriage isn’t. Your separate homes can be in the same town, street, building. Why not?
Re: Wife of trans woman: I find myself in the exact same situation. My husband is thrilled he’s finally found his true self, and seems resentful that my feelings are very different. He thinks that because, inside, he’s still the same person I married, I should just be able to adjust to having a marital relationship with a woman.
I’m surprised she (right?) doesn’t see the logical fallacy in that. Per her logic, since she’s the same inside, shouldn’t she be able to adjust to being male outside?
She is living proof that gender means something. It’s certainly not a fixed entity (as in, all women are This, and all men are That), but it is not exclusively a matter of internal or external expression. It is both. Again, as proven by her own choices.
Now that she has reconciled a formerly conflicted self into someone fully female — which takes serious courage — you, as a heterosexual woman, have the same entitlement to be unconflicted in your gender and sexuality by being a woman who is not attracted to women, your spouse included.
Not that you need her permission to think this; you don’t. You don’t even need her to grasp how devastating this is for you, though that would certainly help.
Please consider not waiting anymore for your spouse to understand and support you in this transition, and instead just choosing what you need your next step to be.
Email Carolyn at email@example.com.