When I met my wife, I knew I would need to tell her about… everything.
I was in my early thirties when we started to date and I knew who I was, I knew this was not a phase, I knew I was not going to outgrow this side of me. I believe in full disclosure in relationships and it was only fair that she knew everything about me. It also stressed me out keeping something, especially this, from her. I knew that this was sometimes a deal-breaker in relationships and she needed to know as soon as possible.
The longer we dated, the more urgent the need to tell her grew. So, one summer night I told her everything. At this point in my life it was only about underdressing. I wore lingerie and besides a few pairs of heels (I needed something to wear with my lingerie, after all), that was all I owned.
I insisted that lingerie was the extent of my dressing. I told her this because it was true, but I also wanted to assure her that this was not the start of something bigger. I knew that one of the biggest fears our partners have is that one day we want to transition or that we are unhappy in our current gender identity.
….and now we fast-forward a few years.
I remember my wife’s shaky smile as she tried to be supportive and happy for me the first time I wore a wig and full makeup. I remember her laughing off how my shoe collection exceeded her own. I remember the nervous conversations when she confessed how she was afraid of where this was going. She married me, she didn’t want to lose me. This was not something she anticipated having to adapt to in a relationship.
It’s not uncommon for our partners to feel afraid that they are losing their husbands to another women when that other woman is us. For me, lingerie led to makeup, then dresses, then to a wig, then to a name, then to a website, then to going out…
Where was all this going?
It felt as if with every step I was testing the waters. Every step I took felt right and made me happy. I had never felt I was missing something in my life that I found through dressing and exploring my gender identity, but each new step just felt natural. I thought that with each new level, if you will, was where I would stop. I didn’t think I would have a name, until I did. I didn’t think I wanted to go out of the house, until the pull of experiencing the real world became too hard to resist. It became harder for either of us to believe that I was stopping anytime soon.
And then I did.
Although I would go onto starting the MN T-Girls, refining my look, and expanding my online presence, my “journey” ended. There was no next level that I felt compelled or interested in exploring. If anything I got to know this side of me better and grew more confident as Hannah.
If the life of a t-girl were a movie, the third act would likely see them talking to a doctor about hormones and coming out to others in their life, but I never had any sort of desire to explore that. I have friends (in both gender identities) that have transitioned. I listen to their stories and I don’t feel like that’s my path. They tell me what they feel, and I don’t feel that way. They tell me about the conversations with their therapists and doctors and those are not talks I feel I need to have.
And full disclosure, I have seen therapists before for reasons having nothing to do with my gender identity. I bring it up though, just to talk it out and through these conversations there was never any feeling I was repressing something or in denial about who I was or what I wanted.
Looking back, it felt like I went very quickly from progressing from underdressing to where I eventually landed, but it wasn’t easy for my wife. Even when I stopped going to the next level, my wife worried for years I would want something more. Not that I was in denial about who I was or keeping something from her, but when you see your spouse go from panties to strutting out the door to hit the mall, they may wonder if we want anything more.
I don’t blame her. These days I regret how scared and lonely she felt during this time. I wish I had done more to assure her, but when your husband is dressed to kill in a wig to stilettos and everything in-between, it’s not easy to let that fear go.
What helped ease her mind was time and me being honest with her. If she were to find that I was secretly having conversations with my doctor about hormones I would have lost her trust and all credibility. We need to be as transparent as a mesh nightgown.
When I think back to that summer night when I insisted that the extent of my dressing started and ended with lingerie, I do not think I was in denial or lying to her or to myself. I had tried on dresses before and previous experiences with makeup did nothing for me, so I thought that I gave them a chance but it wasn’t for me. Of course, experimenting with makeup with no training or tutorials is going to lead to a frustrating and unfulfilling experience. When my wife did my makeup for the first time it was a whole new world.
I loved how I looked. I was as surprised as I could be. I wanted a dress. Then I wanted a wig. We looked at a few online and a few days later, it arrived in the mail. The first time I dressed completely was the start of who I am today.
And that start was the beginning of my wife’s fears.
She went from hearing her boyfriend open up about wearing panties to a new woman in her living room in just a few years. It was not easy for her. At one point she was told that there was nothing beyond lingerie to a closet steadily filling up with little black dresses.
The only way we know where our journey will take us is by exploring different paths. The only way we know where our limits are is to test them. The only way we can get to know this side of us is by doing.
At one point I didn’t think I would want a femme name. At one point I didn’t think I would want to go out. But it turns out I did, I just didn’t know it until I tried. It never felt wrong or disingenuous to have a femme name. Going out into the real world was just was wonderful and fulfilling as I could have wanted.
Many of us are scared to dress. Many of us are in denial about who we are and what we want to wear. I think for many of us that fear comes from not knowing where it will end. It’s not unrealistic to think that a pair of panties could eventually lead to transitioning, I mean, changing your gender identity has to start somewhere, after all. But you won’t know until you try. I know many t-girls who dress but don’t want to wear a wig. Or makeup. Some even keep their male name. They have tried femme names or eyeliner but just wasn’t for them. I have a good friend that dresses and wears makeup but still refers to themselves with their male name and male pronouns. For him, it didn’t feel right to call himself ‘her’.
The only way for us to know where all of this will eventually land is to try the next level. Right now you may be all about lingerie like I was, but you won’t know until you try dresses or proper clothes. I am not saying you need to or should, but when you come out to someone, I absolutely believe you need to know where all of this is going, if it’s going anywhere.
And that’s the point of this.
When we come out to someone, we owe them the truth. We need to let them know where we stand (in heels or not) and what we want. We owe ourselves the truth as well. We all know what we mean when we talk about our journeys, and exploring gender presentation and gender identity is exactly what that means.
When we come out to someone we will get the typical questions. Do you want to transition? Are you gay? Are you unhappy as a man? Do you want hormones?
These questions are often paired with the unasked questions, especially with our partners. Are you in denial with who you are? Are we going to divorce in two years because you want to transition? Am I in a relationship with someone who doesn’t know who they are or what they want?
We need to know ourselves. Our partners need to know that as well.
Of course, what we want could change over time. I’m not going to pretend we stay the same. For some t-girls they realize they are ready for the next level, so to speak, decades later. That next level could be anything from heels to going out to hormones. As we learn things about ourselves and what we want in life, it’s essential for us to share these thoughts and desires with our partners.
Thinking about going back to college to change careers? Tell your partner. Fantasizing about writing an opera? Tell your partner. Daydreaming about a pink dress? Tell your partner.
One of the worst things we can do is blindside our partner. We need to do our best to be open and honest with who we are, when we know who we are. Telling your spouse after five years of marriage that you have always wanted to get a makeover or feel you were assigned the wrong gender at birth is usually avoidable and a little unfair. Marriage, like any relationship, is a serious commitment, the biggest one in your life, and it’s not fair to go into that commitment without disclosing everything, as hard as it may be to talk about it. You owe it to them, and to yourself, to know who you are as much as you can.
2 thoughts on “Testing the Waters”
Your articles are always so relevant and personal. Please keep writing..Thank you..
I also believe in full disclosure. Lack of open and honest communication is a major contributor of failed relationships. Hannah, you’re to be applauded for your openness. It takes tremendous risk and vulnerability to do so. I know this very well myself. That being said, your wife’s worries and fears are so understandable especially before you had fully found your home base (if you will) on the trans spectrum.
Yes, your open communication with her helped but with each step you got that much closer to HRT and other transition steps. Thankfully for both of you, you found comfort in occasional crossdressing and socializing in public. I’m very happy for you!
Another major point, I believe, from your post is that we cannot really know where we reside on the trans spectrum until we give each step a try. God, that’s so hard and scary but we need to take a series of gradual experiments like a scientist, stating a hypothesis such as “If I do _______ my gender dysphoria and comfort in my life will overall increase.” Easy to say, hard to do, that’s for sure.
I never in a million years imagined two years ago that I’d be where I am today, about as transitioned as anyone could be, legally, physically, and mentally, living my life as a woman. With each experiment I was surprised by other doors opening as I realized what I needed to do next.