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Your Day - But what about us?

Diana Aitchison

Co-ordinator Women of the Beaumont Society (WOBS)
Gendys Conference, 2004

   

Introduction

A hypothetical scenario based on real life cases described to the author by wives and partners experiencing their own feelings about their changing role at the time their loved ones start their Real Life Experience. A real life case study follows the description.

At Last! The Day has Come, the dawning of a new identity, the first day of the rest of your life! The Day you have waited forever for, dreamt about, fantasised or even written about, described a million times in your head. All your documents are in order bearing the new name - all except for the Birth Certificate of course. A blot on an otherwise perfect landscape but circumstances will decree that this state might not last forever. This isn't the day to dwell on negatives though - this is going to be the happiest day of your life.

And now it is here. Time to get up and embrace the culmination of all your longings - the right to openly express yourself in your true gender beckoning you forward - a sudden yearning to scream it from the rooftops - if you only dare! Run through the streets while calling out your new name - Hi I'm Delia, Jenny, Hannah whoever - your new stilettos click clacking on the paving slabs in tune with your triumphal cry.

First things first. Run a bath, pile in the smellies, ply the razor and soak forever.

Decisions, decisions. What to wear? What's the weather like? - you can't see because the frosted bathroom window has steamed up and playfully hidden away maybe a shining sun or soft raindrops falling against it. No clues there then. Time to think about alternatives. What if it's scorching hot out there later on - a cotton sun dress or top and skirt are obviously called for with 'Heaven - no stockings or tights. Bare legs in public, ooooooohh'!

But it might be cool at first and turn to rain. Same outfit with a nice jacket, no cardies, too mumsy. Stockings or tights come back into the equation, court shoes instead of sandals and that dinky little ladies umbrella that you were given as a coming out present from the wife when she first came to accept that 'he' wasn't going to be about forever. She hadn't really thought about giving you a present at that time; it just sort of happened when she was out shopping and there was a 'Special Offer' in Woolworth's, two for the price of one, yours to be the pink flowery one as if to emphasise the purpose of the gift.

This won't do, there is a whole day ahead to enjoy. Out of the bath you get, bubbles still tumbling from your smooth, hairless body and budding breasts. Reach for the giant Egyptian cotton towel that engulfs your femininity and absorbs the last of the froth from the bathtub and sit on the edge of the bath in order to examine your feet for a possible pedicure; has the nail polish chipped since you last painted your toenails?

You rub the mirror with your hand to remove enough condensation so that you can see your face. How often have you been told about doing that? It will be hell to polish now. You should have opened the bathroom window and let it dry naturally. Now it will be all streaky and smeared. Think like a woman as well as looking like one damn you!

Pad off to the bedroom on bare feet trailing your towel behind you like the girl in the advert. Sit on the bed and finish drying yourself, allowing the last of the moisture to disperse so that your undies slide on smoothly instead of stuttering and sticking to your still warm skin. Roll on the deodorant, body spray and lotions under arms, on the arms and knees and anywhere that there might be hard skin forming. Allow assorted liquids to dry. Reach for the undies. Bra first, turn it round and do it up at the front then swivel it round and place your arms through the straps. Briefs next. Never mind, they'll fit perfectly after you've had the surgery - be patient. Time to decide whether it will be the top and skirt or the sundress; looks like its going to be a scorcher.

Breakfast.

You've made it downstairs at last. The sundress won so you removed the bra and let the cups of the dress take over. Might not always be able to do that but early days yet - everyone starts with an A Cup and if Nature isn't kind then that nice man at the Nuffield can do the job instead. Just means missing out on the cruise this year, (and next).

Hair's nice - which reminds me, here's a present to mark the Day - your very own hair dryer. Saves queuing for mine and will save time for both of us now it won't be just a quick shave and out of the bathroom any more for you.

Glad you like it, it's that new model you said you liked. It will work better when you've grown another couple of inches and its fluffed up a bit more. Coming on nicely though.

So let's take stock. New hairdryer, full make up and dressed for the sun. A whole week to relax in and get used to 'no more 'him'. What are you going to do now? Go into town? Go to the Library, go shopping? After all it's YOUR Day and you should make the most of it. Coffee? Toast? Grapefruit?

'And what about ME? Somehow I feel as if I don't belong here any more - this day is all about you and your new self and I'm stuck with being the ME I've always been

Case Study

Anna, 38 and mother of 3 and married for 12 years to Julian who she now refers to as Jules. Julian works successfully in IT and Anna is a housewife and writer.

"I'm experiencing a certain amount of sadness about losing the man I married and the end of my dream. My Mr. D'Arcy has disappeared and although I know it was a fantasy I now know it can never happen.

I'm looking forward to finding about this woman, not the old familiar Julian, she is all his good attributes without all his negativity and closed off personality; all the good things I loved about Julian are now wrapped up in Jules who is going full time on Bank Holiday Saturday but not fully because the prominent beard prevents total passing until it is all dealt with which will take a long time.

She's going private, pacing everything at her own desires; we can't be dictated to by the NHS with children to think about."

Anna is an avid user of lists and chat rooms on the Internet as she seeks out others in the same position as herself who she can relate to and identify with. This has been an unedifying experience at times as she has met many different attitudes either directly or indirectly where women on lists say they have met 'hatred and phobia concerning the significant others of gender dysphoric people especially from American religious sites and on an international list where Asian and Chinese people use class and religion to express negative opinions.

Anna does get a bit paranoid and wonders, "What does the future hold for me, it's not clear and what we hope and what might happen are not same. Will it just become normal? well 'no problem' for best case scenario but I fear I will find I won't be able to cope and our community won't accept us. I worry about the impact on kids; will they be bullied and ostracised?"

Anna doesn't want to be too negative and has had basically good news overall. "Everyone we've told so far is either extremely supportive or polite, 'understanding', 'non- threatening', you can tell that they don't agree but they are not dismissing us. My fear that people would be violent hasn't happened; I recognise it as a primitive fear not really based on fact - the reality now in 2004 is that there is more perception by the public. Maybe it happens occasionally but not in general and I was surprised when we told some people how they reacted positively; they were absolutely wonderful. I can see another side to people like the school headmaster for example. I expected that a man in authority would be coldly polite. In fact we found the opposite; he was concerned about all of us"

Anna recognises that GD isn't a lifestyle choice and goes on, "I know Jules is not a selfish person and if she could have found another way she would have done it. As I want to defend him it means I daren't express any reservations to some people because they might attack Jules on my behalf and I don't want that. Everyone must understand it's a medical issue with no choices and we've all got to make the best of it. Some of our friends don't mean any harm but they think he should wait another 10 years until the kids grow up but I know that it's not good to be constantly keeping parts of ones personality back. His relationship with the children when they grow up could be appalling because he tried to keep it at bay and when it hits he thinks about it all the time. This can be too much and its not practical to keep trying to repress it if he can't do his job etc. This is a potentially fatal illness with a high suicide rate and our Church is not supportive; if I left Jules there would be tremendous support from the Church for me and the children but not if I stay as I am therefore guilty by default!"

Children

Two of Anna and Jules children are on the autism spectrum and have difficulty understanding and relating to other people. One has significant behavioural problems and Anna says he definitely needs two positive parents who are energetic and emotionally stable.

She points out, "I am one of the few parents in the support group not on anti depressants yet our difficulties would drive anyone to a nervous breakdown therefore I need to get Jules into a stable situation otherwise it's just not going to work and she won't be able to hold it together.

"Our youngest doesn't understand consequences so will persist in doing some thing without regard like smashing up toys and furniture and hitting siblings and the only way of dealing with it is with a strict structure and positive reinforcement.

Sam yells "I hate you" at Jules which upsets her, but he does it to everyone when he gets stressed, for example when his expectations are thwarted because he was expecting orange cheese in his sandwich and got yellow instead. He's been like this since he was 18 months old and goes to a special school. Sam is particularly difficult at holiday time and on weekends and whenever his routine is changed. With a child like this you mustn't let things get to you. Jules gets visibly upset and reacts because when she is sensitive and delicate, being verbally abused is not good psychology and she should be emotionally distant until Sam behaves properly but it is difficult for Jules to do this.

Regarding the children - we want our children to grow up so that there is nothing to be ashamed of so it's important that we don't act as if we are to be ashamed of who we are. Terrified that children will get bullied, what kind of message is that? Making decisions based on fear? - far worse to grow up afraid and believing that they have to do what others say from fear. There are far worse things - he could have died from something totally out of the blue, on the scale of things changing sex isn't nearly so awful. Socially unacceptable maybe but not the end of the world, many worse things could happen in life and there is lot of hysteria surrounding the situation.

Naming Jules

I use Jules as her name because it is between male/female and easier than Julia. My mum suggested Jules all the time instead if splitting from one person to other. I'm now definitely seeing her as woman and we have conversations that are typically female. We now find male mode extremely difficult; on Monday morning Julian goes back to male mode then at weekends becomes Jules. It reminds me of the film Truly, Madly, Deeply where dead people are resurrected and reminisce about the past. A wife falls for a live man and lets her dead husband go.

"Let me get on with my life with this woman. I don't need Julian to don't keep coming back to haunt me."

The big problem.

"No matter how nice Julia is, I'm going to have to adapt to an all female relationship and how society views that. I've always been seen as 'respectable' and I'm now being in a marginal place being viewed as lesbian but not gay and having to adjust my perception of myself and also others. I'm uncertain how that will be and how I will cope with being conceived and will lose my married women status. I remember my own prejudices and can relate so I'm worried that people will do that to me.

There are no usual rites of passage; I viewed myself as heterosexual primarily; now I'm not sure. It used to be a black and white issue; now I don't feel comfortable with that. It's all very unfamiliar and a little bit scary; will I be horrifying to older women?"

Femininity and identity crisis

"My femininity? Well I'm a bit confused about it and now hesitant,

  • Why shouldn't I buy a pink top?
  • I find I'm now suppressing my femininity, that I shouldn't be feminine any more, but it's stupid to think that. I ask myself Why? How? is it appropriate to present myself now. The good side is I'm not very femme now like I used to be and I feel freer about expressing a more masculine side i.e. DIY, and I feel more liberated now although I do worry about whether Jules finds me attractive and I'm not sure how to be attractive to her. What does she expect of me - does she want what I'm wearing? I need a lot of reassurance that I'm still attractive to Jules.
  • Will she change her sexual orientation? There are no guarantees! I must admit to feeling a bit insecure but I have to rise above it. I did buy the pink top and try to be who I am, 'to Thine own Self be true' is a vital part of my life; I can't have strong relationships with others otherwise.

Sexual orientation? It's a big issue. If I was avowedly hetero with absolutely no other tendencies I wouldn't contemplate staying in the long term - just the short term for the sake of kids but I'm not entirely hetero it seems. The idea of having a female partner doesn't appal me like some people where it is absolutely untenable to them. I don't have to sacrifice my sexuality. It was still not easy though to put the person first, not gender, and reacting to a female that has a male body. I do find the female side attractive, and I'm rejecting the male persona gradually but not understanding the reality of being lesbian - although my brain is beginning to accept that it's not case of flicking a switch.

I'm quite happy with my lot overall and need more people realise that having a husband who happens to be transsexual is not the end of my life - there is a way and I anticipate being happy again in the next 2 years but I definitely don't want to be a bloke!"

Discussion

Anna is an erudite and intelligent woman who can express herself quite dogmatically if necessary. However not all women have this ability and can find themselves without a voice with which to exert their own point of view. Many women will mention almost ashamedly that the very people who they turned to for help and understanding i.e. their GP or Practice Nurse responded by saying that they should leave the relationship. In some cases, particularly where the support worker has been a female she has added "I don't know why you stay - I wouldn't."

As this paper was presented at the Gendys 2004 Gender Dysphoria Conference in Manchester it was possible to put the discussion to the floor where the following observations were made:

  • Anna is a strong woman who has a lot on her plate.
  • She is very brave to try and cope with everything that she has to deal with.
  • One wife present commented that she had been told by her health worker to 'get rid of the bastard' when she went in to discuss her husband's revelation that he felt that he was transsexual.
  • According to several transsexual women present many wives had cited the difficulties Anna described concerning other peoples perceptions of her as their own reasons for leaving their relationships.
  • Most wives and partners are not as strong as Anna and would need far more support than is currently available to help them to stay in their relationships (should they wish to do so)
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Citation: Aitchison, D., (2004), Your Day - But what about us?, GENDYS 2004, The Eighth International Gender Dysphoria Conference, Manchester England.
 
Web page copyright GENDYS Network. Text copyright of the author. Last amended 01.07.06