15 Spouses of Transgender People On How Their Relationship Changed After The Unexpected Transition


“I knew at that moment my life was never going to be the same. Once I started learning what transgenderism was, what it really meant, what Randi was going through, there was no way at that moment that I could leave that relationship and leave Randi. There were moments that were very difficult, and there were moments that I felt the loss, and there were moments that I really grieved it from the bottom of my heart. And I will always miss aspects of Randi the man; that’s just the reality. But there are so many things I love about Randi the woman.”



“I finally had to ask myself, ‘If Willy transitioned, would I really break up my family? Would I really leave the person I love?’ In response, I kept coming back to the things I loved most about him: his passion, his loyalty, his wicked sense of humor, his intellect, his love for me and our kids. Life without him was unimaginable. So I told him I’d made a decision too. Whatever Willy’s physical form, I choose him. I choose to stay.”



“Can I walk away? No. Can I stay? Today I don’t think I can, but my answer changes all the time. I don’t just love this man, I adore him. After all these years, he still makes my toes curl when he kisses me. Every day he makes me laugh. He holds me when I cry. We have always been there for each other. To this day, my favorite thing is falling asleep on his shoulder in front of the TV at night. I believe him when he tells me hurting me like this is heartbreaking for him. This man whom I have admired for so many years is also fighting depression and has confided in me he’s thought about taking his own life. He’s also hurting and struggling with the turmoil he’s brought into our lives. He isn’t a deceitful monster. Like me, he’s stuck between what he wants and what he can have.”



“What does an almost-40 year old, out and proud lesbian do when her partner comes out as a transgender male? I don’t really know. I can only tell you what this lesbian chose to do: I chose to stay. I chose to stay because, when I really got honest, if Simon was a boy, he’d always been a boy, whether I’d acknowledged it or not. I chose to stay because Simon is brave, kind, honest and loving ways in ways that Amy could never quite muster up the openness, the transparency, to be. I chose to stay to honor the family that we created together. I chose to stay because I can’t imagine my life without him.”



“The person that I would most talk to about my distress is the one causing my distress. It’s just one of those surprises in life. You don’t expect stuff to happen as it does. There’s been a lot of grief and loss. It’s like [the kids’] dad has died and nobody knows it. Nobody knows that my husband has died or that their dad has died. You’re grieving silently.”



“My husband recently came out to me as transgender, but because of our circumstances he is not able to transition for a while (until our autistic son is old enough to understand) and as a result, I think that he might be housing some resentment. Not only that, but I am having a difficult time dealing with all of this as well. What a HUGE change! I’ve always known him as a man and for that to suddenly change, sometimes I’m not sure if I’m doing the right things or if the things I’m doing are enough…or even if I can do the things he needs me to do…I feel lost and confused…at times I even feel hurt.”



“I was very much in love with my husband, and I will always miss being married to that person. The thing that helped me around it a little bit was realizing I was never married to him, I was married to somebody who looked like him and who I could project all that himness onto, but when I go back and look at our wedding photos, it’s like, ‘She was making such a valiant effort to look like a man, like a groom.’ I never married a guy, I married a woman.”



“I am not a transgendered person, but I am happily married to one. Her name is Lina and she is a ‘male-to-female’ transsexual. She is 47, and I am 53….I share our story not to advocate that couples like us stay together—because every relationship is different and people should do what is right for them—but to encourage more acceptance from wives, parents, siblings, children, friends, colleagues. I have heard firsthand too many heartbreaking stories of parents banishing their transgender children, wives not only leaving their husbands but breaking off all contact and fighting for sole custody of the children, adult children turning their backs on their transgender parents, and employers firing trans workers. I understand the impulse. I had it, until I finally felt—truly felt—my husband’s anguish.”



“As devastated as I was, my heart bled for Bruce and what he must have lived with his entire life. It’s impossible for those of us who are comfortable living in our own skin to fully grasp what an imprisonment that must feel like to be born into the wrong body. I know it’s difficult to understand, to emotionally or even intelligently wrap your head around. It was extremely difficult for me to comprehend, and adjust my life accordingly to, the realization that the man I had married—the very masculine, gorgeous, ideal, wonderful hunk of a man—would be no more. The human entity was still alive, but it truly was like mourning the death of the person I had grown to know and love….As earth-shattering as his confession had been for me, pulling the proverbial rug out from under my world, Bruce’s struggle made mine pale in comparison. I now had to ‘man up,’ support Bruce and his decisions regarding his own body, take care of my sons, and move on with my life.”



“For years, I witnessed David’s immense sadness when returning from his feminine expression. I held him as he wept. This tension also extended to our sex life. While my comfort with fantasy enabled me to support Deb’s presence in our bedroom, I sometimes longed for a scenario other than pretending we were both women during lovemaking. Eventually, it became obvious that David never had been role-playing a feminine character. Rather, he had been falsely portraying a male all his life. In 2009, in response to yet another bout of David’s depression, I told him, ‘I don’t think another therapist or a different antidepressant will work. It’s time to talk to an endocrinologist.’…While sex was a major part of our early relationship, we now rely on deeper forms of intimacy. We connect through deep discussions, mutual discovery and respect, caring and generosity. We focus on non-sexual ways of expressing love—cuddling, gentle caresses, holding hands. These interactions became more critical to our relationship than frequent sexual expression.”



“Sometimes I have a girl friend to pal around with, sometimes my husband. I help her with her make up and shopping and putting together an outfit. If she was going to dress, I wanted her to be pleased with the way she looked. I have encouraged her with her hairstyles and in buying a good-looking wig. I made an appointment for her to get her make up professionally done by a make up artist so she could see herself as beautiful. I still have a husband for those times when socially I am expected to have a husband….So, ladies, as the women’s lib movement allowed us freedom to pursue who we wanted to be, don’t put men in a box. Grant these men the same freedom to express and be who they want to be. Let go of your rigid ideas of masculinity and what a husband/mate should be and embrace who they actually are.”



“Well, it has been a mishmash of extreme ups and downs. You don’t go through the past few years, watching your husband transform into a woman, without taking a hit. Nothing up until now in my life had prepared me for what I went through. The stress and enormity of the transition took a toll on me. I was distracted and exhausted. I was grieving. I was adapting. I was grappling with my own loss of identity….It was all part of the process. With everything in my world changing, it would have been foolish to think that it was going to be easy. It wasn’t easy at all. It was hard. And anything worth doing is hard. My marriage is worth doing. My husband, now my wife, is worth doing. And I’d do it all over again if I had to. How am I doing now? A lot better.”



“Throughout the last year we have discovered the good, the bad and the ugly in our lives. The good are the majority; we are fortunate to have a network of family and friends who are smart, understanding and have developed critical thinking throughout their lives. When the good do not understand, they ask, read, learn and make sure they are supporting us by listening and offering to help. The bad have given us the power of invisibility by completely ignoring the evolution of our family. (This is totally not cool, considering that my car is also invisible.) Their indifference has a variable foundation, depending on their beliefs and culture. Sometimes their resistance to change is based on religious beliefs, and sometimes it is based on discomfort with deviation from the ‘norm’ itself. The ugly are a small but very vocal minority who left our social media accounts in a hurry, but not before they’d launched their attacks. There is not much to say about the ugly.”



“Maura—I call her my wasband—still doesn’t understand how I can question the reality of the 13 years we were married before her big reveal, any more than I understand how she subjugated her feelings of gender dysphoria all that time….All we can do is manage the pain, ignore the wide-eyed stares and inconsiderate comments, and hope for grace and serenity. We are forced to applaud with so many others what it takes to come out as trans, to live an authentic life. But only we know the courage it takes to redraw what gets erased.”



“When Jake was first transitioning, I was trying very hard to make sure I wasn’t treating him like a woman—whatever that meant. I didn’t even know what that meant in some cases. Basically he was going through his puberty at that time, so for instance, he’s really into women’s butts suddenly, and he was a boob man before, so I was kind of like, constantly presenting myself where the action would take off. From behind. And no oral. So that was the case for a while, until Jake said something about it, and I realized I was kind of being like, ‘This is male/female sex’ versus ‘This is lesbian sex.’ Jake said, ‘Sex is just sex. We don’t need to stop or start having different kinds of sex because I’m a man now. Lesbians don’t own oral sex.’ I was using sex as a way to overcompensate—how do I validate him as a man? I wanted him to know I was attracted to him and loved him has a man. We had a lot more sex for a while, but then it was matter of figuring out what kind of sex was possible and then realizing any kind of sex was possible.”

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