Monday, May 14, 2007

Newsweek - A good article

The cover of this week's issue of Newsweek magazine is focused on gender issues, specifically transgender issues. This is real progress for us. I thought the articles were well-written and quite interesting (and I'm including those on the web as well).

My only complaint is that there are too few examples of non-transsexual transgendered people. At first I felt like it's a Newsweek problem, but on reflection I have to say that perhaps it's more of an "us" problem.

Let me use myself as an example. I'm pretty well closeted. I'm transgendered, closer to a cross-dresser than a transsexual (but I really don't think either of those labels applies to me - I identify strongly with the feminine as well as the masculine). Trying to find an out cross-dresser is tough. There are a few role models (such as Alice Novic and Eddie Izzard) but for the most part we're so terrified that we keep ourselves hidden.

Now, I do also think we scare people. We cross the line many times, and we unnerve people by this. And there's the Hollywood images of us as scary psychopaths.

So why, then, don't I rush out of the closet? It's simple, really. I am not ready. I have a wife who is not ready. I am not out to my kids, and the last thing I want to happen is for them to discover this about me by some third-hand mechanism.

So do I want to come out some day? Yes! I want to get beyond the fear. I long for the day I can present myself as how I feel, not just as the way everyone knows me. I want that personal confidence to be present.

*Sigh* Someday.

Thank you again, Newsweek, for the start. We need to take it further.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Married but Transgendered

I am a transgendered person who came out to her wife last year after 20+ years of marriage (actually, I was originally discovered by my wife in the early 1990's, but I spent a good part of the time afterwards in denial of my transgendered identity). I spent a lot of years suffering with fear and shame about being transgendered and avoiding the Big Questions (Am I really transsexual? Am I a fetish cross-dresser? Stuff like that).

I accepted myself last year and had developed a one-year plan for coming out. If I had stuck to my plan then my wife would still be in the dark about who and what I really am. My reasons were two-fold: 1) our youngest child would be entering college then, and he's been a lot of work for both of us to manage because he has some issues that are very tough for a teenager to deal with - by putting it off until then my wife wouldn't have to deal with this on top of that; and 2) it would give me time to do more research and also to understand myself and be able to better answer her questions.

There was also an unrealized third reason: I was convinced my marriage would end when I finally came out and told her the truth about me. When she had discovered me she almost threw me out of the house then - only by going into denial did I feel I salvaged the marriage. I had to be at a point where I could accept that I could not change and that she might not accept me as I am before I could come out.

Fortunately, only a scant few days into my one-year plan my wife came out and asked me if I still think about dressing. I hesitated for a second, then I realized that I had to tell the truth, so I did, fully believing that I was going to be looking for a hotel that evening. Let me tell you it has not been easy, but it has gone down a road that I did not think possible - she accepts me, even though it is one of the hardest things she's ever had to do. She has even bought me clothes and made me jewelery (some of the prettiest earrings and bracelets I ever did see!).

But she also cries a lot about this. She is torn by this. Her ideal man is a manly, masculine person, hair all over, muscles, the works. In short, a hunk. That is not me. But I said she's torn because some of my personality traits are what drew her to me - how I didn't force myself on her like some other guys did, and my nurturing nature that has helped encourage her to find out what she would love to do and taking care of the kids, and other aspects that are normally associated with the feminine side. But she cries a lot, and I know this.

I've spent a lot of time since then trying to understand what a wife goes through when her husband says I'm transgendered. This led me to the book My Husband Betty by Helen Boyd (and to Helen's blog and online discussion groups as well). This is a great book for the spouse of a transgendered person to read - it's very well researched and it's very honest. Her latest book, She's Not the Man I Married, is a much more personal book that details how Helen and Betty have coped with Betty's realization of how much further down the slippery slope she had to go and the changes it caused in their relationship, both in private and publicly - to me the book is ultimately a love story about the two of them.

Another book I read is Peggy Rudd's My Husband Wears My Clothes, which is another good book about dealing with a cross-dressing husband (Peggy and Melanie (her husband) were featured on the episode of the Women's Entertainment Television show Secret Lives of Women entitled "Married to Cross-Dressers").

A new entry into this area (that I'm reading right now) is the book Head Over Heels: Wives Who Stay with Cross-Dressers and Transsexuals by Dr. Virginia Erhardt. I'm not finished with it yet, but this is a gold mine for the spouse of a transgenderd person. It contains stories written by 28 spouses about their experience dealing with all aspects of transgenderism - from those who have a husband who cross-dresses occasionally, those whose husbands have become women and had Sexual Reassignment Surgery (SRS), and lots of other stories in this vein. This is a very hard read for a person in my shoes (heeled or otherwise) as these wives are very open as to how they struggled to handle their spouse's relvelations and the consequences for them. "Struggled" is the key word - very few of these women find it easy to embrace this in their husbands (as if you would expect otherwise?).

(One other place I would like to mention is also Annie Rushden's blog Garden's in Bloom about her life with her husband James who is transitioning to Claire. This is another fantastic love story involving a transgendered marriage!)

What's amazing about all this is you discover that coming out as a transgendered person is not necessarily a death sentence for a marriage. I'm not going to sugar-coat this and say that staying with a transgendered spouse is the norm (especially in a world where the divorce rate for all marriages is over 50 percent), but there is hope in all of these stories. I realize that love alone is not enough to keep a marriage together, but other forces that come into play (economic issues, comfort, pragmatics, and external appearances are part of it as well). I know in my own case it's some combination of these and more, but love is the biggest part of what keeps us together.

In our relationship we're realistic - there could come a day where something happens and it's just not good for us to be together. But we both want to make it work, and sometimes that's the key to making it work. I do love her so much, and she has shown me so much love and kindness.

There are other issues that I'll address - such as religious views and our marriage, perceptions internal and external, societal and family concerns and the like - but this is more just setting the situation as I describe our life together.

Dear, I love you!

Monday, May 7, 2007

Essay: A Woman in Progress

I wrote this back in December, and I thought in honor of Christine Daniel's blog about her coming out (called Woman In Progress: Christine Daniel's on Life Changes Big & Small) I would repost it here. I have updated it a little to better reflect my feelings now.


A Woman in Progress (Version 2.0)

I am a woman in progress. I am not a finished product by any stretch of the imagination. I have so far that I have to travel, but I am greatful to be on the road of discovery than on the road of denial and fear.

I am a woman in progress. Sometimes I think about how far I have to go, of the people who would hurt because of me, either due to stupid mistakes I make, or insensitivity, or even because of who I am, and I just feel so sad. But if I make someone smile I can find a way out of those moments.

I am a woman in progress. The trek is discovering how to map the discontinuity between my body and my mind. I'm not complaining - the body I was given is part of me, as is the essence of my personality. They may not be in sync, but that is my special challenge in life. And to let the people who love me know that the essence of who I am is still me - I really haven't changed that much, except that I understand myself a little better, and I need to express it with the world. But to those who know I have changed quite a bit, and I understand and appreciate this.

I am a woman in progress. I don't know if I'll ever be a finished product, but I cannot stop this trip. I cannot help being who I am - I have no choice in this, so better to enjoy the journey, even if the destination is not clear. When I can be the female me and not worry about the rest of the world, even if only for a few minutes, then there is a feeling of contentment and peace that comes over me.

I am a woman in progress. I am amazed at the other people I have met on this trek - some of the most amazing people you would ever meet. Some are very strong, some not. Shome are very happy, some not. Some are rich, some poor, most in-between. All are on paths like me, and they are my sisters and brothers, and I am their sister. And I love you all.

I am a woman in progress, but I am also a creature of my past. My past includes much lonliness and fear, because I was ashamed of letting others know this side of me. I wish I could have been stronger earlier; perhaps I would have caused less pain in others as I would have caused less pain to myself.

I am a woman in progress.

I am me.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Old Mike, New Christine

I was absolutely blown away by the news that Mike Penner was transitioning to Christine Daniels. This is such an awesome thing for her to be going through, and such a brave step to take. And I've been floored by the comments on her blog (Woman in Progress) about her coming out.

There's hope that we can find acceptance from strangers for our situation. Being transgendered is not a choice. For some, that goes all the way through to needing Sexual Reassignment Surgery (SRS), for others it's just the need to dress, for a third it's Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT). And other stops in the spectrum.

For too long the fear and shame of saying "I am transgendered" has been prevalent in our community. Web sites like Remembering Our Dead, while very important, become almost defining for us at times. This is very vital for our community, but all communities need to remember those who gave their lives in the name of expressing their beliefs. My point is that transgendered community needs to now start getting to the level where a transgendered person doesn't feel like they need to apologize for who or what they are. Some of us are confused about this (I know I am).

What I love about Christine's blog is that she is definitely celebrating her transition. She is moving forward in her life, becoming the person she has always felt she has been. God love her for that. And God love others in different situations who find the strength to live their convictions in a free and positive light.

You go, Christine!


While I'm working on my website (Coming Out Trans) I thought I should also find an avenue to write about what I think about topics, transgendered or otherwise. So here goes...

About me: I am a transgendered person in my mid-to-late 40's, for the most part closeted. Most of the time you will see me as a married father of two college-age people (I can't call them children anymore, but they are my kids and I love them to pieces and am so proud of them). My wife is the most wonderfully accepting woman in the world who is struggling to figure out how to deal with this fact. We've been married over twenty years, and while she had discovered my trans-ness in the early 1990's it wasn't until 2006 that I gave in and accepted that I was transgendered and came out to her in the fall of that year.

Our youngest child, our son, is also suffering from depression which in the past has made him suicidal but he is doing a lot better these days. He came out about his depression a couple of weeks after I came out about being transgendered to my wife, so my wife had a really rough year. Oh, my kids do not know that I am transgendered, and we're not sure when is the best time to tell them, if ever.

I've also been active online since I accepted myself as transgendered and have made a lot of good friends through various on-line forums for others like myself.

Because of my situation I am extra interested in the plight of spouses of transgendered people (such as my wife). I think it's an underserved group that could benefit from a much better support structure than currently exists. I describe the coming out process to a wife as a small change for us but the equivalent of dropping a bombshell on them. We transgendered people have struggled with this all our lives, so coming out to someone represents overcoming our shame and fear and getting to a level of trust that we're exposing something so personal. But the receiver (our wife), who may have no inkling, finds their whole world turned upside-down. My heart goes out for all of those wives who have gone through this, and I am awed by the number of women who choose to stay with their spouse despite this.

Anyway, thanks for listening. I will have more to say about things here; perhaps some of it will be coherent, and even useful.