By Crystal Joens
What worked for me may or may not work for you. These are roughly the steps that I took and stages we went through. Not to spoil the ending, but all is well with us. And I feel a certain joyous obligation to share my story here on Kandi’s Land because she and others here helped me so much with this.
First, know yourself. After 50 plus years of dressing I worked with several key people to realize where I am on the gender spectrum. As with most, my dressing was on and off and I was clearly confused about why I did it. There was shame, fear, uncertainty and doubt throughout my years of dressing.
Several things fell into place for me to realize that ultimately, I am a happy man with a strong, balancing feminine side that I embrace, partly through dressing. I am not gay, and I do not want to transition to become a woman. Wherever you are on that spectrum, is where you belong. This is where I am, and I am very clear on that thanks to key recent experiences and Friends.
Second, know your wife. I knew 52 years ago on our first date, that she is a caring, compassionate, loving person. Though I knew telling her would be rough, on both of us, I had a great deal of confidence in her and was right. She told me that my being so vulnerable made a big difference. So, I hope you married well and remember that you are both still the same person as when you got married.
Do your homework. Read other people’s stories. Follow the old rule of not reinventing the wheel. Learn from others’ successes and mistakes. And realize that after all that insight, your story is unique to you. Other people’s experiences are theirs and will inform your own, especially if you can communicate who you are and that you still love her.
Journal. Take a lot of time to write down your feelings and review it to dig deeply into who you really are and want to be. I have learned in my business coaching practice that writing down your thoughts helps greatly in shaping and understanding those thoughts. Then read them. Them edit them. Share anything with her that she wants to know.
Organize your thoughts about what and how to tell your wife. Outline everything you want to be sure to say and explain. It is probably not a script. Just outline all of your important points, so you can keep it genuine while having notes to stay on track. Your nerves and her nervous questions can derail the conversation, and those things are to be expected. The notes outline makes sure nothing is left out. Take your time and give her time to process. She asked me to slow down or pause several times, which I did.
Test it with others. There are no long-term Friends who know or will know. I ran my plan past Kandi and my Friends in Kandi’s land and some Flickr friends. I also talked a great deal with Brittany Muse in Nashville who understood me best of all. I learned who I am, where on the gender spectrum I fit, how others presented and how others’ wives responded, both good and bad. Consider it “dress” rehearsals.
Find a good and qualified gender therapy psychologist. We had a brief consult to make sure we were both comfortable with one another and my goals. And I was very clear on the goals.
1. Help me understand myself based on all the above.
2. Help me frame my revelation to my wife.
Three one-hour sessions got me there. How? I role played in advance, was very careful to desensitize language I used, clarified definitions and descriptions and watched her physical and emotional reactions carefully.
Ask yourself how your wife learns and processes. Is she visual, auditory or tactile. Look it up. Mine is visual first then auditory. So, I created a folder with the appropriate journaling, articles and photos. She didn’t look at the book for several days, but when she did, it helped greatly. Edit the writing carefully as she is likely to focus in on a single thought you wrote, when maybe it was fleeting at the time because you were still wondering, exploring and discovering who you really are.
Look for a relatively safe time and space. I picked a Sunday afternoon, without a busy Monday to follow, I picked our family room on the L-shaped couch. I allowed some distance to create mutual safety and faced her directly, yet close enough to reach out and hold one another. She began to tremble, and I slowed down and paused.
Get permission. First, ask if it is a good time to talk about something important. If not, reschedule. If so, ask permission to tell your entire story before she starts to ask questions. This is another reason to have an outline because if and when she interrupts with questions, and she will and should, you know where you were in the process.
Start with a sincere apology for the deception and lies she will justifiably feel. Then promise to tell all if you are truly willing to do this. She will likely ask many times if there is more you are hiding. And she is right to be unsure and ask. Be honest. After a long time lie, now is not the time to hold anything back or reframe blame.
Be ready for whatever reaction you may receive. Consider a full range of reactions and how you will respond to each one. Even a violent reaction is possible, though not in our case. Defensiveness will not help. In my case it was a roller coaster that ran from shock to fear of being feeling alone to relief that the news was not terminal cancer to anger at the deception to the great fear that I would want to transition fully and will leave her.
We went to bed very late, with me feeling it had been a good conversation. Unaware to me, she got up and went into the other room for four hours of fear laden agony and came back in torment. If she reacts strongly and negatively, like mine did there in the middle of the night, crying, even wailing in fear, resist the desire to flee and just hug and hold her. Let it play out fully! Give her time and space and grace. And give yourself the same, if she will let you.
Be very patient, open and honest through the very long conversations that seem both inevitable and endless over the weeks and months to follow. These have been some of the richest times together and beyond bonding us helped me to think more deeply as well. Be slow to answer to be thoughtful and honest. And sometimes open the conversation yourself. And listen, listen, listen!
My wife has become very accepting, though remains worried and curious. Together we have agreed I will dress around the house a few times a week. And we have become more intimate than any time in our lives. For the first month or so, she still saw me as two people, one male and one female. She now sees me as one person: masculine with strong characteristics that are feminine but not effeminate! She sees that because of my femininity, inside my masculinity, I am a better person for her and others. At the outset I was not anticipating the good that would come from my honesty and vulnerability.
We are great together. We have agreed that this is the happiest we have ever been! She even helped me write this and is considering writing it from her point of view, as so little is available from the wife’s perspective. It took me five months of deep exploration, after 60 years of doubt, so we both needed to explore and discover this to work towards our future.
Editorial comment: Whether she knows it or not, Crystal just wrote a master class on dealing with all of this and revealing ourselves to our spouse. This should be required reading for all of us born male, becoming or presenting female.