I have come out to my wife but she finds it hard to deal with, I feel I can dress up when she is out but I wonder if there is anything I can do to make it easier for her, It would be nice for her to accept me.
One of the most frustrating things about… well, life is that you can’t make someone accept something.
Coming out to a partner or spouse as transgender or as a crossdresser (or really, anything other than gender you identified as when they first met you) is one of the most challenging and emotionally taxing thing one can do. It will forever change your relationship. FOREVER. This revelation will change how they look at you and how they feel and think about you. Your coming out will put their own life in a new light and it’s likely that a certain amount of fear and apprehension and even anger will develop.
The anger is understandable. This side of us is something that we ABSOLUTELY should have disclosed before the relationship became serious. Someone’s spouse wearing panties or makeup or having a femme name is something most people aren’t expecting or mentally prepared for.
I came out to my wife about a year after we started to date, and about a year before we moved in with each other. It took her completely by surprise and our relationship was forever changed. I did my best to reassure her, to explain who I was, who I wasn’t, and what I wanted. Of course, what we want and who we are can change over time. Fifteen years ago I identified as a crossdresser. Today I identify as transgender or more specifically as bi-gender. I have so many clothes. So many heels. I know so many makeup techniques. My closet is completely different (and more fabulous) than it was the day I came out to her. My gender identity evolved and changed over time.
And that is something that can terrify our partners. When we come out we do our best to reassure them, to calm their fears that this side of us is all about underdressing or something small. The fear can come from our partners wondering where THIS is all going. Yes, today it’s all about panties under our boy clothes, but in five years could their husband want to start transitioning? What happens then? This uncertainty can be torture.
And yes, I know we know who we are. If we tell our partners we don’t want to transition, then we (probably) mean it or at least mean it at the time. But again, gender identity can evolve. I never thought I would have a femme name or ever leave the house in a dress, but… well, look at me now. What has remained consistent is that I never felt I wanted to or needed to transition. Ever. I don’t anticipate ever taking those steps. Could this change? Yes, I suppose. But I don’t think that’s likely. Even from the start, even when I was very young, I never felt I had the wrong body or I was unhappy when I was a boy. I don’t feel… empty or sad when I go back to boy mode. I don’t feel anxiety or anything when I present as male. I don’t feel when I am Hannah that I am “my true self”. It’s just another side of me.
As my girlfriend and later my wife built our life together, my gender identity was part of that. Just like most couples should have the BIG conversations about finances, children, and expectations and needs that we have from our partners, we also had many conversations about my gender. And in many of these conversations I did my best to reassure her that I didn’t want to ever transition or go beyond what my life is like now. However, over time my life, my gender identity DID go beyond what I had at the time. When I came out to her, it was allllll about panties and lingerie. I didn’t want anything else. But over time makeup, dresses, a femme name, and going out gradually manifested. I was no longer “just” a crossdresser, I was, and I am, transgender.
With each new “milestone”, whether it was learning makeup, getting a new pair of heels, or adopting a femme name, my wife naturally wondered (and in some cases feared) where THIS was going. What was next? It’s understandable that she thought that transitioning would be a conversation we would be having in the future. When that would come up, I did my best to reassure her that I wasn’t feeling that I needed, or wanted, to live full-time. But words were inadequate. After all, at one point I told her that THIS was all about panties, and then one day, I had more dresses than anyone she knew.
These days I don’t think my wife fears that I will transition. I think she knows that I am happy with both of my gender identities. I feel my journey is complete. I think she sees that too. She and I went through so much together when it comes to my gender identity. It wasn’t easy for her. I’m sure it was difficult for her to believe at times when I told her I didn’t want to transition when here I was, wearing a dress, makeup, heels, and a wig. I’m sure words felt hollow at times.
So, what changed? How did this get “easier” for her? I would never presume to speak for her, but I think time helped her. Yes, in the two decades I’ve known her my gender identity and wardrobe has evolved compared to the night I came out to her, but really, my gender identity has been pretty much the same for the last ten. Sure, Hannah has done a lot over the last decade, whether it’s been modeling or going out more often or starting the MN T-Girls, but HOW I identify hasn’t changed. It took time for her to get used to this side of me, it took time for her to see I really didn’t want to transition. It took time for her to see that my journey was completed.
Time and communication are what could help your wife. Of course, YOU need to be honest with her. Tell her the truth about what you’re feeling, what you’re thinking, and of course, what you’re wearing. If she wants to attend couples counseling, then do so. Give her what she needs. Trust and respecting her boundaries are also crucial. If you lie to her about what you’re feeling or what you’re wearing it’s likely she will doubt anything you tell her in the future. I mean, if you lie about one thing, well, what else are you lying about? Boundaries also need to be respected. If she asks you don’t leave the house en femme or post photos online, well, don’t do it. Respect her feelings, earn her trust. What we ask of our partners when it comes to this side is HUGE. It’s difficult for them.
Yes, I know we have a need to express ourselves and to be faithful to our gender identity. I know I do. If you feel you need MORE than any established boundaries or requests when it comes to your dressing, then have that conversation. This is one aspect where it is absolutely not better to ask for forgiveness instead of permission. And if you do want more than what you have, you really, really need to prepare for the worst. Some of our partners can live with their spouse wearing panties, but a dress or seeing their husband en femme is too much. It crossed a line and it’s not something they want in their relationship.
Is this fair? I don’t like to look at what is and what isn’t fair when it comes to this side of us. YES, we all need to be able to live our truths and be who we are, but we also need to take responsibility for our gender identity. Most of us know that there is… something about ourselves when it comes to our gender or at the very least, what we wear when no one else is looking. It’s likely we knew about this side of us before we met the person we committed to. And YES, I know this is easier said than done, but we absolutely should have disclosed this side of us before the relationship grew into a commitment, whether that was moving in with them or getting engaged or married. We really, really need to lay our cards on the table with our partners about EVERYTHING. Finances, gender, family, EVERYTHING.
Just as our gender identity can change over time, we need to accept that our partner’s comfort and acceptance of this side of us can also change over time. There may come a time when our partners just can’t live with this side of us anymore. Again, this side of us is a lot to ask of our partners and people can have breaking points and are pushed too far, emotionally or mentally. This could especially happen if you let this side of you dominate every aspect of your life and relationship. As secure as I am with my marriage and as grateful for my wife’s acceptance, I also know that if I went out en femme every weekend, or dressed to the nines every time I was home, it might get to be too much for her. My wife married a man, she married me, but if the person she married changed too much, well… let’s be honest, I wouldn’t be the person she married anymore. It would be possible, and even understandable, if the relationship wasn’t something she felt was right for her anymore.
One final thought. We naturally want our partners to accept this side of us. But something to consider is WHY we want that. When I came out to my girlfriend I wanted her to accept me for two reasons. The first was purely selfish. I wanted to be able to wear panties and nightgowns and lingerie. The second reason was I knew that her boyfriend (and later her husband) wearing panties would be stressful for her, to say the least. I wanted her to be at the point where she accepted who I was so it wouldn’t stress her out, it wouldn’t torment her, it wouldn’t cause anxiety or fear. As my gender identity evolved I also wanted her acceptance to, well, keep up with me. Again, I felt this way for two reasons and the first was also selfish. I wanted to dress up, wear makeup, and have a girls’ night in (or out) with her. She’s my best friend and I wanted to live this side of me with my best friend. The second reason was also the same… I knew that going from panties to a little black dress and stilettos and a wig was going to be next level for her as well. I knew that this evolution and this part of my journey was going to be even more stressful and anxiety-inducing for her. I don’t want my wife to be stressed, and I especially don’t want to be the one who triggers the stress she feels. But I would be naive if I assumed my journey would be rainbows and sunshine for her. It wasn’t. I knew it wouldn’t be.
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9 thoughts on “Ask Hannah!”
With all due respect, I have to disagree with you – not all situations are the same – I could never imagine telling my wife! I haven’t and it has NOT been a problem since I have done a good job of keeping it to myself. Yes, I too have evolved. I never thought I would be bi-curious and I really doubt I would ever act on this. So this will live in my imagination forever more, which is fine. Also, as much as I would love to go out dressed, I don’t think that will ever happen, and I can live with this too.
everyone’s honesty ands candor here is deeply appreciated. your truth is more therapeutic than therapists who can’t know if they haven’t been there. in my own case, it’s a response partially to grief which life has showered on me generously, specifically deaths of loved ones I’m not transgender, though for a while, I wondered. DRESSING EVERY DAY BECAME LIKE A PLAY THAT NEVER ENDED. Being beautiful takes money, time and labor. I’d prefer to present as a masculine man 99% of the time, and believe I could if only the losses and isolation would stop. When I’m dressed as a a womaN, I’M NURTURING AND TRYING TO REST AND REVIVE MY MALE SOUL. I CAME OUT AFTER COMMITTING, and she assumed it was an erotic reflex which it is, or was, at least began that way, but so much more than that. I’m something like the child who has a beautiful imaginary supportive friend. I do not want to share her with my spousal equivalent, although I may someday need to try once more. She can’t even tell me her own feelings, let alone grasp the complexities of mine.
I agree with your “full disclosure” policy. I couldn’t come out to my wife before or early into our marriage, because I didn’t discover Lulu myself until many years later. And when we had The Talk, I simply said I wasn’t gay and didn’t want to transition…but Dressing was something I had to do, and if she would allow it, I would adhere to whatever limits she placed on me. She proved to be very generous, and within two years, she and Lulu were best friends.
Everyone is on their own journey. What worked for Hannah may not work for you or me. Everyone is on a different stage in crossdressing, transitioning, and everything in between which calls for a different response every time. A very important topic.
This essay and others like it are painful for me to read because it starkly contrasts how a transgender person can create and sustain a successful relationship with how I slowly destroyed a long term relationship, mostly by failing to understand myself and failing to be honest and open about myself.
Hi Hannah – thanks once again for the insightful and beautifully expressed post. I really like your super clear style and the complete thoughtfulness you put into your work.
All the best to you in this holiday season
briannna in Oakland
You might find this movie illuminating:
Thank you for acknowledging the hurt, anger and confusion for us wives of crossdressers. My husband has only been dressing for a little over a year and I believe that your blog has helped him to be more understanding of the difficult place he has put me in. I’m not okay right now, but maybe with more time I will be better able to accept “her”.
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I came out to my wife shortly before we got engaged. As long as I wasn’t transitioning, she was ok with it. After 15 years together, our sex life dwindled to nothing due to her physical condition, and my adaptation was to start getting out en femme. I had never been brave enough but feeling rejected in intimacy was a strong push to finally make this dream a reality before I got to a point in my life where I would regret never having done it. She was upset when she found out what I was doing, most afraid our children would find out. Now we have a “don’t ask don’t tell” policy about it. I’d rather be able to leave the house wearing what I want when I want but this is better than hiding at home and dressing while everyone is out.