When my husband told me he was transgender, I had no clue what that meant. It was the same summer that Bruce Jenner came out as Caitlyn Jenner on the 20/20 interview with Diane Sawyer. I remember watching the special and thinking how painful hiding her true self must have been.
So when my husband told me he was a woman, I thought he was ‘confused’ or going through a phase. I hoped he was feeling empty, looking for a reason to his emptiness and found transgender in a Google search. Internally, I wished he thought the same thing too. I didn’t want my world to end.
While hoping that what he told me was not true, I was devastated. What did being transgender look like? What would happen to our family? Did this mean he was gay? Did staying in the relationship make me gay? What would this do to our daughter? These questions circled in my head on a continuous loop, driving me close to insane. For me, the time between when he came out to me as trans and acceptance of news was a long painful roller coaster.
We rode a roller coaster of emotions together for nearly 6 months rocketing us up ‘what ifs’ and plummeting us through ‘should haves’. Our relationship was a little cart going on the ride of its life. Sometimes we held on to each other for dear life. Others found great oceans of space between us.
On the ride, we desperately searched for something else to blame for the reason she felt she was transgender. He initially saw a counselor and a psychologist who both agreed he was transgender. But I wasn’t ready to accept that yet. I remember telling him that I would leave him if he transitioned to a woman. I didn’t want to lose my husband and the life we had together. I didn’t want my life to change. Transitioning would release him from his mental prison and chronic depression but fear of the effects on our family and our daughter was so great for me, that I asked him to not be his true self.
I know my threat hurt my spouse deeply. Our relationship continues to recover from it.
The roller coaster continued as searched for something else to blame for my husbands feelings. Each time we had an idea of the root cause for him feeling transgender, we would feel so high: like anything was possible. And when we realized that our idea didn’t work and he still felt trans, we would fall into a deep pool of turmoil and depression.
- Individual counselors. – They told him he was transgender. We didn’t want to accept it.
- Helping him embrace and accept his femininity. – Nice, but not enough.
- Incorporating more femininity into our intimacy. – Fun but awkward.
- Investigating testosterone levels and seeking treatment. – Worked for one day followed by a major crash.
- Suppressing his feelings of womanhood. – That one gave took our relationship to the deepest points. It hurt the most.
- Getting a manly dog. – Horrible decision. Only added to our stress.
Finally, after a night of horrible sadness and anxiety, my husband made an appointment for us to go see a couple’s counselor together the next day. Our counselor urged us to speak more openly with each other on a deeper lever while learning to avoid the pitfalls that lead to arguments. Through our sessions, I came to understand my husband’s feelings of womanhood and better understand what him being transgender meant.However, I still was not able to accept that my husband was a woman. I was not ready to let him go.
Not until early 2016, when we sat in the car one day after work, did my husband tell he that he would rather die that live as a man. He lost all desire to eat, sleep, work, and spend time with me and our daughter. He was living in such pain everyday that he decided that it was no longer possible for his life to continue. In this conversation, as fast as a light switch, I let my husband go. I let him out of his hurt and saw my wife for the first time. I saw her as woman trying to be seen. I lost it. I broke into tears, mourning the loss of my husband and grieving my wife’s loss. She spent 30 years trying to be someone she wasn’t out of fear that being herself would lead to her being alone. I threatened her with the same thing. I felt so much shame for keeping her in the prison of manhood.
Now, the roller coaster has slowed its pace. It hasn’t stopped completely as life’s roller coaster never steps. But today the highs are not as high and the lows are not as deep. We manage the ups and downs together as a family.
Not every relationship has a similar ending. Other couples’ highs may be too much for them to climb together. A spouse may be unable to make the ascent or descent with their partner. Or, a spouse may not find roller coaster nearly as traumatic. That is okay. Each person has their own unique abilities, desires, and goals while each couple has a unique history only known to the partners. Each family must do what is right for them but most can agree that transitioning with a partner is emotional, rough, and scary: much like riding a roller coaster.