The Talk

The sun was setting as we sat in the dining room following dinner. Dishes away, kids watching TV, my love looking tired but so adorable as she outlined possibilities for a late summer family vacation.


Just hours earlier, she shared with me the journal she had started, detailing her feelings about her slowly dissolving marriage to me and my burgeoning transition. She wrote eloquently about trying to contend with the woman within me and the life she wished for but could not have. I cried over nearly every line as she poured out her pain, sentence by sentence, and I could read between the lines the life sentence that was about to be pronounced: exile from my home, isolation from my children, separation from the love of my life.

So I asked her, point blank: “Vacation? Together? Great! After reading your journal I have to say, I’m pleasantly surprised.”

And that was the last time I’ve used or thought of anything “pleasant.” We talked for so many hours about our long-term future that the room grew dark, neither of us getting up to turn on the light, sort of a metaphor for our marriage. Somehow we segued into how I was “covering,” the way an Alzheimer’s patient pretends to connect the dots but is truly lost in dementia. “Covering” my femininity.

She accused me of having already transitioned in my mind. A smile unbidden crossed my face, because I sense it, too. Totally? Nah. But it’s close.

We argued. I tried to negotiate. Fruitless. We both cried. Both of us are heartbroken. I begged her not to make this official until we spoke with our counselor tomorrow. That I wanted us to be together forever.

“As ‘Dawn'” she said, finishing my unspoken thought. “Not happening.”

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Before I showered for work, I undressed and she insulted me one last time about how my body appeared to have already transitioned, calling me “disgusting.” Should have seen that one coming.

At least the streaks of my tears were washed away by the hot water.

This morning, we spoke once more by phone, and she apologized for being so mean, which she also did last night, but this time was different in tone. She said she understood that she was asking me to do something she would not, that she is asking me to make a sacrifice she won’t make. And that this was unfair.

I cried as I told her, I just cannot bear the thought of being apart from her, from our children, from our home. “I can’t go into exile,” I said, from behind a voice cracking with emotion. “I have to go,” and hung up.

And I feel like “going” is exactly what is happening. Against my will. But like so many others before me, what choice do I really have?

I’ve never figured myself to be an “Occupy” squatter.

3 thoughts on “The Talk

  1. This is bringing tears to my eyes. It sounds so familiar, brings up so many still raw emotions. A partner who finds herself suddenly and unexpectedly in a relationship with someone who is on the edge of a gender transition is faced with an incredible challenge and massive, conflicting emotions. On the one hand, they never signed up for THIS. On the other, if they understand this as a medical condition and not as a choice, would they leave us if we were afflicted by other life-altering conditions? Two very polar ways to look at this, and I don’t think either is invalid.

    Good luck with therapy. May it be the doorway to calm, open communication between you both and a conduit to greater mutual understanding. I hope you two find a way to stay together. I would so much like to envy that you were able to do this where I was not. I’d much rather that than to commiserate about our losses together.



  2. Dawn,

    Sadly, this is all too common in how these relationships end up. Faced with ‘loosing it all’ is a huge challenge. Both of you are going to experience many more hours of tears, anger, regret, sense of loss, longing for reconciliation, and yes even some hatred. And then, you’ll begin the healing process.

    What Stacey said above is exactly true, “On the one hand, they never signed up for THIS.” Much concern is necessary to show and must be given from you toward her in this regard. Even though, as Stacey also said, “On the other, if they understand this as a medical condition and not as a choice, would they leave us if we were afflicted by other life-altering conditions?” , this is also true, to a point.

    I have known of spouses to leave a relationship because their partner contracted cancer, or even Alzheimer’s, or some other anomaly. Because yours may be transsexualism is no different. Yet it is. Some people are simply ill-equipped to handle some issues. Especially when those issues are not well understood by a larger public, and what IS more widely known is representative of a highly charged, politicized and social deconstructing movement. It’s hard to gain sympathy and consoling understanding from family and friends who have their impressions of what ‘transgender’ represents. This is why transsexualism needs to be NOT associated to the transgender movement.

    In any case, yet again, sometimes where you are at now it is only a part of the process. Sometimes a spouse will react negatively initially, wishing only to escape. It’s like being trapped under water for too long, searching, fighting for any way possible to reach the surface for air. Once they’ve found space to ‘breath’ for a bit, over time they begin to develop their own understanding of what you are going through. They may even eventually start to come to terms with it. The concept of ‘affording time’; time without pressure and a willingness to accommodate their slowness to accept is what it takes to allow this to work out.

    I wish you and your spouse much success, and peace in the challenges you are now set to face.



  3. I have been thinking about this post for a long time. Trying to respond with something compassionate and hopeful. On the other hand, I don’t want to see you dancing on a high only to come down and crash because I promised you some flowery illusion. What I can offer you is that I have been there myself, and you know what my outcome. What you shared here brought back so many memories of times when I wasn’t so hopeful. Your spouse snapping out at you then apologizing later sounds very familiar. You have no idea how much I would like to share with you, “This is how I did it”, and have it work for you and your spouse. The difference is that you and your spouse are one couple, and me and my spouse are another. While couples staying together through transition and out the other side are indeed rare, it’s not impossible. As hopeful as I am for my sisters though, I have to be realistic and understand that not everyone is capable of handling something of this intensity. Just the same, I wish you and your spouse the best. Hang tough sis!



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