By Amanda J.
In part 1 of this series, posted on 17 January, I talked about my botched confession to Mrs A, my wife, and the resultant ultimatum I was given. In part 2, posted on 31 January, I considered the ethical position of my subsequent return to CDing under the marital radar and in part 3 posted on 21 February I tried to look at everything from a different angle. Now it’s time to consider what I’ve learned from the whole sorry episode and how it could be approached differently. I’ve aimed this in particular at those readers who are facing the desire, or need, to confess to their nearest & dearest but hope that those readers who didn’t get it as spectacularly wrong as I did will add their own thoughts and advice to the comments below.
Let’s be clear at the outset; there’s no sure-fire formula for guaranteeing success because there is a large and unknown variable – the wife’s attitude to transgender issues in general and her husband’s participation in them in particular (and I’m using ‘transgender’ and ‘trans’ as umbrella terms for the full spectrum of gender variance from occasional CDing to full surgical transition). If a wife is the sort of person that would call security about ‘a man in the ladies’ toilets’ if she saw a transwoman using them, the odds of a successful confession from her husband are not high. And even if she is supportive of LGBT issues in general, that support may not extend to tolerance of her husband’s enthusiastic ‘enjoyment’ of them. The only thing that any husband who wants or needs to confess can do is do his best. And I have to add a disclaimer here; we’re all different and married to different people and we can’t unsay what we’ve said. For some wives, a CDing confession is sufficient grounds to immediately end a marriage and what follows is only my opinion. I’m not a trained counsellor and the points I make are solely how I would do things differently if I could wind the clock back. They may work for others or they may not but your decision to confess and what happens afterwards are your sole responsibility. In other words, if it all goes wrong, don’t blame me!
So, having got the disclaimer out of the way, here goes…
Before you even start to plan what you’re going to say, ask yourself the simple question – how would you feel if you weren’t trans but your wife suddenly told you that she was in some way uncertain about her gender and liked to explore her male side by binding her chest, wearing a false beard and so on, something she’d been doing behind your back for many years? Would you be OK with it or devastated? Would you feel that your trust had been betrayed, not only because she’d been doing it behind your back but also because she’d not felt able to talk to you about it? Would you wish you’d never asked her to marry you in the first place and tell her that she either had to be a proper wife and forget these thoughts or pack her bags? Would you worry what your friends will think? What is the end point – full transition? These are all thoughts & fears that your wife will have so think how you would want to be told if the shoe was on the other foot, so to speak.
Now do your homework and then prepare, prepare and prepare again:
- Before you start the conversation, try to understand why you are this way. If you’re over 50, did your mother perhaps take an oestrogen-based drug during pregnancy (google ‘DES sons transgender’ if you’re unaware of a drug that was widely prescribed to prevent miscarriage on both sides of the Atlantic up to the 1970s). Was there something in your childhood that may have been a factor? What’s important here is that you are able to convey the simple fact that this is something you cannot help, not a lifestyle choice.
- Think about all of the struggles you’ve had. The denial, hating yourself and feeling shame for having these thoughts, perhaps feeling that falling in love with your wife had cured you.
- Try to understand how far you want to take this – occasional crossdressing, regular socialising as a female, low dose HRT, full surgical transition or somewhere else.
- Understand that the marriage dynamic may change and what compromises you will be prepared (or able) to accept to preserve the marriage.
- And now for the big one – have a compelling explanation as to why you hid your trans feelings from her for so long. All of the times you’ve tried to bury the thoughts, feelings that you were ‘cured’, disgust with yourself etc. It’s very important that she does not see this as an intentional breach of trust or deception within the marriage.
And now for the conversation itself…
- Pick an appropriate time – don’t ambush her when she’s just returned from work as I did or when she’s preoccupied with other things. You’ve had a long time to process this & prepare for the conversation, she hasn’t.
- Focus the conversation on her needs, not yours – she will need answers on why this has been hidden and what the implications are for her in the future.
- Understand that the news will probably be devastating for her. She may move out of the marital bed into the spare room, she may experience raw grief, she may be angry with you or any of a large number of other emotions. Give her the space she needs to process it but support her by being there when she needs to discuss it.
- Answer every question she asks with complete honesty. That does not mean that you have to disclose every last detail, particularly if doing so would unduly add to her emotional distress but, for example, if you’re confessing to crossdressing and she asks ‘do you want to be a woman?’, answering no when you’re either actively exploring that option or know in your heart that it’s what you want to do is only going to cause more hurt and distress when the truth eventually comes out.
- Understand that whilst you may want the marriage to continue, she may not – in the same way that you are claiming the right to deal with your transgenderism in whichever way you want, she has an equal right to make whatever decisions she wants to shape the rest of her life. In particular, if you are planning to make permanent changes to your body or lifestyle, be prepared to give her everything she needs for her happiness – that is the price to pay for yours. The marriage dynamic may well change but if she can see that you’re putting her needs at the top of your priority list, it’s probably got more chance of surviving in some form.
- Do not, whatever you do, take up a position of conflict, point out that she promised ’till death do us part’ in the marriage vows (the same vows that asked whether she took ‘this man’ which you’re now pointing out may not have been an entirely accurate description of you) or try to suggest that it’s all OK because you’re still the same person underneath. You need to work through this together as allies, not enemies, in particular as the only beneficiaries in a hostile divorce are the lawyers who have to be hired to sort it all out.
So that’s my two pence/cents worth. I wish I could finish this piece with the statement ‘follow my simple steps and your wife’s approval is guaranteed’ but the fact is that nothing is further from the truth. There is no simple formula for doing this for the one simple reason that there is a large factor over which you have absolutely no control – your wife’s views on what having a trans husband means to her. Every marriage is different – some are based on physical attraction, some on shared interests, some on emotional connection and so on – and every wife is different and two identical confessions to two different wives can have two very different outcomes.
In the end, no one understands your marriage dynamic better than you do and that understanding must shape how you approach ‘the conversation’. But when you’re having it, please just don’t make the same mistakes that I did! And that was supposed to be the end of this little series but, as I put the final touches to it, I realised that there was one more issue that, mercifully, I haven’t had to experience. Well not yet, anyway but it’s almost certain that, as time goes on, the probability that my little secret that I have resumed my ‘under the radar’ crossdressing will be ‘rumbled’ and I’ll have some explaining to do. So part 5, which I do intend to be the final part, will look at getting caught.