Two years ago, my ex would have told you that he was extraordinarily happy. And it showed. He adored me and said he couldn’t imagine life without me. He was content, easy-going, had a job he loved, and had tons of hobbies. He spent hours puttering in the garden, picking and canning green beans, playing with his nieces, noodling on his guitar. He’d go on a road trip or vacation at the drop of a hat. He didn’t care if we stayed at a five star resort on the beach or a Motel 6 in Mississippi. He was always laughing. Always striking up conversations with strangers. Always finding something interesting to do.
When he first started crossdressing, he told me that I could set limits on where and how often he dressed, if I wanted to, and he told me that he’d never let it come between us. He had a good time shopping in those early days, walking around the mall in a fringy top and boots, finding a sale on scarves. In those days, he said he was a man, and that he just wanted to express himself more. He was still happy. Maybe even happier than before.
He has a couple dozen extremely smart, loyal friends whom he used to see once or twice a week. Not a single one of them raised an eyebrow when he started to crossdress, and they welcomed him with open arms. Many told him he was brave and beautiful.
He has a large family that gets together for every major and minor holiday and every birthday. They were perplexed by his new behavior, but didn’t let it show. They didn’t talk about it much, but continued to invite him to events and didn’t even ask him not to dress in front of the children, as many families apparently do.
A recipe for happiness, some might say. Supportive wife, supportive friends, supportive family. Strong relationships. Smart, caring people all around. Even after he “came out.”
But somewhere along the way, he decided that he was “literally” a woman and would become suicidal if he thought of himself in any other way. And he started refusing to abide any opinion to the contrary.
It wouldn’t be good enough for his friends to gender him the way he preferred and to refer to him as a woman in public. It wouldn’t be good enough for them to think of him as a gender-nonconforming male and to be completely accepting of that. He required unequivocal compliance with his new definition of woman (one he himself didn’t hold months ago). He required his female friends to redefine themselves to accommodate him. He required everyone to lie to him in private as well as respect his desires in public.
He felt betrayed and devastated to hear that some of his friends did not in fact think of him as a woman. He didn’t respond to this news by giving them the benefit of the doubt, by reaching out to them, by talking to them. Instead, he began to remove himself from situations in which he might hear any opinion he found inconvenient.
Today, he has little contact with his friends and family. He barely speaks to me even when we meet to conduct divorce business. He has no job. He lives impoverished in a tiny apartment with roommates, and seems to have lost his phone and internet access. He’s stopped responding to his mail and bills and has apparently abandoned all hobbies. When he does post on social media, it’s a selfie, a pitch for a transgender rights event, or to say he’s depressed.
So much life, so much love, so much support diminished over definitions.