Stormy Transitions: Memoir of a Str8t Spouse of a Transgender Person

Chapter 3 – Deeper Transitions

Ah!  Hetty and two of the group members came into the lobby.   After swapping stories about the drive while standing in line to register in our separate rooms, the others went off to get settled in their rooms.  We agreed to meet for dinner in about a half-hour.

While waiting for us to return, my thoughts wandered to remembering my first meeting with the support group almost a year ago.   I had connected to Susan, my mentor, through the Str8t spouse website, emailed her, and eventually met her at a restaurant for a cup of coffee. We had swapped stories, finding that our experiences were very similar.   It was great to find kinship and emotional support with someone who had been through a similar experience.  I had agreed to go to the support group with Susan.   The members of the group had all been very supportive, even though I and my mentor were the only ones dealing with transgendered spouses.  The rest of the members had spouses that were either gay or lesbian, and in addition to the feelings I had had, most of us had to deal with a spouse who had cheated on us with at least one gay partner.  At least I hadn’t had the cheating to deal with.  

I remembered that at that first meeting they all had asked if I was going to stay with my husband, and I remembered answering in the affirmative. 

“We’ve been through so much together with infertility, raising two challenging adopted kids, and getting his parents through our twilight years, that this problem seems so mild in comparison, that I’m sure we can probably work through it”, I’d explained.  I remembered that they’d all just given my sad looks and shook their heads.

“Just keep coming to the meetings, so we can help you work through your feelings and support you,” someone had advised.  And I’d agreed because I surely felt confused.  So I had returned and that’s how I’d found myself with this group at the ocean.  After several months of sharing stories, and getting together on a monthly basis, this trip to the ocean had been planned to give us all a break from life and to help us feel human again. We’d all decided we needed time away from the challenges of life, and time to get to know each other as single people, not people with challenges.


Now at the ocean, members of the group arrived throughout the evening, each with our own horror story of getting through the storm to the ocean.  We bonded again over the challenges, relaxed over dinner, and shared more details from each of our lives that didn’t pertain to our current challenges with our GLBT (Gay, Lesbian, Bi, and Trans) spouses.   Ironically, I found out that one of the male members of the group grew up in my childhood neighborhood, and was related to my sister’s ex-husband’s family.  I marveled at how small the world was sometimes.  Since I was older than most of the group, I tired much faster (or was I just wiser than they were?) and wasn’t up for the partying that was starting to take place in Hetty’s room later that night.  I excused myself and went off to bed.

The next morning, I rose with the sun, and even though no one else was stirring, I headed out to the beach.  I walked for about a half-hour and then sat to watch the sunrise over the ocean.  As I sat, thoughts again rambled through my head about how I had reached this point in my life.  While this visit to the ocean was in some ways cathartic, the waves reflected the process I suspected most people go through once We find out our spouses are GLBT.   The cry of the seagull reminded me of the loneliness facing me when I won’t have that someone to call to share the sound of the waves crashing on the shore. My husband and I  used to come to the ocean several weekends each year, and just sit and talk.   Now I didn’t have my best friend to share with anymore.  The person I had challenges with WAS my best friend.   Inside, I was crying with the seagulls.  At least I could now safely look at the waves crashing and realize that I’d lived through the crashing of my marriage, survived, and was starting to pick up the pieces and thrive.    I remembered the conversation in February that had clinched it for me, making me realize that I had to end my marriage.

I had asked again, “How long have you felt this way?” 

“Ever since I was little.  I once stole my cousin’s clothes out of the washer, and would put them on at night in bed,” he’d responded.

“Didn’t your parents suspect?”

“Most of the time no, but my grandmother caught me once, and just lectured me.  I guess she thought it was a phase I was going through.  In Middle School, I’d hide the girl clothes at church, and walk home to the church, then change and walk the rest of the way home as a girl.”

Really concerned now, I asked, “So you’ve really felt this way almost your entire life?”

“Yes.”   At this point, I thought how sad for him that he’d had to spend an entire lifetime not able to be himself.

Thinking through all of this, I had realized that his problems were deeper than I could fix. It also brought up the question of whether I could stay with him and watch him transition from the man I knew to the woman he felt he was.  It had taken six months to work through some of those feelings and for both of us to reach the point where he was ready to leave to pursue his dream of being a woman, while I was left to pick up the pieces.

Many times, during that 6 month period, I had thought back to the conversation that had occurred in the gynecologist office twenty years ago when we were trying to get pregnant.  After many tests on both of us for infertility, the gynecologist had asked me, “Did you realize that your husband had tried to hurt his genitals when he was younger?” 

Surprised, I had replied, “No”, and looked at my husband, “What happened?” 

“I was on the farm for the summer with Uncle John and watched him castrate the bulls.  I put a rubber band around my private parts to see how it felt.” 

 At the time, being young and naïve, I had thought that was just a farm boy’s way of “playing doctor”, so I asked the doctor if it interfered with us getting pregnant.  The doctor and my husband had exchanged glances, but then had responded

“Your  husband’s sperm count was normal, so probably not.”  However, he never explained to me that this could be a sign that he was transgendered, or that other factors infertility could have been affected.   The doctor never seemed surprised that I hadn’t gotten pregnant through all the years I was seeing him for infertility.  Now in hindsight, I wondered if the doctor knew this and was protecting my husband, or if it just recently became known that that behavior was common for transgendered personalities. I myself had found this out while researching transgendered on the internet during this year of transition but back during the 1980s, the internet wasn’t available.

Yet, even now, a year later, sitting on the beach I still couldn’t face the deeper thought that maybe his transgendered status had been an underlying cause of my infertility.  That would cut too deeply to face, and at this time I didn’t want to go there, or I may not be able to pull myself out of these crashing waves of change. The infertility had been blamed for many years on my endometriosis and its possible cure, that I had shed so many tears and finally come to peace within myself that it was meant for me to adopt my two special needs kids.  The deepest hurt, however, was that one of my key dreams in life had always been to experience pregnancy and birth. This process left lasting scars in my psyche because I wasn’t even able to do the main thing that all women experience.  It hurt at every baby shower for years, and every time a friend gave birth. The question was always, “Why can’t I do that?”  But after years of crying, and then adopting two kids who took up all my time, thus fulfilling that need in me to mother, I gradually accepted the molding of that dream. However, sitting by the ocean at this time, I could not open that scar up yet to examine that after all infertility may not have been my fault!  I would be too bitter, and I wanted to heal.  Time would come later to dig into that scar.  So I kept my reminiscences to just the transition period.

In February of the year, we had returned back east, I had reached the decision that this was deeper than I could handle and that I couldn’t stand by and watch him transition. I started to refer to him as K/K (Kurt/Kelly) in my mind.  He wanted to change his name to Kathleen, but to me, s/he was still Kurt.  S/He had continued going to his/her support group meetings (s/he had found one in the metropolitan area, but s/he wasn’t as happy with that group as the members were much younger than those in Denver had been).  S/He gradually started wearing unisex clothing such as jeans and tee shirts that were not either male or female clothing.  Eventually, s/he added makeup (usually put on when I wasn’t around to see it). As time went on, s/he transitioned to wearing women’s clothes to those meetings. Thankfully s/he would change back to the unisex clothes when around me.  


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