I came out as transgender to my wife. Now what?


As nonchalantly as, “please pass me the pepper,” I announced to my wife that I was transgender the other night.

The Tell

“You know that I’m transgender, don’t you?”  She looked at me a bit thunderstruck.  She was sitting at the dining table while I prepared dinner.

“You knew that right?” I repeated.  “I’m non-binary.”

“What do you mean?”

“We didn’t have the words for it when I was younger.  But now I do.  When I told you originally, I didn’t know what non-binary was.”

“Well, what do you mean?  Like you want to have a sex change?  I don’t want to be a lesbian.”

“I don’t think I want to change my sex physically.  At least not now anyway.  I used to, but I understand it now, that you don’t have to transition, and you can still feel non-binary.  Stuck in between.”

“Well, what does it mean?”

“I’ve been living this way for the past year when we haven’t been together.  Going out dressed like this.”

“Do the neighbours know?”

“Not X [her friend from across the hall], she hasn’t been around, but the young couple on our floor does, all of the staff know.”

“What do they say?”

“They don’t say anything.”

“What about Y [the head of the building]?”

“Nothing, if anything they are more friendly than ever.”

“But you go out?  What, at night?”

“No.  But to the supermarket, about my daily life, to get the car repaired.”

“Really?” she said, both a bit incredulous and also impressed.  “How do people react?”

“Most don’t pay any attention.  Some do a double take, mostly guys, and a small number are very encouraging and positive.”

“That makes sense.”

Black women have been the most warm.  They say nice things to me, they help me.  At the supermarket one of them came up to me and said, ‘c’mon baby, let me take you out of this lane, I’ll check you out over here.’  So sweet.”

They understand.  It’s like you have volunteered to be discriminated against.”

“Yeah.  Latinas too, are totally cool.  At the car part shop, they are all Latina women, and they were so nonchalant, one of them gave me a slice of her pizza and invited me behind the counter, and they all wanted to help me.  There was some boy who works there and they were bossing him around, telling him to get this, that and the other, and to put it in my car.”

“What about guys?”

“One of the first times I went out was in Z.  I was all dressed up and went downstairs to catch my taxi, and all of a sudden there were was a big construction there.  All these guys.  And I was like, holy shit, and was a little worried about it.  And you know what happened?”

“No.”

“They were so sweet.  They offered to help me, they carried my bags to the corner, they hailed a taxi for me, they helped put my stuff in.  They were angels.  A bunch of hard Mexican construction workers.  They even held my door.”

“Huh,” she said, impressed.

“What, so you flew?”

“Yes, I love it.  I love being in business class and my presence challenging people.  To be able to say, ‘yes, we’re here too, even in business class, we’re all around you, get used to it.”  [I can feel my future as a trans activist].

Sex Change

“Do you want to get a sex change?  Do you want to become a woman?”

“I used to.  But I don’t think so anymore.  Maybe when I’m 80.”

“Your body won’t be able to take it.”

“Yes, it will.  I’m a member of lot’s online chat groups and forums and there are all kinds in there.  It’s been very helpful.”

“But you would have?”

“If I were 12 today, and I could transition before puberty, absolutely.  But I’m not.  It’s too late for that.  I don’t want to give up my white male privilege.”  She laughed.  “We can’t afford it.  I have to be careful.  It could hurt me at work.”

“Yeah.”

“How many 10-year-old kids do you know who would ride their bikes to the public library to check out medical textbooks to learn about sex change operations?  I don’t even know how I thought of it.  The only person that I was aware of when I was little was Renee Richards, a professional tennis player on the men’s circuit, who transitioned, and everybody was just saying ‘he did it so he could win at tennis’.  He didn’t.  And apart from how f£^%ed up it is to say something like that, as if we become trans because there are some social or sporting advantages is pretty nuts, its even more nuts than being trans.  But it was very clear to me then that society did not welcome this.”

“Hmm”

“And my mother…well, she was the worst.  She got what she wanted, but she hated me for it.  I remember when she found a suitcase full of clothes I had, already then, I think I was 12 and she told me she didn’t want me to be a ‘fag’.”

“I will tell whoever I want, but I won’t tell your family.”

“I’d hate for them to know.”

“They’d use it against you.”

“They lost the right to my intimacy a long time ago.  There is no way that this is going to be a part of their lives.”

“Yeah.”

“I think it runs in the family.”

“On your father’s side.”  She was referring to me having a trans cousin and my father’s younger brother who is a gay exile.

“Yes.”

“But do you want to be like Caitlyn Jenner.”

“That takes a lot of money.  And she’s famous.  She has choices.  She has more upside and less downside than I do.”

“But would you?”

“No.  Not any more.  I’d rather be like David Bowie.”  She loves David Bowie.

“He was always very effeminate.”

“Yes, and he went through that whole androgynous phase.  I like being a gender bender.”

“It explains a lot.”

“Like what.”

“Your obsession with body weight.”

“And exercise, and the kind of exercise.”

“So, all this time, when you were living out in RR, you were doing this?”

“Yeah, pretty much.”

“What did you do?  Did you come home and put on a negligee or something.”

“No,” I insisted, “but exercise clothes.  All of my exercise gear, all of it, is women’s.  It is a huge motivator to get me to work out.”

“That’s positive.”

“But I did wonder if someone from work saw it or noticed it.  One person noted that he had seen me.”

“What you were wearing.”

“Leggings and a racer back t-shirt.  Harmless.  But I think you know if you know.”

“I don’t know, they might not.”

“Maybe somebody saw me shopping.”

“You would know.”

“No.  People are weird about this stuff.  They’d be happy to talk behind my back, but would never tell me to my face.”

“Maybe.”

“Plus, I was the boss.  They might be afraid of losing their jobs.”

“Anybody who knows you would know you aren’t like that.”

“Who knows.  I wonder if my secretary knew, or D.”

“They had keys to your apartment, didn’t they?  They went in during COVID when you weren’t there.”

“No, I got someone from maintenance to do that in the end.  But they could have gone at any time.”

“Well you did have sort of a gossipy-girly relationship with D at work didn’t you.  I can’t help it, that’s how I relate to women.”

Her fears

“Do you wear makeup?”

“No.  I don’t like how it looks.  I have plenty, but I don’t use it.  The cosmetician in the CVS wants to help.”

“Really?”

“But I don’t like how makeup looks on me.  Maybe its social conditioning, and maybe subtle would be okay, but I’m a good-looking man.  I don’t want to give that up.”

“You are a good-looking man.  Good.  Wigs?”

“No.  They don’t look good.”

“Good.  I’m glad.  I hate masks.  Ever since XXX, I don’t trust people.  It would freak me out if you were something other than you.”

“That’s what you always said, even back when we met.”

Clothes

“What do you wear?  Dresses?”

“Yes.  Well, not so much, dresses.  More skirts.  I want to look good, and it is sometimes hard to find what is right on my body.”

“That means stockings.”

“Yeah.”

We laughed about our conversation recently about skirts and tights.

“When you took the plane, what did you wear on your feet?”  I think she was wondering if I was prancing around in heels.

“Knee-high boots.  I like female power dressing.”

“Ugh.”

“Like conservative office stuff.”

“I thought you liked what I like.”

“I do.”

“Do you mix and match?”

“What do you mean?”

“Like a skirt with some chunky wool socks and heavy men’s boots.”

“No.”

“But it can be hot.”

“Yes.”

“I wish you could just wear kilts.”

“I look hot in a skirt.”

“To who?”

“To me.”

Living

“Are you going to be ‘out’?”

“I think so.  Little by little.  I am out in V [a place where I am spending more and more of my time].

“Is that what you like about it?”

“Well, there is a little bit of a community there.  I went to a restaurant dressed and the chef came out and served me and he was a big burly “male” and he was wearing a dress.  It’s my favourite place now.”

“Does anybody know?”

“P knows, but she’s known since school days.  She’s the first one to know.  She was the first person to use the word non-binary with me.  She knew it without me saying it.  And Q knows.  She and I don’t talk about it, but she’s known since school and since we lived together.”

“I can’t believe you told them before me.”

“They’ve known since before I knew you.  Don’t be mad at them.”

“I’m not.”

“Don’t be mad at me.”

“Well.”

“[Term of endearment], you can’t punish me for talking to the only two people I could talk to without fear of being judged.  Thank God I had some people to talk to who.  It’s not like Q and I ever talk about it either [she’s more of a business colleague]…

“well, you need that, and I am sure it is good to just have that base of understanding between you.”

“Yup.  Q already knew from when we lived together, but one time she and her husband were coming to stay with me, and they showed up really early.  I knew who it was because I saw them on the screen, and I knew that they would come back because they were so early, but I was frantically trying to scrub my face, to get the makeup off.  Lipstick and eyeliner don’t come off at all.  I think my face was pink and raw when I let them in.  It was still obvious.”

“What did they say?”

“Nothing.  Q is always so discreet, but she was smiling.”

“What did her husband say?”

“Nothing, but it was really obvious that they could see.  And it was really weird, it was so obvious and I think bowled them both over so much that we ended up sitting on the floor in my front hall for an hour.”

“And they never said anything?”

“No, and then we went out to dinner and everything was fine.”

“How fun.”

“I think my little sister knows.”

“How?”

“When she stayed with me, she would have seen my wardrobe.”

“That was 20 years ago.”

“She knows, that sort of thing doesn’t just get forgotten.”

“You’ve always had passions and phases.  They probably just thought it was ‘you’ being creative you.”

“But you still could’ve told me.”

“I’ve been meaning to tell you.  I just couldn’t find a time where I felt we had the time to discuss it, or that the energy was right.”

“Still.”

“It helps that I have an enlightened wife.”

“Flattery will get you everywhere.”

“Don’t be mad at my friends.  And I did tell you when we first started dating.”

“That was different.”

“Well, I didn’t understand it fully.  I just thought I liked to wear women’s clothes.”

“And?”

“Well, I told you even then, and this explains a lot.  I’m not a cross-dresser.”

“So why do you wear women’s clothes?”

“Because they feel right.  They make me feel good in my skin.  I don’t want to be a ‘freak’ I just want to be comfortable.”

“Well, I guess I’ve benefited from it for the past 22 years, with all the beautiful clothes you buy me.  How many men know how to shop?”

“It’s a lot of fun shopping for you.”

“I love the clothes that you get me.”

“Me too.  They’re just not my size.”

Sexuality

“You have to tell me that you love me,” she said.

“Nothing’s going to change.  I do love you.”

“You have to tell me that.”

“Why now all of a sudden.”

“This is very destabilising.  It shakes my confidence.”

“Don’t worry, nothing is going to change.”

“Who are you going to tell?”

“I don’t know.  I imagine I am going to make some new friends, and some of my old friends will know and others won’t.”

“I don’t want you to make new friends without me.  To make a new life without me.  I have to meet people too, and I have to see places with you, so that this life is mine too.”

“But I will meet people.”

“You can’t go and make new friends and allow your life to get farther and farther away from me.”

“Well you better come then.”

“I don’t want to tell my family.  I’d rather you didn’t tell yours.”

”You can’t tell me who I’m going to tell.”

“I figured you would tell S [her best friend].  She’s never liked me before, but maybe she won’t dislike me so much anymore.  And B [a gay male friend of hers], he might actually like me more too.  

“He didn’t ever dislike you.”

“I never see him.”

“Exactly.”

“But I’ll tell who I want.”

“I don’t think the kids should know, not at least until they’re 18.”

“Yeah.”

“But I think they might know already.  At least I think C knows.”  I recounted the LGBTQ story.

“Nah.”

“[Term of endearment], think about how often at table we end up talking about transgender people.  I never bring it up.  They do.”

“It’s just a thing nowadays.  Kids growing up are exposed to so much.”

Living Together and Apart

“I understand why you haven’t come home to live now.”

“Well, I couldn’t do this here [at home].”

“You wouldn’t be comfortable being out to these people?”

“I don’t know what it would be like.  You don’t see a lot of people around who are like this.”

“No.”

“Plus, it’s very conservative.  I’ve only seen one.  A pretty young trans girl, maybe she was 20.  And her mother was there, protecting her, fussing around her, looking at every man as someone who might her daughter.”

“It’s sad.”

“We don’t need to change anything.  I need to be able to gestate this, to build my own courage.”

“That makes sense.”

“It took a long time, but then when I finally did it, I did because I didn’t care anymore.  And I went out with confidence.  And people react to confidence.  I need to let that grow.”

“Makes sense.”

“It’s also why I need W to work [a business venture I am involved with].  That kind of thing gives me the freedom.  You can do W just as easily in a dress.  And nobody will give a damn.”

“I see now, you’ve had all of this figured out.”

“As if.  I’ve spent my whole life trying to figure it, and not getting anywhere, and recently, all of a sudden, I’ve felt more courageous and felt empowered to make changes, changes that make it possible to live.”

[We had been talking about all of my therapists.  She wanted to know about each one of them, what they do for me, what a session was like.  I counted Mistress in this group as my life coach, and in truth, a good deal of what she has done for me is to provide an overarching life framework into which all of the rest of this change and assistance can make sense.  I will post about the posse separately sometime, but have written about them here before].

Kink

“I did tell you all of this back when we started dating.”

“You were kinky back then…it was all mixed up.”

“What was mixed up?”

“You had that thing with the German woman who liked to put a dog collar on you and pull you around on a leash.”  [I’m not making this up].

“Well, I’m still like that, even more so.”

“Oh.”

“But they’re not linked to each other.”

“They’re not?”

“No.  Being trans is who I am, its identity, BDSM, being dominated, they are different things, those are the things that turn me on.”

“What about diapers?  Do you still do that?”

“Yes, all the time.  Every business trip.”

“Do your friends know about that?”

“No.”

“Why not.”

“That’s embarrassing.  I don’t care about the non-binary stuff.”

“What, so you have diapers in your suitcase every time you travel?”

“Pretty much.”

“Is that how you jerk off?”

“I don’t jerk off.”

“Well, why then?”

“It’s emotional.”

“Everything is emotional.”

Processing

“What a day.  The anniversary of XXX death, and you coming out trans.”

“Yeah,” I commiserated and shrugged.

It was almost dinner time.

“Shall I get the kids?”  And then when she comes back.  “C’s door was open.”

“It’s never open.”

“Nope.”

“Was they wearing headphones?”

“Nope.”

“They’s always wearing headphones.”

“Yep.”

“They has a real knack for listening when they shouldn’t.”

“Yep.”

“It’s a big house, sound doesn’t carry.  You never hear me even when I want you to.”

The topic did not come up at dinner, but they was looking at me different, and when I dropped they off at the airport, they gave me the biggest hug ever.  C is wordless about emotions and its inner life, but is very emotional like me.

Later that evening after dinner…

“What if I hadn’t been sitting here?  Would you have told me?”

“I’ve been meaning to for the longest time, but needed the conditions to be right.”

And as she went to bed that evening we saw each other in the hall outside our respective rooms [separate bedrooms and separate bathrooms are the key to a long and happy marriage] she gave me an enormous hug.

“You’re so brave,” she said, and then went to bed.

In the morning, we both had laughter and a shared secret that informed our hug, and I felt for the first time in a long time that green shoots might reappear.

25 thoughts

  1. Her responses seemed compassionate. Perhaps the years of you dropping clues helped but despite the “news” she didn’t selfishly falter. That is commendable. And congrats to you for owning who you are despite the possibility of backlash. You are a strong (wo)man and I admire your openness. Reading this dialogue gave me the goosebumps. I send good vibes your way and I hope you and your wife enjoy the newness this news brings to your lives.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Trying is admirable. Exploring unknown territory is scary and often comes with doubt but her responses seemed open to explore a new world WITH you. I consider you one of the few who are well received. It all takes time.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Yes, you are right. And though I was open with her before we got married, it ended up becoming a no-go area…not anyone’s fault but my own. I hope that we are able to explore this with love and openness.

        Liked by 2 people

  2. This was a huge step, my friend… I too, am impressed by your bravery here. I can definitely see how this could be hard news for a spouse to hear, even if it was in front of her all these years. The fact that you two live apart often, probably made it even easier for her to not see what was happening. In any case…it is out there now. I’m not quite sure why you would wait until your children are 18. Normalize it for them now and it has less of a chance of it being “a thing”. Children learn about gender very early in school now. Just my two cents. Congratulations on taking another big step toward your true self, my beautiful friend! XOXO

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you. I guess I feel regarding children that it is also to do with sexuality, and maybe based on my own inappropriate experiences with the sexuality of my parents that a child just doesn’t want to know. Of course the flip side is that they must already know on some level because they bring up the topic of transgender all the time

      Liked by 3 people

      1. I can understand that. How I see things is a little different, but obviously just my own opinion. I think that how one feels about one’s gender can be discussed without talking about sexuality (when having these sorts of talks with children). Your feelings for your wife have not changed and you would reassure them of this. But, I totally respect where you are coming from. And, every child is different and you know your children best. I imagine you have a good sense of which of them could handle this sort of thing (if it is even a thing for them. Younger generations hear a lot about this kind of thing, much more so than we did).

        Liked by 1 person

      2. That’s a difficult conversation. I guess I am very sensitive to imposing myself on others. Isn’t that ironic? I guess that the school environment for a kid can be challenging and I would hate to become a source of conflict for them at school. I am with you on this, and in a way wish it was a non issue, which it should be, and maybe someday it will. The mind is a very strange thing. As soon as I said it I felt like saying, it’s no big deal, I don’t have to do it/be it, but of course I do. Living it is already very liberating, as is a realignment of community and friendships.

        Liked by 2 people

    2. I guess I wonder if I should normalise it for them. I do want to, and of course would hope for their acceptance—indeed not having it is a deep fear, but at the same time I worry about telling them and talking about it makes it bigger not easier.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Oh wow. Not the easiest conversation to have, to someone so close to you no less. I’m glad that it seemed to go well, and I admire your bravery of baring your experience for all to see too. Thanks for this post!

    Liked by 2 people

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