Silent Partner

First, before I get into my post, I want to make clear that my husband Jello is supportive of me. He sometimes is overwhelmed with his own situation of school, health and transition and that I understand. Sometimes he is distracted by his own fight and this post has nothing to do with that or him. He is not who I am talking about in this post.

There is something I have noticed since my husband came out. That the spouses of transitioning people seem to be in a weird area that leaves them the silent partner. I have done a lot of research online and in the real world and support groups for the non-transitioning spouse are either sporadic or non-existent. I see very little writings about/for them (hence one of the reasons for this blog) and when I do find things, most of them are long out of date and from the point of a wife being supportive of her transitioning partner. Very little of their writings deals with the support they get for themselves, it almost seems like they don’t actually get much support for them.

I found this translates into my personal life as well. My husband has an incredibly supportive group of people. Our friends and my family both are incredibly accepting of his transition. All of them continually inquire if they can help him, or if there is something he needs. This makes me incredibly happy for him. He is undergoing a tremendous amount of stress and nothing but positive coming back, even from schoolmates that we didn’t expect it from.

Here is where I feel like an asshole. Once Jello came out, there were a ton of questions to me, how was he feeling, did he need anything, etc. Of course I replied appropriately to whatever question was asked, ensuring they knew what he needed or wanted. However, I felt like I was in a weird shadow. As if I only existed as an extension of him. One friend did ask if I was going to stay with him, of course I answered yes. Once I said yes, then the questions went back about Jello. I am happy they assume my love is so strong for Jello, that I had absolutely no problem with the transition, but I found I felt hurt.

I couldn’t figure out why I was hurt until my family asked me how I was doing, and what did I think about the transition. They wanted to make sure if they could do anything for me to make it easier during the transition. They seemed to understand it was going to take a lot on my part to change. While Jello is going through the physical/emotional/societal changes of becoming a man, I was going to have to undergo the changes in my 21 year marriage and on my own sexuality as well.

To my family, I had been fully heterosexual when I married my “wife” and now 21 years into my marriage I was going to be married to a guy (my dad mentioned he was glad Gay Marriage was approved in my state last year). Of course my parents don’t know that I am more genderqueer then that. Jello says I am “just gay enough”. Although I could fall in love with a guy, I am more orientated as a bisexual towards women.

My parents are right, I am struggling a lot with the loss of my wife, the gaining of a husband, and the fact that I was now in a de-facto gay marriage with an even more unusual situation of being married to a transitioning husband. I already addressed the awkwardness of the future coming out to my coworkers. I was saddened that my family recognized that, but not my friends. I feel alone a lot. I know I could go to a friend and they would listen, but it was the fact that I wasn’t taken into consideration that hurt.

We tried going to a couple of transgender support groups. The people were incredibly kind to Wolsey there, but I definitely didn’t fit in, and there was a level of (understandable) mistrust. I don’t think that will work for me, maybe I will post about it later.

I realize as a person I am generally closed off. I don’t talk a lot about my feelings in general. In fact, I haven’t even cried since I was 16, (I am now 42). I usually shove my feelings into a deep dark hole inside me. That is what makes this blog sometimes hard to write in. I feel like I am a bad person for feeling hurt or frustrated and I don’t want to seem like I am taking any of Jello’s support, because he needs all he could get.

My feelings are battling each other right now. Part of me is sad and a bit disappointed with the situation above, and the other part of me is disgusted with myself for being sad by it. The disgusted part of me feels like I am betraying Jello or trying to take away from the focus on him and that I should shut up. Honestly, maybe I am being a whiny baby about it.

Part of me wants to delete this blog post. I am embarrassed that I even feel this way by something so little. I am a little worried that by putting out there my frustrations like this, I will seem like the asshole jealous husband. The few blogs I have seen out there are almost 100% support blogs for the transitioning partner with no posts about their own frustration. It makes me worried that I am messed up in the head and being unreasonable.

My idea originally with this blog was to give both sides, surely I am not the only one who felt this way, even if it is unwarranted. I figure “in for a penny, in for a pound” means I will put this out anyways though. Maybe it will help reassure others that they aren’t alone in the thoughts/frustrations that I have.

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10 Responses to Silent Partner

  1. rimonim says:

    Hey there! I noticed your post while browsing the “transgender” tag. I just wanted to say I think it is brave and valuable to share these feelings. Obviously I can’t speak for your husband, but I don’t think having your own process is any kind of betrayal. It is clear that you love and support him. I don’t see any contradiction between that love and your own feelings as you cope with a huge change.

    I am a trans man as well (transition several years ago) and my fiancee and I have also noticed the silence around the partner experience. In fact, we are planning a series of posts over on my blog to share her perspective. Thanks for sharing your experiences, and best of luck to you and your husband!

    • Thank you very much for that. I would love to read any posts you have about it. Actually I would love being in contact with people with a similar experience (we know several transwomen, but no transman in our area that we know of at the moment). I really do appreciate your feedback, thank you!

  2. Gail says:

    Ouch, that you wrote totally resonates with me. I remember feeling pissed that no one was noticing that things might be a little tough for me, while simultaneously feeling frustrated at anyone who expressed concern because I felt like no one really “got it.” I really do think its OK for it to be hard for you, and that you don’t have to feel like it isn’t hard just because it isn’t “as hard” as what Jello is doing. And I really do think that to be there for our spouses, those of us who are not transitioning have to take care of ourselves and deal with those ugly feelings we’d rather not even have, otherwise we get too burned out, since this shit is really intense!

  3. Gail says:

    Oh, and it really has been helpful to me to find other spouses to talk to for support. I first met some folks at First Event, which is a Massachusetts conference, but Philly Trans health is really awesome, and there are some good workshops for partners (and we met some male partners there of transitioning ftm men)

    • We have looked around and attended a local trans meet up. Unfortunately none of them had partners and I felt a little out of place, like I was intruding. I think we are going to go into Seattle, hopefully find some people to chat with there. There does seem to be more support groups back east, but I suspect that is due to population.

  4. Ducened says:

    This isn’t the Olympics, Pookie. There is no competition and no gold medal for for “person who needs the most support”. Your feelings are your feelings, and you can have them no matter what is happening with your spouse. You’re allowed to have good days & be happy if he’s having a craptacular day; likewise, you can wish everyone dead in a fire even if Jello is cavorting through fields of daisies and puppy dogs (but if he is, can I get photo proof, please? Thx).

    Are you familiar with the My Husband Betty forums? Windy’s been haunting/reading them for years. They might have some of the support you’re looking for (insert obligatory underwire joke here). Even if not… I may not always reply, but I always, always read. If it feels like you’re throwing your words into a bottle in the middle of the ocean, may it be some comfort that I’m following along in a rowboat, scooping every single bottle up before it gets lost.

    • Thanks D, I appreciate it. I know its not a competition, but I do worry I might take away from what Jello needs (and that is my low self esteem talking I bet). I will have to check out those forums, I hadn’t found them as of yet.

      I also really appreciate that you follow along in the row boat, you are awesome!

  5. kassandwes says:

    I don’t think you’re an asshole or anything at all for feeling this way, nor for writing this. That is the reason that Kass and I have started our blog together. There is not a lot out there about couples transitioning together, and there are virtually no resources for the spouse/partner.
    What my transitioning meant for her was one of the biggest obstacles I had to overcome before I could officially allow myself to decide that yes, this is what I truly want. She basically refused to tell me how she felt towards it aside from tell me that she supported me no matter what, because she was afraid of swaying me either way.
    The partner often gets pushed to the way side and is forgotten about. I think that it is very unfortunate, because honestly the partner goes through as much of a transition as we do.
    Kass and I actually had a conversation the other day about how she has lost her visibility as a queer woman, because all of her co-workers think she is a straight woman and how hard that is for her because she had to fight so hard for so long for her visibility. And just like that it’s gone.
    I feel so sad that she has lost that because of me. Now we both need to develop new identities essentially because our outward appearance as a couple is soon to change forever as we know it.
    Are we both excited? Yes. Are we both terrified? I’m sure. Are we both mourning some sort of loss we’re facing? Yes.
    You are very brave to be able to assess your feelings and to put them into a blog for others to see. I think that not only will it help you and Jello, but that it may also help another spouses cope with and understand their partner’s transition and the effects it has on them, and that there are others out there. That is what we are hoping for. That we will help ourselves as well as be a resource for others.

    Wes.

  6. ab says:

    Thank you for this post, it is what I have been looking for- knowing how to support my friend whose partner is in the process of transitioning FTM.

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