When my husband came out as transgender, a mama-bear like need to protect her started brewing within me.
I dove in head first to support my new wife and shield her from the world’s negativity. It started with helping Michelle shop for makeup and clothes to help her safely ‘pass’ and grew into checking in with her several times a day at work. I became the queen of the ‘How are you doing?’ text message followed quickly by a ‘Are you okay?’ if she didn’t reply immediately. I did this frequently in person, also.
Damn it was exhausting. I started driving myself nuts.
Most partners of transgender people will tell you that going pee in public is stressful. Walking into the restroom with my family was like trafficking drugs through border patrol but, instead of narcotics, I smuggle my transgender spouse.
One Saturday, like 6 months into transitioning, my wife, daughter, and I were all using a public women’s restroom in Houston. So with my game face on, I lead my little family into the public restroom. To keep my daughter distracted, I sang her songs while washing her hands. My wife finally finished in her stall when I heard a little voice say something in my direction. Without thinking, I got really close to the person’s face and gave her my most savage, “Excuse Me? Can I help you?”
“You have a beautiful voice,” the old woman said, shaking. She couldn’t have been younger than 70-years-old. I lost my marbles. I was so preoccupied with protecting wife from everything that I almost bit off an old woman’s head!
My behavior grew from simply looking after Michelle to borderline dangerous. I knew I needed to back off for my own sanity. She was growing more confident in her appearance and ability to venture into the world safely. I knew she was an adult and was capable of taking care of herself but I didn’t want to let her go.
Like a little duckling, she needed to spread her wings and find her true self as a woman. She needed emotional space to experience the world as a transgender woman without an overprotective spouse hovering above her but I was afraid of what would happen if she didn’t need me.
A few months, ago I started to let go little-by-little. I am sending less routine check-in text messages during the work day. I stopped going into the public restrooms with her unless I actually need to use the facilities. I can see that she is growing stronger in her transition and doesn’t want me to be her mama bear anymore.
So now I am settling into my new role as Michelle’s wife and letting go of the mama bear. It is much less stressful but I am still ready to pounce when needed.
2 thoughts on “Supporting a Transgender Partner: Confession of an Overprotective Spouse”
My partner has been “in the closet” (for lack of a better word) for almost 2 years now and they booked their first appointment to talk to a Dr next week. I’m already catching myself be defensive and automatically jumping on people if I hear them talking aboit transgender people in the wrong tone… because feel down I worry that in the future when my partner transitions that might be them they’re talking about. Good to know my intentions are the same as others… with the “mama bear” attitude like you said.
I stumbled upon your blog awhile ago but lately it’s really been hitting home. Thank you so much for sharing your life with the world, it’s helping people like me with anxiety and nervousness of having a partner transition, breathe and focus on the good things.
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Tierney, I’m glad the post helped. I started the blog for myself not thinking that anyone would read it. Now, I am thankful that it helps you through your spouse’s transition.
I feel like I have spent my wife’s entire transition thus far worried.
Worried for her safety, her mental health, our daughter’s safety, and our daughter’s health. The list goes on and on. I even worry about myself a bit too.
I hope your partner’s first doctor’s appointment goes well. Good luck to the both of you.