I have a new blog entry for En Femme about coming out to our partners. I know this is not an easy conversation to have, but I hope this helps a little.
I have a new blog entry for En Femme about coming out to our partners. I know this is not an easy conversation to have, but I hope this helps a little.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I have hosted parties and organized gatherings in my male life. I am not a particularly a social person, so for occasions like these I tend to details such as making sure there is enough food and cleaning up. I try to busy myself and keep moving. I try to stay out of the way.
It’s not that I don’t like people. I know and I am related to amazing and wonderful people that I love very much. But in my male like I am usually very goal orientated and I get a lot of satisfaction out of work. I like to clean up after a party. I like when all the laundry is done, folded, and put away. I like to start things, and I like to finish things.
As I got to know Hannah, I was very surprised at how different she was from the male side of me. I “met” Hannah at the same time and at the same pace as my wife got to know her. Letting another gender identity and gender presentation come to the surface is an experience like no other. You feel a wide range of emotions. These emotions are usually triggered by what you may be wearing. For a very long time you were all wingtips and work boots. Neckties and facial hair. Now you could be wearing anything from a long blonde wig, to red press-on nails, to a little black dress or your first pair of pumps. You feel apprehensive, self-conscious, nervous, and a little afraid. You also feel beautiful. And happy. And calm. And…well, it feels right.
There’s no question that what you wear will likely affect your attitude. Some cis-women feel silly wearing a dress, some cis-men feel stupid in a tuxedo. But on the flip side, a bright pink dress or a three-piece suit can bring out a sense of confidence and power out of someone.
The first time, or the hundredth time, you have crossed over to a whole new wardrobe will bring out a new, or a suppressed, or a surprising side of you. For decades this side of me was a secret. Yes, I came out to two girlfriends in the past, but that was more about underdressing. One didn’t want to talk about it and the other was really accepting. But I identified as a crossdresser at that time. Panties and nighties were really all I wanted to wear. There wasn’t much to talk about, it was what it was.
I came out to my wife as a crossdresser a few months after we dated. Once the first few days after the revelation passed, we didn’t talk about it much. But once I stepped into the next level, we talked about it all the time. We talked about it when I wasn’t dressed as well as when I was dressed. For something that we keep a secret and at the same time desperate to share with someone else, it is usually hard to talk about this part of us.
However, Hannah had no problem opening up. Sitting in our living room, me dressed in everything from mascara to sky-high heels and sharing a bottle of wine, I had no problem talking about…everything. How did I feel? AMAZING. But a little self-conscious. I felt beautiful but at the same time I felt a little let down that I didn’t look like Sandra Bullock or Dita Von Teese.
I felt vulnerable but comfortable about my feelings. I felt exposed. I mean, here I was wearing a beautiful little black dress and lipstick, presenting a side of me that was a hidden secret that was shoved to the back of a closet for years and years. And here I was…I was OUT.
When people see your hand, you have to play it.
I gave into her. I let how I was feeling win. It sounds pretentious and a little odd, but it was a rebirth or a reincarnation. Just as my wife was getting to know Hannah, I was too. I was confident and beautiful, insecure and awkward. I had amazing insights into gender roles and how I understood how humbling putting on makeup or a dress could be. I wondered how Hannah would fit into my life.
My wife wondered the same thing.
Those first few months my wife and I learned that Hannah was chatty, relaxed, a bit of a gossip and a Taylor Swift fan. Hannah brought out parts of my male personality that were there but took a little coaxing, a little wine, and a little eyeliner to bring out. Hannah was “me” with my guard down.
Hannah was chatty and social at home, she wasn’t always thinking about work or what needed to be around the house. I was curious, excited, and interested to see who Hannah was in the real world. Me in the real world is a mission of purpose. If I go to the mall it’s because I need something. If I go somewhere, it’s because something needs to be accomplished.
But when Hannah goes to Target, yes, she may need something, but she tends to browse around, look at clothes, and take her time. Interactions with baristas are chattier and friendlier and go beyond simply ordering a cup of coffee. Hannah talks to cashiers, people in line, she smiles at people who stare at her as they process seeing a t-girl.
It’s not that I am unfriendly or rude when I present as male. No, I am someone who does things when they need to be done. I’ll schedule a morning of errands whereas Hannah will happily spend an afternoon simply wandering around a museum.
I am pretty confident in both of my genders, but Hannah has a level that surprises me. I suppose she needs that if she is going to strut through the Mall of America wearing stilettos and a bodycon dress. But that confidence is there online, too. Hannah has no qualms with reaching out to businesses like Glamour Boutique or The Breast Form Store about modeling or product review opportunities. Could I ever do something equivalent in my male life? Could I ever be so bold? I wonder.
Starting the MN T-Girls was probably one of the most significant points in my life. On one hand, it requires the organization that I excel at so well at in my male life. But it takes the confidence that Hannah has when it comes to organizing events. Hannah confidently reaching out to a lingerie store to arrange for a private shopping event is on a level that I have never come close to in my male life.
The MN T-Girls have events that range from going out to dinner to shopping events to holiday parties. The group was started to help other t-girls feel comfortable in going out and part of that means making sure everyone feels welcome. When we open up en femme we all feel vulnerable and guarded, but we will also start to let our defenses down. We have all been there.
At these events Hannah is the hostess. A role I never thought I would have. At the annual holiday party she talks to everyone and tries to make everyone feel welcome. At similar events in male mode I am happy to be more behind the scenes, but Hannah is there in a sequined dress and matching heels shining as bright as a mirror ball. Hannah is on a social level I never dreamed I, in any gender, could ever be.
At first, my two genders were very different from one another, but over time the best parts of Hannah, the ability to talk about my feelings and thoughts, and her social tendencies spilled over to my male life. It’s not inaccurate to say that Hannah brings out the best in me, in both sides of me.
Of course, all of this sounds like a psychologist’s dream. I understand that. We all have different sides to us. We all are a little different in different situations. I am different, in subtle and significant ways, when I am interacting with my work colleagues or having dinner with friends. How I am dressed impacts my behavior in a way, too. I tend to be more serious and reserved in a suit and more relaxed in jeans and a t-shirt.
It’s not that much of a stretch to see how being dressed in heels and a skirt can bring out a side of us that a polo shirt and khakis can’t. Hannah wandering around Sephora with her friends is a different “me” than me trying to find a belt or whatever at Sears.
Although this all may come off as a reason to be examined for having multiple personalities, every t-girl reading this knows exactly what I mean.
What we wear can affect how we feel. How we feel determines how what we do. In any gender. I can’t make it simpler than that.
Last month my wife offered to answer some questions from t-girls and partners about her experiences, thoughts, and feelings about her relationship with a girl like us. She read every comment, email, and question and I am happy to share with you her responses.
Being who we are is not easy, and it’s even harder on our partners. I hope this helps and offers support to anyone who reads this.
-How have you handled seeing your man put on a wig, dress, makeup, and be Hannah?
Seeing the desire to look put together and like a lady made it easier than just him wanting to wear lingerie. I’m actually quite impressed and proud of her style and want for her style to be classy and not tacky or ill-fitting and age appropriate. This also helped me understand its not a sexual thing. Knowing he had just wanted to feel beautiful, I thought, well I guess we all do in one way or another.
When you are dressed as Hannah, does your wife see you as a man in a dress or does she treat you like a woman?
When Hannah is presenting as herself, I just see “Hannah”, but not at first. It took some getting used to, some patience and effort to understand something that even he or she could understand. I guess it took a cautious trust on my part that my husband was being honest with his intentions as he explored her and who Hannah was, and what it meant for my husband to be part Hannah. For her, it took some experimenting with looks, hair, mannerisms and personal style for me to see her as someone separate from my husband. Slowly, Hannah became a whole other person. Someone very different than my husband. She was like a well dressed visitor (over dressed compared to me in my messy bun and leggings ha ha) but a visitor who I enjoyed chatting with. Its hard to describe, as some lines are blurry. Hannah brings out a more chatty and light-hearted side that I don’t normally get to see quite as much and as much, as she is like another person, Its still like talking to my husband, as we talk about family and friends and all the usual things we would while in male mode. I think as Hannah, the every day stress and to-do lists seem further away and this allows for that more relaxed free flowing conversation and presence.
When she comes in after a night out with you ladies, she is Hannah. When she’s dressed around me and hanging out, she’s not one thing. She knows my heart like my husband but is more chatty like my girlfriends. It’s not always easy and seamless, but I do appreciate Hannah and her affect on my husband. Mostly, I just love my husband very much and know its never in his heart to hurt me and I would never want him to suppress such a major part of who he is.
Does she treat you like a woman?
Hmmm, I don’t know how to answer this one. I guess I would say I treat her like a friend, a sister, someone close. I don’t treat my guy or girl friends like guys and girls, I just treat them like people, like friends. If you’re asking if I’m likely to ask Hannah to fix the toilet or save those things for my husband, I don’t do either. I fix it myself. 😉 I will ask Hannah and my husband to get things down for me, though. There’s more than a foot difference between us even without all of her fabulous heels. Don’t get me started on those! haha
Does she use proper pronouns?
I address Hannah as Hannah and use the proper pronouns. With that said everyone slips up from time to time and there has to be room for mistakes as we stumble through these things. I call Hannah by Hannah and my husband by babe or babes. Sometimes I’ll call Hannah Babe. No biggie. I know that Hannah and my husband are two very different people, but the same soul to me.
Do you see each other as lesbians while you are dressed?
No. I see Hannah as her own person separate from my husband. Her being who she is doesn’t change who I am. While I find Hannah very beautiful, I’m not attracted to her. I am attracted to men. I can always appreciate a beautiful person. If Hannah needed me to be sexually attracted to both her and my husband, that wouldn’t be fair, as this whole part of our lives is allowing us to be who we truly are and would put pressure on me to change who I am for her. I’m happy with my husband. 😉
There is a hashtag that a girl like us uses on social media. The tag, conveniently enough, is #girlslikeus. This tag is used to bring attention to our community for the purpose of relatable problems, whether it’s trivial such as getting frustrated that Target doesn’t normally carry heels in sizes larger that an 11, or more serious issues like our president slowly and methodically stripping our rights away from us. It’s a tag that is used for personal pride, like when you take an amazing selfie, accomplishing something amazing (like finding heels at Target that fit) or just a way for our community to connect with each other.
It’s important that we have support, and it’s important that we have each other’s backs. It’s very challenging to understand who we are, not only to others but also to ourselves. But we don’t have to explain who we are to girls like us. Sure, being trans might mean something different to each of us and we all have similar journeys but we might have different destinations. I’m done. I’m at the end of my journey. I went from underdressing to where I am today. I am no longer discovering who I am. I have found myself, I have accepted myself, I have created myself.
But you might still be on your journey. Maybe you just accepted yourself. Maybe you just left the house for the first time. Maybe you just told your wife. Maybe you just started hormones. Maybe you just received your updated birth certificate. Our journeys start and stop. We might rest for years between next steps. We may want different thngs at different points of our lives. There are no timelines to any of this. You are never too old to start anything. It’s not too late. Besides wearing opaque stockings with open toe heels, there’s no wrong way to be transgender.
The point I am trying to make is that t-girls get it. We may not understand ourselves, but we understand each other. I don’t really know why I like to dress, but I know why you do. We all remember the thrill of when we first tried on heels or panties or lipstick. We remember how less alone we felt when we learned the word ‘transgender’. There are others like us! So many like us that there is a word for us! We all can relate to the tension between us and the cashier as they rang up a dress when we first started to build a wardrobe. We all have had the same conversations with our partners when we came out.
At some point in our journey (and for the record I want to say that I hate that word but it’s probably the most fitting and relatable), we find that we want support. We want to talk to someone. We may have spent decades in our heads wrestling with this side of us and we need to sort it out. Or shout it out. Or cry about it, whether it is because we are scared about this means, or cry from relief that we have accepted this part of us, or tears of joy.
It’s hard for someone else to understand who and why we are. They may want to support us but they will likely have questions. It’s important that we are patient and honest with the people in our lives that we come out to. Being patient is hard, though. I think one of the reasons I am not out to more people is because it takes a lot of energy to do that. I know what questions they’ll ask, I know there will be a conversation about how my wife reacted and what she thinks, and discussing what being trans means to me.
Just typing that part exhausted me.
I don’t feel I need support from anyone in my life that I haven’t already come out to. Yes, sometimes I would like to be out to more people but I don’t feel a burning or desperate yearning to do so. The truth is I never really felt that I needed support from many people. I wanted acceptance and, more than anything, friendship. I wanted Hannah to have someone to shop with or talk to. Not only is my wife the love of my life, she is also my best friend…in both of my genders.
I think it’s important for a t-girl to have other t-girls for friends. Not only to have someone to hit the mall with, but it’s important to have someone who absolutely gets it. I never have asked another t-girl why they are who they are. It’s none of my business anyway. I’ve never been asked that either. We don’t need to have that conversation. We already know what we would say.
I talk to a lot of t-girls on different points in their journey (ugh, that word). It’s exciting when we first come out because accepting yourself is one of the hardest and most wonderful things you can do. It’s also the time when we will make the most mistakes. These mistakes can be bigger than wearing opaque stockings with open toe heels. We will often get lost in the pink fog and make bad decisions.
One of the biggest mistakes we make is overwhelming our partners. Most of us want our partners to know about us, we want their support, and we want them to…well, participate. What participation means is different for all of us. Some of us want our wives to teach us how to do makeup, pick out a wig, hit the town, or have a girls nights in. I see too many of us tell our partners about this, and then the next day we tell them we want to go out en femme and the day after that we ask them to come with us. It’s easy to understand why our partners are wondering what’s next or where all this is going. Being who we are can be lonely. We want friends. We want to know girls like us. We feel we are the only ones like us. We have no one to talk to about this. On that note, our partners often feel that way, too.
When we come out we are opening up and discussing feelings and experiences we have been silent on for years. We are so ready for what’s next. But our partners aren’t. They are processing what we just told them and they need time to sort it out. Understanding this part of us is not simple. We don’t understand ourselves and we have had our entire lifetime to figure it out. Our partners need more than a couple hours, or a weekend, or a decade to let it sink in.
The most important thing we can, and should do is be open and transparent with ourselves and our partners. It’s also important for girls like us to be friends with girls like us so we have others to talk to about this. Again, we should avoid overwhelming our partner and it’s easy to do so if they are the only person we talk to about this.
So, how do we do make friends?
I don’t need to tell you about this new thing called the world wide web. It’s a wonderful way to connect with others. Of course, if your partner has requested that this side of you doesn’t have social media accounts, you had best respect that boundary. It drives me crazy when t-girls tell me they have a Facebook profile that their wife doesn’t know about. Don’t do this. Seriously.
You can create profiles and chat online at places like crossdressers.com, The Gender Society and urnotaone.com. Even just chatting and posting on the forums can give you support and friendship. I spent a lot of time online in the early days and found it helpful to read about others like me and I gained a lot of information about everything from beard cover and color correcting to understanding what our partners are feeling.
I met girls online that I later met in real life. In fact, one of the first times I went out was to meet up with someone I met online. I hope I don’t need to explain why you shouldn’t meet someone at a hotel room or at their house. If you are meeting someone you know from the internet, meet in a public place.
When I was ready to make friends, I started attending a local support group. There are a few in Minneapolis and I went to two different ones off and on for a few months. One of those groups was PFLAG and I am willing to bet you can find a PFLAG support group near you. Going to the groups was wonderful. If anything, they help me get used to going out en femme. I built confidence and it soon became second nature to get in and out of a car wearing a skirt, walking in heels outside, and interacting with people as Hannah.
After a few months, I started to feel that the groups weren’t right for me anymore. All t-girls are different and are at different points in their lives. Some had just started hormones, some were there with their wives as they were both struggling and coming to terms with this, some just had gender affirmation surgery and just hit the reset button on life. I wasn’t conflicted about who I was, I didn’t want to live full-time and I wasn’t about to transition. I was no longer looking for support, it was time to make friends.
I talked to my wife one night after a meeting. I felt ready to start going out to other places besides the support groups. I was ready to move from seeking support to finding a social circle. A group to shop with, go out to dinner with, and just do…stuff. Places to go that weren’t built around gender identity. I didn’t want to just frequent gay bars or drag shows, I wanted to go to the mall and Starbucks.
So, my wife suggested I start a group like that. And I did. As of this writing, the MN T-Girls has existed for almost six years. It started small like most things do, but the group now has hundreds of members from all over the state, the midwest, even girls from outside of the area who travel to the Twin Cities on a regular basis.
The first step in creating the group was to decide what kind of group we would be. This was kind of like writing a mission statement. I remembered the first time I went out and how scared I was. I could think of nothing but the sad and horrific and terrifying stories of girls like me getting harassed, attacked, or worse. These instances understandably stop many of us from leaving our living rooms. So, safety in numbers became the driving force behind the group. Not only safety from those who may hurt us, but the security we give each other when we know we are not the only ones like us.
The second goal of the group was to create a social circle for those like myself. Most of the members of the group are secure in who they are. Most know where they are in their journey. Most members of the group live comfortably with their gender identities and go back and forth between them. In 80% of their lives they are husbands and fathers but every other Saturday they strut out of their closet looking fabulous. Most of us are out to our partners.
Sure, support for each other is a given. It’s not uncommon for members to talk about something they, or their partner, is struggling with. Our shared experiences help each other and offer a perspective we may not have had before. So, I guess I created a support group after all. But I like to think the group offers a social part that many of us need. The group meets once a month and we have different adventures. Sometimes it’s the group going out to dinner, or attending a play, visiting a museum, annual holiday parties, or going to a pride festival. We’ve had a lot of private shopping events where businesses will host our group after hours which gives us an opportunity to shop for everything from lingerie to shoes to clothes to accessories. Our most popular and requested events are the private makeup lessons that I organize at least once a year.
Our first event was meeting for coffee at a cafe owned by a transwoman. There were about five of us there. Today the group has close to 300 members. Growing the membership was one of the hardest parts of starting the group. I had been blogging for a couple years at this point so I had a little following. I was active on forums and had attended local support groups and knew a few girls like me. I wrote about the group on my site, I told others about it at the support groups I attended and soon word spread. After a few months of, well, recruiting I guess, we had our first meet up.
The group was formed for girls like us to find and make friends with others like us. I wanted to meet other girls like me, I wanted to shop with girls like me. There wasn’t a local group that offered that, so I created one. I’m glad I have the group and thankful for the friends I met because of it. I get emails from t-girls from all over the country looking for a group like this. I encourage them to start one. It takes dedication, consistency, and probably a kind of madness to do something like this, but it can be done.
I keep the group going because I know how important it is for me to have friends who are like me. It’s important to every girl like us. I wholly believe the group is a form of activism in a way. We are showing the world that girls like us go out to dinner, shop, and do whatever everyone does because #girlslikeus are just like everyone else.
We know what it is like to be us. We know how complex, stressful, conflicting, and wonderful it is to be who we are. Sharing this side of us is not easy and I do my best to write about what our partners may be feeling, thinking, or worried about when it comes to being in a relationship with someone like us.
Most of the questions I get are about making this work within a relationship. Much of what I write about is about being considerate of what our partners may be experiencing. The truth is that every relationship is different and there is not a roadmap as to how to make this work for every couple.
Talking to other t-girls and their partners gives me a lot of perspective on how this side of us affects their relationship. How this works, how it doesn’t, and what someone is feeling. There are many things that these relationships have in common but there are also elements that are as unique as every relationship.
My wife and I talked a lot in the early days. I learned a lot then, and now years later I am still learning and listening. Some things she felt then but couldn’t voice them at the time. One thing that was always there was a feeling of loneliness when I came out to her. Who could she talk to? Who could she confide in? Who would understand?
Many of our partners felt, and feel, this way. The internet wasn’t helpful and in many ways added to her fears. There are resources for those who have partners who are transitioning, but not many resources for those who are married to people like me… and probably you.
Seeing this lack of resources, my wife has offered to answer some questions. My wife is many things, but it’s her gentleness, honesty, and realistic perspective that I feel are among her strongest traits.
If you are transgender, and especially if you are the partner of someone like me, please add your questions to the comments before. You can post anonymously or you can email me at hannahgotta(at)gmail.com.
I assure you confidentially if you send an email. Names and email addresses will not be posted.
I can’t promise every question will be answered, but every one will be read by her. Questions will be taken for about a week and her responses will be posted at a later date.