Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The Luckiest

"I don't get many things right the first time
In fact, I am told that a lot
Now I know all the wrong turns, the stumbles and falls
Brought me here"
- Ben Folds, The Luckiest

So about a week and a half ago I bought a very nice skirt for myself at Ann Taylor Loft (where both I and my wife love to shop). It was a skirt I'd wanted for months, but I couldn't bring myself to spend list price. Patience paid off - I found it in the sale rack for $15 US! Because our life was filled with a lot of events, though, it took me a few days to let my wife know about it.

The other night we're lying in bed and she turns to me. "That skirt you bought for yourself?" she started.

"Yes," I said.

"It's very pretty."

I was in a combination of shock and happiness. I don't know why I'm shocked by these comments now - it's not the first time she's said that - except that after all those years of lying and hiding and living in fear I am so surprised when my love lets me know she likes a purchase of female clothing I buy for myself. It's such a small and stupid thing, but her approval means the world to me!

So anyway, these conversations don't just end there. I never know what to expect except that I will be surprised by how much love she will show me, and this night was no exception. She used to tell me that my being trans doomed us to a life where one or the other of us would always be sad, but tonight she said that she thinks she's getting over the sad feeling. Of course, given that I'm not out to our kids, and they're home the times that I am, I haven't had an opportunity to fully dress and go around the house like I'd like, so there is the likelihood that not seeing it for a while has put enough distance, and that the next time I do dress it will evoke that sadness, but perhaps not. (BTW, she feels bad that I don't get those opportunities these days.)

The next thing she said that she was shocked at first to learn that even when I'm dressed or feeling feminine that I love her very much. It bothered her because it caused her to think about her sexuality when she perceives me as female. Now she realizes that it was silly for her to think that - and that she would be even more bothered if I wanted someone else (or a man). What was amazing is that she accepts me for how I feel inside, not necessarily how she sees me outside.

But then the most amazing statement - she said that she really wants to love me even when I am dressed, and she's going to work towards that, but she's not sure when or if she ever will get there. She is concerned about her sexuality, both how she feels about it and her perception of it. If I present as female and she loves me does that make her bisexual?

I think this is such a big question for many wives who try to accept their transgendered spouses, and how they can deal with their spouse and both the internal and external perceptions of their own sexuality can be a deal-breaker for a lot of marriages. There are now books that touch on this (it's a big portion of Helen Boyd's book She's Not the Man I Married, and it's also discussed in some of the essays in Virginia Erhardt's book Head Over Heels).

What blew me away was that she's wants to make me so happy she's willing to try and reach out to me in my feminine state. It means she's trying to focus on the core of me that's unchanging and getting beyond the physical. She understands that I'm middle path and that it could mean that someday I could decide that I'll transition to a full-time female. In fact, I'm sure that her fear is that I'm holding back deciding to transition because of how she would feel and react. The truth is that I'm not willing to commit either way on transition for more than just her feelings (although her feelings do factor into it a good deal). But that's another discussion.

(One thing I wonder is that women in our society are raised to be more giving towards their husbands. This was a recurring theme in Head Over Heels, and I'm sure it plays a part in how she's dealing with this. But her parents divorced when she was young, and we're not at a place where if we were to get a divorce she is not worried about the kids any more. Of course, economics and inertia also do come into play here, but I don't think that would be enough to keep her here. I am convinced if she really was unhappy with me it would be over.)

She also asked me if I wanted to come out to our kids or to my siblings. I told her that I think the timing's wrong for the kids and that I don't really care about coming out to my siblings either way. I would love to come out to the kids because I'm sick of the hiding and the secrets. In fact, I told my wife that I feel bad that the situation makes her have to join me in keeping the secret. She understands this.

"Next door there's an old man who lived to his nineties
And one day passed away in his sleep
And his wife; she stayed for a couple of days
And passed away
I'm sorry, I know that's a strange way to tell you that I know we belong"
- Ben Folds, The Luckiest

I think what's really helped my situation with my wife is partly that I've been patient and listened to how she was reacting to my revelation. She did have 12 years of thinking about it (when she had discovered me before I went into denial) so it wasn't a total shock, but that she has accepted it as much as she has is really a shock to her. That she'd even stay with me through a transition is even more surprising. I haven't really pushed things like going out as much as I'd like to, or even as hard as I was early on (but by pushing I did get push-back which helped me to understand better how she feels).

I can't take all the credit - coming out a couple of weeks before your youngest child shows you he's cutting himself and had planned his suicide probably did as much for the acceptance and communication than any action I did take. But I have made it clear to my wife that she is the most important person in my life, and that I'm going to do things to try to make her life better and happier, and that I love her so much more than she realized.

If there is any lesson here, it's that how you treat your wife - with respect, dignity, patience, and love - helps, but that you can't discount timing or luck, either.

"I am, I am, I am the luckiest."
- Ben Folds, The Luckiest