Love and Marriage and Crossdressing

mock book cover

Hi girls!  I am getting close to finishing my first draft of ‘In-Between’.  Many of you asked for a section about coming out to your spouse after you’ve gotten married.  This wasn’t an easy chapter to write and I really want to thank everyone who wrote in about their experiences with this.  Marriage is not easy, and we all have reasons why we didn’t, or still haven’t, come out to our spouses. 

I do not believe that I am doing any favors by sugar-coating any aspect about who we are.  I would love to say that the entire world loves us, but that is not reality.  The truth is that when we go out into the real world there’s the chance that we will be looked at, laughed at, or worse. Rather I see what I do as a obligation to talk about what might happen in any scenario, whether it is hitting the mall or waxing your eyebrows and how to deal with any sort of comments or criticism.  It’s important to be prepared in everything we do.  Whether it’s making sure you have an extra car key hidden in your purse or mentally preparing yourself for the dude at the coffee shop who suppresses a smirk at seeing us, we need to be realistic, or perhaps even pessimistic, about what happens when we venture out of our homes or when we come out to someone.

I would love to have written an upbeat, completely optimistic book about how the world loves us and that nothing bad will ever happen and there will ever be a syllable of criticism or piece of legislation) towards us.  But that’s naive.  It’s important to be honest about who we are, not only with ourselves but with our partners.  

This chapter reflects the sometimes brutal and uncomfortable reality of not being honest with our partners.  

Love, Hannah 

You have done the impossible.  You have found your missing half, you have met your soulmate.  Until this moment, you never thought you would find THE ONE.  Sure, you’ve had crushes before, you’ve been in love, perhaps in a few relationships, some of them were even serious, but this, this is it.

You have fallen head over (high) heels for someone, someone who brings out the best parts of you, the one whom you would do anything for.

Anything including ignoring and denying this side of you.  You know what side I’m talking about.

You might be anywhere between wearing a pair of panties under your suit to work a couple of times a month to stepping out to the mall or club every weekend, but there’s a side of you that is not out to the world.  And you intend to keep it that way.

Even from the new love of your life.

You can control this, can’t you?  Just… don’t wear lingerie.  Or makeup.  Or that cute dress.  You are so in love that you can do anything, even overcome the pull of beautiful clothes.  This part of you would confuse this new, amazing person in your life.  They might be scared off.  They won’t understand this side of you.

It’s true, they probably won’t understand this side of you.  I’ve been married for over ten years and my wife doesn’t understand this side of me.  I don’t either.  But this is who I am.

It’s easier to put this part of us away.  To tell ourselves it was, or is, a phase.  To tell ourselves that we have (or will) outgrow this.  Better to keep it a secret and never do it again than risk losing your incredible love.  You know you should be honest, you know you should put all your cards on the table.  But part of you tells yourself that you are not *that* person anymore.  You have conquered your desires and since you won’t be dressing anymore, there’s no harm in continuing to keep it from them and from the world.

So, time passes and time moves quickly.  The relationship is amazing and it’s everything you could have ever wanted from life.  You make commitments.  You buy a dog, you move in together, you propose, you get married, you have children.  You have a brand new life, a wonderful life.  You find joy in the routine, you find joy in your new shared life.  You face everything everything together.  You are married to your best friend and life is perfect.

But something is missing.  Your eyes linger on the girl at the mall.  Not because she’s cute, but because her outfit is.  You look longingly at your wife’s panties as you fold laundry.  You admire the shade of the lipstick she’s wearing.

Something is stirring inside you.  Something you thought you moved on from.  You heard that this side of you would never go away and that this is who you are, but you thought for sure you would be the exception.  That you would be able to move on.

But you heard correctly.  This is who you are.  This is not something that can be, or should be, overcome.  Instead this is something you need to be honest about.  Honest with yourself, and honest with your partner.

You find yourself wondering if you can fit into your wife’s new skirt.  You play around with the new eyeliner she picked up.  Your Googling takes you to websites you hope she doesn’t see.

You have started to keep something from your partner.  You don’t mean to, and you certainly don’t look at it that way.  We all have secrets, right?  But you know that this is a little different.  You don’t mean to be deceptive or dishonest, and it’s easy to justify keeping this from them because, well, they won’t understand.  Besides, you suppressed this part of you for the last few years, you can push it back down again.

But you can’t.  Who we are demands to be acknowledged.

Paranoia and guilt and fear seep in.  Terrified she might wonder why one of her bras is stretched out.  Scared she’ll see the browser history on your laptop.  The guilt from keeping this from her.

More justification sets in.  You’re protecting this part of you from her because she wouldn’t understand it.  It would only worry her.  You don’t need to put them through anything else in addition to everything you both have going on in life.  Raising a family is hard enough, she doesn’t need to be worried that her husband is transgender.

But this justification is usually a selfish one.  We think we might be doing something… noble by keeping this from them.  But not being honest with someone is usually done for the benefit of yourself.  Quite simply, you have a wonderful life with a beautiful person and it’s all you’ve ever wanted and you are terrified that this part of you will change everything.  So, just like before you met, this side of you is kept a secret.

This side of you started to stir, but now it’s getting harder to ignore.  You might be doing things you never thought you would do again. Maybe you have a pair of panties hidden in your gym bag.  Maybe you dress up in your hotel room when you are on that business trip.  Not only are you dipping your toe back into the water, you are also doing something you thought you would never do, which is not being honest with your partner.

The guilt grows.  You feel guilty for giving into this side of you.  You thought you conquered this, you thought you were strong enough to never ever do this again.  You are haunted and consumed by keeping something from your partner.  You feel terrible for not being honest with them.  You realize that yes, you should have told them years ago.

But now what?  You are eight years and two kids into a marriage.  You have a solid, wonderful life and you have a giant secret that could upend everything.  What will happen if and when they find out?

Yes, you can choose to keep it a secret.  This is the easiest and hardest thing to do.  It’s also the most dishonest.  It simply isn’t fair to keep anything from your partner.  You can justify something all you want, you can convince yourself you are protecting them, but in reality you are only protecting yourself.

I do not believe that we want to keep this, or anything, from our partners.  I believe that most people are good people and want to be honest with our spouses.  Keeping this a secret is on a different level, or so we tell ourselves.  It’s too late to tell them, we say to ourselves.  The longer we hold this secret the more it consumes us, and, in a way, makes it easier to continue to be dishonest.  It sometimes becomes easier to tell a big lie if you’ve been telling small ones.

And let’s not pretend that this isn’t lying.  You can tell yourself that there is a difference between not being forthcoming with everything and lying, but I don’t think our partners care about semantics.  If you are doing something or wearing anything you don’t want your partner to know about, then it’s dishonest.

I am not here to point fingers or shame anyone.  I know who we are is not easy.  I know how hard it is to come out to someone.  I am not perfect.  I let relationships get serious before I told them.  I learned from mistakes.  If you take anything from what I write, it’s that we need to be honest with ourselves, that there is nothing wrong or shameful about who are, and that this is not something we can stop.

This part of us is not easy to understand, it’s not easy to accept.  It’s not easy to explain.  It’s understandable why we want to, and why we try, to keep this from others in our lives.  But secrets have a way of being found out.  This is one of our biggest fears.

Perhaps your spouse is going through some old boxes in the garage, boxes they haven’t touched in five years.  Pretty safe place to keep your clothes, maybe.  But one day they’re doing some spring cleaning and they find heels that are too big for them.  A skirt that is definitely not theirs.  There’s confusion at first, and soon a slow, creeping realization as to who those clothes belong to.

Maybe your wife needs to use your laptop real quick to look something up and your browser history tells a story.  They always do.  Your phone is left in the other room and your spouse sees you have a notification of an email from Ashley.

Who’s Ashley?

Well, Ashley might be a t-girl you met online one night whom you struck up a friendship with.  But that’s not necessarily the assumption your partner will make.  Ashley is that new girl in your office.  An old girlfriend.  Someone your wife doesn’t know.  Your wife starts to think, and fear, the worst.  Something bad is happening, they think.  Their partner is having an affair.

But no, Ashley is a crossdresser from Pittsburgh and is emailing you a link where you can buy some amazing heels that go up to a size 14.  Whether or not your spouse is relieved by this can vary depending on the person.

Ashley’s email, the box of clothes, your browser history will turn your life upside down.  It’s completely natural for your spouse to perhaps do a little more digging into these revelations.  Yes, I suppose you could call it snooping but at this point you’ve been keeping something huge from them and I don’t have a lot of sympathy for someone who is lying to their partner.

You have now been caught.  Now what?

Everything is now under scrutiny.  You have lost your credibility.  How long have you been doing this?  (All your life, but that’s neither here or there at the moment).  Do you want to be a woman?  Are you gay?  Why did you lie to me?  That business trip last year?  That really wasn’t a business trip, was it?  You got an amazing makeover and spent the day en femme in Boston or wherever.

In situations like this, a couple deals with two things.  Not only is there the whole “my husband wears panties” fallout, but they also face the reality that you have this other life that you were lying about.

The bombshell has gone off and your life is a mess.  It might not always be a mess, but it probably will be for a while.  It will certainly change things. Not only do you have to come out to your partner, you are also doing it under the worst possible circumstances.  You didn’t want to come out, you didn’t want to be caught, and your spouse certainly didn’t want to find out this way.  They will likely feel angry, hurt, betrayed, and scared.

Be honest, can you blame them?  They may feel deceived because, well, you deceived them.  You weren’t honest with them.  They’re afraid of someone finding out, afraid of losing their husband.  They’re confused because we are not easy to understand.  You might feel that betrayed is a bit of a strong word but think about it.  There was something about you, something significant, that you held back from them.  You didn’t disclose something about yourself that you should have.

The dust will settle.  Slowly.  It will probably take time.  You and your spouse will have some really, really big talks.  Possibly with a counselor or a therapist.  Is your marriage in trouble?  Maybe.  I don’t know.  You did lie about something for a pretty long time.  You may not think that wearing heels is the equivalent as to having an affair or something, but that trust is destroyed.  Hopefully you will have a chance to rebuild it.

Your partner will need to fully grasp what this side of you means.  Why are you who you are?  Why do you want to wear makeup?  Why is this so important to you?  Are you gay?  Do you want to transition?

I am not saying that they will accept or understand this side of you.  This revelation, to be honest, has damaged many relationships to the state of disrepair.  Not necessarily because of your choice in underwear, but the fact that you lied for so long.  Possibly about many things.

I know that this is uncomfortable to read.  I know I am voicing the fears many of us have who haven’t come out to our spouses.  I know many will read this and will resolve to continue to keep this part of them a secret because of this potential fallout.  No one wants to put their spouse through this.  No one wants to put themselves through this either.  I wish I could be more gentle, but I really am not doing anyone any favors by pulling punches or downplaying what could happen if and when you are “caught”.

Getting caught from anyone takes away controlling how you come out to someone.  I wanted to come out to my mom and I’m glad I did because it was a lot easier to do this when I sat down with her one day as opposed to the day I bumped into her at the mall.  Talking to her, as well as talking to anyone, allows you to slowly ease them into this revelation.  It shocked my mom, as it would shock anyone, but I can’t imagine what it would have been like for both of us if she found out that day in JC Penney.

I came out to my wife two years before we got married.  I came out to her because she  needed to know exactly who she was marrying.  It wasn’t necessarily the same as needing support, but it was more like putting all my cards on the table.

If you are already married, then coming out becomes a lot harder.  But I still believe it’s the right thing to do.  I believe in honesty with your partner and I know you do too.  I know that this is on a different level than almost anything else we can possibly imagine, but it’s still important to tell the truth.

Some of us come out to our spouses because of the same reason we come out to anyone.  We come out because we want and need the support.  Perhaps this part of us creates a lot of conflict, tension, and uncertainty in us.  Perhaps we aren’t sure what this means.  Maybe we know that all of this is more than just wanting to feel beautiful from time to time.

I hope everyone is in a relationship with the person they love and trust more than anyone else in their life.  I hope you all have someone who you can turn to for everything, whether it’s sharing a funny meme, fixing a leaky faucet, or a serious discussion about gender identity.

Coming out to your spouse, whether because you are caught or because you get to a point where you feel you must, is not easy.  In both of these situations there will be some very serious conversations and decisions.

Of course, there are always those who have accepted and embraced this part of them and want to come to their partner because they want to share this part of them.  On one hand it’s good that they are comfortable with who they are and they understand where they are in their (ugh) journey, but on the other hand it’s important that they are coming out for the right reasons and have realistic expectations.

Please do not assume your partner is going to be thrilled with this revelation.  They will (probably) not offer to hit the mall with you to expand your wardrobe or dress up with you and go out for dinner as girlfriends.  They aren’t going to look at this as a benefit because you have an expansive array of high quality makeup that they can borrow.

Yes, there are t-girls out there that have supportive and participating partners.  They join their spouses on shopping trips or help pick out clothes.  This will likely take time.  They still may be hurt, scared, and even upset at first.  Yes, it’s good you came out but it’s a side of you that should have been disclosed before your relationship got serious.

Regardless of how your partner learned about this side of you, your relationship has now significantly and irreversibly changed.  You can’t unring a bell, remember.  So, now what?

One scenario is the one every one of us hopes for.  The girlfriend scenario.  You and are spouse shop together, go out together, have girls nights in.  Your spouse is supportive and participates in your en femme activities.  Having supportive people in your life, particularly your wife, is a treasure and not something you should take for granted.

Another outcome is a spouse who is supportive, or is at least tolerant of this part of you.  They may set boundaries on what you do or where you go en femme.  They may request you don’t leave the house dressed up.  Or at least avoid certain parts of the city to reduce the risk of running into people you know.  They may request you do not post photos on line.  Sometimes I think partners in this scenario are the most patient and the most stressed.  They aren’t sure why we are who we are, but they know that this is an important part of us that we can’t deny or change.  They may prefer we don’t have this side, but they understand it’s not going away.

If you have boundaries or restrictions, please, please respect them.  You already put your partner through hell when you came out and there may still be lingering trust issues.  The last thing you should ever do to anyone is give them another reason to not trust you.  Lying about something you lied about before is a pattern.  Why should they believe you?

Coming out is the hardest thing some of us will ever do.  It’s not easy to explain to who we are.  It’s hard to put into words feelings and thoughts and experiences and desires that we have hidden from the world for our entire lives.  Telling someone, especially our partners reveals a side of us that we have protected for as long as we can remember.

Coming out is essentially opening your heart and hoping that it doesn’t get broken.  It leaves us at our most vulnerable.  We hope that our secret doesn’t drive someone away or get met with ridicule or worse.  We pray they keep our secret.  We want to still be loved.

Putting your heart on the line like that can strengthen a relationship.  When I came out to my wife she had long suspected there was… something about me that I kept from her.  She had no idea what and this was certainly the last thing she could have imagined.  But in the days and years after I told her and as my (ugh) journey progressed, we were honest about what was happening and what we were thinking and feeling in response to all this.  I was more open with her than I had ever been before.  Not only with this, but with everything.  I didn’t have any secrets anymore.  I had given her my heart in many ways, and this was no different.

Every relationship will deal with this in their own way. It wasn’t always easy for my wife.  This side of us never is easy for our partners.  Some relationships will find a way to make it work, some will enter into a ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ dynamic.  The secret is out, discussions were had, and there is an understanding between two people that this will not be discussed any further.  Usually in this type of, well, let’s call it an agreement, the dressing will continue and they may go out of the house, but their partner doesn’t want to know the details or about anything related to this side of them.  Call it a compromise or an uneasy truce or a comfortable arrangement.

It’s important to acknowledge and understand that every partner will react to this side of you differently.  If they cannot accept this part of you, it does not make them a bad person.  This side of us is not easy to understand and we need to accept responsibility and own up to the fact that we entered into a committed relationship without being completely honest with them.

Yes, I know.  You didn’t want to come out because you thought this would scare them away.  I get it.  But you probably should have done it anyway.  I have had crossdressers tell me that they didn’t tell their wives about this part of them until after they were married because it would be too hard to back out after they said ‘I Do’.

Quite frankly, that is a really shitty thing to do.

I understand it’s terrifying to come out to anyone.  Will we be mocked?  Ridiculed?  Will they share our secret with everyone in your life?  It’s a risk to come out.  Believe me, I understand.  Coming out to your spouse adds a whole new possibility that most people want to avoid: divorce.

Yes, marriages end because of this.  Not every spouse can handle this side of us.  That doesn’t make either of you bad people.  I don’t necessarily think it’s simply the crossdressing that ends a committed marriage.  It does sometimes, but how you come out and the fallout is also a factor.

Nor being honest or forthcoming or being deceptive can damage any relationship regardless of what you are lying about.  If a relationship isn’t sustained by trust, than what is it built on?

Coming out is scary, but it can also be empowering.  It is wonderful to accept and embrace this side of you but we must be careful to not let this newfound confidence blind us to how we relate to others in our lives.  If you come out to your wife and tell her that this is who you are and she can’t change you and that this is how it’s going to be, well, that’s kind of abrasive.  Relationships are two people working and communicating together.  Not being considerate to how your partner is reacting or feeling isn’t fair, to say the least.

There’s no right way to come out.  There are many wrong ways to come out.  I don’t know how you should come out to your partner.  I do know that you need to be honest and kind.  Remember that this will forever change the dynamic between the two of you.  They will never look at you the same way again.  You just peeled back a layer of you that was hidden and to them, you are a different person and they see you in a new light.

Coming out to them is not unlike sharing with them difficult news.  I am not saying wearing panties is the equivalent of finding out that your job is being transferred 900 miles away or that you are bankrupt, but rather knowing that sharing this is something that will impact your relationship in an irreversible way, regardless of what direction the two of you take.

I understand marriage is not easy.  I understand that each relationship is different.  What works with two people will not necessarily work with another couple.  It’s up to you to decide what you choose to do in your relationship.  Coming out should always be a choice and personally it’s a choice I encourage you to make before your relationship gets serious.

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4 thoughts on “Love and Marriage and Crossdressing

  1. As one who didn’t understand myself and my gender dysphoria when I got married at 21, I tried to share what I was learning about myself as I was learning (well, with some delay, but once I’d done my own research). In the beginning, when I thought (and so she thought) it was just a playful thing, it was fun. When I started to realize that it went beyond playful and had more to do with identity, it didn’t go well. The idea (which I agree with in principle) of full disclosure before marriage assumes that gender identity is self-actualized before marriage. How many of us, especially in the unenlightened (baby boomer) generation understood our gender identities BEFORE we got married. I truly thought that living with a woman would calm my desires to dress like one, not enflame them. Silly me! Nancy

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    1. You know, that is a very good point. Gender identity can evolve over time, and it certainly can after marriage. I think I am going to make an edit to this chapter for the book. Thank you for sharing!

      Love, Hannah

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  2. Cue Fred Flintstone style rage shout “Ashleeeeey!” 😁

    Good luck with the book. That’s quite a read and I’m so with you on how tough it is to be honest. Yes, the risk is high, but quite possibly lower than being caught. If be curious to know from partners who found out handled things.

    The part about the cardboard boxes reminds me of a programme on TV about detectives. Short-ish version: a lady finds a plus size pair of knickers in her hubby’s car and fears he’s having an affair. She finds the PI (who is telling this story) and he asks her too check the size. Man size right? He tells her to check the loft, garage, the cupboard under the stairs (no, not Harry Potter) and if she doesn’t find a suitcase of women’s clothes, to come back. Some call him to say what they found, but not too employ him.

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  3. I am an avid reader of anything on transgender. Love this chapter as it is developed so far. I applaud your efforts Hannah, you have a gift and I eargley look forward to the publishing of your work.

    My explorations into femme presentation came well after the rings were on the fingers. The angst of coming out ate away at me for years. I look back now at the Sunday morning I let the secret out. I was scared. My hands shook. My heart pounded in my chest. She was confused and at a loss for words. Now eight years later she still has questions, but our love has never been deeper. Baring oneself is hard but so very important.

    The last thing I want to do is disparage your writings Hannah, they are tremendous and inspirational to say the least. But one of the best treatises on the spouse’s point of view is in ‘Fantastic Women’ by Woodhouse. She interviewed many partners and wives of men and included a chapter dedicated to them. This chapter really opened my eyes to their side and helped me to be patient with my loved one while in making adjustments in our relationship.

    Cheers to you Hannah. Keep up the great work!

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