Someone to Talk To (Part 4)

Diana Aitchison WOBS

Women of the Beaumont Society Helpline.

Issue 7
August 1999

"I have recently discovered a collection of women's clothing and some pills and creams in plain packages that my husband had hidden from me. He refuses to discuss this with me and becomes abusive towards me.

We have been married for seventeen years and have one child. His attitude to me changed after the birth of our son eleven years ago and he became distant and uncaring. Despite my advances he has shown little interest in the sexual side of our marriage since then and it ceased completely about three years ago. He prefers to stay up watching videos that he acquires privately but I have never seen, or surfing the Internet until the early hours. I haven't seen him undressed for many months and he has become very secretive, locking himself in the bathroom and always wearing heavy tops regardless of the weather. When he comes to bed he curls up with his back to me and his arms folded and he always keeps his underwear on. He used to sleep naked but now he avoids me if I try to get close to him.

We are in our early forties and I don't want to spend the rest of my life like this. I feel so unloved and taken for granted and my friends and family have noticed the difference in me. My husband has no friends and doesn't like mine; I have to see them on my own and even then he complains.

I saw a chat show recently about transvestites and transsexuals and it got me thinking - has this got anything to do with my husband's behaviour and why won't he talk to me about it? He says I'm imagining things and even suggests that I am going mad if I even try to broach the subject with him".

Sadly, this scenario is featuring more frequently on the Helpline and is a deep cause for concern both by the wives who report it and the Health professionals involved in the care of Gender Dysphoric people.

The advent of the Internet and the wide range of pharmaceutical products that can be purchased indiscriminately and without medical supervision has created a situation where men who are affected by a degree of Gender Dysphoria can covertly self-medicate. Such is my own personal concern for this practice that I have searched diligently for explanations as to why married or partnered men feel that they can attempt to alter their physical appearance to the extent to which many are, without any consultation between their wife or partner or the medical profession.

One's first concerns must be with the physical health of the subject who is ingesting quantities of female hormones and anti-androgens without first approaching the appropriate specialist in the field of Gender Dysphoria or Gender Identity Disorders. The known side-effects of even the most carefully prescribed doses can include liver damage and jaundice, some cancers and kidney failure and deep-vein thrombosis, to name but a few. This information is readily available on responsibly produced web-sites on the subject of transsexualism but an increasing number of people appear to be over-riding this advice.

In the case of this particular caller the husband was in his forties but wives have reported instances where their husband has been in his seventies and all age groups in between. Sometimes the evidence' includes pornographic magazines featuring images of she-males', men who have grown their own breasts but have not had gender reassignment surgery; a practice more commonly found in Middle and Far Eastern countries. It is little wonder that women are shocked and revolted by the thought that their husband or partner should be interested in emulating the exotic portrayal of sexually driven cabaret artistes and fetishists, some examples of which enjoy sado-masochistic practices and multiple-partner bi-sexual encounters.

Many women today are open-minded enough to accept that many ordinary men indulge in sexual fantasies although they remain in the minority at least where they are committed to a traditional monogamous and heterosexual partnership. However, few women are willing to accept the physical manifestation of sexual diversity such as this in the body of their life-partner.

Conversations with those men who are willing to talk on the subject reveals that many have a belief that they may change their own body if they wish to and state that they are at a loss to understand their wives attitude to a decision such as this. Many do not crossdress fully or prefer specialist items such as fetish clothing. They declare an overwhelming desire to have their own breasts and claim that they cannot see why their wives should be so upset. Significantly, many have not seriously considered a total gender reassignment procedure and vehemently state that they have no desire to be a transsexual person. A diagnosis by a specialist psychiatrist might suggest that they have a form of sexually driven Gender Dysphoria which is expressed through a fetishistic approach to crossdressing. An inability to commit to sexual intimacy in a loving, exclusively opposite sex relationship could also be suggested.

The subjects' inability to perceive the reality of their actions and the effect that it has on significant others leads them to believe that their needs and fantasies are a private affair. Inward looking and self-orientated they portray a level of self-denial that frustrates, angers and humiliates those who observe their secretiveness. When confronted by concerned wives or partners they become abusive and controlling, defensive and withdrawn. All wives who have reported this phenomenon (and they now run into hundreds) state that they feel that as long as their husbands do not actually admit to their behaviour, they (the husbands) can pretend that it is not happening. If a wife states that she is unwilling to stay with him he is likely to say, "Well, that proves why I didn't tell you - I knew you would leave me".

Angry husbands have related a tale of woe that includes statements such as "I don't understand what she has to complain about. I work hard and give her plenty of money - she should think herself lucky". When asked why they seem so angry with their wives they often state that "Well, she never was much of a wife - she wouldn't let me do what I wanted", meaning that attempts to include them in their sexual fantasies has met with rebuff. When asked about their wives position in the relationship and their feelings about the behaviour many will state "Never mind about her - what about me?" This perception of themselves as the only person of importance in the relationship undermines and demoralises women who are only trying to understand why their husband treats them in such an underhand way. They find it almost impossible to understand why a man who claims to have felt the way he describes for most of his life then goes on to marry, especially as he accepts that his wife will probably not condone his actions. It is difficult to sympathise with someone who then bullies and cajoles his wife into compliance and submissiveness, as is sometimes the case.

The mystery surrounding this practice is how these men believed that they could contain their secret forever. In some cases the men were already becoming jaundiced and their mood swings were frighteningly out of control. When wives were actually physically assaulted they decided to leave the marriage, some fleeing to women's' refuges, others have been admitted to psychiatric hospitals. Even then, the husbands denied everything, claiming that their wives were liars.

The nature of the problem is ongoing and highlights the extent to which more men are prepared to go in order to maintain an outwardly normal existence while indulging their fantasies in such a risky and deviant manner. It would be impossible for any professional, responsible advisor to condone this behaviour as being within normal limits. The fact that they persistently deny their indulgences only serves to emphasise their feelings of guilt that manifest themselves in unacceptable actions.

Attempts to steer the subject towards professional help culminates in threats and intimidation that leaves women feeling helpless and vulnerable. Many become worn down and believe that there is no way out. Consequently they are at a loss as to how they can take control of their lives again, short of fleeing the household and abandoning a lifetimes acquisitions and security. Not all women are middle-aged or older; some are young mothers with small children who are obviously totally reliant on their husband or partner and who are bewildered and frightened by the turn of events that has turned their dream of marriage into a nightmare.

Many women have asked "When is someone going to do something about it?" and the answer is "What can anyone do except advise women to leave the relationship". If the subjects themselves are not willing to seek the help that they need and continue under the allusion that women should just put up with it then the needs of the women and children become paramount. This means that the pressure to keep families together under any circumstances must be abandoned. Men who believe that they can have the best of both worlds by simply ignoring their wife or partners needs will then be left to their own devices, something which they patently seek to avoid. By trying to present a normal' façade to the world while attempting to lead a secret double life as a semi-transgendered person who indulges in sexual fantasies and practices behind his family's back - these men are selfishly consigning women who they profess to love and care about to a life of misery and humiliation. To an outsider who has no understanding of the power and range of Gender Dysphoria, these men are judged to be cruel misogynists. Indeed they are.

Black market and other unregulated activities can only exist when the products (in this case feminising hormones) are strictly controlled. There is a good reason why these particular products are not easily available - they can be extremely hazardous to the health of the user unless properly monitored. However, while this Government continues to adopt the attitude of resistance which it has to the importance of treating Gender Dysphoric people, there will continue to be a flood of calls such as the one illustrated here and more and more women will be subjected to the vagaries and instability of desperate men such as those described above.

[The author of this article welcomes comments and relevant information concerning the unregulated use of feminising hormones by people with varying degrees of Gender Dysphoria. Of particular concern are those persons who have been subjected to the results of this practise and who would appreciate understanding and support.]

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