I once belonged to an email group for the spouses of transgender people. I also visited online forums for spouses. I read Christine Benvenuto’s Sex Changes and the few blogs on the topic I could find.
I hadn’t done any of that in a long while, as it had become obvious that I wouldn’t be the spouse of a transgender person for much longer. But yesterday, someone pointed me to an article, and I found myself again browsing one of these spouses’ forums.
What struck me, as I looked with fresh eyes, is that every spouse there is saying the same things, and has always said the same things, and will always say the same things. And they say them like they’re new and unique, but they all say them, and they all try and try and try to find fresh new answers, and they all fail to do so in the same way.
This came out of the blue and it happened practically overnight. He seemed happy before and none of his friends or family suspected a thing.
My spouse is narcissistic. Everything is “Me me me me me.” He doesn’t talk about anything but himself and has lost empathy for others.
Our sex life has ended. What can we do? We’ve tried new activities, toys, Viagra, counseling. But it’s gone. He doesn’t even look at me anymore.
There have been no compromises. Every boundary has been crossed. He’s on fast forward, and he doesn’t care how I feel. His attitude is “take it or leave it.” He’s leaving me behind.
He has stopped working. He won’t even look for a job.
I do all the housework. He hasn’t washed one dish since he came out.
He is moody, depressed, suicidal; he throws tantrums.
He has started acting like a child. He changed his avatar to an anime schoolgirl. He is wearing a sparkly Disney princess t-shirt. He has his eye on a pair of pink mary janes and wants to wear them with white knee socks. What is this? This isn’t how grown women behave!
He won’t communicate with me. I have questions and fears, but he gets angry if I bring them up.
He imagines he is being persecuted when he is not.
He’s insanely insecure and needs constant reassurance.
He’s not the same person anymore. He’s unrecognizable in every way. He gets mad if anyone mentions this.
He spends hundreds of dollars on clothes and shoes and then lies to me about it.
He has decided he wants an open relationship. He has decided to date men. He’s told me to take it or leave it.
He has stopped caring about his kids.
All of these happened to me except the last few (we don’t have kids).
This is an oddly specific list. This is not the list of things experienced by the average depressed or anxious person. This is not the list of things experienced by a supposedly comparable group: gay people who come out, even those who are rejected by friends and family or who struggle to reconcile their orientation with their religion. This isn’t even a list of the side effects of HRT (or “second puberty” as some call it) because this list of things happens to transgender people who don’t opt for hormones.
This is just the transgender experience. Narcissism, sexual dysfunction, partner neglect, childishness, temper tantrums, lack of impulse control. Tell me again why this is a normal human variation?
It didn’t matter that I thought my marriage was stronger than most, that I thought that my husband was smarter and kinder than most. This was my inevitable trajectory.
Indeed, when I first told my therapist, who is experienced with couples in which one partner is transgender, that I intended to stay, she said, “I’ll support your decision but you’re in for a world of hurt.” I looked at her askance; I didn’t yet know what she could have meant.