My husband wants to be a woman. But will he be happier?
The question My husband and I have been together for more than 20 years. We jog along together, but there had always been an underlying unease. Sex was initially a bit tentative, but then became something to be avoided. We now have separate rooms and live in different areas of the house. He finds sharing anything personal very difficult – even to the point of not sharing with me details of his mother’s 80th birthday party!.
He has a fervent wish to transition into a woman. I find this a little difficult. I believe that men cannot simply become women by chopping off the part of their anatomy that they feel defines their manhood, then adding silicone to their chests. Plus, I think many men in this situation risk becoming an object of ridicule, overt or otherwise. Dressing up is one thing, defying nature in such a permanent fashion quite another. I fear for his future life – will having surgery and taking pills to become a trans person actually make him any happier or will being out in the world become even more difficult ?
We live in a tiny village, and he goes away at intervals to be his alter ego. I had never envisaged being married to a woman, but that might be the future, although referrals to gender clinics take years to come about. I long ago gave up any hope of a sex life, but so long as he continues with his share of the chores I think I can accept whatever the future holds. What he wears, or the lack of a willy, won’t change my life very much.
Philippa’s answer You have written to a problem page, but you haven’t overtly outlined your problem. If you would like support as a partner of a transgender person, this may be a good starting point: transgenderpartners.com.
What I notice about your email is that you have told me about your husband, but not about yourself. Yet, reading between the lines, I do get an idea of you and what might be your concern. You are existing in a marriage that, at best, is “jogging along”, and you seem to accept this is good enough. I’m all for not having too high an expectation of marriage, but I think you may be taking low expectations to a new nadir. You appear to be separated in all but name. By the end of your email you seem to have talked yourself round to continuing with this status quo, even if your marriage diminishes further.
Whatever your husband’s problem is, he has come up with his own answer to it. He has not written to me, but you have, so whether I think his solution is a great idea or not is not the point. So many of us find it more comfortable to ruminate about the other person in a relationship, rather than look at how we ourselves are contributing to how we feel. When you concentrate on your husband, it works as a deflection away from you and your feelings and your needs. You do not say you are angry or fearful, but I have an inkling that it may have been your anger and fear that prompted you to write to me. You talk of your fear for your husband’s future happiness and this means you care for him, but I also wonder whether more of the fear is for yourself. I think you may be frightened of becoming even more lonely.
Your needs are as valid as your husband’s. Could you voice these?
You gave up hope for a sex life. Your word “hope” breaks my heart a bit. It seems to represent that you have a need that is not being met. It is so normal in some cultures that an individual person’s – probably more especially a woman’s – needs are treated as irrelevant. But I would argue that your own needs do matter as well. Your relational needs, your wishes, hopes and dreams are as valid as your husband’s. Could you dare to voice these to yourself? Can you imagine considering risking what you have now for the possibility that there might be something more for you out there? I’m not saying you should leave the marriage, I’m just noticing it is an option you don’t seem to be considering and I’m wondering what makes you stay.
Ruminating around your husband’s life as a trans person and concentrating on the politics of transgenderism works as a distraction from you and your life and the decisions you need to make. You are subjugating your own needs.
I’m worried that you are only seeing your life as being part of your spouse’s. Your husband is becoming someone you did not sign up for and whatever journey he is on he doesn’t seem to make you a priority in it. You “think” you can accept what your future holds, but why not try to shape that future to include love, companionship, sex and fun? Rather than continuing to get your head around what your husband is doing, put your energy into who you are. Focus on you and take the spotlight away from who you are in relation to him. After all, he doesn’t appear to be seeing his identity in relation to you.
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