Was advice columnist right to tell woman to divorce transgender husband?

It’s an interesting question.  And since yesterday was the Transgender Day of Remembrance, I think this is an interesting way to broach the topic.

What do you tell a woman who asks if she should leave her husband who is becoming a woman?

First, what advice columnist “Dear Prudence” recommended:

Q. Transgendered Husband: I believe transgendered people should be treated with the same respect and imbued with the same rights as cisgendered people. I have always felt this way, and I have several transgendered friends. Then my husband, whom I love very much, told me he wants to become a woman—or, she has always felt like a woman trapped in a man’s body, and if she doesn’t begin transitioning, she will be emotionally crippled. Initially, I promised to remain married to her during her transition and for some time afterward, to give our marriage a chance to adjust to her transition and sex change. It has been three months, and as much as I love my husband, I am miserable. To a certain extent, my love for my husband is rooted in his manhood. The more my husband transitions into becoming a woman, the less romantic love I feel for her. I just don’t think I can remain her wife. I am heartbroken and feel as though I am a widow, which sounds so dramatic. My husband is emotionally fragile right now, because she’s lost some important people to her because of her transition. Everyone commends me for supporting her and sticking with our marriage, so I feel like a fraud now too. She loves me so much; I cannot imagine how to tell her I want a divorce, that she has lost me because she is transgendered. Or is it better to be a bad person and leave? And yes, I am seeing a counselor.
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A: Of course people change and grow during the course of a marriage. Marriage would be stiflingly dull if that wasn’t the case. But if your husband confesses to you he plans to start growing breasts, he has so materially changed the contract of your marriage that I completely understand that you feel the husband you knew has died. In a way, he has and is being reborn as someone new, and you are not obligated to stay in the marriage under those circumstances. People would not expect you to stay (and you probably wouldn’t) if he said he realized he was gay, or he wanted to enter into a polygamous relationship. This feeling he is a woman trapped in a man’s body is not a new discovery for him, and he withheld absolutely crucial information from you prior to your marriage. It’s great that you still love him and want to be an emotional support for him. But you must be emotionally fragile too, and there is nothing wrong with your realizing your husband’s change of life requires you to make your own.

chaz-bono-jennifer-elia

Chaz Bono and then-fiancée Jennifer Elia.
Helga Esteb / Shutterstock.com

It’s a complicated question that I don’t think Prudence handles terribly well in its entirety.  I think her overall point, that the marriage has materially changed, is true.  The question is whether you leave.

First off, I don’t buy the “he withheld absolutely crucial information from you prior to your marriage.” It’s not entirely clear that the husband knew he was trans – fully knew – before the marriage.  Did he have feeling, a sense about it – seemingly, from the wife’s description. But I’m not sure that qualifies as the husband knowing that some day he’s going to transition, and not telling the wife before marriage.

This reminds me of gay people coming out.  Even though I’m less sympathetic than some to the argument that trans = gay, like all things in life, there are similarities, especially in “coming out.”  In some ways, for me at least, coming out as gay paralleled Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’ stages of grief (though I’m told they may have been debunked, it’s still an interesting model). They are:

  • Denial
  • Anger
  • Bargaining
  • Depression
  • Acceptance

I can’t speak for trans people, but I definitely went through all five of those stages when it came to coming to terms with being gay.  And if you’re not up to stage four, you haven’t quite fully accepted who  you are.  And if you haven’t accepted who you are, why would you tell someone else, even your spouse – you can’t tell them what you don’t know?  But would you tell them what you suspect, what you fear, what you have an inkling of?

In think more generally, there’s a snarky-ness, or bitterness, to Prudence’s answer that is inappropriate.  These are complicated situations, and emotions.  This is way beyond, and far more complicated than, a man simply “hiding” something from his wife.

I am intrigued by her comparison of a husband becoming a woman to a husband coming out as gay. I do think that if your husband come out as gay, the marriage might very well be over (it would be for me, if I were dating someone and they went straight).  Then again, I suppose it depends what you base your marriage on.

We’ve discussed before what it means to be gay, and what it means when some people say they’ve “changed” their sexual orientation.  What it means, and what they mean, but often iterate in a less-than-precise manner, is that either their sexual orientation itself has been somewhat fluid (altering over the years), through no choice of their own, or they’re in essence bisesexual (or perhaps 60-40, or 30-70, rather than 50-50 straight to gay) and finally met someone who pushed their buttons.

Some argued that romantic relationships are about more than sex, and sometimes grow beyond sex.  So in that case, you can settle down with someone who isn’t your sexual match, be it in terms of their orientation, or in this case, their gender, or gender orientation.  And in that case, it depends on the person.  I could not marry someone who wasn’t my same gender.  To me, “man” is a flavor, “woman” is not.  So I was surprised when Chaz Bono (former Chastity Bono) transitioned from woman to man and her girlfriend stuck with him (they’ve since split up).  I couldn’t do it.  But obviously some can, and do.  It would have been interesting to read more about Jennifer Elia, the girlfriend, and how she was handling the transition.

In the end, I’d have liked Prudence to at least have acknowledged the fact that some people do stick with their partner/spouse after the person comes out as trans.

What do you think?  Would it be a deal breaker for you if your spouse came out as gay or trans, and/or if they transitioned to another gender (or physical manifestation of that gender)?  Is it perhaps easier for women than men to deal with a partner who has “changed”?

 


Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown (1989); and worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, and as a stringer for the Economist. Frequent TV pundit: O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline & Reliable Sources. Bio, .

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  • charles

    Yep.

  • Sue

    I’m Trans, and went through a divorce following my transition. I was surprised for two reasons. One was that I told her I was Trans while we were dating, and she stayed with me, married me, and had two of my children. She was a full partner in my transition, helping me decide when to come out, take hormones, and everything else. I made a lot of compromises with her to make her lif better. Second, I don’t really feel that different, so the idea that I’m a whole different person doesn’t resonate with me. I’m still me, only more pretty, happy, helpful and productive. We never had much of a sex life due to sexual dysfunction on her part, so the sexual attraction argument seems hokey too.

    I was shocked to discover that my marriage was based on such superficial grounds. I thought we ran deeper than the right proportion of penises and vaginas. In the end, though, I guess she didn’t know how she’d feel, and discovered that it wasn’t what she wanted. I wish she had grappled with those emotions before I gave her so much of who I am. I feel resentful.

  • Angela

    My Name is Mrs. Angela, I was married to my husband for 8years and we were both blessed with three children, living together as one January until 2013 when things was no longer the way it was [when he lost his job]. But when he later gets a new job 3 months after, he started sleeping outside our matrimonial home. Only for me to find out that he was having an affair with the lady that gave him the job. since that day, when i called him, he no longer pick up my calls and nothing good since to come out from him. Yet my husbands just still keep on seeing the new girl friend till Dr. Orinoko cast a spell for me, now he is back with me and me only. And i am happy with my family if you need his help contact on via email,

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  • Anonymous

    I have just been through this myself, or should I say, am going through this. My husband and I have just divorced and he moved out 2 weeks ago. He is now living in a half way house and is on DSS and wants to be a woman. We would have been married for 18 years this June. We got married when we were 19 and he has had many emotional and mental problems throughout the years and I stuck with him through thick and thin. I have been the only one working and paying the bills all this time as well. So when he told me 3 years ago that he wanted to be a woman, I stuck by him still. I was miserable. I love this person. Still love this person. Always will love this person… however I finally came to realize that what I want out of life DOES matter. I no longer had any sexual attraction for him. When you are not a lesbian and your husband wears skirts and has a better ass twitch than you do it is kind of hard to find them attractive. Especially when all they talk about is how they want to get hormones and breasts and so on and so forth. I know this may sound heartless the way I am writing this but I currently just dont have the heart to express the pain I have been through over the years. I bought him his first pair of womans underwear and we cried. And for those of you who are offended by the fact that I am using “he” rather than “she”, well tough! I married HIM! I loved him. He is no longer the same person. For me this goes much further than transsexuality though. He has had quite a bit of amnesia over the years and PTSD and doesnt remember much of our marriage, which kills me. We were best friends before we got married and we remain friends today. For much of our marriage it was like I was taking care of a child. And I accepted that because I loved this person. But over the years he just became more and more of a person I didnt know. He had a mental break about a year and a half ago and ended up on the psych ward after I had to call 911 at 3 am bc I thought he was going to either kill me or himself. I wasnt going to let him come home, but I did. And this last year he has been going to counseling and has been getting so much better. So much better as a matter of fact that he asked his counselors to help him find a place to live so he could start a new life as a transsexual. They thought a half way house would be best. I agreed and was relieved when they said it. He has never had to do anything for himself without my support. So now he lives with 10 other people and gets all the support he needs as well as me still giving him moral support. And here I am, alone and heartbroken and still worried about him everyday. And trying to make a life for myself. I am 37 and have lost so many years of my life. So much of it was focused on him and making sure he was ok and now I have all this time on my hands. Which I love and hate. I hear from him everyday in one way or another, either by email or phone and I think this makes it harder, but I do not regret the divorce. This isnt going to be easy but it is true. They just arent the same person. And if you are attracted to men, then you are attracted to men. No person should have to be miserable because of what society thinks, whether it is the tran or the tran’s spouse. The last year we were together was a healing time for us to be able to make this change without anger and guilt etc. SO, this is my advice, if you are in this situation, do what is best for you because no one else is going to. Do it. If you truly want to stay together then work it out, if not, then move on but do it the best way you can and with the least amount of heartache.

  • Anonymous

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  • http://www.facebook.com/victoria.cole.927758 Victoria Cole

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  • darrin

    I sympathize with your friend: fortunate she has you for support. But please don’t assume that the non-t partner has it easy since she’s ‘just losing a husband’. I didn’t ‘just lose my husband’: I lost my lover, my best friend, my husband of 15 years and the father of my children. The only counselor I spoke to told me to try to open my mind and find her sexually attractive. I couldn’t, but then, no one can: orientation doesn’t come with a drop-down list. I wanted her to be free to live her life in the way that made her happy, but i came to the conclusion that i was as entitled to my own life as she was. We’re no longer connected: when I stopped being willing to provide 24/7 on-site support, she felt betrayed. I’ve never quite understood how she could feel that she was entitled to live her life her way, but not feel that i was entitled to live my life my way, too.

  • darrin

    Thank you. Nice to hear that someone thinks I’m entitled to be me, too.

  • darrin

    I think you might well change your mind if your husband were to transition. The non-t spouse loses the person they fell in love with and the part of their identity that came from being a pair. That’s quite a jolt when it comes out of left field — as it quite frequently does, since it may take someone years to work out exactly why they’ve never felt truly at home in their own skin. And to dismiss the non-t spouse’s reaction to that loss as ‘valuing the wrapping paper more than the person’ also dismisses transitioning: if your physical self is only wrapping paper, how justifiable is the desire to change it?
    I notice that women who have identified as hetero are told to stick around and make it work, but I have yet to see a man told to do that. If you wouldn’t tell a gay person to try to go straight, why should a hetero woman be told to try to go lesbian?

  • Mimihaha

    I remember an interview with Jennifer Elia, after the break up. She said Chaz Bono is not the same person as Chasity Bono and she had to leave the relationship because the person she fell in love with wasn’t there anymore.

    There’s a lot more to a transition than just rearranging the plumbing.

  • fariasrv

    A) The plural of “anectode” is not “data.”
    B) I would argue that you have NO idea what you’re talking about.

    C) Indeed, I question your ability to find your own anus without a GPS, which would explain the stench surrounding your post.

  • fariasrv

    That is a naive and reductive interpretation, and you know it.

  • Rebecca Juro

    I completely agree with John here. The reality is that people are people and there’s really no handbook for how to handle a situation like this. Some spouses will be able to handle a transition and adjust their own lives to accommodate a new gender presentation, others will not.

    In some cases, it’s actually a double-edged sword. On the one hand, what a transitioning trans person usually wants most is acceptance in their new gender. On the other hand, for many spouses the more they accept their partner’s new gender as real, they less invested they become in that person sexually and emotionally. It’s important to remember that it’s not only the trans person’s but also the spouse’s sexual, romantic, and emotional needs that are at issue here.

    And while I can’t speak for all trans people either, I can certainly speak for one, myself: I believe we all go through a coming out process to some degree, but it differs radically for trans people in that unlike in the case of gay people, who usually recognize and come to terms with their sexuality in adolescence, trans people often realize their gender identity much earlier, often around the ages of five or six, when we acquire a firm grasp of the differences between boys and girls. We learn to hide that part of ourselves very early on, particularly in the case of male-born children who feel themselves to be girls, because we’re taught by much of what we see and hear around us at that age that being transgender is still considered unacceptable by most of modern society.

    The bottom line is that a committed romantic relationship has to work for both partners or it just doesn’t work. If that’s not the case, then something has to change.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000171062969 Esther Clark

    I am a heterosexual woman. If my husband became a woman I would probably not be sexually attracted to him anymore. I think sexual attraction is an important part of marriage, as does he. Therefore I would probably want a divorce but remain the best of friends.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000171062969 Esther Clark

    So if someone is in a heterosexual marriage and realizes that for example, they’re gay, they should just suck it up and stay married to their hetero partner. No fullfilment for them with a same sex partner?

  • http://www.facebook.com/wintersong.tashlin Wintersong Tashlin

    Given that people respect what you have to say John, and see you as an authority figure, it would have been awesome if you could have used female pronouns for the husband in question in your commentary.

  • http://www.facebook.com/wintersong.tashlin Wintersong Tashlin

    > but I find it odd that a man-in-transition would opt to be a lesbian by staying married to her wife

    There are *many* gay and lesbian trans* people in the world, so I’m not sure why this would be so hard to imagine.

  • http://adgitadiaries.blog-city.com karmanot

    BS….You are an ignorant troll!

  • http://www.rebeccamorn.com/mind BeccaM

    I offer the most sincere congratulations to both you and your wife for showing us all that this kind of situation actually CAN work out well. Kudos.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1298856825 Joanne Equality Robrahn

    I don’t believe a traumatic experience “turns you gay.” I would really like to see the literature on that phenomenon.

  • Stan

    The idea that people should be allowed to love who they love seems to be widely agreed here. This woman finds that she cannot love, in a romantic way, the person she had loved as a man. This is her prerogative. Props to her to for wanting to support her husband’s transition, and it seems clear that she still cares about and supports her spouse. But this is not what she wants for her life and it not something she feels in her heart. “I love you but I just can’t be your wife anymore,” is a perfectly reasonable response. I hope they continue to be close, but she is not in the wrong to leave.

  • http://adgitadiaries.blog-city.com karmanot

    Thank you!

  • http://adgitadiaries.blog-city.com karmanot

    Same here

  • Denisesined

    I am a transsexual female and I am 65 years old. My spouse is a heterosexual woman. We have been together over 42 years and we still love each other. We had three children,(one died in a accident) My remaining daughters and grand daughters are accepting of me. I told my spouse I was trans 3 months after being married, I also explained I wanted my own children. She accepted me as I was and agreed if I waited till the kids were grown before changing, she would stay with me. She was not pregnant at that time.
    over 42 years later we are doing well, I have been transitioned 15 years. Our personal lives are our own business but I will say we are happy.
    Our arrangement was made when trans people were hardly known about by the majority of people and certainly not understood. Today we may perhaps have totally different lives as things and accceptance has changed. Age and location changes a lot of experiences. I wish them both the best regardless of their decisions.

  • Stev84

    BS. There are people who genuinely don’t realize it until later in life. You might not be able to understand it, but it’s how it is. Don’t presume to know how other people feel

  • Stev84

    It depends on whether the state changed gender on the birth certificate. That’s what counts. Texas doesn’t for example. So same-sex marriages involving one trans person are possible there.

  • SharksBreath

    As I stated earlier. We are animals. Attraction has no vows. That’s why people cheat. Vows are a man made thing. Attraction goes through the entire animal kingdom. This woman is attracted to men. Why would she stay in a relationship with a guy who wants to live his life as a woman.

    That’s what’s inside of her. Just like he chose to act on the feelings inside of him. Damn those man made vows. She’s miserable. I guess those who want her to stay think she should continue to be married and be miserable.

    For the vows.

    Which makes the Robertson comparison silly at best.

  • SharksBreath

    Good thing you didn’t because he’s a fool and it’s nothing like that.

    This is pretty straight forward. She’s into men. Her husband wants to be a woman.

    Party over.

  • SharksBreath

    1. She married a guy thinking he was man. Now he wants to be a woman. That a big F’n change. What planet do you live on.

    2. Your insane. Transition to what. This is my husband Sally. We are animals. Relationships usually start with one thing. Attraction. If she’s attracted to “superficial gender qualities” which most normal human beings are attracted to since the beginning of man shame on her right. As she stated in her letter.

    “To a certain extent, my love for my husband is rooted in his manhood.
    The more my husband transitions into becoming a woman, the less romantic
    love I feel for her.”

    Because she’s attracted to men. This isn’t rocket science.

    3. There is no bond. He lied. He should have never married this lady if he ever had those feelings. The problem is that her husband lived his life as a lie. The other problem is that she probably ignored the signs he was gay.

    The reason gay and transgendered people find themselves in these situations is because they are not being honest with themselves and they usually have a partner who is willing to deny reality by their side.

  • SharksBreath

    Her assumption is based on what gay people say. They say they are born gay. Then wouldn’t he know he was gay. That’s why she says it’s not a new discovery for him.

    Her assumption is wrong but it’s based on the assumption of people that are gay.

    As I believe and actually know everyone who is gay isn’t born gay. Some people are molested or sexually abused and become gay.

    I know two men this happened to. I also know women who were never gay had a few kids and now since they can’t find a good man they are dating women that act like men.

  • SharksBreath

    You know. You might not agree with what you know and try to fight it. But you know. Deep denial. You said it yourself.

  • http://www.rebeccamorn.com/mind BeccaM

    Bingo. And it really is as simple as that. I would only revise that last sentence to read, “And if you need help figuring it out, get counseling, and don’t expect an advice columnist or any other random stranger to have a good answer for you.”

  • http://www.rebeccamorn.com/mind BeccaM

    Having personally experienced not knowing and deep denial from the sexual orientation side of things, I am going to disagree with you.

    We do not always know ourselves.

  • UncleBucky

    Yep. I agree. Well, who knows who “Prudence” is. Maybe someone doing Advice Columnist Drag, eh?

    For anyone, even in the most accepting and educated families, transgendered people have a difficult time. After listening to the stories from those at Be-All, I agree with your ideas of authenticity, compassion and acceptance.

  • UncleBucky

    Of course. But my comment had to do with changing one’s physicality or die. Now I realize that for some folks, it might be a case of transitioning or die. I get it. I was only saying (in a couple of places) that BOTH transitioning AND having a transformative event are just as traumatic for not only the person directly involved but also for those around.

    But my bottom line is that whatever the change, there are people, not “categories” involved. And we have to think of the people who are part of the interaction.

    And to deal with part of your post, “if you lose your balls… you don’t cease to be a guy”. Of course. For those who lose an important secondary sexual characteristic, no, you don’t change gender. But you may fear that others will perceive that you did. Likewise, others may fear losing who you are/were when you would transition, in that the person who transitions really changes.

    I think that most folks, as you say, who grow up in this culture WOULD rather have the traditional gender / sex role than the same person with a new one.

    As John writes, it’s very complicated. I only want to take the discussion back from a clinical chat about categories back to the people that have to endure the confusion and conflicts of someone transitioning as part of a couple. :)

  • Clevelandchick

    Sorry, I don’t buy this person didn’t know.

  • Clevelandchick

    You don’t know that – there is no mention of how he feels sexually to her in the letter, she’s not attracted to her wife necessarily, she needs her emotionally.

  • Sweetie

    “His needs are being met, so too must hers.”

    That doesn’t necessarily have to mean the end of the marriage.

    “But isn’t the pursuit of happiness an inherently selfish undertaking? Relationships require sacrifices, but a miserable person in the relationship will only make it worse.”

    The question is how much value the person places on certain things in comparison with others.

  • Sweetie

    1. The notion that her husband is becoming a brand new person is poppycock. He/she is the same person. Yes, the physical and hormonal changes will affect how this person feels and behaves to some degree.

    2. If the wife’s claim, that her love for her husband is mainly based on superficial gender qualities (“manhood”) then her relationship is probably not deep enough to survive the transition. Personally, i find it unfortunate the way most treat marriage as if it’s some sort of close friendship of convenience instead of a dedicated bond.

    3. Comparing this situation to polygamy is wrong. This is still a pair bond, which is how most people define marriage.

    I know a lot of people think being sexually attracted to their spouse is imperative, but I’ve been married for fifteen years and our relationship hasn’t been physical for the last ten. There are a lot of factors in a marriage, and sex appeal is not always one of them. If my husband were to decide to transition I would never leave him. But, that’s me. I value the person, not the wrapping paper.

  • http://AMERICAblog.com/ John Aravosis

    I suspect he has. He’d probably say if you love em and want to stay married, stay married. And if it’s a deal breaker, leave. And if you need help figuring it out get counseling.

  • http://AMERICAblog.com/ John Aravosis

    Actually I was going to mention that in the piece and forgot.

  • http://AMERICAblog.com/ John Aravosis

    Right, and the very fact that they’re asking shows that they care, they want to learn, they’re open to understanding and are trying to understand.

  • http://AMERICAblog.com/ John Aravosis

    Yep that’s how I read it too. There was a nastiness to the response, coldness, lack of insight I didn’t appreciate.

  • http://www.rebeccamorn.com/mind BeccaM

    I thought your column was just fine, John. And yes, sympathetic to all sides in this, save the rightfully criticized ‘Prudence.’

  • EdHandy

    Transitioning is a bigger change than losing sexual characteristics; in one case, it’s just biology, in the other it’s identity/psychology first, and the biology secondary. If you lose your balls to testicular cancer, you don’t cease to be a guy; if you want to cease to be a guy (normally to get your body to match your internal gender identity as female or neuter) then losing your balls may be a step you take, but my guess is that most folks would rather have their partner with the same identity but missing/non-functional genitals, than their partner with an alternate gender or intentionally neuter gender even if they keep their original genitals.

  • tedhayes

    Kinda like Pat Robertson telling a questioner to go ahead and divorce the spouse because said spouse was terminally ill (Alzheimer’s?). Apparently Pat doesn’t believe in the vows he has bridal couples repeat year after year, wedding after wedding.

  • emjayay

    WWDSS? (What would Dan Savage say?) Actually, it’s quite likely that he has answered a question like this at some point.

  • emjayay

    Conventions of capitalization and punctuation exist for a reason.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1298856825 Joanne Equality Robrahn

    People need to learn to do what’s the right thing for them, and try not to worry as much about “other people!” We only have one life (more than likely).

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1298856825 Joanne Equality Robrahn

    I think the fact that she had to ask someone, would indicate that maybe she didn’t WANT to, but was asking someone to TELL her to. I think she should have stayed, if she truly loved this person, after all we fall in love with the PERSON, not the organs. She should have seen how things went, maybe an open relationship might have worked, sexwise.
    This is not a cut and dry question, nor should there be an either or answer. This world is getting complicated, but we can all help simplify it, by being less jusdgmental and more open-minded.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1298856825 Joanne Equality Robrahn

    People fall in love with PEOPLE, not organs.

  • http://adgitadiaries.blog-city.com karmanot

    I say: save the love, redefine the relationship. Be happy with each other, separately or apart.

  • http://adgitadiaries.blog-city.com karmanot

    “you cant make them happy,” Them? “We gay folks seem to have lost our way a bit in regards to thinking it
    is ok to fight for our rights, we now include gender and sexuality
    issues together,” Listen carefully— YOU ARE THEM. Wake up.

  • http://adgitadiaries.blog-city.com karmanot

    Yes, this is a conundrum. Terms and words are important, for they assume an identity of reality if not truth. If a transgendered individual refers to them self as ‘he’, or ‘she’—then that should set the standard. I recently took umbrage with a very progressive individual over the term ‘queer’ because in my generation it had the connotation of the ‘N’ word. The point being, that while ‘Queer’ is now accepted, I made the expression that it was gravely offense to me, and the other insisted on using it, in spit of my protest, which was extremely rude and upsetting.

  • http://adgitadiaries.blog-city.com karmanot

    It is incredibly difficult to forge a healthy and authentic identity as GLTBQ—often against all odds and danger at that. For Transgendered people, it is an an exceptional trial on top of everything else. ‘Prudence’ is biased and borders on bigotry in her ‘advice.’ We should encourage authenticity above all and still extend compassion to those of family without denigration.

  • http://www.rebeccamorn.com/mind BeccaM

    I’ll present this a different way: Let’s say a woman grows up in a very conservative Christian family. As a kid, she’s awkward around boys, never quite gets over it. Her strongest emotion attachments are to her female friends. (Including maybe a crush or two she never told anybody about…but hey, they didn’t really matter and it was so long ago…) Maybe she has the occasional unwanted fantasy, but she’s been told that being gay is a choice and it’s wrong, and truthfully she doesn’t find males entirely repulsive and she’s into the idea of having a family and maybe even kids. Everybody’s told her that to be gay is never to have a spouse or family, ever.

    After all, she’s been taught everything that’s considered ‘normal’ and what she should want. So she does her best to want what she’s supposed to want and nothing else. “Supposed to want” supersedes “actually want” to the point where the latter isn’t even consciously thought about anymore.

    She marries, a little surprised any man finds her attractive enough to want to marry her. And she does genuinely love her husband, but there just isn’t any passion. What there is, however, is inexplicable depression, deep feelings of being untrue to herself, the increasing sense of a wasted, pointless, passionless life. She loses nearly all interest in sex. What also doesn’t happen is children, but she’s come to feel maybe it’s for the best because she’s concluded there’s something deeply wrong with herself, that she’d be a crappy parent anyway. One thing she thinks she knows for sure is she’s not a lesbian because even though she’s educated enough by this point to realize sexual orientation is not a choice at all, she has no knowledge of anybody who wasn’t aware from a very early age as to their sexual orientation. She spent her entire life identifying as a straight woman. QED, not a lesbian.

    But as the malaise and depression go on, she’s finding she’s looking at attractive women, and feeling guilty and ashamed about it. And occasionally she does pleasure herself, but she tells herself that the content of her more recent fantasies in no way represent a sexual orientation. It’s just that it’s the only thing she finds exciting enough to bring on an orgasm. “But that doesn’t mean I’m gay,” she thinks to herself as she cuddles against her husband’s back later that night. “I couldn’t love him if I was gay.”

    Then one day she stumbles onto an online discussion forum… well, okay, let’s be honest: The antidepressants weren’t working, the despair was only deepening, and it started to become clear to this woman she wasn’t as hetero as she always believed she was. She begins reading different versions of her own story and is shocked to the core. Not long after during a therapy session, her counselor comes right out and asks the question, “Are you sexually attracted to other women?”

    “Yes,” she answers. It’s the first time she’s ever admitted this to anyone, even herself. And she’s 31 years old. But this is nothing, because now she’s read accounts of women in their 50s and 60s coming out for the first time, and she no longer underestimates the sheer power of denial.

    Not knowing, being in denial, simply not having information or self-awareness to act upon — these are commonplace in sexual orientation. There is no reason not to believe transgendered people are free of this. Possibly more so, given our society remains far less accepting transgendered folks than it is of gays, lesbians, and bisexuals, so the pressure and incentive to keep up with the denial are all the stronger.

    You can’t be reasonably accused of deliberately hiding some important detail about yourself, such as your true sexual orientation or gender identify if you yourself are in deep denial about it.

    Anyway, this is the main problem I have with the Dear Prudence column. She’s making all kinds of pejorative assertions about this transgendered person with zero knowledge or evidence about the actual situation, including from the other side.

    BTW, my first marriage didn’t survive my coming out either. But it’s okay, it was for the best, for both of us, and I continue to wish my Ex well. However, my current wife and I will be celebrating our 14th wedding anniversary a month from today, and if all goes well in a few weeks, we’ll get to do it in the new house we bought together.

  • http://www.rebeccamorn.com/mind BeccaM

    Legally it’s one of the ways a same-sex marriage can exist even in a state where it’s ostensibly not allowed, because once a marriage license has been granted and legally filed there are no laws anywhere in the U.S. that allow for the state to step in and dissolve it.

    The request for divorce has to come from the married couple. But yes — even in states lacking no-fault divorce, a spousal gender transition is considered grounds as ‘irreconcilable differences.’

    As for religious involvement? Irrelevant to civil marriage status. Pretty common among the more… conservative Christian denominations for the transitioning person to be told they’re no longer welcome in the congregation.

  • https://www.facebook.com/lelio.risen leliorisen

    I thought the woman who wrote in was being quite understanding and sensitive. However, she also has her own life and feelings to consider.

    One would never counsel a gay man or woman in a straight marriage to stay in that marriage after coming out, if they felt that doing so would be unsatisfying to them to the point that they would be miserable.

    This woman can still be a close friend to her spouse, but it need not be a marital relationship. She should feel no guilt.

    leliorisen

  • nicho

    Well, read the woman’s question closely. She’s already decided what she wants to do and is probably going to do. She’s just looking for someone to giver her permission — which is what a lot of people are looking for when they see a therapist. I agree that Prudence’s answer is ham-handed and insensitive toward the husband, but after all, she (he?) is a newspaper columnist –among other things.

    Prudence’s real name is Emily Yoffee. Here’s a piece of her bio from Wikipedia — most interesting:

    Emily J. Yoffe (born October 15, 1955) is a journalist and a regular contributor to Slate magazine. She has also written for The New York Times, O, The Oprah Magazine, The Washington Post, Esquire, The Los Angeles Times and many other publications. Yoffe began her career as a staff writer at The New Republic.

    She writes Slate’s Dear Prudence advice column, which appears twice weekly. She also does a podcast called Manners for the Digital Age[1] with Slate’s technology columnist Farhad Manjoo.

    She writes a regular feature on Slate called Human Guinea Pig, in which she attempts unusual activities or hobbies. For Human Guinea Pig, she has tried hypnosis,[2] and taken a vow of silence.[3] She has become a street performer,[4] a nude model for an art class,[5] and a contestant in the Mrs. America beauty pageant.[6]

    Yoffe grew up in Newton, Massachusetts and graduated from Wellesley College in 1977.] On June 21, 2012, Yoffe published a piece titled “My Molesters” on Slate. In the piece, Yoffe described three different sexual assaults she suffered as a child and young adult. Yoffe wrote that the final incident occurred when she was “18 or 19″ and that former Congressman and priest
    Robert Drinan was the perpetrator.

  • mirror

    1) I’m not that flexible I don’t think (straight man). But my 20 year marriage now has so many non-sexual elements that outweigh the sexual elements that I can’t be totally sure.

    2) Absolutely, there was no need for Prudence to trash the transitioning husband in order to give permission for the wife to want out of the marriage. His change is huge enough to quite reasonably be outside the definition of marriage the wife signed up for.

  • 2patricius2

    I think the best response to the letter writer would have been for the writer to see a therapist. The writer needs to work through her feelings. And at some point to have some couple therapy with her partner – with a therapist who works with transgender people. It seems from the letter that there are too many complications for the writer to deal with at this point for her to make a clear decision about divorce.

    I also wonder what the legal implications of this are for a civil marriage. Perhaps the transition would have no impact on the validity of the marriage. I know from another situation I was involved with, the transition of a wife to the male gender was grounds for a religious annulment of his marriage.

  • 2patricius2

    I once had a professor who said people could ask him any question. He said there are no stupid questions. Whatever our self identification, we have all made our own internal journeys to self awareness. Most people who ask us questions haven’t made the same journey. It makes sense for us to answer their questions patiently without taking offense, unless it is obvious that they are demeaning or attacking us.

  • A_nonymoose

    My sweet, wonderful wife was in this situation. Her husband of 20 years suddenly announced his intentions, divorced her, went off to Thailand, changed his name and his sex. She was devastated. As were her children. He/she told them he’d only married so he could have children — after which he abandoned them. I have no problem with transgendered people. I do have a problem with this bastard. I’m non-violent, but if I ever saw this twerp, I would punch his lights out.

  • EdHandy

    People change, and marriages end over much smaller changes. I would not fault the wife at all for leaving the marriage; I’d do the same if my wife decided she to transition to being a man (gay or not), or that she was exclusively lesbian (although if my wife decided she was bi, and needed to include some same-sex romantic involvement in her life without cutting me out as a sexual/romantic partner, it might or might not work out — rather like if heterosexual monogamy ceases to work for her, it might or might not work out.)

    Whether it would work out to keep her in my life as a family member but not a romantic partner is easy to speculate on without the hurt of the romantic relationship ending; it’s easy to say I like the idea now, but rather like saying that I like the idea of staying friends after a (hypothetical) divorce for other reasons, it is impossible to know how the dynamics would work out.

    I have two data-points on this, recently:

    1) A coworker of mine went through an MtoF transition last year (and in a bit of a rush, AFAICT — flew to Thailand for the surgeries, for one example.) Her wife was very supportive early on, but they are living apart now — the MtoF coworker in the Southeast, and I have no idea if they are still legally married.
    2) A friend of mine and his wife are going through a super-acrimonious divorce; they were always exactly the stable, low-drama couple I figured that if they’d ever split, would be amicable. People surprise me all the time.

    That said, I AM uncomfortable with Prudence’s snark and assumption that the husband has kept something from the wife.

  • skwcw2001

    as far as the point of why shouldnt the woman just accept that her husband wants to change his identity, well simple she shouldn’t feel like she is the bad guy if she married a man, and due to his choice of change she has to accommodate him. If she was married to a guy that turns out to be gay we wouldnt have this talk, we could see completely that she has this right. We seem to rebel against anything that doesnt kiss our ass, and bend over backwards to accept us. she married a man, that is her identity the man wants to be a woman, that is no longer the person and the identity she wants.

  • skwcw2001

    agree

  • skwcw2001

    the person that the article mentions instantly defeats their argument, by stating what the trans folks should have, as well as the cistrans, which to many folks is an offensive divisive term but from what i have seen in the trans community is a complete co opting of the gay rights movement, while they themselves are solely allowed to care only about themselves, We all have a right to the same rights, but a person with male genitals changing in a room with little girls is plain ass wrong, or demanding a building make all bathrooms a sexual or buidling them a separate bathroom, or folks in prison saying the tax payer should pay for them, there is a fine line between saying you want the same as others, and then demanding all bow down to the changes your doing to your own body, and bend to all your needs. A few years ago the gay rights movement was fighting for everything from equal housing, military and jobs, we would have had many of those sooner but some one decided we are now the trans movement also. The thing that piss’s me off is you cant make them happy, if you let them in on every bill your trying to pass to get your rights, do we get a thank you or any appreciation no, we get called phobes, and bitched at for five years. Meanwhile they get their change and bam they are gone with the wind, it is hard enough getting anything done for gay folks, but now we have a whole new thought process of us that do to association we can change like they can, that we just need to have a set of things done to us and we can change. We gay folks seem to have lost our way a bit in regards to thinking it is ok to fight for our rights, we now include gender and sexuality issues together, so what is next? If we are to be fair then we must include all other types of gender issues, which are many. I would fight to the death for any trans or gay or bi person to have the same rights as all, but does that mean im bad because i want a gay only focused group, and dont want to feel i have no choice but to put that alphabet soup before my group. Lgbtq. When is it enough. And why do we have to include such an ungrateful group of people in every single movement on rights.

  • http://www.rebeccamorn.com/mind BeccaM

    Agreed.

  • Naja pallida

    The wording really comes off as someone who has no concept at all about dealing with trans issues, and simply approached it from the point of view of “Husband is no longer the person you married. If you can’t accept that, get out.” I generally don’t have a problem with ignorance, when it is admitted, but once you start professing yourself to be an expert and someone whose advice should be heeded to make potentially life-altering decisions, that’s when it gets me. The first words out of her keyboard should have been admitting her ignorance on the issue, and clarified that her advice is a general type of advice she would give any married couple with some form of irreconcilable differences.

  • http://www.rebeccamorn.com/mind BeccaM

    What gets me is the lack of compassion or sense of proportion. The woman writing Prudence will likely lose her marriage. Sad, but she’ll still have everything else and all the social supports she ever had. If she has a job, she won’t lose it. Her friends and family will no doubt be supportive and there for her. All she’s losing is her husband — a decision over which she has some control and influence, so she does get to make a choice even if the neither of the results is what she really wants. Sad, but that’s it.

    On the other hand, the transitioning woman (soon to be ex-husband, most likely) is first accused of lying about who she is by people who have no clue what it’s like to be a transgendered person. And then there’s no acknowledgment that she’s likely to lose her marriage and home, probably most of her friends and possibly even her family, maybe even her job if she’s unlucky enough to live in a state with no transgendered discrimination protections, could even be denied housing for the same reasons. And of course there’s the ridiculous amount of money it costs to undergo transition. My jaw dropped when my GF added it all up — mandatory therapy, doctor’s visits, prescription meds, repeat surgeries and follow-ups — and virtually none of it covered by health insurance. She was lucky to be working as a computer programmer at a progressive company, but lived in a total sh*t-hole of an apartment because every penny had been co-opted by her medical needs.

    I don’t claim to speak for transgendered folks either. But I will speak up when I see such clear misconceptions, based on what I learned through direct interactions and experience knowing them. The biggest misconception this Prudence columnist has is this:

    This feeling he is a woman trapped in a man’s body is not a new
    discovery for him, and he withheld absolutely crucial information from
    you prior to your marriage.

    I’ll ignore the pronoun slurs and simply suggest that Prudence’s assertions have no basis in reality or direct experience on her part.

  • Stev84

    The trans-woman here is a lesbian. She is clearly attracted to her wife and doesn’t “wish she were a man”. It’s why she married her in the first place.

  • http://AMERICAblog.com/ John Aravosis

    I’ve found it can be difficult in any community, gay, trans, black among a few that I’ve notice personally, to find someone willing to entertain “stupid” questions. There are no stupid questions generally, and specifically when it comes to someone with good intent inquiring about any of our issues. And those stupid questions are necessary – people need to be able to ask a gay man “who’s the husband and who’s the wife,” and ask trans people about bathrooms, if they want people to learn, and become comfortable and supportive of their issues. I’ve increasingly learned that it’s dangerous asking anything, as asking a question implies you’re not 100% there yet, and if you’re not 100% there, then you “undermining” and “disrespecting.” It’s a problem in a number of communities, and I think it’s setting movements back. Sadly.

  • http://adgitadiaries.blog-city.com karmanot

    The last place imaginable to go for advice on a matter such as ‘sex transition’ is an advice hack like Prudence. Professional therapy is the path, especially if the marriage is failing and central identity is changing.

  • http://www.rebeccamorn.com/mind BeccaM

    I feel the same way.

  • http://www.rebeccamorn.com/mind BeccaM

    Gender identity and sexual orientation are two different things.

    Secondly, no, this newly transitioning woman may very well have been confused and really not known this about herself, or what it all meant, for much of her life.

  • http://adgitadiaries.blog-city.com karmanot

    I agree with you. The advice columnist is a paid hack, obviously out of his/her depth. Reducing this complex and intense situation to a mater of ‘contact’ is short sighted and the sub text reads to me as biased. The essence of this change in the couples life is ‘love’ and what form that will take after the transition.

  • UncleBucky

    Yeah! You’re so right, “a marriage or divorce does not have to change [the love that was and may still be there]“. It’s very complicated and we can’t make simple evaluations of all this. :)

  • UncleBucky

    Right (last ¶)!!!!

    No one is perfect, like some of my relatives who still use “oriental” instead of “Asian” but don’t know the meaning of “occidental”, haha. I guess what people forget to do is choosing one’s battles and then fight them using teachable moments rather than launching a word war! :)

    I was able to be a rep for HRC at the Be-All Convention in Arlington Heights, IL several years ago for a couple of years. At first entry, I was amazed at the range of people who participated, from very good transitions to probably pre-op attempts that were very hard to see. But then after a few hours there, chatting with attendees and walking and talking with other presenters, I learned a lot. And most of my learning was from LISTENING to the people who came up and told me their stories. It was one of the best experiences I ever had.

  • UncleBucky

    Well, I don’t know how old you might be (I’m not asking), but if you do have a male spouse and this gets to be a lifelong relationship, you might have some extra boobies of a male type in your bed one day (think of Frank Costanza in the manzeer scene with Cramer!) one day… :D

  • UncleBucky

    Yeah, that’s the point, people do not stay the same. But that’s not a matter of lying. And as I wrote above, this is two people who have to deal with things worse than simply transistioning — I mean surgeries that remove sexual characteristics in order to save a life — not just two categories, gay, straight, bi, trans, etc.

    I have known several couples where the guy almost obviously married a “beard”. And they are quite “christianist” so he thinks he saved himself. And then he can’t stand it anymore and feels that he made a mistake, but after 3 kids, two pets and a 25th wedding anniversary. It’s ROUGH!! :) And people change. And it’s very complicated. And we need to go back to the Man (Jesus) to find out how to act generously and kindly, not just make “business decisions” with a 25 year spouse.

    Well, I can’t tell people how to think. But I have some more moderate opinions than all or nuthin’ (Oklahoma)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d_fnEcllsI4

    :))

  • SkippyFlipjack

    Her advice is often ‘talk this out with your therapist’; if she always gave that advice (probably correctly) she’d be a boring advice columnist. I’d counsel people against making serious life changes based on a single paragraph of advice from an online columnist.

  • Clevelandchick

    Yes, it would be a deal breaker for me. First, Prudence is right, her husband knew this about himself well before he met her. I understand people who feel they were born the wrong gender go through an identity crisis and it takes them a long time to face it, but…he still lied about who he really was to her – for years and years, which is wholly unfair.

    And how does the wife know she won’t leave her for a man years down the road? He’s been using her as cover in a way like gay men who marry women to fit into society. A heterosexual woman deserves a man who wants her sexually, adores ‘her’ femininity and isn’t wishing she were a man. Nor should she be forced into a relationship with a transgendered woman out of guilt.

    She can be there for him as a friend. But she has a right to her desires too. If my husband gave me that news, I’d tell him (after I got over the anger of being lied to) I’d always be his friend but I’m straight and I want a husband not a wife.

  • UncleBucky

    Read my post, but in most cases, people are not flexible enough to go beyond those categories.

    But let’s take the case of a couple who married in their early 20s and have stayed together for 50 years and consider that the outward sexual differences tend to fade and blur (couples begin to look like each other in more ways than one, shall I elaborate? haha).

    So, I would say that it’s not a het woman and a het man, now trans woman, but rather two people who have to deal with things almost as bad as radical masectomy, histerectomy, testicular cancer, radical prostate treatment, etc. or even dementia, bipolar depression, etc.

    It’s still gonna be a mess. But it’s two people and their families/friends, not two categories? OK? :)

  • http://www.rebeccamorn.com/mind BeccaM

    #1. This isn’t even close to an issue an advice columnist ought to be dealing with, much less recommending people make such a life-altering change. Prudence’s use of language also betrays a lack of sympathy and a fair amount of anti-trans bias. Sorry, but that’s just how I read it, particularly her accusations of mendacity.

    #2. I’ve known some transgendered folks over the years (both FtM and MtF). Sure, there’s stories about people who knew from when they were children they were the wrong physical gender. The one gal I knew well though, a good friend, she said all she knew was she was different from other people, but not exactly how, and in the same way I tried to live my life as straight woman because I was raised to do what I thought I was supposed to do and want what I was supposed to want — so it was with her and living as a male in society. It wasn’t until years into adulthood that she realized she had another option, and furthermore that she had to pursue it or simply not be able to go on. She wasn’t “hiding” being transgendered from everyone in her life. She herself didn’t really know what was going on for years or what it meant. And every message she’d gotten from society while growing up and as a young adult was that it was a deeply shameful and wrong thing to be, to be transgendered, and thus she kept telling herself she wasn’t, that whatever was going on (depression, sexual dysfunction, inability to socialize) was just an unrelated psychological difficulty.

    I get the part where the probably soon-to-be-former husband is in part responsible for introducing sexual incompatibility into the marriage. (As others have noted, the language Prudence uses is rather demeaning… but anyway). It would come as no surprise that this marriage won’t last because apparently that’s how it often goes. Yes, this woman is going to lose her idea of who her husband is and probably her marriage along with it because she can’t adapt to the change. No blame there. But I don’t think she or Prudence have any idea how much this newly transitioning woman is likely to lose, and it usually goes way beyond marriage. That gal I knew lost her job (the state in which she lived did not have T job protections), nearly all of her friends, and most of her family. Transitioning cost her nearly everything — and tens of thousands in medical bills because almost no insurance covers it — and still she had the courage and fortitude to go through with it. As she said to me one night over dinner, “It was either do it or die. No other choice.”

    Anyway, Prudence’s advice ought to have been “Talk this out with your therapist because I have no idea or experience with what it’s like to be with someone undergoing such a fundamental change” and “Consider couples therapy as well, because at least that way if you two do decide to head your separate directions, it will be will full and accurate understanding of what’s going on and why, for both of you, and also as amicable as possible.”

  • UncleBucky

    Wow. I can’t look at this in terms of categories (straight comes out as gay, straight feels trapped in opposite gender body, alegedly lesbian/gay person now feeling remorse/regret/thumperized and wanting to be treated as straight, etc.).

    Man, regardless of the BEFORE, these are people when they enter the AFTER stage. Likewise, their spouse, mate, bf/gf, etc. are people who feel betrayed, jilted and hurt. NOT TO MENTION, there are kids (maybe), in-laws, friends and neighbors who are gonna be affected by this (although for them, it’s not directly their “bidness”).

    So, like I said to my sister when her husband started cross-dressing again as he had apparently from youth. No, he did not lie, he did not misrepresent and he did not change his mind any more than any one of us decide to be straight, lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans or any combination thereof or points in between. If it were that what one is at the wedding should be what one is now, then, boys and girls, we need to marry a photograph, book, or character on a holideck. Eh?

    People change because people change. Does that mean that the change is (the changes are) too great to be tolerated in an existing relationship? No. Sadly, no. Sometimes, you have to move on. But sometimes, since you know the person, you like the person and you love(d) the person, even a change as extreme as gender adjustment could be tolerated.

    I dunno. At times, (even here in Illinois where we have civil union, not marriage — YET!), I would say to a person affected by a changed spouse/mate, you married in sickness and in health, so now this is either a sickness or something that is a “different kind of health”, you married/promised that person to stick with them. Then, for other people, divorce is more like what happens at Hostess — don’t take it personally, it’s just business.

    But the bottom line is that if we stay in touch with one another, we are people who are not perfect (perfectus) until the head/heart/hands stop working.

  • slappymagoo

    If you’re a woman married to a man who is transitioning into becoming a woman, I think you can “stand by your man” and still divorce him. Maybe I’m not as open-minded as I’d like to be, but I find it odd that a man-in-transition would opt to be a lesbian by staying married to her wife from The Before Time (which sounds like a Tolkien novel).

  • http://AMERICAblog.com/ John Aravosis

    I wrote a sympathetic column, and inevitably, I was criticized for it, as almost always happens on this issue. Society is never going to advance on any of these issues if we don’t stop criticizing people who are trying to help.

    Pointing out which pronoun is more appropriate is fine. I thought it would be confusing using “she,” and wasn’t clear what the husband preferred to be called, but now on re-reading see the wife is using “she,” so I’m assuming the husband asked her to. But putting that aside for a moment, telling people they’re “fundamentally undermining” an issue when they’re trying to help, when they write a sympathetic column, and being on the receiving end of such criticism nearly every time you touch this issue, sends the message that it’s better not to touch this issue at all in the future. And I know a number of writers who have pretty much sworn off all but the most basic reportage on this issue because they’re tired of being criticized every time they try to help.

    So rather than trying to find the glass half empty all the time, perhaps you could have also mentioned the fact that my column was rather sympathetic. But you didn’t.

    I think this constant criticism is fundamentally undermining the advancement of the issue and disrespectful of people who want to be allies.

  • SkippyFlipjack

    I think this is an interesting question, but I wouldn’t waste too much time on picking apart Prudence’s answer — she’s just an advice columnist. (I like her column and read it pretty regularly, generally but not always agreeing with her advice.) It would be heartwarming if the woman would love her spouse for who he is and continue the marriage, but I don’t know how anyone could counsel someone to stay in a marriage with a person with whom they’re no longer in love.

  • drdick52

    I think it is a complicated issue. I can understand why some people would feel unable to stay in the marriage under these circumstances, but it is not inevitable. I have a colleague who is a transwoman and has remained in her marriage with her wife of more than 20 years (before she transitioned). It was not easy, but they worked through their issues and still love one another.

  • http://AMERICAblog.com/ John Aravosis

    I thought the breast comment, and the “he hid it from you” comments, sounded a bit mean/angry, less empathetic than perhaps she should have been. Reminded me of people who get ticked at gay men for coming out after marriage, as if they knew before (some did, but it’s far more complicated than that).

  • Nick.

    I have known a woman who considered herself sexually fluid and stayed with her husband as he transitioned to a woman, but why should a heterosexual woman be married to another woman? That doesn’t make the least bit of sense to me. I’m also a gay man and I don’t see anything snarky in her answer here. The snark here is you saying you wouldn’t even try to stay in a relationship with someone who became straight, but you don’t seem to think this straight woman should have the same get-out option. I’ve known I was gay forever but came out late in life (no marriage). It is a difficult thing, but her husband has come to terms with who she really is and that’s great but, again, why should a straight woman remain married to another woman? They would likely remain very close friends but when we ask people to accept who we are, we also have to accept who they are….in this case, a straight woman.

  • caphillprof

    The problem here requires compassion for both spouses. I have never understood persons who change gender in order to have same-sex relationships. For this to occur within a marriage would seemingly require both spouse to be on board all the way through the change. Here the heterosexual partner is considerate enough to help her spouse through the transition but should not be expected to maintain a same-sex marriage.

  • http://sbgypsy.blogspot.com SB Gypsy

    Perhaps I could transition to “sister” But I’m not lesbian or bi, and I don’t think I could remain the wife of someone who has become a woman. I don’t want any boobies in my bed (except my own).

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ben-OutSpoken-Crowther/620100745 Ben OutSpoken Crowther

    I wish both Prudie and the author of this article respected the pronoun preference of the writer’s spouse. If she identifies as a trans woman, chances are she prefers she/hers pronouns. To use he/him pronouns is to fundamentally undermine and disrespect her identity.

  • percysowner

    Difficult question to answer. I’ve found that things I thought I could tolerate in the abstract, I found totally unacceptable when they were real.

    But enough about that. I hope I would be able to stay with a transgendered spouse. My child is grown, so the chance that the surgery would prevent me having children is gone. With menopause my sex drive died, so not having PIV sex isn’t an issue. So I would try to be supportive and stay. But the LW described emotion issues her husband is dealing with alone with this transition. That puts stress on the marriage as well. That is a lot of changes to adapt to.

    In the end, the issue isn’t whether I would stay in the marriage. The issue is if the LW is able to be happy in a marriage with such a drastic change in her partner. She describes herself as miserable and staying with her husband out of obligation, guilt, responsibility, love, and commitment. No one should stay in a marriage that makes them unhappy, whatever the reason. The LW should not remain in a marriage that has her feeling miserable just so that her husband is not. At some point, the LW needs to take care of her needs and make a life where she can be fulfilled.

  • keirmeister

    I understand that this is a difficult and emotional problem to face, but it doesn’t seem that complicated to me. A man deciding to become a woman should not expect his spouse to stay married to him. His needs are being met, so too must hers. I’m actually really touched by the wife’s letter. She obviously still loves the guy, and I would think that they can end their marriage but still stay close. It happens all the time.

    The problem is Prudence’s reply contained judgement and assumptions about the husband, and this is unfair. As the wife wrote, he’s obviously having emotional difficulties himself. Prudence’s response had a whiff of that old saying about husbands who “become” gay or decide to undergo sex reassignment: they are being selfish.

    But isn’t the pursuit of happiness an inherently selfish undertaking? Relationships require sacrifices, but a miserable person in the relationship will only make it worse.

    If the wife asked me, I would suggest that she free herself from the marriage, but give her husband all the support he needs (and what she can handle). In the end, there’s still love there; and a marriage or divorce does not have to change that.

  • Butch

    A presumably heterosexual woman doesn’t want to be in a romantic relationship with another woman. Why do you find that odd?

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