[There is also a follow-up post to this post.]
A little over a month ago, I came out to my wife with my crossdressing. And then, as I’ve chronicled here before, I immediately stopped talking to her about it. Our marriage is strained, frayed, on life support — I needed to tell her my feelings as part of the process of trying to fix things, but then I did everything I could to pretend I’d never told her. I dressed only when she wasn’t around; I tried to hide any evidence of my dressing; I never brought up the issue with her.
I was, in short, at odds. Did I try to “be the man” and try to fix my marriage? Or did I be myself and risk ending it?
Last night, my attempts to erect a wall between my dressing and my marriage failed. I am not satisfied with keeping it hidden; it doesn’t feel any more natural than all those years of denying it did. I’ve begun to accept that at some level I’m not just a crossdresser. I’m transgender, though to what degree I haven’t yet discovered. Frankly, I’m a better man and a better husband when I am letting my feminine side through. I’m less quick to anger, more appreciative of my family, more in love with my wife when I don’t feel like I have to “be the man.” I ruined my marriage by trying to “be the man.”
So last night, I just let everything out. I told her that I was in love with her, passionately, and that my feelings had heightened over the past six weeks. I told her that I was afraid that if I wasn’t a manly man she’d leave me; but I also told her that to “be the man” would be to build the marriage back up on a lie, and that was neither fair to her nor to me. If our marriage survives this transition, it had to do so with me being the person I felt like inside. No more lying. No more secrets.
I told her everything. I told her about how I dressed when she wasn’t around, and in the mornings when she was asleep upstairs. I told her how I hadn’t worn men’s underwear in over a month, and how for the last two weeks I’d been wearing a camisole under my t-shirt when I lay next to her in bed. I told her that I had been wearing a bra the last two weekends, from breakfast until bedtime, and how it made me happy that my fatty man boobs filled the cups naturally. I told her that my hair wasn’t getting cut anytime soon and that I wanted to replace my worn out men’s jeans with women’s brand ones. Everything had to come out.
As before, she handled like a mature pro. She’s been through a rough gender transition before, when her sister became her brother, and she really does understand a lot of the issues involved. She understood that this wasn’t a choice for me, and she agreed that, whatever our future relationship looked like, it had to involve this part of me. She agreed that rebuilding a marriage on a lie was a stupid idea. She acknowledged that she wasn’t sure how she felt about my changing habits, but that she loved me and would be fully supportive as I figured things out.
On the topic of our marriage, we agreed that there’s a lot still to work through. There’s a lot of emotional baggage connected to the past, and a lot of intimate baggage as well. Added to that is the fact that she really doesn’t know how she’ll feel going forward. She wants to be married to a man; she told me that much. She also wants to be married to me. We’re never going to get back what we had when we met twenty years ago. In some ways it’s like we’re going to have to get to know each other again, reforge a new relationship together.
Though the details and circumstances have shifted, our marriage is just as tenuous as it was six weeks ago. At this point there’s every chance that if might not work; that we remain best friends but never again husband and wife. And that scares me so much. But now at least I can say with confidence that I tried, honestly tried, and that I gave her an authentic self to love. And that has to be enough.
For those newbies who come after me, who are struggling with similar situations: this is not easy. Do not fool yourself into thinking it is, But if this is you, authentically you, then it’s necessary. Even if it hurts, even if it puts your relationship at risk. If you love her, then you owe her the truth.