By Lisa P.
I am writing this right before Halloween 2022. The coming of the holiday, with its ghouls and ghosts, got me thinking about what has been scary for me about being TG.
I will start with a hard question that I never wanted to address, but finally realized I needed to honestly ask myself: “are you a tourist or an immigrant?” Often it is hard to decide, or know for sure once you do decide, and that has been true for me. Because I enjoy life as a woman, I have often wanted to stay in the female world a long while. So, does staying for a long while mean that I really want to stay forever? For me, that is a scary thought. More on that at the end of this essay.
Of course, regardless of what I may want, the locals may have a say in the matter. They may feel a lot more comfortable with a visit by me as a tourist. My decision to stay permanently may not be met with the welcome mat. I have spent many a night alone in bed trying to understand how I should answer the question of whether I mean to be a tourist or an immigrant; it is no surprise that the locals may similarly have complicated feelings about it.
By the way, I hope my thoughts on this issue aren’t too controversial, as I have a sensitive personality and dislike hate mail intensely…I do realize, however, that fear often breeds a strong fight or flight response! In any case, follow along if you don’t mind being haunted a bit more.
To start, I should say that most of us on the TG spectrum start off by being certain that we are tourists (that is, CD rather than TG). I certainly did. I found it much easier to cope with that conclusion. If I am CD, I don’t need to give up the benefits of my country of birth. Being CD means I get to live on a Caribbean Island whenever I want, returning “home” at will. In other words, by being CD, there is no threat to my male privilege. Also, if the locals become less than welcoming, I can take the role of the thoughtful guest who refuses to overstay her welcome and say, “no worries— I won’t be staying long.” I can laugh it off as a harmless passion for informal theater if questioned by someone who knows me in my traditional role. My response can be something on the order of, “I am here for the sand beaches and the palm trees, not to become part of the island culture!” More importantly, I could explain it to my spouse as not abandoning my “male citizenship,” but rather as a temporary holiday from the pressures of life. Let’s face it. Life is just a whole lot easier if you are CD and not TG (excluding of course, the lying, hiding, time commitment, narcissism, societal disapproval, expense, etc.).
I am not a professional gender therapist, so like other commenters I am only reflecting my own journey and thoughts, which may or may not resonate. If you really want to know who you are, you should explore things with a qualified therapist (in my case, it finally allowed me to break free from my own self-imposed periods of exile from the land of the feminine and — to continue my metaphor — consider the possibility of becoming a permanent resident if not an immigrant there).
As I explore this topic, let me give you five of my personal guiding principles, in case you find them helpful:
(1) gender is a spectrum, but the spectrum doesn’t seem to be fixed, unless you are clearly cisgender;
(2) even when I think I have figured out where I am going, I probably should think some more;
(3) I (and you) am brave, and pretty smart about my gender, but I shouldn’t put too much credence into my self-diagnosis, as my mind likes to tell me what I want to hear; and,
(4) almost everyone has internalized transphobia, even though I didn’t consider that I was one of them. It was worth considering how many times I denied to others or myself that I was transgender, because I just didn’t want to face it. If I really believed it was true, there wouldn’t be a reason to say it more than once.
Consider some of these signs that I ignored that should have blazed like a neon sign inside my head.
A. I wanted to stay hairless as much as possible, not just when I was dressing up, so I started shaving my legs all the time (first just for the winter, but then during the summer too).
B. Dressing up stopped being a significant source of sexual pleasure (if it ever was). Kinks are easier to explain to oneself, because we are all sexual beings, we all express our sexual needs differently, and frankly what we do in private to satisfy that part of ourselves is no one’s business (although the fantasies we employ may well tell us a lot about our innermost needs). But, when it ceased to be as important for me, yet I still wanted to dress and go out, I realized that there was something deeper involved.
C. I avoided growing facial hair and wanted to be as clean cut as possible, as much as possible. I even started to take steps to dramatically cut my hair growth. The truth is that permanent and semi-permanent changes are generally not made by someone who is comfortable with their existing gender.
D. Recently, I got my hair styled in a more androgynous way (although still relatively short) and my eyebrows professionally styled in a bit more feminine way. Although not “permanent” like facial hair removal, I am guessing I have done that because I want to look in the mirror and see a female face. Again, that doesn’t sound to me like someone who is simply on vacation from the male gender.
E. I had a deep-seated desire to tell someone about my dressing. If it was only a hobby, the only reason I would need to tell anyone else would have been to find a fellow hobbyist; otherwise, it seems more likely my inner woman was seeking recognition and acceptance. I wanted someone else to tell me I was still OK even though I dressed up (a lot).
F. As I reflected on who I identified with in film, theater, music and other creative arts, I realized that although I had heroes of both genders, I most wanted to be like the females.
G. Finally, when I was out socially (with my wife or friends), I spent a lot of time as a student of the feminine. If I were CD, I wouldn’t need to make a lifetime commitment out of figuring out which clothes and hair I liked. For a time, I thought I was doing it to create a better “femulation” (to use Stana’s term), but my truth came when I realized that my wife and I were doing exactly the same thing, because that’s what women do – they notice everything!
Regardless of where I fall today on the TG spectrum, or where I fall tomorrow on the TG spectrum, this journey is mine alone to make. Even though 3 years ago I moved from identifying as CD to TG, that has not resulted in me (i) announcing that to the world, (ii), changing legal documents or gender markers, (iii) asking my wife to treat me as anything but her husband, or (iv) knowing any better today what comes next. But I do seem to be crossing the “border” into the land of the female on such a regular basis that I can best describe as an almost “permanent resident.”
I’ll do me and you’ll do you. For all of us, the “unexamined life is not worth living.” It is scary, but we must not be afraid to continue our exploration. And we shouldn’t be afraid if we are led in a direction that feels scary. The light will eventually shine brightly enough to show us the way. Right now, I must admit that the tourist in me would love to have a nice second home in the female world.
Postscript: A final word on the scariest part of all this for someone like me who is married to a truly wonderful woman. I was having dinner with a pastor friend a short while ago and she told me that no matter how much I am trying not to do it, being Lisa is causing my wife pain. I suppose I always knew that was the case, but at the same time I have tried so hard (as most of us have) to shield my wife from the painful bits. I have always thought that perhaps if the pain is small, it will be endurable. So far it has been, as she continues to stand by me. But it is very scary to think that no matter what I do I will hurt someone I deeply love simply by trying to figure out who I am.
Nice way of phrasing it , ” tourist ” or ” immigrant ” ? You do make the point clearly that most people around would tolerate it more if we were tourist . So there we face our first problem should we be true to ourselves or true to others ? Trying to be true to others I found was unsustainable , eventually I ceased to function , so we must be true to ourselves first so we can truthfully answer our own questions , mainly ” What am I ? I found those questions so hard tp answer so I asked for professional help but in doinf so it was read by others as seeking a cure . that posed the question , ” do I want a cure even if it was available ? ” MY gut feeling had already answered that , it only subsided when I was dressed , being a CDer had a deeper meaning . So you cross that boundary from crossdressing to accepting you have a gender issue , for most guys that is the tough one to answer because you have now become an immigrant .
You descibe the obstacles and I fully understand that as like most I’ve lived through it . We fear so many aspects of the life that is unfolding so we have to deal with them . Ia dmit when I moved out of my family home ans set up a new one alone it was scary enough but I also had to accept it was my oportunity to come out to world as Teresa . I had to review so many aspects to live full time , it goes without saying shaving most of my body everyday had to be a way of life . I chose to wear makeup everyday and can’t exist without a wig . It is tough at first but backing down isn’t an option , I had to convince people I was commited to living the life of a woman , I had to earn their respect for my beliefs .
The comment your pastor made about the pain your wife maybe experiencing si an intersting one . From my own experience my wife did feel the pain and loss but it was not all about me . She now admits she handled it badly , she always refused to attend joint counselling . She also admits she only wanted the person she married but failed to realise after 45 years neither of us were the same people . Sometimes marrige becomes an arrangement where one person is making compromises to appease the other , when I came out to my wife that became worse , I was expected to take the blame for everything . That is not a good situation for a long term relationship , was the word ” love ” being abused for selfish reasons ? I’m afraid you often don’t achieve the answers until you separate , that was I discovered how much love there was still left in our marriage . I’m glad to say we now remain friends because we care so much for our children and grandchildren , so in reality I have lost very little and gained so much more , the bottom line is I’m much happier being Teresa .
It’s not selsfish to put yourself first but in doing so you must be honest with yourself .
Wow, Lisa, so much to savour in what you wrote and I love the tourist v immigrant analogy which really gives great context to the whole issue. And to reassure you, no hate mail from me on this – I enjoyed every single word!
What really struck me about your post is how well you have captured the complexity of the whole situation. It is not, as some would assert, a preordained journey with furtive CDing at the start and full social and/or surgical transition at the end. It is something that we each have to find our own point of equilibrium with and, as you quite rightly say, it’s a journey that’s ours alone to make. Others will often judge and may make ‘helpful’ suggestions but outward appearance, on which those views are often formed, is not a true indicator of what’s going on inside and our lives are multidimensional with most of it only visible to ourselves.
Your point about internalised transphobia is an interesting one. Of course, the word transphobia has come to encapsulate all of the hatred & discrimination that is prevalent in certain parts of society but, from a personal perspective, I think it’s purely a reflection that life would be a lot simpler without having to deal with trans thoughts. I love the whole idea of getting ready and then looking in the mirror to see Amanda smiling back but much though I love everything about this side of me, I’m not going to nuke the rest of my life in the pursuit of something that may or may not bring me happiness. There’s a lot to be said for tourism!
And your pastor is bang on with what she said. I know from my own experience how much pain this can cause and, with it comes a dilemma far bigger than trying to decide whether we’re a tourist or inhabitant. I’ve often attempted to justify operating under the marital radar by asserting that I have no right to dump my issues onto Mrs A just to appease my own conscience and that, of course, is a consideration. But a cynic would respond that either I’m just trying to have my cake & eat it or I’m not ‘man’ enough to face up to reality and the truth is that I have no counterargument to those. I promised her that I would stop but ultimately failed; I’m sure that many in our community would offer words of reassurance (and many have!) but how would the only person that really matters here – Mrs A – view it?
Your last sentence says it all and, in the end, I think the only way we can reconcile the dilemma is to look at the side of our life that is unaffected by transness and consider the extent to which that offsets the pain caused. Whilst the fact is that almost all affected wives would prefer this not to be a feature in their marriage, at least we can do our best to keep this separate if that’s what’s needed. Regret is a far harder emotion to deal with because there’s absolutely nothing we can do about the past and mitigation is far harder to achieve.
This was one of the truly great posts that makes Kandi’s Land what it is!
You give me so much more to think about. I worry about you, because I know you love your wife and do not wish to cause her distress. It is an additional burden that can cause so much additional distress. I don’t know what I would do without exercise and I hope you have something similar, because you are a precious woman who remains bottled up too much of the time. I am sure your healthy and positive attitude helps you endure it. I think that is one of Gwen’s messages to us all.
Lisa, there’s no need to worry about me! I’d like to quote the words of a great trans philosopher – you may have heard of her, her name’s Lisa P – who said ‘Regardless of where I fall today on the TG spectrum, or where I fall tomorrow on the TG spectrum, this journey is mine alone to make’.
This is a very important point. In my time of online activity in the trans world, I’ve been told that I was born to be a woman, it’s only a matter of time before I have to be true to myself and all sorts of other observations. These are well meaning and highly validating but they have a fundamental flaw, apart from the obvious chromosomal mismatch and my own aspirations & needs are concerned. They are the result of overlaying the blueprint of someone else’s life or opinions – either ‘this is how my life unfolded so yours must be the same’ or ‘if I looked as hot as you do in those heels, I’d be straight down to the gender clinic!’ – onto mine. But even allowing for the fact that we’re all at different points on the trans spectrum, as I said in my original comment, our lives are multidimensional and there are many more factors at play than just the trans ones.
Without trying to sound too self-obsessed, being able to look in the mirror and see a person I absolutely adore smiling back at me is one of the greatest feelings I have ever experienced. It’s a gift that keeps on giving too, I never tire of it. But I came to realise that there was a price to pay for those highs which was near constant anxiety at other times. Many would say that that is the biggest indicator that I should transition immediately ever seen; for them, it may be the right answer but when I weigh up the impact on all dimensions of my life, it isn’t. I’ll give a slightly lightweight example that illustrates this. I love the idea of having long feminine fingernails and to have that dream temporarily fulfilled when I had my makeover last year was amazing. It’s a small thing in the overall scheme of things and I could grow my nails and shape them to a degree. Mrs A wouldn’t like it but they’re my nails not hers and she’d get used to it. But there’s a problem – I play the guitar and long nails are incompatible with that hobby (at least on the left hand, my right hand nails are longer) and that forces me to make a choice. I choose the guitar playing over the nails – for me it’s a very easy choice but for others it would be a dilemma. As I said, it’s a lightweight example but it is a metaphor for what happens when our trans and non-trans worlds collide.
So the long and short of it is that I’m fine! My multidimensional life, whilst far from perfect, does mitigate the challenges of trying to be fabulous within a marriage that doesn’t support it.
One final point to make — I know you are fabulous, not for what is on the outside, but who you are on the inside.
I was struck by the postscript:
“no matter how much I am trying not to do it, being Lisa is causing my wife pain” – trying not to do it causes us so much pain that we just have to do it and doing so is the best painkiller, ever. So, we know how to cure our pain, why should doing so cause our wives ‘pain’?
Let’s think of other scenarios. We could love bashing a dimpled, white ball around. This could separate us from our wives for hours at a time, in the company of other like minded as desired and costing a fair amount in fees, tools and consumables. Would that cause our wives ‘pain’?
We could love wind rushing through our hair, uh, past the helmet, throbbing power between our legs effortlessly released by a twist of the wrist. Maybe again indulging with like minded others and costing considerable amounts on the machine, insurance and consumables. I guess that really could cause our wives ‘pain’?
Alternatively, maybe our wives could have the same pursuits but without us and would their ‘indulgence’ cause us similar ‘pain’? Do golf widows/widowers engender such discussion and pain as doing what we do? Does relishing the great outdoors despite the attendant risks inevitably cause the non participating spouse such ‘pain’? Should one spouse be happy that the other endures easily relieved ‘pain’ just to save them from ‘pain’?
Would we be similarly ‘pained’ if our wives wanted to go out and experience the world as closely as they could but presenting as males?
What does the pastor friend think is going on here?
The pain I would say comes out of loss. Unlike your examples, I would say, being CD/TG takes away not just time together, but also part of the foundation of the partnership we formed when we married. I think I wrote the postscript as a reminder to myself that it is never only about me. As humans, we live in relationship with others, and the things we do (whether by choice or not) impact those around us. For me, it is important to keep that in my and to moderate my actions (to the extent possible) accordingly.
Thank you for your comment.
Your journey and my journey are both similar and different the ways you relate, but what makes sharing them here so powerful is that we can “compare and contrast” our actions and feelings and maybe feel a little less alone. There is a sisterhood born from shared experience even if not one of us was recognized as a sister to anyone when we were born!
As many of us have said before, we should be thankful to Kandi for creating this forum and giving voice to women who have unique life experiences.
As I mentioned I had no way out other than seeking professional help , I I knew I couldn’t get the answers and help from my wife but at the same time I couldn’t avoid telling her the situation under the cicumstances . She appeared to be on board with my decisions for a couple of weeks , both of us found it difficult to raise the subject but I found I was hitting my head against a brick wall , my therapy revealing the true situation but she chose not talk about it . Eventually I felt so alone and unloved I nearly ended my life , we were bringing so much pain om each other . Being in such a bad place I only saw it as callous cruelty on my wife’s behalf , how could someone I love reduce me to those thoughts or possible actions ? I managed to gradually pull out of it with long term use of anti-depressants but I knew that point in my mid forties was really the time we should have separated . We chose not to for the sake of our children but when we finally talked about it twenty years later we were both relieved and much happier . As i mentioed earlier she now accepts she handled it badly , I’m afraid there is part of me that has never forgiven her for placing me in that dark place .
The good news is that you have emerged from the darkness a better woman. Hopefully, she can say the same thing about herself. We are each a “work in progress.” I hope other people give me license to keep changing, because I am anyway!
Thank you Lisa for a great, thought provoking post.
I have to say, hurting someone or causing them pain is bad; giving to someone or sacrificing for them is good. I have done plenty of both, and sacrificing/giving is the ultimate pleasure.
Our world is moving way too far to the “me” side and causing needless pain.
You have a nice, succinct way of saying it. Thanks!
This is such a great post Lisa and your description is so well thought out.
It took me so much time to fully understand where I fit, and I’m still searching
I’ve found myself very fluid in the outside world now,
wearing makeup and mostly neutral feminine clothes and I’ve accepted that.
Unfortunately I still have to push the feminine back when I’m with family and truly I wish that were not so.
The pain of the spouse really hit home with me as yes it’s real, I saw how my ex went through that when she knew she was losing her man to a more feminine person and it finally broke her.
My pain of the divorce will prob never go away, I wished she could have found a way to accept me but I do get it, but only so much.
I pray you will find good counsel with your wife and know this as one who’s been there I know it will not be an easy road
Your own travels (travails!) are so well articulated. I am trying to go slow (excruciatingly, as needed) in hopes that my wife will be able to adjust. Seems like both parties need to find a way to adjust, and even that may not be enough for some. In any case, your pain is raw and honest and I really appreciate your honest comments about your journey.
Cross dressing is a very complex subject and capable of generating inordinate amounts of stress and anxiety for an individual let alone a married couple. Your post was a very honest and soul-searching review of your situation and i believe it was written with a great deal of emotion on your part. Combine all that emotion with what the pastor said about your wife’s pain being deeper than you realized and you have a situation that is crying out for help from a professional therapist. A good gender therapist can get you both to talk openly and honestly about things you may be otherwise hesitant to bring up to each other. This may help ease your wife’s anxiety and also ease your guilt about you being the cause of that anxiety. I wish you both all the best.
Thank you for your comment. I went to an excellent gender therapist who helped me sort things out, so I am right there with you in terms of that recommendation. As for couples therapy, it takes two to tango. But, I can assure you we are good communicators. We are both good listeners. She knows where I am coming from and I know where she is coming from. So, it is best for now not to press too hard for couples therapy.
I want Dual Citizenship.
I hear you! Lest we forget, that will come with the obligation to fight (for the rights of) both.
I’m reacting so long after this was written that I am probably just talking to myself. I do that a lot!
Loved the tourist/permanent resident analogy. And as someone who began seeing myself as CD and gradually evolved and redefined myself as transgender, I feel as though my tourist phase familiarized me with the lay of the land, the greatest attractions and the culture of womanhood. With that growing familiarity, I felt a growing sense of belonging. Maybe I went native 😉 At any case, circumstances do not permit me to attain full citizenship, but I feel I have attained resident alien status!
I am sure that your wife and most others will experience some sense of loss for the masculine image of their husband, even if that image was a facade designed to hide or compensate for the other parts of us. In my (x) wife’s case, she said that she “could never see me the same way again”. I suspect that part of her identity as an attractive woman was bound to the apparent masculinity of her partner. With that gone, she may have felt diminished. It wasn’t my intent, but her reaction was also not within my control. Looking back, I realize that she made a choice to end the relationship based on her needs. I didn’t want it, but it wasn’t for me to decide.
You are not talking into a void. I hear you. It pains me to learn that your wife left you because you are TG. My wife has said she won’t leave me, but as I continue to evolve into a better version of Lisa all the time, and am on hormones, her resolve has not been fully tested. I refuse to clip her wings, so if she says she must go I must let her fly away. It would almost kill me, but this path is the path I know I must take.
Going native. I like that. Many crossdresser seem to do that, including yours truly.
Thank you for your post.