By Amanda J.
If you’ve read my brief introduction on the ‘Contributors’ page or any of the posts I’ve contributed so far, you’ve probably formed the view that I don’t always take life particularly seriously and you’d be right. The simple fact is that life is often not a bed of roses but seeing the funny side of adverse situations makes them a whole lot easier to live with than letting them get to us. But, of course, there are times when it’s impossible to make light of a situation and all we can do is to hope for the best and try to make sure that others do not make the same mistakes that we do. So, for the next three posts from me, I want to cover what is probably the single most important challenge facing us in this side of our life – disclosure to our spouse/partner. So there’ll be no exclamation marks, humorous asides or any other attempts to lighten what follows – it’s far too important for flippancy.
When introducing my first post ‘The Magic of a Makeover’ on 1 November 2021, Kandi mentioned the comment I’d left on her post ‘An Open Letter To Our Wives’ posted on 15 October. If you haven’t already read her post, then I urge you to do so as it gives further context to what follows from me. I was incredibly moved by that post because, in a few short paragraphs, it summed up everything I should have done when I came out to my wife, two decades into our marriage. Unfortunately, as you’ll find out as you read on, my story doesn’t have the happy ending that many contributors here have achieved but I want to share it in particular to help those readers who are facing the need to disclose their feminine side to their significant other.
In this instalment, I’m going to cover what happened and how I backed myself into a corner from which escape is practically impossible. Part 2 will cover the moral issues of carrying on under the marital radar and the final part will complete the trilogy by considering strategies which, whilst not guaranteeing success, may just avert catastrophic failure.
Eight years ago, I threw a bomb into the middle of my marriage. Five seconds later – just long enough to say ‘I’ve been bad, I’ve been crossdressing’ (my exact words) – it exploded with depressingly predictable results.
There comes a point in nearly every trans person’s life when, for one reason or another, they need to tell their nearest & dearest that there’s a lot more to them than meets the eye. There are many reasons for disclosure – being caught, the pressure of keeping it hidden, guilt over the deception, a desire to transition and so on. The foresighted tell their spouses at the beginning of the relationship so that there are no secrets going into the marriage. The rest of us, sadly, bottle it up through shame and, often, a belief that marriage has ‘cured’ us but then, decades later, the inner woman is back, screaming louder than ever to be let out.
In my case, the confession was made due to the discovery that my makeup bag was not with my stash of clothes and then finding items I thought were from it in my daughter’s bedroom. I agonised for a while before coming to terms with the fact that the game was up and then mentally rehearsed how I would approach it with my wife who I’ll henceforth refer to as Mrs Amanda or Mrs A for short.
Hindsight is, of course, a wonderful thing but I wish I’d had Kandi’s post to guide me. But, at the time I confessed, that was still several years in the future so I had to, for want of a better word, ‘wing’ it. And wing it I did with catastrophic results.
The simple crime I committed during those few seconds was to completely overlook how Mrs A would feel when confronted by the fact that her husband not only had a strong feminine side but he’d also concealed it from her for 22 years, during the last four of which, he’d succumbed to his urges and regularly crossdressed. My preparation was all about how I’d open the conversation; in fact I spent several hours thinking about it and still managed to spectacularly mess it up. Let’s face it, the question of whether my opening three words – ‘I’ve been bad’ – are true is highly debateable and I wouldn’t mind betting that many reading this would beg to differ. But even if it was true and I’d committed the biggest crime since the Gunpowder Plot, it was hardly a good way to seek understanding & tolerance.
The next few days were chaotic. Mrs A went through every possible emotion – grief, ridicule, tolerance, intolerance, hostility and plenty more – and I purged everything I owned, then believing that Mrs A was starting to become accustomed to the idea, restocked everything and carried on where I’d left off. Several times, I was asked whether I wanted to be a woman and I gave what I believed to be a truthful answer – no.
To be honest, the next few months are a bit of a blur. To Mrs A’s credit, she tried to cope but, no matter how much I reassured her about my intentions and told the truth about how I felt, things could (and did) blow up at any time and, on at least two occasions, I was reduced to a sobbing wreck through the pressure of living with the ups and downs of it.
Finally, in spring 2014, it seemed we had a breakthrough. Mrs A finally appeared to be coming to terms with everything and decided that we would have a girly afternoon together. I was treated to a rose scented bath and then my clothes were laid out ready for me to dress. It sounds idyllic and it was for a while but then, as the clothes went on, I could sense the dark clouds gathering around Mrs A. The bottom line is that seeing your husband dressed as a smart businesswoman and obviously very happy about it is more than many wives can cope with, despite what they may think beforehand.
Things between us deteriorated quickly after that and finally, I couldn’t take any more and, in a final throw of the dice, asked her to help me. I didn’t really know exactly what I was asking for help with but Mrs A, stating that she ‘didn’t want to be married to a woman’, agreed to help but in return I would need to agree to a ‘cease and desist’ ultimatum with the threat that if I ever brought anything back into the house, I’d be out.
I can almost hear the collective gasp of ‘she did what???’ and, in many respects, I can’t believe it myself. Mrs A knew from her research soon after my confession that this is something that doesn’t go away and, in fairness to her, enquired about my general wellbeing several times in the immediate aftermath. The problem was that I was so relieved to get at least some semblance of normality back in my life that I genuinely thought I was OK. Unfortunately, by the time I’d started to realise that I wasn’t, it had been declared a subject never to be discussed and, if you’ve read my previous posts, you’ll know that I have broken my promise, and then some.
And my views on the ultimatum? Fundamentally, I don’t blame her – she could possibly see that the writing was on the wall and, in 2022, the truthful answer to the ‘do you want to be a woman?’ question is ‘I don’t know’. That doesn’t mean that I want to medically or even socially transition but it does mean that this side of me wants more freedom than it has at the moment. And we all know that one thing can lead to another. So, despite her knowing that she was putting me in an impossible situation by getting me to agree to something I couldn’t agree to, I don’t blame her one little bit for fighting to preserve what she wanted from our marriage.
From Mrs A’s point of view, that should have been the end of it. From mine, it was really only the beginning and in the next part, I’m going to look at the moral issues of carrying on under the matrimonial radar.