All the stories here are real and expressed in the first person by the authors. It’s important to understand that these feelings and expressions are genuine and personal whether you agree with them or not.
Let’s begin with this all too typical story of a wife who learns of her husband’s crossdressing after many years of what she considers a successful marriage and how she feels her life is now torn apart. Diana Matthews talks to The private anguish of having a spouse in transition
and then an (unfortunately) anonymous letter to the Guardian titled A letter…to my transgender husband: why did it have to be all about you?
Then, as a counterpoint, we have these stories from the transitioning or crossdressing spouse which hopefully explains that we do understand and are sorry for the pain and disruption in their lives. This is important to provide perspective on the wives comments.
|Our hearts notwithstanding, the reality of the situation is that not all wives find our predilection as amusing or acceptable. From my experience (and I have a tolerant, but barely accepting wife), wives generally fall into three general categories. One: those that are not accepting – basically don’t’ want to see or hear about the cross-dressing and if it becomes visible; well! Woo is me – a very obvious NMH (not my husband) symptom. It may end in divorce or obvious difficulties.Next is the tolerant wife, probably the largest group, but tolerant runs from barely tolerant to well OK, but here are the limits. Wives may help in the feminization process and even attend support group meetings but only on the most tolerant end of scale.The third category is the accepting wife who will often participate more or less in the crossdressers activity and may even encourage it for whatever personal reasons she has. My observation is that there is no way to project how your wife may feel and often she will change her position on crossdressing behavior over time. Hub Pages published an excellent article on “Why Women Leave Men Who Wear Women’s Clothing” which delves into their reasoning in more depth and possible solutions – always worth considering. Then we’ll listen to the women themselves.
Some may think that crossdressing is a major cause of divorce, and yes, divorce is an outcome, but not as much as you may think. Nadine from the Unordinary Style blog has researched the literature and found that 84% of spouses did not leave the marriage after the truth was revealed in this Truth of Partner’s Acceptance.
Next, the Wives Support Section of the National Transgender Education and Support Systems has published an excellent article on Helping the wife, loved ones, and friends understand crossdressing that is both comprehensive and emotionally heart-wrenching, but also all too true. It’s a balanced view that could be a lifesaver
It’s the Lying
I was married to a cross dresser for 20 years, a secret I kept hidden from everyone in my life. For the first ten years of my marriage, I was a clueless cross dresser’s wife. My closeted crossdresser husband misrepresented himself when he chose not to disclose his lifelong condition prior to our marriage. He finally did “come out” to me ten years into our marriage, saying he had something he wanted to tell me but couldn’t. He had to show me. So, as the clocked ticked ever closer to midnight, he went upstairs, dressed up in my lingerie, and returned to our intimate New Year’s picnic before the fire to give me the shock of my life.
I felt betrayed, lied to, and absolutely devastated. I loved my husband with all my heart but felt I did not know who he was anymore. Where was the trust? Had I ever truly known him? I felt I had no reason to believe anything that came out of his mouth. However, I did stay with him for another decade — until our only child left for college. I sprinted out of there two weeks later, two days before our twentieth anniversary. I was not going to celebrate a marriage comprised of so many lies.
Read more of Dee’s story here.
Not all lying is intentional. Many young crossdressers believe that it will go away with marriage. Of course, it doesn’t, but for the young wife it could still feel like betrayal when she finds out. Listen to this excerpt from “She’s a Boy I knew“, “How Could You“
It’s Not the Lying
An interesting note in the discussion is the general feelings from husbands and wives that “honesty is always the best policy no matter what” is not necessarily workable nor agreed with by all husbands and wives. See the story below:
As a GG I have a very different perspective than you. You make it seem that the only thing that upsets us women is being lied to and not the dressing. “It’s the dressing, stupid” to paraphrase the comment Bill Clinton made about economics being the determining factor in the election process.
It is more than just the dressing however. If a man dressed as a woman for Halloween or just a masquerade event, and wasnt doing it for the thrill and satisfaction he received from being perceived as a woman then most women would consider that just an entertaining episode. But when a man gets a thrill from seeing himself dressed as a woman and enjoys playing the role of a woman, most women would be turned off by that – at least when it concerns a man with whom she has a close personal relationship.
For many of us women we have an image of a man that we don’t consciously focus on but is always there. It is an image of our man as our protector, and when that image is lost or diminished the relationship almost invariably suffers. Some woman are more accommodating of a man’s dressing than others, but even the most accepting feels that she has lost something special and wishes it would go away.
There are many reasons that a woman chooses to stay with her husband after the revelation – economic and social, but dont ever think that she is going to welcome the news with open arms and embrace it with enthusiasm.
I cant speak for all women, but I think I can speak for many. Seeing a man in lacy indies, nylons and heels is not a turn on for most women. and going out with a man and seeing him secretly thrilled when he gets attention from straight men who think he is really a she, is something that would, in my opinion make most women feel quite uncomfortable.
So please give serious thought before you reveal your secret to the woman in your life. You may be unburden yourself, but you are burdening her with news that may well change her feelings for you and affect her life in ways you cant imagine.
You have every right to dress, express your innermost feelings and satisfy your needs to either just dress or enjoy playing the role of a woman with others. And although some here encourage you to “be honest” with your wives, sometimes honesty is not always the best policy.
I hope that you understand that I’m not judging you, simply giving you something serious to think about.
TRUST is Important
There’s an organization in central Pennsylvania called T.R.U.S.T. (Truth, Respect, Understanding and Support for Life’s Transitions) Their mission is to help spouses and significant others begin to understand that living with a cross-dresser or transitioning spouse is complex and requires the components of the group’s name in order to navigate your life with that person. The group is affiliated with the TransCentralPA TG support group in Harrisburg. This article from co-founder Lorri, wife of a cross-dresser, (reprinted from TG Forum) provides yet more insight on the role of love and trust in a relationship
Finding out that your spouse is a crossdresser or is transgender, can be a difficult and confusing thing. It is normal to feel lied to or betrayed at first. You may even feel like the life you created with your spouse was all a lie, that it wasn’t real. Yet, I need you to open your mind to another thought. Maybe your spouse telling you was them actually showing their ultimate love for you.
Many crossdressers spend a lifetime in a cycle of buying clothes, dressing, going out, them purging (getting rid of everything, in an attempt to stop dressing). For many transgender MtF’s they have often spent their whole lives fighting against the feelings they have of being in the wrong gender body. They may have chosen very manly careers, been active in sports, or even joined the military in an attempt to be the men that they were told and expected to be. In both cases, many have been involved in prior marriages or had prior long term relationships that probably ended due to a lack of honesty or communication that they experienced with their partners, all due to fear.
Try to understand for a moment a fear so big that you can not face it. A fear that they have had since they were young and got punished for playing in their mom’s makeup. Maybe they were ridiculed for playing with their cousin’s dolls or even beaten for dressing up in mother’s closet. A fear of not only being disowned by society, but by their very own parents and families. So what they learned at a young age is to hide. Hide from everyone, especially the people they loved the most. Then, they hid from themselves, living in a constant world of denial.
If your spouse or partner has finally come out to you about their crossdressing or told you they are transgender, it is not to hurt you (even though I know it does). They have told you because they love you so much that they need to be honest with you. They trust and respect you and your relationship so much, that they can’t continue to fight inside themselves. They need you to understand them.
Please, educate yourself on the topics of crossdressing and what it means to be transgender. I’m not denying the struggle that we as wives and spouses go through when we are told. I myself am the wife of a transgender spouse. But, I would like to open your eyes to the idea that maybe they loved you so much that for the first time in their lives they felt they could be themselves.
Although it has been a difficult journey for me, I do believe wholeheartedly that my spouse’s gender identity has nothing to do with his/her ability to love me. Just as I wouldn’t turn my back on my child, my parent, or my best friend; I refuse to turn my back on my spouse, especially at a time when they need my care and support most of all. Its not about saying this is the long term life you want or promising your partner forever, it’s about showing love, caring, compassion, and understanding to someone who has left themselves so vulnerable in your presence. It’s about love, not betrayal.
Dee, Beth, and Lorrie, as wives, certainly tell their stories from first-hand experience, but let’s listen to two other well-respected women, Abigail Van Buren and Eppie Lederer, known to you as “Dear Abby” and “Dear Ann Landers” who are perhaps the most respected advice columnists in the world and although both ladies are no longer with us, their advice is still well remembered.
More Wives, Helen Boyd, Peggy Rudd, Debbie McCloskey, and Terri Lee Ryan
Helen Boyd, author of My Husband, Betty is perhaps the best know author of a story of a crossdresser and his wife. This documentary by this now famous couple helps explain their feelings about their relationship. Peggy’s book, My Husband Wears My Clothes, is also a best seller. In May, 2006 WE television presented Secret Lives of Women Married to Crossdressers.So this is the story of Melanie, a married, heterosexual crossdresser and Peggy, his wife.
And then Brian and Debbie McCloskey discuss their unconventional marriage with Ricki Lake on the Ricki Lake Show, June 7, 2013
Jen H wrote this piece for Crossdresser Heaven called A Perspective From The Other Side, a typical story of discovery and why it’s OK to have those strange feelings, even many years after discovery. It reinforces Pandora’s story below
My Husband Wears My Clothes
A 1995 Leeza Gibbons shows with crossdressers and their wives. the pros and cons. This show best demonstrates that not all wives are equal. You’ll also want to read Pandora’s article on How Your Crossdressing Changes Your Wife’s Opinion On You.
Transvestite Wives (Panties on Men)
Transvestite Wives looks at three crossdressing relationships, as seen through the eyes of their wives and partners. These videos are based on a BBC documentary. The term ‘Transvestite’ is commonly used for crossdressers in the United Kingdom and most other parts of the world.
More on Women’s Attitude Towards Crossdressing
Mums Net is a parent to parent talk forum with advice on all sides of family life. They have a thread on crossdressing that when last checked had 796 replies with husbands, wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, and others all participating. Needless to say, there are some very interesting comments. You can read many of them here.
Laura Ann Stuart owns the Tool Shed, an erotic boutique on Milwaukee’s East Side. She has a master’s degree in public health and has worked as a sexuality educator for more than fifteen years. She responds to this question from one crossdresser’s wife in SEXPress.
Leeza Gibbons, a talk show host, did a show in 1995 on “My Husband Wears My Clothes” and crossdresser wives played a prominent role in the show. This video of the show is well worth watching.
Even More resources.
The River City Gems, a Sacramento-based TG support group has collected extensive writings on crossdressing spousal relationships which you can access here