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Why would a saint feel so damn guilty?

I’ve known that my spouse is transsexual for ten years.

I kept this fact a secret at her request and told no one for the first five years of our relationship.

I’ve supported her in her transition for the past five years and still do 100%.

I’ve remained loyal, defended and explained her transition to friends, family, strangers, my uptight narrow-minded ex-husband, and most recently the Automobile Club of America who claimed she was a “different person” now that she’s changed her name and gender and refused to tow her car.

So why the crushing guilt?

I’ve never uttered a word aloud to anyone except my spouse regarding any confusion, fear or doubt I might have about her transition.

I’ve allowed her some wiggle room to explore her new female sexuality, but will not give you any details.

I’ve been called a “saint” by more than one acquaintance for my understanding, support and loyalty towards my spouse and the difficult time she’s gone through.

So why do I feel such crushing guilt?

Because my body is fighting me. It won’t do what I want or be what I want — which is to have the same sexual feelings towards my spouse now that she is a different person that I did previously. (And please don’t even start with that “still the same person” stuff — it works in an intellectual context, but not in terms of how the human body works.)

My spouse’s transition does not make me a lesbian.   A woman with a similar personality does not necessarily invite the same attraction that I felt when we first met and she was a man I became infatuated with.   I cannot think of who she used to be without missing that huge part of what made us bond so completely when we met, and so I look at her without the context of our past sexual relationship and hate myself for not being able to force the attraction on my end that she still feels.  After all, I am pretty much the same physically as I was ten years ago, just a little wider in the butt.

Through great force of will on my part I forced myself to ignore the man in front of me and see the person that she is.  I did this at first without benefit of electrolysis, rhinoplasty, makeup, breasts, different clothes or any other outward cues because she so desperately needed it from me in order to feel that her transition was possible.

I do now fear, though, that it did something to me as well, and not for the better as far as my own sexuality is concerned.

It makes my spouse sad sometimes that I don’t feel the same way sexually about her.  It makes me sad sometimes, too.   But our relationship has survived much more trauma than this and I certainly don’t think the situation is a dealbreaker in terms of staying together.

This situation is completely understandable, I think, and I realize it’s nobody’s fault.

So why the crushing guilt?

Is it because I’ve reached the limit of what I can force myself to do and be to make my spouse happy?  Or is it because I’ve given up a part of myself that I can’t get back?

I even feel guilty submitting this post, because I worry that readers will think my intention is to make other people feel bad about what effects transition might have on a significant other.   That most definitely is not the case.  I certainly do not think I speak for any other spouse of a trans-person.  I’m sure there are other spouses who are able to make this leap that I cannot seem to make, and I honor them for it and hope they realize how lucky they are.

If I have any intention at all, it is to do what everyone else here is doing — take a look at where I am now and stop denying the feelings that I have in order to “make things easier” for everyone else.

I hope you all understand.  Thanks for listening.  I just didn’t know who else to tell…

— Carrie

9 Responses

  1. Wow, Carrie. I want to commend you on having the courage to be so honest about your feelings, and sharing them with us.

    I won’t go so far as to say I fully understand – everyone’s experience is unique. But I do understand the majority of what you have written, even though I may be far behind you in a journey that may not even end up the same as yours. I do think that this post will provoke a great deal of thought in all who read it, and possibly some discomfort too. But if there’s one thing we know, it is that the journey of transition is not a completely comfortable one on either side of an established relationship.

    I think the surprising aspect for me is that you are feeling this guilt after so many years of knowledge of your spouse’s transsexuality. I am glad you felt safe enough to tell us how you feel.

    Have a HUG! (And I’m still trying to get more friends and co-workers to write to you about their Cool Jobs!)

    — Liz

  2. As far as the guilt goes, it’s a rather recent thing. I’ve been telling myself for years that my own feelings WILL change eventually, and I’m angry at myself that I can’t just make it happen.

    Thanks for the hug! I think mostly what I needed to do is just admit that even though I’m not Superwoman, people will accept me anyway — and my spouse will still love me even if I’m not perfect, or not able to make myself be everything she would prefer.

    I don’t want to offend anyone who is trans or part of the trans “community”, but I wasn’t sure where else to go with this stuff. I hope everyone understands and is not angry with me for being honest.

    That would be a pretty freakin’ lonely place to be.

  3. Great Post. Kudos.
    I understand your guilt. Don’t feel guilty about feeling guilty. True it is beautiful that you have stuck it out so long and been so supportive. We need more support like this in our community. But this statement comes with conditions…

    Everyone deserves happiness. Note that first word. Speaking from my experience. My wife has known our entire marriage something about my TGness. Only in the last two years did I actually admit it fully and act upon it. I am very happy about who I am. Yeah its a tuff bidness to be in but hay. HAppy none the less.

    My wife was and still is fully supportive of me and my transition. We are best friends. We are no longer together but we still love each other. True I would have been more confident and much happier if our marriage had survived. Like you my wife is not a lesbian, and even though I am pre-op and still very masculine in many ways. The wife saw past that. She sees me as a woman more that a man now. That is very hard for her.

    She is attracted to men and you are right no physical change on your part is going to change that more than likely. Your body craves maness. I understand this very much. And this is part of how I was able to let my wife go. You see, I was much happier starting on this journey but there was something very important missing. Sex and HER happiness.

    I really wish we were still together but honestly neither one of us could move forward and be as happy and complete as we each needed to be together. So I guess I am just trying to say you too are not alone. Spouses often sacrifice a great deal for the transitioning partner. I now believe that they often sacrifice too much of themselves for the sake of their partner.

    That is hard for me to say and hard to live with. But at lease for me and my wife being happy and wanting each other to be equally as happy was and is a mutual feeling. One that we cannot do together as a couple. As friends yes. I am not saying this is a solution that fits everyone. But I often think we as humans hold on to things to tightly at the expense of our health and happiness. I learned this the hard way over the last 2 years.

    But as I transition now, I know with complete confidence that I am no longer holding back myself nor my wife. We can both heal, live and find happiness.

    Many Blessings,

  4. This is incredibly painful to read and at the same time an extremely valuable post for me personally. I want you to know that I am in no way offended with this, rather, I am quite honored you would be so open and honest about your own feelings.

    This is exactly what married trans people like myself need to understand. The relationship I have between my wife and I has gone through significant changes just over the last year, since I began therapy and started HRT. I know this is not easy for either of us. I do know that we both love each other deeply and are trying to avoid causing any further hurt than what has already transpired. Reading your own experiences helps me understand my own wife’s feelings. I NEED to know that. Perhaps it’s a little easier for me to understand that coming not only from my own wife but from the perspective of another significant other.

    Once again, thank you.

  5. […] I don’t usually do this, but this is my blog and I can link whatever I feel like. This link, however, I feel very passionate […]

  6. I don’t understand how it could *not* be a dealbreaker. I know there are wives out there who do make it work (although the standard shift seems to be towards a platonic relationship), but frankly, I think they’re being unfair to themselves. I just don’t get why, if the romance is gone and the relationship has become “sisters” or “best friends”, a husband and wife wouldn’t just cut ties. The friendship remains, afterall.

    Trans-people like to use that “I’m still the same person inside” argument a lot, mostly when it’s convenient, but truly they are not…they’ve deconstructed who they are and rebuilt it from the ground up. They are different. Heck, that’s kind of the point. And a wife shouldn’t have to concede her sexual identity because her spouse elected to modify her gender identity,

    I’ve been outspoken about this. It’s sometimes caused stress between other trans-women and I. And to a certain degree it’s hypocrisy, because my wife and I are still married…though not without a long separation and then a carefully thought-out agreement to keep it a marriage of convenience. But at the end of the day, fair is fair. If you’re a married trans-person, you have to be sensitive to the damage you wreak around you, and sometimes that may mean helping your spouse along on their own personal path, even if it’s going somewhere we’re not. This definitely isn’t the normal bump in the road that some of us would like to think it is…it should be treated with all the gravity in the world, and if the right thing is for two people to reconsider their marital status, it should be the trans-partner’s responsibility to understand that they brought this upon the relationship and shoulder it with noble dignity.

  7. I’ve been reading your public blog entries through Lori D – in Yahoo 360 and Live Journal and have been enjoying them. My spouse is (m2f) TG and I can relate to your thoughts 100%. I wish I had the answers to remove my difficulty/obstacles – but it’s a relief to see that I’m not the only one who feels these emotions.

    With multiple blog sites I don’t have time right now to start up another at WordPress but I just wanted to say hello and leave a small comment.

  8. Hi Carrie

    A though provoking post and one which I tend to agree with, although I will admit that it’s something which I have only come around to agreeing with during the last few months. I too like many trans people thought I was that same person, but my partner told me on many occasions that I HAD changed, the person who she loved passionately had gone. The person who exists now is not the same person, the physical attraction has gone.
    So in the process of making my life happier I have made someone else’s less so. What would make it worse? Trying to hold on to something that no longer exists in the same form – our love. We still dearly love each other but there is no passion anymore. In this situation we stay together for our children, neither of us brave enough to be the one to release the other.
    Is it a situation that is unhealthy for the long term, who really knows? I feel I have duties and responsibilities that I must continue to honour as a parent and partner. Giving her options without sounding like I am leaving the difficult decision of calling an end to the marriage up to her is hard enough, but I feel that if she prefers a separation then it is only fair that she is allowed it. Trying to keep something together just for the sake of it without any meaning is as much denial as all the years I spent trying to suppress my emotions and feelings.

    I applaud your honesty.

  9. I must also thank you Carrie, input like yours is extremely valuable to all of us. I think any married partners with a transgender member would be remiss in not paying attention to these issues and sharing with each other and others as you have so bravely done, Bravo!
    It seems to me the guilt you feel has the same root as what the transgender person feels when they see what their transition does to their marriage. They realize they cannot be the person someone else wants them to be, and their “decision” irrevocably alters the foundation that the marriage was built upon. They see that it is their “decision” that has fractured that foundation and prevents it’s being sustained. So in assuming responsibility for this “decision”, the guilt machine starts up with it’s pointer aiming straight back at you as the reason your marriage cannot be sustained.
    I say, don’t start the machine up to begin with! Don’t even pick it up and look at it, because guilt is an infernal device with no purpose but destruction and hurt!
    The so-called “decisions” you and your spouse have made were not decisions at all; they were realizations of your true selves! You can no more change the fact you are heterosexual than your husband can change she is female.
    This test of self has been going on all your husband’s life, her answer was different from what she was led to believe she was, only because our culture allows such a narrow scope for sexual and gender identity. Your anser has been what you were led to believe all along, but that realization is still pretty wondrous! To question, understand and be comfortable with your true self is a gift many of us never realize!
    You and your husband formed a union of two souls, that supported and nurtured each other through so many things. We define this union as a “marriage”, supposedly based on a religious custom with narrow guidelines that say the two souls are never supposed to change or leave each other. So if we stick to that definition, the fact you must seperate to be happy supposedly ends the union.
    Why can’t we say the union is based on love, and it’s a love that can change to allow for each other’s happiness, and it’s a love that can allow each other to leave as better, self-realized people who simply must pursue new horizons?
    Forget calling this a loss caused by one or the other, forget assigning guilt. Forget the possesive idea that says one spouse’s leaving is a loss to the other. You never owned each other to begin with, so how can you be taking away from each other in leaving?
    Celebrate what you created, and if you have them, nurture your children with the love you built between you. The love that created your union will never dissappear, accept what simply ‘is’ about each other and let the love remain something you will always share.

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