My husband is growing breasts

Husband on Hormones

“Hiiiiii, Hank!”

I was bicycling through Union Square when an effeminate man who looked vaguely familiar accosted me.

“Look at my sparkly new nail polish,” he crowed, extending his fingernails toward me. “I love Macy’s!”

“Very nice,” I agreed. “Goes with your eyeshadow.”

“Matthew?” I ventured a guess. “Is that you?”

Matthew is the husband of my Filipina friend Rosita; both are computer nerds. I went to their wedding a year ago. The Matthew I know is a frumpy conservative; his personality is the antithesis of this giddy femme.

“Matthew was a bore!” laughed the extravagance before me. “Nowadays, I’m ‘Soledad’!”

My head began to bobble. This was like Bill Gates turning into RuPaul.

“S-S-Soledad?” I stuttered. “Gosh, are you a drag queen now?”

“No!” He announced. “Even better! Hooray! I’m transgender!”

I stood there, blinking spasmodically, like a Macintosh about to crash.

Transgender? I knew Matthew as a gray-suited, black-tied engineer; but now he wants to cut his genitalia off, get new plumbing, grow breasts and become a woman?

“You’re married!” I babbled, finally. “What’s Rosita think about this?”

“Matthew?” I asked. “I mean, Soledad? Can I ask you some intimate questions?”

“Of course,” he replied. “I’ve been so happy; I want to tell the world.”

“What happened to you? I mean, how did you decide that you wanted to switch? Do this male-to-female thing?”

“All my life, I’ve never been comfortable,” he responded. “Whenever I looked in a mirror, even as a child, I wanted to see someone female staring back at me.”

“I wanted to see Godzilla,” I replied. “Somebody mean and strong.”

“So… I started reading,” he continued, ignoring me. “Books about sexuality, theories about gender. I wanted to find out why I felt the way I did. Six months ago I was in the middle of Gender Outlaw by the local writer Kate Bornstein; suddenly it clicked: I realized who I was.”

Scary, I decided. I’ll avoid those powerful pages…

“Not much left now,” he cooed. “It’s going bye-bye really fast. We’ll have to adopt.”

“Really?” I queried. “You’re on hormones? They’re killing the sperm?”

“Of course I’m on hormones,” he frowned. “Can’t you tell?”

“Your breasts do seem to be coming in,” I lied, generously. Truth is, I couldn’t see any bulges underneath his baggy sweater.

Matthew/Soledad glared at me, arching his recently plucked eyebrows. Then he suggested, coquettishly, “Want to see my breasts?”

“Yeah, totally,” I agreed.

Exuberantly, Matthew/Soledad pulled off his sweater, right there on the corner of Powell and Post.

I stared, slack-jawed. at the small but definitely budding mounds on his transforming torso.

“OK,” I cried, nervously. “That’s enough — you’re too cute!”

Soledad proudly put her sweater back on, a satisfied gleam in her eye.

“Hormones:” I asked, when I recovered from my embarrassing thrill. “Do they eliminate facial hair? You’re very smooth.”

“Thanks!” Soledad replied. “But that’s mostly due to electrolysis.”

“What about genitalia?” I continued. “Hormones change that?”

“Absolutely,” she smiled. “I lost my pubic hair, and my testicles now look like a 9-year-old boy’s.”

“Congrats,” I shivered. I’m thinking: a MAN who wants his organ size REDUCED?? That’s a new one…

“What about the final operation?” I asked. “Doesn’t that cost a fortune?”

“Oh!” I exclaimed. “Got it!”

“Without ‘depth’ it’s less dangerous, less expensive: $6,000 – $8,000. That’s what we’re thinking of doing.”

“Fantastic. Good choice.”

“There’s Rosita!” Soledad waved cheerily at his wife — I mean, *her* wife — crossing the street, walking toward us.

I gave Rosita a hug — she’s a makeup-free, blunt-spoken woman, with none of her spouse’s newly acquired flamboyance.

“Congratulations!” I kidded her. “You’re going to be a dyke again.”

“No!” She disagreed. “You’re wrong.”

“But, but…” I sputtered. “Soledad’s a woman now.”

“Hey!” I encouraged her. “Soledad’s got great lips, nice eyes. She’s going to be a gorgeous girl.”

“I’m not tall, but my shoulders are rather broad and my hands are big,” Soledad fretted.

“Stop it,” I demanded. “You’ve got good legs, too, and thanks for the breasts.”

Rosita rolled her eyes.

That night, lying in bed with my wife, I asked her, “Hey, honey: would you divorce me if I got a sex-change operation?”

Carol frowned. “You’re a passable man,” she stated. “But as a woman? Not good.”

“Why?” I pestered her. “Why? Why? Why?”

“You’re too tall,” she replied. “And your face is bony; you’d be hideous.”

“You’re a ‘heightist’!” I whimpered. “And a ‘lookist’! You don’t love the real me inside. You just love my male physique!”

“Hardly.” My wife yawned. “You wish.”

Hank Hyena, a.k.a. Hank Pellissier, is a frequent contributor to Salon Magazine. He has taught “Subversive Humor” at New College of California, and he’ll be teaching “Comic Monologues” at UC Berkeley Extension next year. This August, he’ll be producing a DADA Festival in his theater, the Grasshopper Palace.

Photo: Getty Images

New York’s “Sex Diaries” series asks anonymous city dwellers to record a week in their sex lives — with comic, tragic, often sexy, and always revealing results. This week, a 22-year-old gallerist, bisexual, Harlem.

DAY ONE

12 a.m. In bed alone, on my third glass of wine. I work at an art gallery, and sometimes the days leading up to an exhibition opening almost break me. Today was more than enough to make me forgo the gym in favor of the trifecta: Mad Men (I know, I’m late), red wine, and TJ’s dark-chocolate-salted almonds.

12:10 a.m. Wes just called and we caught up on our days — he is 23 and in politics — and lazily talked about what we’d do to each other if we were in the same bed. We were a couple for almost two years pre-trans, but he never looked like a woman. Quite androgynous. He didn’t come out to me until about four months ago, after he had a series of revelations about his gender. He wasn’t out as trans to himself or anyone else. It’s all much hotter now – better orgasms, nice toys, and we really know each other’s bodies. I balance my glass of wine on my belly button and talk to him while he touches himself.

1:15 a.m. I come back from the bathroom and spot my neighbor across the alley, a few floors down. He’s sorting his laundry, totally naked. It makes me miss Wes. I feel a little voyeuristic, but also he’s the one without curtains on his bedroom windows. An image pops into my head of myself holding up a T-Swift-style sign at my bedroom window. Lol. Good night.

9:07 a.m. I’ve slept through my alarm for the first time in so long. Fuck. Somehow manage to shower, find my black bra, put on stockings-boots-dress and run some leave-in conditioner through my hair. It’ll do. I pack my perfume and makeup with my lunch and run across Harlem to the train.

11:18 a.m. I open Wes’s morning Snapchats: one in bed, fuzzy and cute. Another right after he did his hair. I love these little moments in my day when he makes me feel all warm inside just from a selfie. Especially when I’m stressed – and everything that could go wrong IS going wrong, and all I want to do is rub one out so I can calm down – it’s just nice to see his face.

6:35 p.m. Opening is in full swing. It always looks effortless after all the work is done. Two glasses of wine in, and I’m already feeling loose, horny, but more stressed than before. I think I’m just all pent up.

9:15 p.m. Wes and I are in the ladies’ room of my favorite midtown restaurant, and he has me pinned up against the wall. He reaches up my dress and kisses me hard. That feeling of fingers grazing your V over your panties … there’s something so high-school thrilling about it. I love it, but we can’t disappear from our friends for too long. He thinks I’m uptight, and really I am, but I don’t like thinking about people wondering where we are. Before we leave the bathroom he smiles and says, “I shouldn’t even be in here.”

10:00 p.m. I wish his friends knew he was trans. Maybe there’s something selfish about this, but it’s hard that they still don’t know. One of our best friends uses a lot of gendered phrases and shit, which I didn’t fully notice before, but now it irks me. I think the day is coming soon, though. Wes was just approved for Androgel on Monday.

11:50 p.m. Passing out in bed alone. Missed the crosstown bus by one literal second, so I paid for a $9 cab. Too tired even for porn.

DAY TWO

8:56 a.m. Overslept again. Christ. Brush teeth, coffee, go. Guess yesterday’s makeup will do.

9:30 a.m. The Lexington line is hell on Earth. Hell under Earth. And the 4 train is always muggy in the morning. Some dude is asleep, sprawled across a whole bench. My feet still hurt from last night. But hey, man. It’s your world, we’re just livin’ in it.

3:55 p.m. I don’t know why anyone in this office even comes in on the day after the opening. Slug city. I’m just reading about Androgel and also researching activity trackers. $100-plus for what benefits? I’m ultimately trying to lose the 50 pounds I’ve put on slowly since high school, but I just don’t know if this shit is worth the money.

4:00 p.m. Wes is coming over tonight. I can’t stop fantasizing. I think I’ll bring my little silicone butt plug back into the mix. Also, I really wish there were another name for it than “butt plug.” Really just any other name than that one.

6:45 p.m. Decided last minute to brave the Trader Joe’s after-work shitstorm. Wes is meeting me there to help me carry everything home. This is chivalry in New York City.

8:10 p.m. Wes and I are on the bus to my place, looping through the news of the day on our phones, showing each other photos of the French bulldogs we both follow on Instagram, etc. We decide it’s too late for the gym. The struggle home and up to my 5th-floor walk-up counts as our workout, right?

9:45 p.m. I cook a late (ahem, “European”) dinner; we talk about what’s been plaguing us and what’s been making us happy.

10:09 p.m. He comes back from the bathroom after putting on his cock. It’s the top of the line pack-and-play from the New York Toy Collective. On weekends he wears it all day, but he’s not wearing it to work yet. He rips off my pants, grabs my shoulders, and fucks me. It feels amazing. It really pays off to wait a couple days and not masturbate.

10:15 p.m. God, I love his cock. It’s perfect, not too firm like many strap-ons can be, but not too much give either. It feels like a penis made of cells, not silicone. Also, he will never come too quickly. We don’t need condoms because we’re both clean, sperm is a non-issue, and we’re the only two using this cock. Sometimes we use them for the fun of it, and we’ve been using them when we occasionally experiment with anal sex. Best of every world?

10:35 p.m. He pulls out and goes down on me for a while. I pull his head up and flip over to put my toy in my ass. He climbs off the bed to stand behind me and fuck me while I rub my clit. Unreal. I come harder than I have in a long time. We’ve never done this specific combination before.

10:40 p.m. We lie there and talk for a little while. I’m in a post-orgasm haze. He’s always made our sex all about my orgasm, even when I try to make it about him. I’m bisexual, and I dated straight cis boys for years. One of their huge pitfalls is their tendency to get overwhelmed by their penis and just jackhammer you until they come.

10:42 p.m. His head is between my legs again.

10:55 p.m. I have one of those rich, deep, full-body orgasms. I don’t know how he does it, but honestly, there must be a genius in his tongue. I say out loud, “Now I think I know what they were talking about in The Vagina Monologues.” He cracks up, and I climb on top of him to make out.

11:15 p.m. I give him a blow job for a while with my palm pressed firmly against his clit, making slow circles. It drives him wild. When he’s really worked up, I pull off his briefs with his cock and go down on him.

11:45 p.m. We pass out, naked and snuggling. I wake up briefly at some point to him pulling the blankets over us. He kisses my face and I fall back asleep.

DAY THREE

8:05 a.m. Wes’s alarm wakes me up. I let out a long, melodramatic groan. He laughs and curls up behind me. He’s the perfect big spoon.

8:45 a.m. I stay in bed too long and he leaves for work without me.

10:25 a.m. Now that we’re both working full-time, Wes and I email during the week instead of texting each other. It’s embarrassing to be caught on your phone multiple times a day, so we have a new email chain every week. We send each other links to articles, events, clothes, whatever we’re looking at that day while we “work.”

3:24 p.m. I just finished the press release for the next show. It’s a writing process that always ends up stalling. The last line is the hardest part.

9:50 p.m. Wes is sending me goofy Snapchats and I’m wrestling with my goddamn Wi-Fi connection. Consider this my official unendorsement of Time Warner. Bastards.

10:45 p.m. I pass out while texting Wes and watching Mad Men.

DAY FOUR

9:07 a.m. It’s raining, and I left my umbrella at work yesterday. I indulge in a cab to take me from my house to the subway (not too expensive, but still, who do I think I am?).

10:45 a.m. Wes is at the gym, and I’m wasting away at work on a Saturday. I’ve been so lax about the gym lately, but I’m trying not to be too hard on myself.

1:00 p.m. Window-shopping online for more workout gear. Sports-bra prices are EXTORTIONATE. I wear a 34G, and I’ve had DD+ boobs since high school, even when I weighed 130 pounds.

3:45 p.m. I’ve been able to find great lingerie, though. My favorite is a sheer black lacy bra from Soma that frames my nipples in little leaves and flowers. At least my nipples are small, even though my breasts are like two extra limbs.

7:15 p.m. We’re getting drinks before dinner. I order a dirty vodka martini, but the olive juice is lackluster. At any rate, I get nice and tipsy before we head across the street for sushi.

9:45 p.m. We’re off to meet one of our best friends on the LES, but before we get on the subway it’s time for my weekly cigarette. Mmmmmmff.

10:45 p.m. We’re at one of my favorite little wine bars. Our friend is joking about how this guy who is “straight” really “has to be gay” because of his interests and personality. I say, “Maybe he could be bisexual” and they both laugh. A little fight ensues. It really pisses me off when my identity as a bisexual is casually erased “as a joke.” Our friend doesn’t identify as anything (I’ve only heard him describe himself as gay once) and he’s honestly pretty clueless about queer politics outside of the gay-bisexual cis male community. He apologizes, I apologize for snapping at him, and we share another cigarette before we go home.

DAY FIVE

12:30 a.m. Wes climbs on top of me, I wrap my legs around him, and we fuck for a few minutes. It’s so good. He kisses his way along my body and goes down on me. I’m drunk, and when I come, my body curls upward from the bed. It’s so good that we both start laughing as I lay there panting.

11:12 a.m. It’s the weekend, hallelujah. We start with some sleepy morning sex. Then he flips me over and fucks me from behind and I come hard. I recover, and then go down on him until he’s moaning. Mmm.

12:37 p.m. We’re heading to brunch, and I’m not properly dressed for the weather. My mood sours. I’m hungry and cold. Brunch is nice, but I’m really in an anxious mood. I just try to stay quiet and enjoy what I can.

5:30 p.m. We go see the new show at the Met Breuer, which was great on the first floor but fell apart on the second. I agree with the critics on this one.

9:00 p.m. Wes and I cook a late dinner and watch an old movie.

11:30 p.m. Pass out early.

DAY SIX

9:15 a.m. I wake up to Wes kissing my face, and he seems upset. He says he had a nightmare about his mother discovering he’s trans before he was ready to tell her. I feel so bad, but I can’t keep my eyes open. I hold his hand, and tell him he looks great before he kisses me good-bye.

11:26 a.m. It’s my day off, all to myself. I love Mondays.

1:32 p.m. Struggle down five flights of stairs with the past three months’ worth of recycling. Why do I do this to myself? Then jog to the gym in the rain. I love being at the gym and working out … it’s the getting-there-and-leaving-the-apartment part that is almost insurmountable. My mom used to say to me, literally, all the time, “Adulthood is 70 percent just showing up that day.” I used to think this was bullshit when I was 17. I’ve lost 15 pounds since I started two months ago, but it’s hard to sustain that kind of momentum.

3:30 p.m. Ugh, I feel amazing. My whole body is warm and stretched out and a little in pain. I hit up the massage chair before I leave. As if a massage chair isn’t motivation enough to get to the gym? I’m so lazy.

5:15 p.m. I pick up a chicken to roast from Aldi ($6, hell, yeah), and invite Wes to come over for dinner after work. I think I’ll make a fresh-garlic-herb rub and roast the chicken along with carrots and Brussels sprouts.

6:32 p.m. Wes just got here, and I’m in my little black robe prepping the chicken. His eyes practically pop out of his head like a Looney Tunes character.

8:30 p.m. We sit and eat, talking and then watching the latest Broad City. They’re geniuses. Also, this show makes me really grateful for my cute little one-bedroom that I can (just barely) afford to live in alone.

9:45 p.m. I suggest taking a long hot shower. We scrub each other’s backs with my favorite coffee-honey body scrub. Ahhhhhhh.

10:30 p.m. We fall asleep curled around each other, feeling so clean and warm and snuggly.

DAY SEVEN

9:23 a.m. I can already tell this is going to be a total nightmare commute. There’s a “sick customer at 86th Street” and I hate whoever that person is. Totally selfishly, I hate them. (Although sorry, sorry, I hope you’re okay.) The 5 train crawls down the local track. At the stop before mine, the conductor announces that they’re not stopping at my station.

9:55 a.m. I’m in a cab. I’m sweating bullets under my puffer coat and I am ANNOYED! Do you hear me, MTA?! I barely make it to work on time.

1:51 p.m. I’ve realized lately that I’m not as sexually preoccupied throughout the day as my partner. But when I’m having sex, I’m an animal. Can’t get enough. I wonder if that contrast between us will become even starker when he starts hormone therapy. The increase in sex drive is a pretty standard effect, but I wonder how intense it’ll be for him.

2:07 p.m. I’ve noticed when I say “my boyfriend” to strangers, it’s clear they think I’m straight. I suppose this happens to bisexual people often, whether they are partnered with a trans person or not. At some point soon, the little double-take will disappear — the one people do when they’re expecting a cis man to show up on my arm after the my-boyfriend-is-joining-me scenario. We’ll start looking like a straight couple. Which is odd, because we’re both queer in some way. I don’t know if I’m grateful for this or not.

9:05 p.m. I head to Wes’s place after the class I’m a TA for. He gives me some awful news about one of my siblings … sometimes he’s the first to know. My family dynamic is so fucked-up.

10:45 p.m. I’m a sad storm cloud, and he distracts me with breathing exercises and we play 20 questions. I stump him with Emily Dickinson; he stumps me with Jimmy Carter.

11:15 p.m. We kiss good night, and it turns into a makeout. He touches me, the way I touch myself, and I come with my face buried in his neck.

11:40 p.m. Wes is snoring next to me and occasionally mumbling in his sleep. It’s adorable.

11:45 p.m. I’m trying to think of calming things. One of my favorite lines of poetry pops into my head, from e.e. cummings; nevertheless I feel that I cleverly am being altered, that I slightly am becoming something a little different, in fact, myself. We’re both becoming ourselves. I can’t wait to witness it all.

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‘I’m thinking constantly about my gender.” That’s what my husband said one June night, seconds after making love. As post-coital murmurs go, this one was a knockout. Sex, among other things, would never be the same.

“I can’t stop thinking about it,” he said. “I keep feeling like I’m the wrong gender, a lot, all the time, constantly.”

I don’t remember how I responded. I know that I stayed surprisingly calm, for me. I heard the urgency in his voice and tried to be supportive, as I would often fail to be in the many conversations that would follow.

“I just want to talk,” he assured me. “I’m not going to do anything.” By which he meant, it went without saying, anything to his appearance. I was stunned. Our marriage, our family and everything that up until that moment had constituted our story was over. That much I understood at once.

Tom and I met and fell in love at college. After graduation we had various jobs. I wrote, we travelled. We got married, had a child, then a second and a third. The Tom I knew was sharp, funny and irreverent. He didn’t come across as feminine. His signals were heterosexual and male. He initiated our intimate relationship and responded to me in the ways I expected. I can still see his look of stark sexual appreciation when he spotted me walking towards him on a date. When he told me once, early on in our relationship, that he hated himself and had sometimes wished he was a girl, I assumed it was psychological – a rejection of self. Tom had a difficult upbringing, so for me it was a given that what he meant was that at his lowest moments he had wished to be something he knew he was not.

Tom told me a few years later, early in our marriage, that he was struggling with these feelings again. I still thought he was investing gender with a power to resolve his childhood problems. But this time it hit me that he had at least contemplated cross-dressing. This understanding was so disturbing, it literally made me nauseous and dizzy. For me, there was no wiggle room: I couldn’t engage in an intimate relationship with a man who dressed in women’s clothes. Not even occasionally. Not even in secret.

Given the strength of my reaction, it may sound strange that I thought I could continue in the relationship – in hindsight, it does to me – but Tom had put aside these feelings. That’s what I believed. I didn’t think he had suppressed them; I thought he had let them go.

Over the years that followed, there were moments when Tom seemed distant and preoccupied, but for the most part we were in harmony. We took long walks, frequented cafes and bookshops, spent hours at home reading aloud, cooking and drinking wine. Tom was an avid football fan and he taught me the game so that I could enjoy it with him. He lived with my preference for what he called relationship films and I lived with his films involving aliens and violent death. We talked about almost everything. We had every conversation, except the ones we didn’t have. We never spoke of the discomfort Tom had once expressed about his gender – but those feelings had been resolved long ago, hadn’t they? And we didn’t talk about sex. For more than two decades, we had an active and, I believed at the time, satisfying sex life. We didn’t sleep in separate beds. We didn’t forget to touch, didn’t find sexless weeks slipping by unnoticed. But we never said much about it.

“I have no interest in that,” Tom snapped. “What would I have in common with them?”

I laughed. He was kidding, right? What did he have in common with his own demographic? Tom wasn’t kidding. He was angry, as insulted as if I’d suggested he join a group for the mentally impaired. “I don’t want you making suggestions like that,” he said testily.

Yet Tom was interested in my relationships with other women. Too interested. Whenever I began a friendship, he would edge suffocatingly close. One time he called a new friend in secret to ask for babysitter recommendations so he could take me out for my birthday. After that, he often found some pretext – it always felt like a pretext – of doing something nice, and got his hands on a friend’s phone number, calling for advice or information and asking her for secrecy. It felt creepy every time.

At the time, though some friends didn’t know what to make of him, most thought Tom sweet, gentle, the sensitive type – qualities that, when I encounter them in my friends’ husbands, now cause me, entirely unfairly, to cringe on my friends’ behalf. As if I could see the knickers, the tweezers, the boat-sized high heels heading their way.

That night, after Tom’s announcement, I tried to believe that our life together was going to continue, because, quite simply, I couldn’t believe that it would not. Tom had a psychological problem, a big one. We would find a way out of it. What other choice was there?

The next afternoon we took a walk on a winding country road, with Lilly, not yet two, in the buggy, and Adam and Bibi on bicycles. When the older kids were out of earshot, Tom repeated the salient points of the previous night’s conversation. He felt wrong in his body. Increasingly so. It had gone from being an occasional thought to a constant state of mind. An obsession. “I can’t stop thinking about it,” he told me. “Sometimes I feel like I’m not going to be able to function.”

Tom mentioned that he wanted to find a therapist, possibly a group of people struggling with similar feelings.

“Could you give me a little time to get used to all this before you contact therapists and groups?” I asked him.

“I can wait a while,” Tom said. “But not long.”

Even before the obvious signs of maleness, Tom’s laughter disappeared from our lives. Overnight, it seemed, he stopped smiling. He no longer took pleasure in anything. He looked ill. He complained of fatigue, stomach ailments and dizziness. He lost his appetite and began to lose weight. But my sincere attempts to sympathise with him alternated with bewilderment and rage over the close, secret relationships he’d apparently formed with women confidantes, over his insistence that his urgent need to express his femininity outweighed every other concern.

“I have a medical condition,” he insisted. “A fatal condition that’s going to kill me unless I get treatment.”

“Who decides the treatment?” I asked.

“I do!”

It was hard to understand the sudden dramatic change in a state of being he now claimed was lifelong. I tried to convince Tom that he was not a woman. When that failed, I tried to convince him that, for our children’s sake, he could believe he was a woman and still choose to live as a man.

For his part, Tom’s perspective was that if I loved him, I would accept that a transsexual has to do what a transsexual has to do – and sacrifice my own identity accordingly. When he wasn’t telling me that the person I thought I had known had never existed at all, he’d say it was a sign of my limitations that I couldn’t grasp the idea of same person, different package.

“After all,” he said blithely, “the changes I’m making are pretty superficial.”

“If they’re so superficial, why do you have to turn all our lives upside down for them?”

He didn’t seem the same. He didn’t act the same. His values seemed to change along with his personality.

“What if you knew that doing this would destroy one or all of the children?” I asked him. Ice cold, the man I had once thought a wonderful father replied, “I would do it anyway.”

When I eventually got round to reading other women’s accounts – that is, the accounts of women who stayed with their transsexual husbands – they said about their partners what my husband said about himself: he’s still the same person inside. “Where inside?” I wanted to shout.

This argument reached an absurd zenith on the day he declared, “You only loved me for my gender!”

“Yes,” I said sarcastically. “Since nobody else had that gender, I had no choice but to love you.”

It began with a pair of purple cotton underpants. A woman’s underpants. I pulled them out of the dryer amid the rest of the usual laundry produced by a man, a woman, two children and one baby. I had never seen them before. Tom came upon me in the basement, standing before the dryer, staring at them.

“Oh, sorry,” he said finally. “Did I put those in the laundry? I’ve been trying to keep them out of your sight.”

“That’s OK,” I whispered.

This was the first time I had ever seen an item of female clothing that belonged to my husband. It was also the end of Tom trying to keep women’s clothes out of my sight.

Female clothes – tarty and juvenile, conservative and middle aged – appeared in our home. His new things came from charity shops, where he openly shopped for himself in our small community, and from a growing network of women who saw my closet as the repository for their castoffs. Tom acquired garments from all over the fashion map, ranging from things that I would know weren’t mine even if I was struck blind (most) to the occasional item that resembled something I wore. I felt ill handling his women’s wear, but sometimes I had to examine the family laundry closely to separate what was his from what was mine.

Tom was allowing his once very short, mostly grey hair to grow out. It looked terrible, but of course that was beside the point. He brought home a hairbrush and kept it in the bathroom closet. One day, he walked into the bathroom while I was combing my hair. He positioned himself next to me before the mirror and began to brush his own hair. When he was done, he smirked knowingly at his reflection and, tracing an exaggerated arc with his hand, very deliberately dropped his brush into a basket I kept for my things beside the sink.

Christine Benvenuto with her youngest child the summer before her husband’s revelations. Photograph courtesy of Christine Benvenuto

Such moments packed a breathtaking array of meaning and emotion. All at once there was the pathos of witnessing a middle-aged man – the husband I loved and had admired – taking pleasure in gazing at the woman he evidently saw when he looked at himself in the mirror. His satisfaction with himself. His in-my-face “I’m going to do this and you have no choice but to accept it” attitude towards me. The painful fact that such moments represented his departure from our marriage and from the person he had been, and that I was forced to watch that departure not once but over and over again. The terrible feeling of intrusion into my space, my privacy. Like a rebellious teenager, he wanted me to know: you aren’t the only woman around here any more. He wanted me to know: absolutely nothing will be left to you. My basket had become a public receptacle marked All Women’s Things Go Here. Like womanhood itself, it was no longer my domain.

Tom found a circle of women to sympathise with, encourage and dress him. Once, he left his laptop open to a message from one of them that read, “Your wife has to accept losing you.” He reported that another had urged him to “Do it all quickly!”

From his cheerleaders I learned that in the new political correctness, female solidarity is out. A man in a dress is in. Among women who consider themselves feminists, a man who declares himself a transsexual trumps another woman any day. One of Tom’s supporters would eventually sum up this perspective most explicitly: “He’s a transsexual. Anything he does is what he needs to do.”

These career women told Tom, and some would later tell me, that my wifely role was to support my man and to get my children on board with the project. My responsibility was to Tom. Tom’s responsibility was to Tom. In the Valley of the Politically Correct, being a transsexual means never having to say you’re sorry.

Tom shaved off the beard he had been wearing since I met him at 17. He shaved off the chest hair I had loved to run my fingers through. One day he came home with his eyebrows plucked to within an inch of their lives, a style choice I tried unsuccessfully to convince him no actual woman had made since the 1940s.

In our joint account I saw payments to a voice coach. I discovered that he carried a portable tape recorder with him during solo drives, so that he could work on raising his pitch. I found this out when he let our toddler play with the tape recorder, a button was hit, and out of the machine came a weird, feminised lisp that neither the children nor I had ever heard before: Daddy’s new voice.

Did the kids notice Tom’s transformation? They didn’t say and I didn’t dare ask. Neither the kids nor I would actually see him dressed as a woman during the two years his transformation took place under our roof, or for many months after. We didn’t have to confront him modelling the new threads, but I, for one, couldn’t forget that they were there.

Knickers that weren’t mine were now regulars in our laundry. I also caught glimpses of their lace edges peeking out of his jeans when he bent over to help one of the children, and a bra was sometimes visible underneath his (man’s) shirt. He said it made him feel better. Presumably the falsies I found around the house also made him feel better. The only problem was, they made me feel worse. I felt like a woman encountering the presence of an intruder in her marriage in the traces of infidelity among her husband’s things. Only the lipstick smears weren’t on my husband. They were my husband’s.

Again and again Tom promised he would do nothing further; again and again he broke this promise. To my anguished and outraged, “But you said …” he’d tell me, sometimes in anger, sometimes icily cold, “That was yesterday. I didn’t say anything about today.”

When people ask how I continued to live so long with a man who was no longer my husband, the truest answer I can give is, for my children. Day by day I begged Tom to grant our children a little more childhood. For more than a year and a half, I put off telling them. As anyone who knows kids will guess, this ultimately proved a losing strategy, as their growing awareness that their father was changing and that something had gone terribly awry in their parents’ marriage erupted in confusion, fear and stress.

I took it for granted that if Tom was really going to live as a woman, he would move away, or the children and I would move away. It went without saying that I wasn’t going to attempt a fresh start in the small town in which we had lived together as a happy family, passing Tom on the street in a dress.

When I put this to Tom, he erupted. “I’m not going anywhere. I’m not leaving this house. I’m going to do what I want to do and I’m going to do it right here.”

“But you want to make a fresh start,” I spluttered. “We need one, too.”

“You’re not making a fresh start!” He was furious. “You have no legal right to the house or the kids. They belong to me. If you want to leave, go right ahead. But you’re not taking the kids with you.”

I was stunned. This was the emergence of the new Tom, one I’d come to know very well over the next several years. The one who intimidated and threatened, who laid down the law and expected me to abide by it. If Tom was becoming a woman, he had never seemed so male – a tyrannical bully he had never been in our marriage.

Many conversations followed from that one, and in this respect Tom remained consistent. The new life, the choices and decisions, were his. The children and I would live with whatever he decided.

Around our town Tom began to wear gender-neutral clothes, which in actual fact meant female but not overtly feminine: women’s jeans, a blouse kept zipped inside a navy blue sweatshirt. He went about looking pale and dreadful, and speaking in an exceedingly odd, high-pitched whisper, and so some people concluded that he was ill. I wanted desperately to contain the truth for my sake and my children’s. By continuing to live with him, I could at least forestall the day he would appear in full female regalia in front of the children or in our community, because Tom had grudgingly come to realise that, for the time being, forcing me or the children to see him, as he put it, “dressed” would not be wise. Again, my delays were a losing strategy. Tom was not trying out a possible lifestyle. He was making permanent changes. By the end of the first year, his most valuable beauty tool was a daily dose of female hormones.

It is inescapable: for me there is something slightly creepy and more than slightly sad about a man in women’s clothes. Male legs in sheer stockings. The sight of Tom in an exact replica of a skirt that was once my favourite. It is creepy for one woman to copycat another, the stuff of thrillers. Creepier for a man to do the same. Creepier still if that man is your husband.

Looking back, I can say Tom was a wonderful husband, father, friend. Or I can say Tom was a fabrication. A fake, who didn’t want to be with me, he wanted to be me.

When he moved out, all I was left with was his male wardrobe: a collection of trousers, shirts, jackets and ties. Clothes I had loved and, in some cases, given him. It was as if he had left the bedroom expecting to come back. As if he had suddenly died.

It was a Tom reborn who loaded up his car and said goodbye to his children. This Tom was upbeat and energetic, eager to set off on his new life adventure. He had rented a room in a house in another town, and he would visit the children several afternoons a week. The children ran manically in and out of the house, confused. Their father moving out was a bad thing, right? But he looked so happy!

Tom and I have since divorced. I want to say the kids are all right now. The truth is, some days they are. Some days one or two of them are. Children look to adults to stay the same. Mine have watched their father change his personality, his appearance, his lifestyle, his address and his name. Their experience of Tom’s transformation and the break-up of our marriage is hands down the ugliest and most painful aspect of this story.

Recently, out walking, I passed a young family: a mother and a father with a baby in a pack on his back. Watching them together, I was rushed by memories. Tom and me with one, then two, then three small children, babies in backpacks. My God, we were happy! That’s what hit me. In recent years I’ve absorbed Tom’s revisions, come to believe I was delusional to think for so long that we were happy. I was not delusional. We were happy. We had a long time together. Now that time is over. We were married and now we’re not. My children had a father, now they don’t. I can never have complete closure. The man I was married to, the man I loved, no longer exists. But he didn’t die. If his death occurred now, it wouldn’t be the death of the man I married, but the death of the person he’s become. When I think of him in the present tense – for example, when he’s on his way over to pick up the children – I unconsciously anticipate the arrival of a person I can more or less recognise. It never happens. When I see him, he is a stranger. A stranger I will never know. I can’t do anything about that. Except cease to let it trouble me.

Some names have been changed.

• This is an edited extracted from Sex Changes: A Memoir Of Marriage, Gender And Moving On, by Christine Benvenuto, to be published on 13 November by St Martin’s Press.

Man Boobs Nearly Cost Me My Husband

My husband and I have been happily married for five years and during that time we have only had one issue and that is my husband’s man boobs. He developed these when he was 14 and has copped a lot of embarrassment, humiliation, been laughed at, ridiculed, had his breasts squeezed, been giving bras and has even been beaten due to his man boobs.

I love my husband and accept him as he is, however he was having a hard time living with this problem and the consequences of his breasts.

I know as an adolescence he got very down and would spend days lying in bed avoiding the world. He failed school as his grades took a nose drive when he hit 14 and started developing breasts and suffered extreme humiliation by his fellow students.

At work he was having a hard time as the men at his work were constantly putting him down and teasing him. During lunch time the men would gang up on him and make him the center of their horrid jokes.

One night my husband broke down as he couldn’t take it any more and he decided to go see his doctor about having plastic surgery to reduce his breast.

The next day he made the appointment and I went with him to see the doctor. My husband Richard was very anxious and didn’t now what to expect. The doctor explained that he had gynecomastia. He said that my husband’s body had produced more estrogen than testosterone which is why he developed breast. The doctor went into details of all the methods available to help reduce his breasts; however my husband was firm in stating he wanted to have plastic surgery.

The doctor made arrangements for my husband to see a plastic surgeon who could perform the surgery.

We went to the plastic surgeon and we waited nearly four months for my husband to have the breast reduction surgery. It was a long wait and an even longer recovery period. Although there were a few set backs my husband now has a chest he doesn’t mind showing off to the world. He likes to call it a chest now not breasts.

Although the procedure was expensive I’m sure my husband would agree the results are outstanding. Every weekend we go to the beach and Richard even goes in swimming.

He really loves it when the woman look at him and his self esteem and confidence have grown enormously. He is exercising and is proud to have a body he likes the look of.

For anyone who is suffering from man boobs remember you don’t have to take the same route as my husband. My husband did spend many months considering the options and he made a choice which he feels was best for him.

My husband’s growing breasts.

WHAT does it mean if a man starts growing breasts? My husband is a slim chap, but over the last year or two he has started to develop something of a bust!
He is in his mid-thirties and is otherwise fit and well, but he is far too embarrassed to see his doctor. What could be causing the problem?
TRUE breast enlargement in men (gynaecomastia) is rare. It is usually due to a hormone imbalance and can be a sign of rare inherited disorders, liver disease, cancer of the testicle or an overactive thyroid.
But prescribed drugs are probably the single biggest cause – the indigestion treatment cimetidine (Tagamet), the heart pill digoxin, and the water tablet spironolactone can all have this worrying side-effect. Heavy cannabis users can also suffer breast enlargement, and it sometimes occurs in youngsters during normal puberty.
Your husband is silly to be embarrassed about seeking help – rest assured his GP will have seen much stranger things!
SMOKE is well known for being more dangerous in house fires than the actual flames. What does it contain to make it so lethal?
THERE are several ways that smoke can kill and disable. It is highly irritant and can lead to dangerous spasms and congestion in the lungs – particularly in asthmatics.
It also contains carbon monoxide, which stops the blood carrying oxygen around the body.
Smoke contains a host of other toxic chemicals, including cyanide (used in the manufacture of many plastic goods), and often kills before its victims are even aware there is a problem, which is why every house should have a smoke alarm fitted.
MY sister is six months pregnant and is planning to have her baby at home. Unfortunately she has just been told that it is lying the wrong way around, and unless it turns she will have to go into hospital to give birth. What is meant by lying the wrong way around?
MOST babies are born head first, and lie head down for the latter part of a pregnancy. But there are always exceptions, and the most common one is when baby lies head up and bottom first – otherwise known as breech.
It is possible to give birth to a breech baby, but it can be more tricky for both mother and child. That is why breech deliveries are best looked after in hospital.
It is much too early to say what is going to happen to your sister, but I would expect about one in three women to be breech at her stage of pregnancy, and if I were a betting man I would put money on her being able to give birth at home.
MY two-year-old grandson has just been admitted to hospital following a febrile convulsion. Does this mean he is at greater risk of developing epilepsy later in life?
CHILDREN under five often suffer from febrile convulsions – fits or seizures brought on by a high fever. At least one in thirty youngsters will have an attack before they start school.
These convulsions are NOT a sign of epilepsy and usually do not mean there is a greater risk later in life. The best treatment is prevention. High temperatures in young children should be dealt with quickly. Remove the child’s clothes and give him or her paracetamol (Calpol) or ibuprofen (Junifen).
If this doesn’t reduce the temperature within an hour, pop the child into a tepid bath.
TOO much sugar could be bad for your eyes. Scientists now know that cataracts and glaucoma are caused by sugar sticking to proteins in the eye.
Eating a low-sugar diet and less fructose – found in some processed foods and concentrated apple juice – plus taking aspirin and vitamins C and E may prevent damage.
Researchers are trying to find out which amino acids are involved in eye disease in a bid to target treatment.
TREE bark could be the natural way to ward off heart attacks and strokes.
Unlike other common safeguards (such as aspirin), Pycnogenol, made from French pine bark, does not have side effects like stomach problems.
And a single dose of the nutrient is as effective as a five times larger amount of aspirin.
SMOKING could prevent one in 250 women from getting breast cancer, according to a controversial new study.
Canadian scientists found that smoking 20 cigarettes a day halved the risk for women with a certain gene mutation.
But researchers warned against women taking up the weed on the back of these findings. COPYRIGHT 1998 MGN LTD
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder. Copyright 1998 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

My Husband Never Touched My Breasts During Sex

Getting naked was a major hangup of mine

traceybyfireFollow Jul 3, 2019 · 4 min read Photo by Chema Photo on Unsplash

On a long-ago April evening, my husband asked me to take a shower with him. He was about to embark upon a two-week vacation to Florida without me. I begged him to invite me, promising that I would not accept the invitation if he did. He refused.

It was a family vacation. He would be traveling with his mother, his stepfather, and his sister. I had been specifically excluded, and I didn’t know why.

I had a passable relationship with my in-laws, and I wondered whether they had specifically left me uninvited or if they had demurred to his wishes. After nearly five years of marriage, I did find it strange that a man would arrange to take a vacation without inviting his wife.

It vexed me to no end that he would not extend an invitation that I promised to decline. We could both have been satisfied. I wouldn’t have felt excluded, and he would retain the freedom of traveling without me in tow. It was a win-win, except it wasn’t.

Nonetheless, when he asked me to take a shower with him, I agreed. We had been together for nearly seven years at that point, five of those married. Yet, he had never seen me naked.

I didn’t even take my clothes off for sex.

It probably comes as no surprise that my husband never played with my breasts or sucked on my nipples. How could he pay any attention to that part of my body when I never exposed myself to him? The short answer: He couldn’t.

Getting naked was a major hangup of mine. I couldn’t do it, and I didn’t understand how other people seemed to shed their clothes so easily.

In fact, when I began discovering evidence that my husband was having an affair, I dismissed the signs because I couldn’t imagine another woman taking her clothes off for him. Even after finding lipstick-smeared cigarette butts that weren’t mine in the backseat ashtray of my car and condoms in the pocket of his motorcycle jacket, I was in complete and total denial.

When my husband asked me to shower with him on that April night before his vacation without me, I hesitated. I didn’t want to take my clothes off in front of him, and I certainly didn’t want to be naked with him.

I agreed to take my clothes off and get in the shower under one condition: We kept the lights off.

It was dark outside, and the only light came from the streetlamp outside. There was enough light filtering through the single bathroom window and its gauzy white curtains to keep us from running into the walls, but that was it. The shower curtain added another layer of security, blocking out more of the dim light from outdoors.

It probably comes as no surprise that my husband never played with my breasts or sucked on my nipples. How could he pay any attention to that part of my body when I never exposed myself to him? The short answer: He couldn’t.

While my husband was enjoying his Florida vacation without me, I was making plans to leave him. By the time he returned, our marriage was officially over.

We were naked in the shower, and we were naked together for the first time during our relationship — and he still didn’t touch my breasts.

I don’t know whose idea it was for him to take the bar of soap and rub it on my naked body, but I found myself frozen in horror beneath the spray of water in the shower as he moved toward me with the bar of soap.

My husband held the bar of soap unnaturally. He gripped one end and pointed the opposite end toward me. Then while maintaining as much distance as possible between his hand and my body, he ran the tip of the soap over my breasts in the least sexy way imaginable.

After a few seconds of poking my wet body with the bar of soap while avoiding all skin to skin contact entirely, he gave up. We’d reached the milestone of being naked together and showering together for the first time in nearly seven years, and it was finished almost as soon as it started.

While my husband was enjoying his Florida vacation without me, I was making plans to leave him. By the time he returned, our marriage was officially over.

Somehow, we’d managed to make it through nearly two years of courtship and five years of marriage without my husband ever touching my breasts — with the exception of the night he prodded my bare skin without enthusiasm with a bar of Irish Spring. The fact that I kept my breasts hidden behind shirts and sweaters throughout our relationship didn’t help.

Related:

July 20, 2009 — In the year 2009, two women living together as a couple may not be typical, but it is not unheard of.

Both lifelong residents of northern Ohio, Chloe and Rene Prince met in March 2000 as neighbors and fell in love. Within three months they were married. They are now raising two young boys, Logan, 7, and Barry, 6.

Their story is similar to that of most couples struggling to balance work, finances and raising young children. But Chloe and Rene live with a secret that has affected their relationship, their families, their friends and even their children: Chloe was born a man.

Born and raised as Ted, Chloe had a typical childhood, she said.

Watch the full story on “Primetime: Family Secrets,” TUESDAY at 10 p.m. ET.

“I was a happy little boy. I had my Tonka trucks like every little boy out there, and I played in the sandbox,” Prince told ABC News’ Juju Chang. “I used to fool around in the backyard — I’d take apart my bicycle and put it back together and just get into mischief.”

But Ted was also confused.

“I had a sister and I would see her clothes, I didn’t like my clothes much as I did hers. But with the family I had, even at 4 years old, I was already very aware of society, of what was expected of a boy and what is expected of a girl.”

For Ted, it was about more than clothing. He also struggled with gender confusion, which affects an estimated 1 million to 3 million people across the United States. Unbeknownst to his family, Ted continued to secretly dress in female clothing throughout his youth, even going as far as opening a P.O. box as a teenager in order to receive shipments of lingerie.

In his twenties, his confusion began to affect his personal life. Citing that she needed to “be with a real man,” his girlfriend of several years decided to leave the relationship.

Desperate to get his life back on track, several months later, Ted started dating and eventually proposed to Rene, a neighbor that he said he had admired for years. Though things moved fast, neither questioned the instant connection.

Before getting married, Ted knew he had to tell Rene his secret.

“I told Rene right before we got married. I said, ‘I need to have a conversation with you.’ And I got really serious with her. Normally I’m a happy-go-lucky type person, so she knew it was serious.”

Instead of trying to convey it in words, Ted decided to show her — in his closet.

“I opened up the closet and I said, ‘Everything in this room belongs to me. Everything in here is mine,'” he said.

Ted explained that cross-dressing was something he didn’t want to continue, but he knew there was something more to it than the allure of female clothing. After confiding in her, Ted told Rene he had seen a counselor, and she thought it was something she could accept from the man she loved.

“I just thought that was an aspect of him that I could live with. I didn’t think too much of it, really,” she told ABC News. “It wasn’t something that was going to interfere with our lives.”

Ted and Rene got married at a private wedding ceremony in the Poconos. Within months, Rene was pregnant with their first son, Logan, and that was when things first started to unravel.

to see photos of Chloe’s transformation.

Chloe Prince: ‘Everything’s Changing’

For reasons unknown to Rene, Ted became distant and started to pay more attention to projects around the house than to his pregnant wife. At a time when many couples feel renewed intimacy, Ted had a very different emotion: jealousy.

“I wanted to be the one there carrying this baby, you know,” said Chloe. “And I wanted to feel that life inside me.”

By the summer of 2003, life had settled into a reliable rhythm for Ted and Rene. Ted’s stash of women’s clothing in closets and hidden boxes had grown, but not significantly. Although still confused, Ted was able to occupy idle hands with work and the birth of a second son, Barry.

A Bee Sting With Big Consequences

One day, while out on a motorcycle ride, Ted was stung several times by a bee. He was severely allergic to bee stings, so Rene rushed him to the hospital.

“They start putting me on IVs of epinephrine and different hormones, trying to counter and stop this bee sting reaction,” Chloe said.

A blood test at the hospital led to an endocrinologist and a diagnosis that Chloe said explained why she had felt so different her whole life.

“They sat me down and they said, ‘Are you aware of having Klinefelter’s syndrome?’ And I ‘No, what is that? Never heard of .'”

Klinefelter’s syndrome is one of the most common chromosomal abnormalities in humans. Normally, a male is born with XY chromosomes and a female XX, but an estimated one in every 500 boys is born XXY. One of the main side effects of Klinefelter’s syndrome is a much lower level of testosterone than the average male.

The news of his medical condition was a moment of clarity for Ted, who for so long had struggled with gender identity issues.

“The veil was off,” said Chloe. “I was like, this is why, you know, I tap dance like a little cat on the fence of the gender line — why I can’t commit to either side. Appearance-wise, I look like every other male, but on a DNA-chromosomal scale, I was neither.”

Chloe says the doctors told them that the severity of the sting had essentially reset Ted’s endocrine system, according to Chloe. Gradually, his body started to change. Initially, Rene thought Ted was gaining weight, but they knew something else was going on when he started developing breasts.

“I had muscular arms, all that started to change with Klinefelter’s shifting the dynamics of my endocrine system. I could see that the fat density in my face and my body, the softness of my skin, my muscular features were all changing at that point,” Chloe said.

With an actual medical diagnosis to help explain why he had felt different his whole life, Ted felt free to express his true identity.

“I wanted to physically align my body in appearance with how I felt inside. I wanted to be authentically myself — which was female. I didn’t feel like I needed to prove myself anymore to my father, to the world, to my mom. I didn’t need to be a man.”

But for Rene, it was incredibly painful to watch the man she loved disappear.

Chloe Prince: ‘Not All About Yourself’

“Rene saw it on a daily basis,” said Chloe. “Each day, it was another death for her because it would be something — I would start adding earrings or I started adding a woman’s ring on my finger.”

For the next two years, Ted lived predominantly as a man, but in a sort of gender no-man’s land, a hybrid. He grew his hair out, but would pull it back into a ponytail for work. He would wear men’s clothes, but with women’s accents. More and more, he felt compelled to become a she.

Four years after the bee sting, Ted officially changed his name to Chloe Alison Prince and began living life as a woman.

Transgender guidelines recommend a transsexual live in their gender of choice for one year before they undergo gender reassignment surgery. The longer period of transition for Ted did not lessen the shock for Rene was she was told that her husband was going to become a woman.

Feeling as if he had no choice, Ted, now Chloe, forged ahead and in May 2008, flew to Thailand, a country known for their gender reassignment surgeons. Chloe underwent 13 hours of major surgeries. Her male brow bone was shaved down, and she had a vaginoplasty and labiaplasty.

Chloe understands that her choice to transition to living as a woman has not only affected her, but all those around her.

“Transition’s not all about yourself. When you decide to transition, everybody else transitions with you. When I chose to be a girl, when I chose to be Chloe, everybody else is forced to make decisions as well,” she said.

Would Chloe return home as Rene’s husband, or wife? Would she be considered her sons’ father or mother? Is she her parents’ son or daughter? How did she return to the same job as a different gender? How would her rural Ohio community react to her?

ABC News’ “Primetime” spent a year following Chloe Prince and learning firsthand of the everyday struggles that she and her family face due to her transition. Watch “Primetime: Family Secrets” on Tuesday, July 21 to get a glimpse into the Prince home, and watch as, not only a woman, but as a whole family transforms.

Transplaining: My husband wants to transition into a woman. What should I do?

Welcome to Transplaining, Mic correspondent Serena Daniari’s weekly advice column on gender identity. No topic — from dating to sex to the process of transitioning itself — is off-limits. Submit your questions to [email protected], and subscribe to Transplaining to receive weekly email alerts here.

My husband and I have been married for seven years, and he just told me that he wants to transition into a woman. I had no idea that he was questioning his gender. I know I should be supportive, but I feel betrayed. I’m not a lesbian so I don’t see how I could stay in a marriage with a woman. What should I do?

It’s very normal to be shocked and confused when someone you are intimate with wants to change something as fundamental as their gender. You have known your partner as a man and that has probably become a central part of the dynamic between the two of you. Don’t worry about being the perfect ally in the early stages of this process. You are experiencing a major life change that probably feels, to some extent, like a slap in the face. It’s expected that you would be grieving the loss of your partner and questioning your memories together. Hell, you might even be mad, and that’s okay, too. But once you go through the initial flurry of emotions, you may realize that while your partner lied to you, he has most likely been lying to themselves for a large chunk of their life.

I spoke to Laura A. Jacobs, a gender therapist, who said, “The road to transition is long. It will involve conversation and countless decisions. The most important intervention is to find therapists, one for your spouse, possibly an independent therapist for yourself, and do a lot of talking.”

Should your partner have been honest with you from the start? In a perfect world, yes. But we don’t live in an ideal world — or at least not one that is ideal for trans people. Transphobia is etched into our minds from early ages, so it should come as no surprise that, oftentimes, trans people avoid coming to terms with our gender identities until we get so tired of pretending that we have no choice but to come clean. Sometimes this happens much later than is fair for those around us.

The silver lining in this moment is that you have many options, and really, there is no right or wrong answer. You get to decide how to proceed and you are in control of your destiny. Given that you are not attracted to women, you certainly don’t have to stay married to them. If you still want them in your life, you could try working toward a friendship in which you are supportive of their transition, but are no longer their romantic partner. The beauty of any situation in which transitioning is involved is that to change genders is a lengthy, gradual process. You are allowed to take as much time as you need to come to the best decision for you.

Sincerely,

Serena

In the summer of 2005, my husband and I began telling people that he wanted to live as a woman. At first, we didn’t know how to conduct this life. There wasn’t a guidebook about transitioning that we could follow. After lots of struggling, we decided that we should be very open. At the time, we were both doctors working in the emergency room at Markham Stouffville Hospital, just outside Toronto, so first we went through the hierarchy: We began with the chief of the emergency department, assuming that my spouse would then be asked to leave. Instead, we received an amazing, non-judgmental response. We then told the chief of staff, then the medical advisory committee; we sat down with our emergency-physicians group.

Everyone took it surprisingly well, but it was exhausting. Meeting with all these people, every day for a week, and exposing intimate details: I was extremely uncomfortable. My spouse was quite technical about everything, saying that he had gender-identity disorder, which meant he felt like he was in the wrong body, that he had been struggling with it for a long time and needed to make the transition. He had probably been thinking about this speech his whole life, but honestly, I wasn’t listening.

I just sat there and wished I could crawl into a hole in the ground.

The first signs emerged in 1994, one year after we were married. We were living in a house with an unfinished basement, and I happened to inadvertently find a pile of clothing – women’s clothing. It was immediately clear that this wasn’t some sort of infidelity. There was just so much of it. And it wasn’t cheap: I found some really nice shoes in there.

I felt humiliated, I felt stupid, and I wondered what else my husband was lying about. I confronted him about it, and he said he would stop. There was a lot of guilt and a lot of bargaining; every piece was thrown out and that was supposed to be it – until I found the next load of clothes. I initiated that purge myself.

But the clothing kept coming up, even after I became pregnant with our first child, a daughter. He went to support groups; at the time, he truly believed it was just a cross-dressing thing. He kept swearing up and down, “Thank God I’m not a transsexual.” Sometimes, I’d accompany him to these meetings, and it all seemed very benign. Most of the people there were older and wearing age-appropriate dresses. No one looked like a drag queen; they just looked like your mom or aunt. If everyone was dressed provocatively, I would have been frightened. Instead, I was uncomfortable and a little resentful about spending my time there.

We talked more about it; I would support him, and he would get dressed and attend these meetings. I bought him clothes as gifts, and it was manageable.

We didn’t hide it from our children. When my daughter was three, she’d see her dad dress up once in a while and she’d say, “Daddy looks pretty.” We had a conversation with her about the concept of privacy: It was okay if she wanted to tell people, but she had to be prepared for them to think it was odd. We were dealing with it.

But as the years went on, my husband began to feel more and more despair. We fought. He would leave the house. It was all quite dramatic. I’d be left holding the ball and staying with our daughter and her younger brother.

But what brought it to a breaking point was that he became suicidal. After one fight, he drove to the lake and walked into the water. He came home, wet, and said that for his mental health, he needed to make this transition and live full-time as a woman.

It was an easy decision for me.

What people need to understand is that this isn’t a choice. Why would he choose to do this? It’s awful. It’s clearly difficult in this society. But we all have a fundamental right to be who we are. Still, when they hear my story, women universally ask me, “How can you stay together?” The way things stand now, I guess I have cautious optimism. Our ideal goal as a couple would be to stay together, although we both realize that it may not be a possibility. The time may come when we acknowledge that it’s over. But we’re not there yet.

I don’t want to say the wrong thing, but of all the problems to have – addiction, infidelity, cancer – it’s workable. Certainly, it represents a sacrifice. A friend asked me the other day what would happen if I met a really great guy. I said, “I’ve already met a great guy. He just happens to be a woman.”

There are so many good things that are hard to let go. My spouse is a great person, a true friend, and we’ve known each other for more than 20 years. Do you just ditch your best friend? That’s not the right thing to do.

If it were just me, maybe we would have split up. But I needed to set a good example for the children. I know that the kids will do better with both of us in the picture. And my children saved me, through all of this.

When we told our kids in the spring of 2005, they weren’t so inquisitive, because of their young age. My daughter was seven at the time, my older son around four and my youngest son was not yet one. They did come up with a new name for their father, because it wouldn’t be right to use “daddy” anymore; instead, they say “mada,” a combination of mommy and daddy. My youngest is three now, and he likes the word “daddy” because it’s a novelty for him. Sometimes the kids will play house, and someone will always be the daddy. No one plays mada.

It’s sad, but I’m not sure what I can do.

It’s been two years since her transition, and for me, it’s still very early. I’m still getting over the loss of my husband. At times, it’s like living through an odd grieving process. But if somebody dies, they are gone: She’s still here. And our relationship, which I believed to be unshakable, is so different.

It’s very strange to move on. For instance, I tried to be good about the pronoun shift right away, but it was a real challenge. And then I began to get other people’s pronouns mixed up. It took a while – a full year, in fact – to call my spouse by her new name. Instead, I’d call her “honey,” which I used to do anyway, although I couldn’t do it in public – I didn’t want to call another woman “honey.”

I’m almost 40 years old now. I’ve been married for 14 years. I’m supposed to be in a certain place. I didn’t anticipate that the place would involve someone who was very insecure about her looks, like an adolescent girl. It’s understandable, because she’s exploring her femininity. But it got to a point where I didn’t want to see much of her at all. The whole thing was just hard to look at, hard to listen to. She was almost a caricature of feminine characteristics at the beginning.

I asked, “Does your voice have to be so high? Do you have to wear so much makeup? Do your clothes have to be so tight?” I was extremely resentful about having these conversations with the person who used to be my husband.

What’s more, “husband” used to be such a favourite word of mine. And I loved being called someone’s wife – the cozy familiarity of that word. I had a huge amount of pride in how we were as a couple and as a family. Maybe that was hubris on my part, but the fact that I can’t take that same pride anymore represents another loss.

Then there’s the loss of our friends. When we told them, we were fully prepared for no one to ever talk to us again. But initially everyone was great, which was splendid. Then I said to my spouse, “Well, they’re all fine now, but let’s see who’s still calling us in a couple of years.” That number has very much declined.

It’s okay. I understand that it’s an uncomfortable thing.

I am trying to move on. I’ve enrolled my kids in softball, which is right outside my comfort zone because it means meeting new people the way we are now.

It took me a while to move beyond acting like she wasn’t there, and I’m just starting to introduce her as my spouse. Sometimes, it’s no big deal; other times, it’s met with uncomfortable, endless silence. But I’m trying, and that represents a change for me.

It’s hard: I like men. I know there are people who are more fluid in their sexuality, but that’s not me. She considers herself a lesbian, and I’m not, though I am secure enough not to correct people who think we’re a lesbian couple.

We joke sometimes that we’re going to find me a boyfriend, but that’s not going to happen. I am making a considerable effort: There is intimacy between us, although it’s fraught with difficulty. We talk about her issues quite endlessly, but it’s come to a point where I think enough is enough.

There may be spousal support networks out there, but I haven’t sought them out. There are so many other things to do and this has taken up far too much of my time and brain space. This may, in part, be avoidance. I’m shy, so it would make me feel very uncomfortable to go and talk to people about this stuff.

I prefer to think of this as a very small part of my life. I’m much more than this one thing.

Transfamily: Mother-of-two discusses happy marriage with husband who became a woman

It was a lot to take in, but the couple didn’t make any drastic decisions. They decided to take things step-by-step and just do whatever seemed right to them: “We didn’t actively decide to stay together, it just never made sense to split,” Kristin says.

“Fred was the most amazing person I’d ever known, so I didn’t want to leave.”

Over the next three years, Fred went to therapy to make sure he was 100 per cent set on becoming a woman.

It was only once Fred had decided he absolutely couldn’t go on living as a man that the couple told their two young children, then aged five and three.

Kristin and Fred with their two boys

Fred became Seda, Daddy became Maddy, and he became she overnight.

Physically transitioning took a lot longer, but Seda started by wearing women’s clothes at home, which was tricky for Kristin at first: “I wanted to understand and see but also didn’t because I knew it would be the end of the husband and wife picture that we had,” she says.

But Seda and Kristin’s relationship gradually became more like that of two sisters – Kristin took Seda to get her ears pierced, they went shopping together, and she even helped pick out synthetic breasts for Seda.

The couple stayed married for financial reasons and also because neither of them wanted to be apart from their kids, but Kristin was in a tricky situation – she was single, yet legally married, which she says was “awkward and confusing”.

Meeting men who didn’t already know about Seda was difficult as it was an unusual situation to explain.

It wasn’t until she met a man called Jack* and became totally transfixed by him that she realised she was completely heterosexual.

Fortunately for Kristin, who has written a book about her story, Housewife: Home-remaking in a Transgender Marriage, Jack was very open to her unusual family set-up: “I explained the whole situation to him and luckily he was totally OK with it,” she says.

Kristin, Seda and their two sons

Her relationship with Jack ended, as did one with a music teacher called Ben*, and for the last two years Kristin’s current partner Richard has been a part of the family.

“I feel more like a widow than a divorcee,” Kristin says. “The person I was in love with is dead and gone. The chemistry is gone.

“We still get along very well but there’s no attraction there for either of us which makes it possible for someone else to come in without jealousy and awkwardness.”

Seda now lives in a private wing of the house shared by Kristin and Richard in Eugene, Oregon, plus Kristin and Seda’s two children.

They eat all their meals together and live harmoniously – Richard does all the cooking, Seda the laundry, they both get on very well and the kids love having three adults to play with.

When they meet new people, Kristin now introduces Seda as her “parenting partner,” which a lot of people love the idea of.

With her now very feminine looks though, Seda doesn’t attract as much attention as she used to.

The fact that Seda didn’t grow up with the cultural backlash that shapes women, yet experienced so much of it later on, forced Kristin to look at her own womanhood and what it means to be a woman.

She’s now firmly of the belief that gender identity is created by each individual: “At first I thought I knew all about what it meant to be a woman, and now I know I don’t.

“I can’t now define what being a woman is because now I think it’s up to you, it comes from inside of you.”

Through her experience, Kristin wishes other people would see their challenges as opportunities and embrace them: “We all have major transitions in our relationships – whether someone has an affair or our child has a disability – and the way we approach those challenges as a couple is how we will grow our compassion skills.

“Those skills will stay with us for the rest of their lives and will allow us to have deeper relationships with everyone.”

*Names have been changed

The Independent’s Millennial Love group is the best place to discuss to the highs and lows of modern dating and relationships. Join the conversation here.​

Wife whose husband confessed he was transgender and wanted to be a woman reveals how she came to terms with his transition and why they continue to live together with their kids… along with her new partner

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My Cross-Dressing Husband Became A Woman — And We Stayed Together

When I met my second husband in 1987, he was wearing a dress.

By Leslie Fabian

He’d come to present to my women’s study group about being a cross-dresser. Among the four presenters was a postoperative transsexual, another cross-dressing man, and an androgynous individual, presenting partially as female, partially male.

I found myself wildly attracted to the man in the purple dress.

This was “Deborah”—known to the rest of the world as “David”—an orthopedic surgeon. Two years before, at 36, he’d finally begun addressing the pain and self-loathing he felt from a profound inner conflict: For most of his life, he’d wished he could be “one of the girls.”

It was not Deborah’s physical appearance to which I was drawn but the courage and honesty I witnessed that day.

I was enrolled in personal-growth workshops and studying to become a psychotherapist, so yes, perhaps I was more open-minded than the average person. But more than that, I was attracted to someone finally being true to herself, sharing her deepest truth with a group of strangers. We parted with a hug, and I somehow knew we’d meet again.

It turned out that we had both signed up for an ongoing workshop called “The Living Soul” beginning the following month. I arrived and recognized David immediately, thinking how appealing he was as a man!

During this intensive training workshop, David and I learned to know and understand ourselves more deeply, and we became closer through the process. The course encouraged digging within to acknowledge and appreciate our own inner workings, and our true natures were fully exposed to each other.

Outside of this situation, David was less open. At the time, he was married with four young children, and though this marriage wasn’t working, he was not ready to end it. So, we resisted acting on the smoldering physical attraction that developed between us. In 1988, realizing his marriage could not be saved, David ended it.

We married in 1991, and we’ve been together ever since.

Because David’s secret life had been revealed at our first meeting, it was no big deal seeing him in drag. We’d go out with him dressed as Deborah for dinners with certain friends or an occasional weekend away. To me, my husband was “just a cross-dresser.”

But, as with any relationship, it wasn’t all easy. Our primary challenge (stepchildren and ex-spouses notwithstanding) was our sex life; specifically, the devastation David experienced whenever Deborah’s time was over. I was delighted by the return of my man; his male persona was extremely masculine—and I liked that. But David didn’t feel that way.

As an open-minded, adventurous woman, I was comfortable with whatever fantasies arose. But sometimes I wanted something more traditional than a man in a nightgown coming to bed with me. I would ask if David could just be David once in a while. This created conflict and invariably sent him into a downward spiral. Usually, within days, David would find a way to come on to me and we’d make love the way I wanted to. Then all would be well … until the cycle repeated itself.

Perhaps both of us were in denial about the magnitude of his need to be seen as a woman.

The breaking point came in fall 2009, when David was again considering a new therapist, a different antidepressant, some experimental method for accepting the grief of living a lie. As usual, he bemoaned this process, but something unusual happened; I shocked us both by saying, “It’s time to do something different.”

I suggested we talk to an endocrinologist. It was the first step toward resolving his now-60-year-long struggle and the beginning of a quest to honor the woman within.

I’d realized that my beloved would never be happy as a man, though I also knew that I could not commit to remaining in our marriage until I’d experienced our new, changed life. I made this abundantly clear to him, not threatening or coercing but simply sharing it honestly, because it was my truth.

The next two years were a roller coaster ride for me. David told me many times, “I’ll stop this immediately if it means losing you.” While I was touched by his willingness to forgo this dream, I knew that remaining married to an unhappy, inauthentic man was impossible. He had to move forward with his transition, but I still didn’t know if I’d be able to stay married to him once he did.

We lived in this ambiguous state for more than two years until I realized that we belong together, regardless of anything.

Ever since Deborah formally came into the world in October 2011, she has been relentlessly happy. I’ve accepted this new life of ours, even if it may not be my dream come true—it’s certainly hers. It’s the life she thought would elude her forever, and I was able to support her as she made it a reality.

For that reason, our marriage is one of my life’s greatest achievements.

This article was originally published at Glamour. Reprinted with permission from the author.