Change can lead to Challenge

Mary Hunter, WOBS Scotland

Women of the Beaumont Society Helpline.

Issue 4
November 1998

My husband had reassignment surgery in December 97 and is now my special friend called Susan. Little did I know when I married back in 1969 that unknown to me he was transsexual, I only found out in 1992, as did he, as before this time he couldn't put a name to how he was feeling. I hardly knew there was such a condition apart from maybe seeing the odd television programme about it and even then I didn't take that much notice as it didn't affect me.

It was so hard to take in. The whole thing seemed so bizarre I thought perhaps it was just a phase and that I could talk him out of it. But although it was all new to me, his feelings of being in the wrong body went back to childhood. For various reasons he had suppressed his feelings, but now that it was all out in the open, life would never be the same for me. I questioned myself as to how I had never suspected anything. How could I have known him so long yet never really known him. I had to deal with feelings of self-blame. Perhaps if he had married someone else this wouldn't have happened. I wondered where it left me as his wife because I had expected to remain married to him throughout my life. I then felt bereaved, yet the person I was grieving for was still there. I really didn't know in which direction to go. There was an urgency for me to do something - but what?

By this time I had joined Crosslynx, a TV/TS. support group which I enjoyed but I still needed someone neutral to help me come to terms with all the confusion in my life. I was then offered counselling through the Gender Clinic my husband attended. I went there thinking he would tell me what to do - how wrong I was. I came to realise no one can make decisions for you. I found the counselling very helpful as I not only got the chance to talk about what was happening in my life at present, but also my past. For once I got the chance to hear my own story, which helped me come to terms with my situation, I realised there was no great rush to do anything hasty, as we both felt we wanted to stay together in the home we shared as husband and wife, only now as friends. But although we are friends sometimes we don't always agree.

Although we felt it was the right decision for us we had to deal with other peoples' reactions, which were mixed with a few upsetting incidents, but overall so far the good has triumphed. Our son still lives at home and has dealt with it in his own way, although it hasn't been easy for him either. We have a five year old granddaughter who accepts Susan. Like most children she carries no pre-conceived ideas, although she is beginning to question, I expect because our son still calls Susan "Dad", but it is our intention to answer her questions honestly when they arise.

What was a negative thing in my life to begin with has turned into something positive. I have moved on and have taken up some new challenges. Ruth Stewart who is Scotland's Regional Organiser for the Beaumont Society and also Chairperson of Crosslynx mentioned me to Diana Aitchison of WOBS, who asked me if I would think about becoming the WOBS Scotland Helpline which I agreed to do, although with a bit of apprehension. The line was set up in April 97. Getting calls from female relatives of transgendered people has certainly been a learning process for me, having to deal with the hurt that can come across in some of the calls, helps to remind me of how it felt when I first found out.

Although there is a percentage of the calls from the wives of TV's the feelings are just the same. I also get a percentage of calls from the transgendered community. Although I am getting a bit more confident, I am glad of both Ruth and Diana's guidance and support and Susan for listening. I also have done a Counselling Skills Course and a telephone counselling course, which I have tackled as a result of my new situation. I also went to this years Gendys Conference which was another new experience for me, and one I looked forward to.

Susan and I socialise more now than when we were husband and wife, we have made lots of new friends and acquaintances both transgendered, Gay and Lesbian, which has opened my eyes and made me more aware of the differences in people. Although I always believed and still do, that as humans we have more in common with each other than the labels we gather throughout our lives which can sometimes divide us there is a verse which I like, which reads.

They drew a circle to keep me out.
Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.
But love and I had the wit to win;
we drew a circle that took them in.

At this moment, both Susan and I want to stay together because it suits us. Other people in a similar position would do what suited them. As to the future who knows? I can only say that because of what happened in my life I feel I am a much stronger person because of it. There is a saying, "That which doesn't kill strengthens." For me these words have proved true.

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