What Do I Expect from Him?

I believe that he has gender dysphoria. I believe that when he looks in the mirror he sees a man and expects to see a woman, and I believe that this situation is extremely uncomfortable. I believe that his decision to live as a woman was not easy nor casual nor malicious.

However, I also believe that he has a responsibility to be kind and empathetic and honest, to women and especially to his wife. I married a person I thought had these qualities. I yoked myself to a person I thought would think as much of me as he thinks of himself.

Because his dysphoria is so uncomfortable, he feels that he has no choice but to live as a woman and no choice but to accept every line of the transgender political movement. How can I expect him to do otherwise, he asks?

The following is what I expect of a partner who is intelligent and empathetic and who wants to have a loving, equal relationship with me. I believe that it’s reasonable. What is this condition if it is not compatible with empathy and the ability to think of a partner as well as oneself? What is it if it is incompatible with truth? If it is inherently that antisocial, then the problem doesn’t lie with me and can’t be fixed by me.

I expect him to see the misogyny in his community. I expect him to notice the men around him: the stripper names, the five-inch heels, the giddy references to each other with the diminutive “girls,” the obsession with appearance. I expect him to look around at his female friends, to notice their jeans and t-shirts, to notice that they don’t exhibit or condone this behavior and are often made uncomfortable by it, to see how masculine this behavior is, how informed by porn it is.

I expect him to understand how the gender binary harms women. I expect him to notice that the roles and behaviors assigned to women are not equal to (or even merely different from) the roles and behaviors assigned to men, but are specifically designed to extract women’s service for the benefit of men. I expect him to recoil from this ugly, male-supremacist  system, not to internalize it with the belief that everyone has a “gender identity,” and that some, including “cis” women and himself, feel an inner alignment with the sexualized, vain, subservient role created for women.

To do otherwise is to directly subjugate me and my people (natal women), to agree that we are those things patriarchy has said we are: that we are fuck objects, that we are vain, that we are stupid, that we are more interested in looking pretty than pursuing careers, that we are worthless when we become old and unattractive, that it is our job to serve and worship men, that it is our lot to accept the subservient life men have chosen for us.

I expect him to hold his fellow males accountable for the untruth of these gender roles, as only another man can, by admitting to himself and to them that he is an exception to them. By instead choosing one of two contrived and harmful gender roles, he legitimizes those roles, he condones them as so obviously and naturally true that he can’t imagine legitimate deviation from them.

I expect him to understand that when he agrees that his personality is unfit for the male role, and thus declares himself a woman, he capitulates to male supremacy and its troubling gender prescriptions. He legitimizes the very violence that he claims to experience at the hands of men when he does not “pass” and is read as stepping outside his appropriate gender role. If even he does not accept his gender nonconformity, then how would they? And if he continues to honor their hierarchy as correct, why should they stop their violence against him or us?

I expect him to realize that a woman is unique: a person with two X chromosomes and ovaries, a person who was socialized female and shares the experience of female oppression, a person who grapples with menstruation, fertility, a hampered ability to fully participate in society as a whole person, the ever-present specter of sexual abuse, and the male gaze. I expect him to realize that this is not a position that a man can imitate or colonize or purchase via clothing and cosmetic procedures, just as it is not a position that women can escape by wishing to be someone else. Women are a separate category from men, not merely non-men or neutered men; as Germaine Greer put it, women are not “defective males.”

In a world where young, gender non-conforming children are increasingly designated transgender and funneled into irreversible medical procedures, in part due to his activism, I expect him to remember that 80% of them will change their minds (by his community’s own statistics). I expect him to consider not making children the casualty of his personal quest for self-understanding however challenging that quest may be.

I expect him to think about who is most harmed by the transgendering of children: gay and lesbian kids. I expect him to think about how very retrograde this idea is — that homosexuality is not acceptable, that it should be cured by castration, that parents can and should sacrifice their children’s future fertility and sex lives in service of heteronormativity. It’s a way for the mainstream to correct the deviant, just as other conversion therapies that have come and gone.

I expect him to think about how politically conservative his views are, in general. Men must be men. Women must be women. Deviance must be corrected. That it’s easier to imagine that outliers are defective than it is to imagine that male superiority isn’t natural and correct.

I expect him to recognize that men commit nearly 80% of the country’s violent crime and 98% of its sexual crime.  I expect him to understand that protecting women from male violence was originally the goal of sex-segregated restrooms, and that India’s lack of sex-segregated restrooms keeps women constantly at such risk today, with the end result of restricting their participation in public life. I expect him to care about this.

I expect him to realize that “cis” men can and will exploit the transgender bathroom policies that he fights for, and that even post-op MtFs “[retain] a male pattern regarding criminality.” I expect him to drop the politically convenient lie that these policies pose no threat to women, because the safety of women and children depends upon it.

I expect him to put aside his own indignation and pride for long enough to plainly consider the list of people whom he fights for at the cost of that safety: not just transwomen, but men with no intention of transitioning, part-time crossdressers, fetishists, criminals, and the mentally ill.

I expect him to stop pretending that it’s any safer for women to pee next to men than it is for transwomen to pee next to men. Who is larger and has a fighting chance in a conflict? Why must women be endangered in the service of combating a male-on-male violence problem?

I expect him to stop defending the transwomen who turn down gender-neutral facilities, because these transwomen are seeking not safety, which they have been offered, but validation. I expect my husband to consider my safety more important than a stranger’s validation.

I expect him to recognize his male privilege, as a person who was born into the dominant sex class, was socialized in it, and has been a beneficiary of it for over 40 years. I expect him to understand what an abuse of that privilege it is to claim to be the same as women, to invade our spaces, to join a political cause that will see our voices erased and our safety compromised. I expect him to abandon the lie that allowed this man to legally beat this woman senselessallowed this child molester to prey upon women in women’s shelters, and let this murderer sexually assault inmates in a women’s prison.

I expect him to prioritize the lived experience of the oppressed sex class, of which he is not a part, and to listen to what we have to say. I expect him to understand his privilege as an individual whose oppression, such as it is, is easily avoided at will with a change of clothes, a situation not analogous to that of women or people of color.

When natal women point out that “womanhood cannot be put on like a pair of shoes,” and that appropriating womanhood is like appropriating race, I expect him to listen and care, just as he’d listen or care if a person of color told him his presentation was racist. I expect him to understand that this analysis is not about whether he is creepy and gross, as he has been quick to complain, but about whether women are being made to feel creepy and gross by it.

I expect him to be honest, especially with me. And I expect that an honest assessment of the claim that transwomen are women can yield only one conclusion, however uncomfortable that conclusion may be.

And because I know he’s intelligent, I expect this analysis of gender and its troubling, violent implications to cause him to reject it. And if he accepts it solely because of his own strong and uncomfortable feelings, I expect him to recognize this as internalized patriarchy caused by reinforcement of the gender binary he upholds, the very one that punishes him.

And though that may prove difficult to reconcile with his dysphoria, I expect him to rise to the challenge in the interest of half the world’s population, that half that has suffered in ways he can never understand.

 

 

 

My Responsibility to the One I Love

Why don’t I just accept him as a woman, if I’m so miserable?

Because I love him.

Because the beautiful relationship that was everything I cared about, everything I wanted, everything I knew for 15 years, was a relationship built on us loving each other. It ceases to exist if I build it on hate instead. Without love, it’s a habit I’ve decided I don’t want to give up, not a relationship I nurture.

If I agree with him — that he has to die if he isn’t literally a woman — then I have not loved him enough. And I have agreed that there is ever any circumstance in which he should die. And while he hates himself, and tolerates only a modification of himself, and wants me to hate him in kind, I cannot.

If I join him in hating any hair on his body, any curve of his face, any facial pore, any angle of any muscle, then I have not loved him enough. And I have agreed that he isn’t beautiful and perfect. And maybe I’ve appeased him. And maybe I’ve protected my assets and my comfortable existence. But I haven’t loved him enough. If my marriage vows were not made so that I could show him love, what were they for?

If I join the chorus of those saying he might want to alter his perfectly beautiful body with off-label drugs that will damage his internal organs, increase his depression and cause him genital pain, just so he can look like someone else, then I have not loved him enough. And I have agreed that what he looks like now isn’t acceptable and must be changed. And I have agreed that his body is worthless and must be harmed.

If I ever agree that he might have his genitals cut off, rearranged, impaired in functioning, good lord, I have lost my moral compass and certainly my ability to love.

Perhaps I could save my marriage by agreeing with him, if marriage is a piece of paper and uninterrupted cohabitation. But that marriage would come at the cost of choosing hate over love. For me, marriage is nothing if it is not love.

 

He Thinks I Hate Him

He thinks I hate him, I learned from a friend yesterday.

It’s so untrue, it’s heartbreaking. The sucky truth is that I love him more than anything. If I didn’t, I could move on without so many episodes of crying, blogging, begging for his empathy.

I shouldn’t be surprised. Every conversation between us seems to run through a translation machine in which I say, “Hey? Remember me? Remember our love? Can we have an honest discussion about us?” and he hears “You’re ugly and worthless.” His inner voice, in other words, masquerading as my voice.

That same inner voice of his that apparently says, “Either you’re a woman or you have to commit suicide. There is no other way that you are worth anything. Either you spend hours every day altering your appearance or you are loathsome to look at. Better keep up this illusion or die.”

I don’t agree with it. I think it’s ok to have XY chromosomes and male sex organs while wanting to wear a dress. I think it’s so ok, as to be insignificant. He loves himself conditionally, but I just love him.

I think he’s beautiful, with long hair or short. With a beard or without. With dirt under his nails, working in the yard, in jeans that are too big because he’s trying to hide the weight he gained from all the pasta and wine we enjoyed together when we lived in the country and couldn’t get out to see friends. With the Chucks and skinny pants he gravitated toward when he lost the weight. With his laughing hazel eyes, his serious eyebrows, the spacing of his teeth. I think he’s beautiful, and I don’t care what he says.

I love the way we used to talk for hours and the conversations we used to have. About recurring themes in literature and media and what they say about Western concerns and fears. About whether determinism precludes holding people accountable for their actions. About sentience and how it is acquired and whether everyone has it. Smart conversations. Conversations that took years to develop and refine. Conversations I could have only had with him, with his intelligence, with his personality. I love the less serious conversations we had too, like when we made up words from town names on road trips or pretended to argue endlessly about butterflies versus moths.

I love the romance we’ve had. I’ll never forget the time we tried to have a picnic in relentless, pouring rain, but ended up walking around in the woods, drenched, falling in love instead. I cherish other picnics as well, when he packed salad and fruit and bread and cheese and wine into a basket and met me in a park on my birthday or during my lunch hour. I love the memory of lying on the ground, playing with each other’s hair at a summer music festival

I love that he always appeared to love me, even the parts of me that were awkward or odd. My accent. The way I get words tangled. The way I looked when I got chubby. I love the poems he wrote about me. I love an email he wrote me when I first went back to college, telling me that he believed in me and that I was smart and that I could do it. I laminated it and kept it in my wallet for years. I love how much thought he put into gifts that he has given me and dates that he has taken me on. I love that he has shown me the most epic birthday parties ever.

I love how charitable and kind he has always been and how he loves people of all shapes and sizes and races and how he doesn’t bat an eye at a young single mom wrangling several kids and how he gives money to street beggars. I love how much pride he took in his work when he was teaching kids.

I love how creative he is and the songs and lyrics he’s written and his singing voice.

I love his cooking and I love eating with him. I love the way he  values ceremony and family. I love the red wine glasses we picked out together for special occasions. I love planning where we’ll put our garden and what we’ll grow in it. I love that he knows how to preserve food and make kimchi and that he keeps us in canned pickles and tomatoes all winter long. I love snapping beans with him on the porch.

I love the way we vacation. Hours on a beach, spacing out, thinking about nothing except taking a break to grill some shrimp and open a bottle of wine. Camping trips that felt like they would never end. Walking in the woods and taking note of every rabbit, raccoon, squirrel, lizard, woodpecker or deer. Bed and breakfasts, state park buffets, sketchy hot tubs. Content to walk the city streets, visit a museum or stay in and pop popcorn and watch seventies reruns on TV. I love being in a canoe with him, riding a bike with him, walking with him.

I love the mole on the back of his neck.

I love him. I can never hate him.

I have learned I can’t win him over by requesting his empathy. Can I win him over with love? Can I win him over by sending him this? Maybe I really haven’t made my love clear enough.

I can’t seem to stop putting myself out there, hoping to save this.

Maybe I have to do it again, just in case. Maybe I’m learning what Sade meant by “Love is stronger than pride.”

Maybe I have to do it forever until I humiliate myself, until he tells me to get lost, until I die. Maybe that’s what this love requires of me.

The Sabotage of the Marriage

Much is written about whether the wives of MtFs will stay with them. It’s usually framed, by trans politics at least, as a simple matter of whether or not wives will “accept” their spouse’s new identity. If they accept, the marriage will last. If they reject, it will not.

It’s not that simple. The MtF transgender experience, whether you think of it as a mental disorder or an identity, is more or less incompatible with marriage. It sabotages marriage. That it may be unavoidable doesn’t make it untrue. That it may be sad doesn’t make it untrue.

Some women stay, yes. As far as I can tell, they fall into more or less three categories:

  • Women who don’t like sex and who are willing to become content with the fact that their once intimate partner is now more of a shopping buddy.
  • Women who do like sex and seek it elsewhere, usually via opening the relationship.
  • Women who can’t afford to leave, financially, emotionally, or otherwise.

Transgenderism, how dost thou sabotage marriage? Let me count the ways.

 

I am No Longer #1

He used to look at me; now he looks at himself.

“These men… feel attracted not by the women outside them, but by the woman inside them.”

“Autogynephilia is a misdirected type of heterosexual impulse, which arises in association with normal heterosexuality but also competes with it.”

He has become unable to empathize with me, or anyone else. More than one friend has recounted trying to talk to him and getting “Me me me me me me me” from him in return. Each friend used these exact words, unaware that others had used them.

A great narcissism has begun to permeate everything he says and does. His social media feeds have become an endless stream of selfies and self-congratulatory posts. His new interest does not leave room for interest in me.

 

Communication Breaks Down

One million topics have become off-limits.

Pronouns, names. Discussions of the appearance, clothing, habits, sex organs, socialization or treatment of me, of him, or of others. Housework division, jobs. Fertility, menstruation, sex. His feelings, my feelings, his friends’ and family’s feelings. Politics, restrooms, book clubs, baby showers, kids. Mental illness, depression, the medical community. Reality, compromise. The past.

These are some of the things we can’t talk about anymore, no matter how gingerly they are approached. These are things we used to talk about all the time. Less than one year of trans politics and dysphoria has completely broken down our ability to have a frank, honest, sincere conversation of nearly any kind. I have argued for the importance of getting communication back into our relationship; I have begged and pleaded. To no avail.

We don’t talk.

Something as innocuous as “I feel cute in my new blouse” now equals “I’m rubbing my cis privilege in your face.” God forbid I speak about my concerns or my future.

Any deviation on my part is considered victimization.

This is now a marriage in which he gets to speak and I have to remain silent.

 

My Sexual Attraction Wanes

Secondary sex characteristics in women include enlarged breasts and hips. Secondary sex characteristics in men include facial hair and an adam’s apple. These are the features that signal a person’s sex even when they are clothed. These are the features that attract mates.

Transgender people would like to have these removed.

Notably, removing these characteristics does not make a person look more like the other sex, but instead renders him more sexually neutral.

Lesbians and straight men want to attract women. Gay men and straight women want to attract men. Only (autogynephiliac) transgender people care more about how they look to themselves than how they look to their current or potential partners. Only they sabotage their ability to attract the people they are attracted to.

My spouse removed his secondary sex characteristics and then expected me to work harder to conjure up attraction to him within myself. That’s taking me for granted. That’s a disregard for my sexual needs.

 

His Sexual Attraction Wanes

He’s too into himself to be into me.

He’s too busy admiring my outfit to notice my body.

He’s too dysphoric to enjoy feeling unreservedly attracted to me with all that that entails.

He has too many other things on his mind.

He says he’s attracted to me, but actions speak louder than words. He doesn’t touch me, kiss me, look at me, compliment me, or initiate sex with me. He doesn’t try.

 

Our Sex Life is Doomed

Hormones cause loss of libido, erectile dysfunction and pain in the sex organs, eventually rendering sex just not worth it. Invariably, despite propaganda to the contrary.

Few transgender people will take hormones off the table. My concept of marriage, like most people’s, includes having a permanent, exclusive, interested sex partner, notwithstanding the interference of unexpected illness or the like.

This is to say nothing of the devastating effects of SRS, for those facing that reality.

 

Infidelity Becomes a Concern

My experience with a spouse’s group tells me that transwomen almost always eventually seek sex with men.

“Many… formerly heterosexual MtF transsexuals have sexual fantasies about men… Often the imagined partner… seems to be present primarily to validate the femininity of the person having the fantasy, rather than as a desirable partner in his own right. 

Apparently… the attraction is not to the male partner per se, but to the way in which acting like a woman in relationship to a man is sexually gratifying.”

Also:

“Findings from a meta-analysis of 29 published studies showed that 27.7% of transgender women tested positive for HIV infection [and the majority didn’t know they were positive]”

I never suspected anything, but this isn’t a good time for denial. I wouldn’t be smart if I didn’t schedule an HIV test.

 

Our Marriage is No Longer Recognized

While not the most important part of marriage, it’s nice to be recognized as a couple.

Once, early in our dating, we sat in a sushi restaurant across from each other, gazing into each other’s eyes while we talked. “You two are in love,” the server said appreciatively. “Everyone can tell!”

Everyone can tell. It became a shorthand phrase that we used in place of “I love you.”

After we got married, we learned that mentioning we were on our honeymoon got us hotel upgrades, free coffees and desserts. We played it up to see how many discounts we could get. We called it “dropping the h-bomb.”

After he began to live as woman, we went to a birthday party for an old friend of ours we hadn’t seen in a while. Nearly everyone present was part of a couple. A toast ensued and people began to share couple stories. When it was time to tell ours, we were skipped.

When we dine in a restaurant now, we are asked if we want separate checks.

Once or twice a gay man has flirted with him right in front of me.

I don’t blame people for being confused. Why would I be with a man who doesn’t appear to be interested in women? Why would he dress to attract someone who isn’t me, unless he isn’t into me?

This is not heterosexual privilege. My past relationships with women were recognized as relationships. There is a fundamental difference between recognition and approval, though approval is always nice too.

I once enjoyed both with this person, but that is lost.

 

 

He Has Dropped Out of Life

He left his job and he dropped out of life. While I worked outside the home, did all the housework, ran all the errands, and even moved us from the city we lived in back to the hometown we missed — from the planning to the packing to the coordination with realtors and financers to selling the old house and completing the final paperwork to buy the new one — my husband laid on the sofa and cried.

With his new identity came depression, suicidal thoughts, and an inability to handle or concentrate on any of the mundane details of life.

He failed to close a dwindling bank account and acquired hundreds of dollars of overdraft fees. He failed to pay a ticket and got his license suspended. He stopped speaking to a number of friends and family members.

I don’t have a helpmate, to borrow a term that sounds a little religious. I don’t have a husband. I don’t even have a conversational partner.

 

 

 

 

Are Transwomen Women?

“I don’t identify as a woman,” my spouse said. “I literally am one.”

“There are different types of women,” my spouse said, “and I am one of them.”

Later: “Transwomen are a subset of women.”

falseSubset

Actually, though, transwomen are not a subset of women. Transwomen are a subset of a superset that contains transwomen and natal women. The superset is new and has been named the same as its older subset (women), in order to be intentionally confusing.

newWomen

The old set “women” had an objective definition (let’s not waste time hashing out what we already know about chromosomes and reproductive organs). The superset does not have an objective definition, except, “A set that happens to contain these other two sets.” You could similarly invent a set that contains apples and Siberian huskies. That’s semantically possible, if not very applicable to reality.

When a group of activists redefines a word, or more accurately, creates a new word by the same name that serves to supercede and erase the old word, does that act redefine the underlying reality? It does not. There are still some people who were born with female reproductive organs and some other people who were not.

“Transwomen are women” is a semantic trick. I get that it’s an important one for transwomen, but it is a trick nonetheless. My spouse, a MtF whose primary “womanly” quality is the application of makeup and feminine clothing, has nothing in common with, for example, a particular butch lesbian friend of mine. I’ve asked my spouse, and others, for the traits that overlap in that venn diagram, but they can’t be produced because they don’t exist. It is logically nonsensical to say that these two types of people are both part of the same “woman” set, however politically expedient that may be.

There are objective realities that apply to one set and not the other, as with our apples and Siberian huskies.

Radical feminists are not excluding transwomen from the set of women. Reality is excluding transwomen from the set of women. Math and logic are excluding transwomen from the set of women.

If I decided I was a dolphin, it would not be the dolphin community that kept me from being a dolphin. It would be my lack of dolphin chromosomes, flippers and tail fin. I could redefine the word dolphin to include dolphins and humans who feel like dolphins, or even dolphins and apples, but that would neither reflect nor change reality.

Everyone knows this. Those who have chosen to call transwomen women are being nice. And hey, it’s great to be nice, and I get that. Sometimes being nice is more important than being accurate. Often it is.

But saying transwomen are women is a denial of reality. It’s a political, semantic move to make transwomen feel better about themselves.

What difference does it make whether we deny reality? That’s a topic for many other posts.

But then again, let’s look at just one example. Here’s a transwoman who developed advanced testicular cancer because she was averse to looking at her scrotum, even after doctors warned her there was an anomaly.

 

 

Performing Love

There’s a lot of sadness inherent in day-to-day activities now that I’ve started to think of myself as single.

There was that moment when I poured the last of the olive oil onto my salad, and remembered the blood-orange infused oil I had tasted in an artisanal shop, and thought about how I had wanted to buy it next time to use in a dressing to share with him. That isn’t going to happen now. It’s a tiny but important change of plans.

There’s a freezer full of food. It’s an amount of food that was purchased for sharing. There is fish I bought to make his favorite curry with. Squid bits and shrimp balls that looked inspiring for an Asian soup. Pizzas that we made together and froze for a lazy night in front of the TV. As a single person, I don’t need this quantity or quality of food. My usual fare will be something simple I can throw together after work. Eating is sustenance now, not a chance to bond over a shared activity.

His birthday is coming up. I’d usually make him a fancy meal. This year I was going to throw him a party at a local pizza joint with his family. He’d talked about how much he loved this particular pizza even though it is fattening and low-brow and not our usual fare. He’d talked about how much his family had loved to go there when he was a kid. It was an inspired idea, an act of love. It has no place to go now.

I’m finding that I miss performing love perhaps more than I miss receiving love.

But this is a good revelation. Because I can still perform love as a single person. I have let my friends know that I’m available to babysit. That’s a kindness I can extend to them and a chance to show kindness to their children as well.

I can make gifts for my friends. I can bring them carry-out when they are sick. I can remember to ask if they’re still having back pain or how their job interview went. I can reach out to my cousins when it isn’t Christmas.

And I think this is a strength, a little way that I can win in the midst of all I’ve lost.

And this is something that I can offer the world that he cannot. Because he is busy performing femininity, which apparently leaves no time to perform love. If the neglect of my own marriage wasn’t enough to prove that to me, I’m now hearing it from others. He turns every conversation to himself. He won’t call his dad. He cut off a friend who tried to talk about her autistic son. He told another what she was allowed to think.

It’s so easy to get lost in what is right and what is wrong. It’s so easy to care what he thinks and who he’s convincing and what I can convince him of. It’s so easy to just stay mad.

But I’m going to concentrate on performing love instead.