My husband is beginning his transition. Please help me deal.
October 2, 2011 1:31 PM   Subscribe

My husband is beginning his transition. Please help me deal.

My husband of many years is beginning a transition to feminize his body. It's complicated but he does not wish to live as a woman. He still views and identifies himself as a man. His ideal end-goal would be the waist-hip ratio and breasts of a woman while maintaining his penis. He is going to a doctor very soon to begin T-blockers. He has stated that estrogen and/or implants are not out of the question if the T-blockers do not give him the body he wants.

I am not coping very well. I am a hetero woman with simple sexual tastes. He is a cross-dressing bisexual man with a long list of sexual interests. Our sexual disparity has been a source of problems our entire relationship but we've never gotten to a point wherein I didn't feel as tho' we could work things out to a compromise. I no longer have that confidence and it scares me shitless.

We are in couple's therapy with a very GLBT friendly therapist at present so that is at least a positive outlet for our fears but I still feel completely at a loss. He is excited and hopeful for the future but understandably, is saddened by my response. I am despondent and numb. I cry seemingly all the time- which is exceptionally rare for me. I told my husband that I felt as if I were in mourning and he became quite upset. He feels I am not accepting of him and honestly, at this point, I am not. It's selfish of me but I am terrified for myself and what I feel I am "losing". As I am not sexually interested in women's bodies, I don't know how I will react to his new body much less the fallout from parents and friends. I am trying to employ a wait-and-see approach but the weight of this is always pressing in a way that has me pain-guarding/disengaging from my husband. I love my husband and I do not want to leave him but I am not sure I can do this.

What can I expect here? I would love to hear from anyone going or having gone through something like this. What will happen to his body on T-blockers? His personality? I have only the most basic idea of the entire process and I've not found a lot of information on people Just taking T-blockers or transitioning without changing one's gender identification. Has anyone dealt with a hetero-partnership surviving a transition into a far more "flexible" sexual relationship? I don't know if I can "learn to be a little lesbian" as my husband jokingly suggested. How do I cope? My fears are carrying me away.

Throwaway email:
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (47 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
I'm not sure why you would want to stay in this marriage, based on what you've said here. If you're not sexually compatible, you aren't sexually compatible. There's no reason you should have to suffer for the rest of your life.
posted by empath at 1:35 PM on October 2, 2011 [120 favorites]

Do you want to "learn to be a little lesbian", whether or not you could?

"He is excited and hopeful for the future but understandably, is saddened by my response. I am despondent and numb. I cry seemingly all the time- which is exceptionally rare for me."

That does not make for a good match.

Get out of the situation while you still have the presence of mind and dignity to realize something just ain't right there.

/ Mods, I carefully worded this to avoid any bashing of any sort - I would call this as a very not healthy situation, regardless of the specifics of the "transition"
posted by pla at 1:37 PM on October 2, 2011 [8 favorites]

What empath said. You didn't sign up for this when you got married.
posted by Melismata at 1:37 PM on October 2, 2011 [5 favorites]

Put simply: the way you tell it, you can still love your husband as a friend. Marriage has to be what you still want to buy into and it sounds like you don't want to buy into it at all.

Can you be [best] friends with your husband and find your [sexual] partner elsewhere?
posted by MuffinMan at 1:39 PM on October 2, 2011 [10 favorites]

I am despondent and numb. I cry seemingly all the time- which is exceptionally rare for me. I told my husband that I felt as if I were in mourning and he became quite upset. He feels I am not accepting of him

Your husband is putting himself and his needs first. You should do the same (put yourself first). It makes sense that you would mourn - you signed on for a simple hetero relationship, it sounds like, and the terms have changed. Only you can decide, but you might be happier with someone else. Perhaps you can still be a supportive friend to him but end your marriage and free yourself to seek a partner whose interests are more inline with your own.
posted by bunderful at 1:43 PM on October 2, 2011 [36 favorites]

If he wasn't open about this sort of gender non-conformity from the beginning of the relationship, then it is a type of betrayal for him to do this. Sexual attraction is a part of any relationship, and you didn't sign up for a relationship with someone you just aren't and can never be attracted to.

On the other hand, I hope you do everything you can to stick with him for as long as you can be happy and fulfilled in the relationship. I'm a cisgendered gay guy; all of us who aren't trans begin with very little idea of the privilege we have. Your husband is doing something more difficult and more courageous than can be easily imagined.

Still, when push comes to shove -- there's going to be a new dynamic in your relationship, and if you're not fulfilled in it, you may have to consider starting choosing non-monogamy or divorce. You can be very close friends and you can still love each other while seeking sexual relationships elsewhere.

[Also, the "learn to be a little lesbian" thing? I understand it's a joke, but it could be seen as offensive. You wouldn't tell a gay or lesbian they should just "learn to be a little straight."]
posted by lewedswiver at 1:44 PM on October 2, 2011 [14 favorites]

He says YOU aren't accepting of HIM, and the solution is for you to "learn to be a little lesbian"? The problem is that just as he should get what makes him happy (the feminization), you should also be happy (in a standard hetero marriage). I'm so, so sorry, but I really don't see how this can possibly end well if he makes changes that only make him happy, followed by insisting that you change yourself to suit his new reality.

Perhaps you should consider a separate therapist, just for you: not one who will try to talk you into accepting or rejecting your husband's changes, but simply to help you find a way to your own happiness, whether that is with or without your husband in your life.
posted by easily confused at 1:47 PM on October 2, 2011 [23 favorites]

Your relationship is over. It's probably been over for a while, actually. I'm sorry, I know that is incredibly blunt, but you need to go ahead and end it now. He's not dealing with this the right way at all. Joking with you that you "become a little lesbian"? If he wants respect for his identity, he needs to respect yourself. He doesn't. He doesn't respect you. He's not even relating to this the way someone who is truly transgender or gender dysphoric would. People do not transition because of their sexual interests or fetishes, they transition because of who they are. Maybe you're not presenting his side very well, but even if he identitfies as something different than strictly male or strictly female, it sounds like this is more of a sex thing for him than anything else.

Apart from that, I'm kind of curious as to why he's being prescribed T-Blockers if he isn't actually transgender and doesn't plan on transitioning? Estrogen and implants will probably not be possible for him, if he doesn't ID as a woman, unless you're somewhere far outside of the first world. That's just not standard medical practice. The medical and psychiatric model of transgenderism is completely based on a strict gender binary. Regardless of whether it should be more accepting of non-binary folks, if you want medical help with any kind of transition, you have to play the "I have always seen myself as a [man/woman]" game.
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 1:48 PM on October 2, 2011 [9 favorites]

Your husband is not being supportive, at all. Look, I know you wouldn't joke about his body because hey, you are even going to therapy for all this. Now, why would he joke about you learning to be "a little lesbian"? Seriously -- he of all people should know that it doesn't work that way, and how hurtful jokes are when it's about something serious.

He's completely changing the dynamic of your relationship. It's ok if you want out. I'm sure you believe he's doing the right thing for himself. That doesn't mean it's the right thing for you.
posted by Houstonian at 1:49 PM on October 2, 2011 [7 favorites]

It is perfectly acceptable for you to get out of this relationship (because you have to consider YOUR wants and needs as well as his) and still be perfectly supportive of him as a friend.

A past girlfriend of mine was the most supportive person during her ex-husband's full transition; even so far as to go to SF with him for the "final" surgery and be his at-home care for about a week afterwards.
posted by mrbill at 1:49 PM on October 2, 2011 [3 favorites]

It is not selfish for you to have the feelings about this that you do. Being a supportive partner does not require you to pretend that you feel perfectly fine with something when you do not feel that way. It makes complete sense to me that you are essentially grieving a loss -- it doesn't mean you don't love your husband or want him to be happy or that you are judging him for his desire to transition. It means that you are struggling with your feelings of non-attraction for his proposed new body. I'd imagine this is similar to what the male partners of female breast cancer patients might go through -- they love their partner and want her to be healthy and stay alive, but some part of them is mourning the loss of the body they love to touch. That's what's happening here, too, regardless of the underlying root cause.

If you are not also in individual therapy, I'd recommend that you consider going to therapy on your own. Your husband should, too, transitioning is a really big event in his life and he may need additional support/coping techniques.

It's not that you are not accepting OF HIM. Of course you are, or you wouldn't be going through therapy with him and struggling so hard with your feelings. To me this isn't a non-acceptance issue, at least not on your part. I think your husband needs to be more accepting of the fact that this is a huge, huge change for you just as much as it is for him, and he needs to cut you some damn slack.
posted by palomar at 1:51 PM on October 2, 2011 [4 favorites]

I met a couple last year who were in a similar situation. They were in their 60's and 15 years prior the husband decided he wanted to transition. She was very hesitant but really learned to like it. They made it work and were very happy. Now, from my understanding they were sexually compatible before and so there was less of a bridge to cross.

If you have had this fundamental issue of sexual incompatibility and don't see it improving with this transition you certainly wouldn't be in the wrong to leave the relationship. However, you should not be selfless here. You could ask to open up the relationship to get your sexual needs met but remain married. You can make this work but you are under no obligation to stay.

And your therapist sounds like they are doing a fine job with your husband but nothing for you. I hope you are making your fears known in therapy and demanding that they be adressed. If not you are, once again, under no obligation to stay.
posted by munchingzombie at 1:53 PM on October 2, 2011 [3 favorites]

What your husband is doing may be the right thing for him, but it's not the right thing for you. You both need to be happy, and if divorce is the answer, so be it. Please understand that, while what he is doing should be accepted by those who love him, you didn't sign up for this as his wife. For the love of all that is good, this is your life, too! Part ways and find your own happiness. It seems like that's what your (ex)husband is already doing.

It's OK to feel this way. You are not a bad person for not wanting him anymore. You are not selfish. You are human, and you deserve to be happy. Good luck.
posted by two lights above the sea at 1:55 PM on October 2, 2011 [14 favorites]

One of my friends just went though her husband transitioning (actually, in a fairly similar way to what you describe). They have split up now, after almost 10 years of (pretty solid, happy) marriage. It was heartbreaking for everyone, but I honestly think that they're happier apart.

I think it's healthy and natural for you to grieve what you lost. Give yourself time to feel that loss, and when the emotional debris settles, it will (hopefully) be easier for you to make a decision about if you're willing to completely change your marriage and life to accommodate his new identity. No one will condemn you for deciding you can't. I hope you have people to support you if you decide to try.

And the askmefi cliche: THERAPY.

Good luck. I'm rooting for you...and I'm just some random internet stranger.
posted by guster4lovers at 1:58 PM on October 2, 2011 [3 favorites]

It doesn't matter what the situation is. Your husband has made a decision that effects you and he doesn't seem to understand that.

This is not one of those situations where you should just "deal" with it. It's not like he just bought a new car without your permission. He is changing something fundamental about your relationship. When there are two people involved they both need to have an equal say in the relationship for it to be healthy. Whether it's as simple as trying something new in bed or as complicated as transitioning or including another person. If both sides are not happy with the arrangement then things are not going to work. It's one thing to sacrifice or compromise for a partner's happiness, it's completely different to expect somebody to change their fundamental self.

It isn't fair for you to have to settle for something that makes you so unhappy. If therapy isn't working then you really should consider divorce.

I think you are being great. I haven't been through anything similar so I can't relate but I'm sending you internet hugs.
posted by TooFewShoes at 1:59 PM on October 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

(clarification: individual therapy - someone who listens to you and helps you process these feelings)
posted by guster4lovers at 1:59 PM on October 2, 2011

Anonymous said: ""learn to be a little lesbian" as my husband jokingly suggested"

The fuck?

It really doesn't work like that. It really doesn't. If your husband thinks that it does, maybe you should reconsider the relationship, especially considering the rest of the changes that are going on. Rightly or wrongly, the fact is that transgenderism is something of a difficult topic for a lot of people. This goes much much more when that problem is within your marriage. The fact that your husband treats your very valid concerns about the nature of your sexual relationship with him in such a cavalier manner speaks volumes.

I fully support your husband's right to live the life he chooses in the manner he chooses. However, you have that same right. If this isn't right for you, then it's not right for you. Please don't feel ashamed about that.

Have you considered some one-on-one counselling with the therapist? Or maybe even another therapist altogether? This is obviously upsetting for you and it's completely natural to want some guidance through the process of your husband's transition. Your relationship will be going through a transition too, if of a different sort. I think you need someone in your corner.

It's entirely possible that while you might think this is right for your husband, it's not right for you. And that is completely OK.
posted by Solomon at 2:01 PM on October 2, 2011 [10 favorites]

Please do see if you can find a therapist with real experience and training in the T, not just LGB, if you can. Partners of people in transition do often grieve - this is a pretty extraordinary change of your life circumstances, and with very little control on your part - and they do it in the face of their partner's relief to be taking actions to reconcile their inner and outer realities.

This is not selfishness on your part. If you had a friend whose partner was going through this, or radically changing religions, or she had just found out that some fundamental expectation of her life path (having children, for example) was no longer an option, would you fault her for grieving?

He's the one who ultimately gets to decide that he's going to do this. There's no win if you insist he doesn't. All you can do is decide for yourself what you want to do. It's easy to find yourself feeling and acting as if you are relegated to passenger status here, and it seems like that's what is happening with the therapy that is really for him and not for you. No matter what you end up doing, I think pursuing your own therapy - though with someone who at least understands the lingo and the processes so you're not having to educate them and wait for them to process it first - is going to be really important for you. I hope you're able to do that where you are.
posted by Lyn Never at 2:06 PM on October 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

Ending your marriage, btw, doesn't necessarily mean ending your relationship. A friend of mine's dad came out when my friend was in middle school. The marriage ended on good terms and 15 years later, his mom and dad are still basically best friends. They just aren't in a sexual relationship. I don't think that is that uncommon. But I can't imagine how bad it would be to stay in a relationship like that for years making each other miserable when taking sex and marriage out of the equation removes so much tension and drama.
posted by empath at 2:07 PM on October 2, 2011 [15 favorites]

I am so sorry that this is so hard for you, and I don't know much about this personally and only know a few people who've transitioned - but these boards may help with some answers.

That said, you may need to ask some questions of him directly, with your therapist perhaps to bolster you; ones that are less about hopes and forecasting and acceptance, and more about practicality. His goals, and his fantasy of your acceptance don't seem to consider your satisfaction or happiness in any way. There are a whole lot of "what ifs" and "how are you going tos" that come to my mind - I can't imagine what must be going through yours. Putting them to paper, and knowing that you're both working on answers instead of letting all this stuff pinball around inside your brain might be reassuring. And hearing exactly how far you are apart on some of these things, be they about the future of penetrative sex or what's the most extreme length he'd go to medically, might help you find your ultimate dealbreakers.

Do you chop an onion quickly and make what you will with it and get over the tears as quickly as possible? Or do you keep peeling it one layer at a time, though it's making you weep?
posted by peagood at 2:07 PM on October 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

You are entitled to leave the marriage if you want to. You are entitled to try to stay in the marriage if you want to. He is making it very hard for you to stay in it.
posted by Mr. Justice at 2:09 PM on October 2, 2011 [7 favorites]

It can be hard for those of us who are bisexual/pansexual/into everything to truly, deeply understand people who are attracted to a smaller subset of things.

That said, he needs to get an empathy reality check. Does he know how you feel about this? How despondent you are?

I also suggest individual therapy and support for you, separate from the support he's getting.
posted by the young rope-rider at 2:24 PM on October 2, 2011 [8 favorites]

He's not even relating to this the way someone who is truly transgender or gender dysphoric would. People do not transition because of their sexual interests or fetishes, they transition because of who they are. Maybe you're not presenting his side very well, but even if he identitfies as something different than strictly male or strictly female, it sounds like this is more of a sex thing for him than anything else.

I don't think this is for us to judge at all. Though it's not terrible accepted among the mainstream medical community, many trans people feel that their gender identity is somewhere on the spectrum between male and female (in my experience, you're more likely to encounter transmen on this spectrum than transwomen, for a variety of reasons--like this youtube vlogger, for one).

That being said, I totally understand your being upset; you have a lot to process right now and absolutely will, at some point, need to mourn what you are losing. The first step toward healing is gathering information. Can you go with your husband to the doctor so that you can ask questions about what T-blockers will do to him, emotionally and physically? You absolutely deserve to be well-informed so that you can decide whether or not you want to move forward in this relationship now that the terms have so drastically changed.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 2:37 PM on October 2, 2011 [5 favorites]

He feels I am not accepting of him and honestly, at this point, I am not. It's selfish of me but I am terrified for myself and what I feel I am "losing".

It's absolutely not selfish of you. That's the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard. You signed up to be married to a man - someone with a penis and without breasts. That was a fundamental part of your expectations going into the marriage. When someone changes radically, they open the possibility that their partner will not wish to adapt to those changes. If someone gains 100 pounds, converts to/from a religion, or changes sex, for instance, an important part of who that person was (attractive, religiously compatible, sexually compatible) changes with them. A marriage is not an agreement to spend your life miserable and unfulfilled because you were once happy with your partner. He's embarked on a journey to be someone different than who you married. If that's not for you, then you owe it to yourself, and to those who would be made unhappy by your unhappiness, to leave and find happiness with someone else.

I don't know if I can "learn to be a little lesbian" as my husband jokingly suggested.

The fact that your husband is joking about something so important and so fundamental is really worrying to me. You can learn to be a little lesbian about as easily as he can learn to give up his desire to have breasts - it ain't gonna happen. You'll both be miserable, he'll feel rejected, and you'll end up cheating on him to be sexually fulfilled. Get out now.
posted by Dasein at 2:47 PM on October 2, 2011 [3 favorites]

You don't care about my view as I have never been through anything like this, but in my view, he is the one being selfish. You did not sign up for this when you got married and he is not considering your feelings at all.

Honestly, if it was me, I would move out today and file for divorce tomorrow.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 2:51 PM on October 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

Hormones without changing your gender identity is a very complicated thing, and your partner's comment about becoming a little lesbian seems cavalier. You should have your own therapist to sort this stuff out.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 2:53 PM on October 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

As a transgendered person I am entering this thread as quietly as possible, partly because I am scared shitless that I am on a trajectory for my wife to post something like this in a few years.

For the OP, the only things I feel qualified to say is that Helen Boyd, author of "She's Not the Man I Married", runs a private Yahoo mailing list for trans partners. She also runs a the MHB (My Husband Betty) message boards for both transfolk and partners. Information about the private mailing list is available on the "Partners Corner" part of the MHB forums.

I know my wife is on the Yahoo list and she has said there are good people there. The (slightly more open) MHB board also has many partners. It is a very welcoming community and there are many posts from both the trans- and partner-perspective.

Second for the OP, I think "She's Not the Man I Married" might be a good read for you, too.

I hope this helps you find your way through what is a difficult journey.
posted by TranSubstantial at 3:07 PM on October 2, 2011 [26 favorites]

It is very, very common for even partners who are fully supportive of a transition to grieve the spouse they are "losing." Hell, I'm bi and if my husband decided he needed to transition to living as a woman, I'd have a very hard time with it. So no, that's not selfish of you at all; that's typical. Also, your husband has to remember that he has had his whole life to get used to this idea, and you've had much less time. For the partner who is finally open about transitioning, it can feel freeing, like everything can finally be "full steam ahead," but for the partner who has just learned, there's often a strong feeling of "AAAA NO PUT ON THE BRAKES WHILE I GET USED TO THIS!" That can also cause a lot of stress.

I'm cis, but I have a lot of friends who have transitioned. Some of them have stayed with their partners during and after transition, some haven't. There is no shame in saying "I'm sorry, but I am not attracted to the idea of a feminine or partially feminine body, and I can't be in a relationship without a sexual attraction." That's not abandoning him; it's just not abandoning yourself. TRANSZack is the blog of a lesbian woman whose spouse is transitioning to a male body, to match his lifelong male identity. He is still early in the transition process, and she is being very frank about her emotions. Reading that might help one or both of you, even though she's more comfortable with the idea than you are.

Best of luck -- and be gentle with yourself. Your feelings are legitimate, and while I understand your husband's excitement, I also understand your concerns.
posted by KathrynT at 3:13 PM on October 2, 2011 [4 favorites]

I am 100% supportive of people finding and following their own sexual path, but your husband has chosen his path regardless of the impact is has on you. I'd be happy for him if he'd just been open and honest enough to tell you that he's decided to go his own way with or without you. You must listen to these good people here who are telling you, with kindness, that your life and your future has value also - you were not created for the purpose of supporting someone else through their difficulties when they couldn't care less whether you're there or not.

You love your husband, which is understandable, but I think you'll need to transition your own feelings now from husband/wife love to very good friend love. The two of you can have a lifelong relationship as a brother and sister might, where each understands and loves the other deeply, but they each lead their own lives and have their own sexual and romantic relationships.

Having been down a similar, but much less dramatic, road, I'd advise you to make the split now instead of continuing to try to figure out what's wrong with you - which is nothing. Your husband is the one with the problem - not because of his sexual identity issues, but because his deepest sort of disrespect toward you comes forth with such a comment - not at all amusing, just an outrage considering what you're going through.

I'd find a new life, begin a new journey, and wish him well. Then get away from the LGBT counselor and find one who can help you recognize your own value without his baggage getting in the way.

I wish you the best.
posted by aryma at 3:32 PM on October 2, 2011 [12 favorites]

Hit the road, anon.
posted by tumid dahlia at 4:18 PM on October 2, 2011 [3 favorites]

You signed up to be married to a man - someone with a penis and without breasts.

I agree with what Dasein says, but let's consider this. Suppose you had signed on to this. Suppose you got married full knowing that your husband was planning on transitioning. Suppose you had explicitly said, "I am okay with this."

Even under that situation? It would be okay for you to change your mind. That wouldn't be selfish of you. It wouldn't be wrong. It would just be you discovering what is best for you -- what meets your needs and helps you find happiness -- and acting on it. (Just as, if your husband had said, "I totally will never change my physical appearance, ever," it would still be okay now for him to realize his path to happiness involves something else.)

It's understandable that you feel guilty, given what you're going through. That doesn't mean you actually are guilty of anything, though. Just as it would be wrong for you to guilt your husband into staying as he is, it is wrong for him to guilt you into the sort of sexual relationship you don't want. Don't let him do that, no matter what you've said or agreed to in the past.
posted by meese at 4:34 PM on October 2, 2011 [11 favorites]

Then get away from the LGBT counselor

aryma, I'm not sure what you mean there; the poster said the couple was seeing "a very GLBT friendly therapist" and I'm not sure sending her to a non-GLBT-friendly therapist is the best advice here. Or am I misreading? I do strongly agree the poster could use her own therapist, apart from her husband, but think finding someone who's actually dealt with these issues sympathetically before - i.e., a "GLBT friendly" therapist - is a wise move.
posted by mediareport at 4:42 PM on October 2, 2011 [3 favorites]

I stayed with my now-ex-boyfriend through his transition. (We broke up later, over separate issues, though we're still good friends.)

But I'm bisexual. I had been out of the closet for quite a while before he and I even met. I'd dated men before. And so when he said "Hey, you thought of me as female when you met me, but pretty soon I'm gonna be looking less and less feminine and more and more masculine," I was in a position to say "Good for you. I bet I'll still be interested in you when that happens. Let's stick together." Turns out I was right, and I was still interested, and we did stick together — at least for a while, until our lives took us in different directions.

And even still it was difficult. I was sad sometimes that I was losing the awesome girlfriend I'd started out with (even though I was gaining an equally awesome — and much happier — boyfriend in the process).

If I were completely straight, I have no doubt that our relationship would have ended as soon as he began to transition. And that would have been a much, much bigger loss. Sounds harsh, but there it is.

So I'm telling you, you are losing something. Not just "losing" with scare quotes. This is a serious loss. It's going to be a serious loss for your husband too — even if you stay with him, he'll have something to mourn as soon as it sinks in that you're really not attracted to women's bodies, not even a little, not even if they have a penis and a masculine pronoun attached.

Sorry to be long-winded. Basically I guess what I'm saying is, you don't need your husband's permission to mourn. The way you feel is okay. It's not your job to change your mind or your feelings to match his new body. I'm sorry the best advice I can give you is "you have permission to be sad and scared," but there it is. At the very least, please don't blame yourself for being upset.
posted by nebulawindphone at 4:54 PM on October 2, 2011 [14 favorites]

As a trans person, I am of the firm (yet somewhat upsetting and controversial) belief that partners are under no obligation to stay with their transitioning lovers. In many ways, transitioning changes crucial parts of the marriage/relationship contract you both agreed to (whether implicit or explicit). You signed up for a marriage with a certain person and expected certain things. You are now no longer with that same person nor are you receiving the things you require.

I applaud you for trying to be open-minded and giving this a shot. I would implore you to seek out individual therapy with someone who is experienced in counselling the T or partners of the T (which may be difficult, so finding someone into general GLBT issues may be the only thing you can find). You are in mourning. You're in mourning for the marriage you imagined with the husband you imagined and the life you imagined. This is completely understandable and you deserve to be upset.

If you still really want to give your marriage a try, I would advise you to try a trial separation to allow your partner to find themselves in their new identity (even though they still identify as male, they are shifting their identity). The first few months of transition are crazy even without changing hormones. Your partner will change and that is going to be scary, but it's what they need. Let them change. Let them find themselves. Let them settle into their new self. Then see if you want to do this again, with whoever they may be.

Again, it's completely okay to be upset and to not be willing to be with him anymore. It does not make you a bad person.
posted by buteo at 5:01 PM on October 2, 2011 [12 favorites]

I feel like you're getting some really mixed advice here, in terms of quality.

Your husband obviously needs to live his life in a way that's true to himself. If he wants to do his best to help the marriage survive what is a major upheaval, he needs to include you in that process. That does not just mean bringing you along to support him; it also means making sure your very real, very legitimate need for information and support are also met.

Feeling like you're in mourning is 100% expected and legitimate. I would expect you to go through all of the stages of grief. You should bring this up in therapy and seek your therapist's support in helping your husband understand this is not a rejection of him and he needs to step up and provide some comfort and reassurance here. Your questions about what will happen (medically, physically and emotionally) should be addressed to your husband's doctor. If there is not room for you in that process, that is a major issue, and again: therapist. I would also seriously consider adding a personal therapist to this mix. It sounds like you really need some compassion here, and are possibly finding it on no fronts.

I really would not presume to tell you to leave this marriage. That is one possible outcome, but there are others. Partnerships can survive enormous upheaval - death of a child, catastrophic injury, incarceration, homelessness - nobody signed up for, and find a new footing. The less obnoxious your spouse is about this journey, the more likely this outcome, but divorce and the end of your sex life is not a foregone conclusion.
posted by DarlingBri at 5:04 PM on October 2, 2011 [6 favorites]

I am very comfortable with the transition your husband is making, yet I think you should get out of this marriage asap.

You can't live like this anymore.

It sounds like every time you get copacetic regarding your husband's interests, desires, and needs - he ups the ante. This is it. Jump off this amusement park ride. What you are describing is not stable for you. You're not judging him, it's just, love isn't this much work.

And if he wants to frame this as being about his transition even though it isn't, let him. I know people like your husband. What he is persuing is exhausting you and provides you no benefit whatsoever.

I wish you the absolute best. There is no bad guy in this. I want you both to be happy. You deserve happiness. It's out there. Go find it.
posted by jbenben at 5:16 PM on October 2, 2011 [4 favorites]

I'm not sure I have any advice, but I do have some ideas for you. A few years ago I read the excellent memoir of Jennifer Finney Boylan, a male to female transsexual. She writes extensively about her marriage and the difficulties faced by her wife throughout the transition. It seems the two are still together, though living as a devoted, but non-sexual couple.

I found this transcript of an interview the two did together with Larry King.

Boylan's memoir might be useful to you, as you gather information about what this will be like for your husband and you, and it might be helpful for you to find stories from other spouses of transsexuals.

Good luck to both of you.
posted by bluedaisy at 6:04 PM on October 2, 2011 [4 favorites]

I'm sorry that you are going through this. I am a post-operative woman who began her transition when she was married. My marriage ended within several months of my transition.

You asked what you can expect. You can expect that, worst case, your husband will become impotent and infertile as he progresses. Several of the things that you have mentioned in your question indicate to me that your husband has not tracked himself to be a complete sex change (i.e "He still views and identifies himself as a man. His ideal end-goal would be the waist-hip ratio and breasts of a woman while maintaining his penis.") It sounds as if he is attracted more to the idea of being a woman more as a fetish object than anything else - but then again I really have no true way of knowing from the short 3rd party account.

SO.... the "good news" here is that men who do the fetish thing and partially transform themselves and I am talking specifically about someone with a transvestite fetish here as opposed to a transgendered person who does want to appear as a woman - rarely go as far as they fantasize. Your husband may not like his becoming impotent and stop things at that point (or he may use viagra in order to have sex) . Your husband is not a transsexual but rather much closer to someone who is taking a fetish to an extreme. For what it is worth I have known couples i that exact situation who have had long marriages.

What should you do? It's up to you. Are you comfortable with your husband presenting that way sometimes? Are you comfortable with that having an impact on your sex life - one in which you will have to make adjustments for? Can you handle all that?

I have no answers to that save to say that, if your husband is reporting honestly to you, he is not a transsexual but rather is pursuing a very different path - on that will have an impact on you but one that will not likely require you to become a "lesbian" nor will it likely result in him having a sex change.

FWIW I was very upfront about my desire to have a complete sex change to my spouse once I was able- through much counseling - to admit that to myself. You may memail me if you have any other questions and you think I might be of help.
posted by Poet_Lariat at 6:37 PM on October 2, 2011 [7 favorites]


When I wrote, "I know people like your husband" I didn't mean transitioning (although I know a few people like that, too!) I meant I know people who's goals, needs, or passions grind down the people that are intimate with them. It's such a weird weird dynamic to find yourself in. You wake one day and you're not yourself anymore because you've spent everything you had on being supportive.

When I re-read that sentence I thought "Oops!" and wanted to clarify.
posted by jbenben at 7:04 PM on October 2, 2011 [4 favorites]

My partner transitioned, female-to-male, starting about 15 years ago? 14 years ago? Something like that. I was a capital-L lesbian at the time we got together. I made my living at a lesbian magazine, it said "lesbian" on my business card, my wardrobe was full of t-shirts that said things like "100% Dyke," I was a performer whose audience was entirely in the lesbian community. Everyone in my life assumed I would leave him.

I don't know why I didn't. Love, I guess.

The transition was hard, partly because he was so happy to have made the decision and eager to move forward, while I, even though I knew he had been thinking about it, was reeling. He wanted me to "catch up" with him, to be happy, and I wanted things to be the way they were before. It was a very hard year for us, because he was pulling toward the future, toward exciting changes, and I was pulling toward the past, toward the stability we'd lost. It rebooted my whole identity--except for him, I'm still primarily attracted to women, but I'm pretty clearly not a lesbian anymore. That was hard for me for a long time, not knowing what I was anymore. But then it got OK--it used to be really important to me to be a lesbian, but now it's OK with me to be something more complicated than that.

The transition kind of took our relationship--our whole lives--apart and put it back together again. Some of the pieces didn't go back together perfectly, and some of them took time. Sex was one that took time; it was probably the last bit to get "right" again. But it got there, eventually.

So, what made it worth it? First, seeing him happy and comfortable in his body. I will always remember the first time we went clothes shopping for him as a man--it was so easy, such a relief after the stress and anxiety he used to have trying to buy women's clothes. Second, there were unexpected benefits for us--we have three kids now, which has made me very happy, and which he says would not have been possible for him before the transition. Third, making it through the transition gave us ridiculously good relationship skills and big big confidence in our ability to handle anything that comes along.

I posted a relationship tip in a thread the other day, about stretching conversations out to day and weeks, having sessions where one person talks and the other just listens, and then we come back together a few days later and do it the other way around. We learned to do this during the transition. If we hadn't, I don't think we'd have made it through--our conversations would have been too freighted, too emotional. Regrettable things would have been said.

We know a lot of trans people and a lot of couples who've dealt with this. For whatever reasons (and I have my theories, all of them completely made-up), we observe that this seems to be easier for couples that start out as two women than for couples that start out opposite sex. And even though my partner and I stayed together and that turned out to be a good thing, that doesn't mean that a couple that doesn't stay together failed. Heck, there might even be a parallel universe me who did leave him, who is writing the parallel universe version of this comment that is all about how good the decision to leave was, how great my life has been since then, because who needs the drama? Which is my way of saying, whatever you decide is OK.

Regarding your mourning: one of the most helpful things anyone said to me during my partner's transition was from a friend who was a social worker on a brain injury rehab unit. She said that "complicated grief," like people experience when a loved one has a life-altering brain injury, can often be harder to deal with than the grief of losing someone to death, because the person is gone, but they're not gone: they're still right in front of you. I definitely felt that. I felt like I had lost the woman I loved but the person I loved was still there, so it was very confusing. It was a big relief just to have someone name that for me, and to know that other people had gone through similar things. Yes, it was hard for my partner to hear that one of the things I was doing was grieving, because he was all about celebrating a new birth. But it was something I had to do.

Back in 1999, I gave a speech about this to a lesbian/gay Quaker group. Here is a link to it in case you want to read more about what the transition was like for me and how we got through it. It's for Quakers, so there's some mild religious language. But it talks some more about our different needs and wants during the transition, and how we ended up dealing with them.

I wish you both the very best. Writing this, I am remembering what a hard time that was for us--for me. I don't know how you and your husband will find your way through this, together or apart, but somehow you will find your way, that much I am sure of.
posted by not that girl at 8:03 PM on October 2, 2011 [47 favorites]

I am despondent and numb. I cry seemingly all the time- which is exceptionally rare for me. I told my husband that I felt as if I were in mourning...

You are mourning, both for the loss of your husband as he was previously, and for the loss of your marriage. You are a woman who chose to be in a heterosexual marriage, and now that marriage will be no more. You could choose to be a woman in a different type of marriage, but it sounds as though that is not what you would voluntary choose given your sexual orientation.

Tell your husband you care for him and support him. Try to remain a close friend if he will allow you to be one. Leave your marriage. It's gone, past history. Start the divorce.

Your husband has chosen to embrace who he feels he is. You, too, need to embrace who you are.
posted by BlueHorse at 8:53 PM on October 2, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm really very surprised that he has obtained a prescription for T-blockers (and expects to obtain one for estrogen) given everything else you say. I wonder if he's telling you and his doctor the same thing.

I was in a relationship when I began transition, although we weren't married. She ended it and I was very upset at the time, but being honest I knew we couldn't stay together and I should have ended it myself: I hurt her and myself. Excuses: yeah, I had a lot to deal with, transition and all, but it's on my list of stuff I would do differently if it was magically fifteen years ago again.

We're still friends now.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 12:18 AM on October 3, 2011 [2 favorites]

Leave him, this is his journey, not yours.
posted by joannemullen at 2:45 AM on October 3, 2011

Your husband, of course, has a right to live his life however he wants, and as whomever he wants. If this is what he needs to do, you should give him your full support.

Your full support, however, does not necessarily means staying in this marriage. And, honestly, I'm a little baffled as to why you would even consider it. I can only speak for myself, but if my SO decided to change her body into a man's body, I would end the relationship without hesitation. Because I'm a straight male, and I'm not attracted to men. It doesn't make you bigoted or transphobic if you decide that you don't want to be in a marriage with somebody whose body does not match the gender you're attracted to.
posted by Ragged Richard at 10:29 AM on October 3, 2011

Contrary to some of the answers you're getting here, I would offer this:

I am not attracted to amputees. I realise some people have a real fetish for that, but I just don't. I am not wired with that attraction pathway. I do, however, love and fancy the pants off my husband, in way that is much bigger than gender or beauty or body arrangement. Those are general preferences; my preference for my partner is very specific and very individual. Were he to loose both legs in an accident, there is no way I'd say "I'm sorry, it's just not for me" and leave. The concept isn't for me, but applied to him individually, I'm pretty sure I could make it work. I would at least try.
posted by DarlingBri at 1:15 PM on October 3, 2011 [2 favorites]

My first serious boyfriend (didn't start dating until I was 20) was a bisexual male who was very open about his intention to someday transition to female and experience life from the other side. It was something I had difficulty with, not because I couldn't support him, but because the way he focused on it made me feel... irrelevant to his lifestyle?

He encouraged me to experiment with bisexuality, so that he wouldn't have to feel guilty about his own sexuality. He encouraged me to explore open relationships because he didn't want to have to hide his flings with other people. He did a number of things in the same vein that eventually clued me in to the fact that everything was about him. His needs, his wants, his life. My initial "but what about me" reaction turned out to be the correct one.

We eventually parted ways because I refused to change my mind about not wanting children. A decade later he found me online and told me that since his wife had given him a son, she has served her purpose and we could be together again. I've never found it so easy to say no to anyone in my life.

All that said. My ex's sexual identity was just a small part of the extraordinarily selfish and self centered man he truly was. Even his desire to transition had nothing to do with wanting to be a woman, aside from thinking that he would have even more potential conquests as one.

Set aside any fears of perceived transphobia, or any thoughts of being a bad wife and look at your husband's attitude toward your feelings. Bring it up in therapy (or schedule an individual appointment to discuss the relationship with the therapist) and honestly evaluate whether the *person* you are married to is someone that you can be happy with, who cares about your happiness as well as their own. Also, talk about the therapist about what their goals are in counseling you as a couple. If their intention is to help you accept hubby's life decision, rather than helping you cope with the changes (if the distinction makes sense to anyone but me) look at finding another therapist.
posted by myShanon at 2:02 AM on October 4, 2011 [2 favorites]

The father of someone I knew well, transitioned.

It had not been a good relationship before the transition, 'Bobby' was very abusive to his wife, but frankly, his wife had been through so much, and still loved him, that it seemed very likely she'd be willing to be with 'her' as well - but then, 'Bobbi' started hormones.
His smell changed, and his/her wife (a heterosexual female) was not attracted to Bobbi. That was it - she could deal with the change in appearance, but not the fundamental change in how she smelled, that was the step that made Bobbi seem like another person.

This was, frankly a good thing in their case. The wife (mother) was finally able to leave. Changing from Bobby to Bobbi didn't make her any less abusive, just changed some of the tactics.

I have heaps of gay, and trans friends, and about the best you can say about Bobbi is that he wanted to be a woman, and succeeded at 14 year old girl (maybe).

But yeah, he was pathologically narcissistic, so it's not a similar situation, I just wanted to give you a heads up about the 'smell' situation. Hormones don't just affect your appearance, they affect your body - you whole body, mind, smell, emotions, included.

Good luck in whatever happens.
posted by Elysum at 3:16 AM on October 6, 2011

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