No preparation. No warning. No clue. Just the announcement: “I’ve decided I’m transgendered.” We’d been married for thirty-three years.
The details come out: for the past several years he’s been fishing my discarded underwear out of the trash, trying them on when I’m not home. Reading lesbian romance novels on his e-reader, a private account he hid from me. Watching “Transparent” at night after I’ve gone to bed. He’s already talked it all over with a mutual friend. He thinks he’ll transition, but not just yet. For now, he says, he’s not planning to come out.
Just like that, I’m pulled into his closet.
More revelations. He wants to “act the part of a woman” in bed. He wants to wear women’s lingerie, satin and lace. He wants to lie back, spread his legs; he wants me to lie on top of him between his legs. He wants to be penetrated. He thinks if he’s sexually submissive he’ll feel “like a woman.” For him, I do these things, although we’re not trading places, because I’ve never worn what he’s wearing, felt what he’s feeling.
He also wants us to be two women together; he wants to “act as a lesbian” to me. When he buries his face between my legs he moans with the pleasure of accessing what he wants for himself: I can’t get enough of you. I’m so in love with you, so grateful; I’ll never forget the wonderful gift you’ve given me. At first, it’s wildly exciting.
Then it isn’t. I want my husband back; I want our two bodies to talk together as they used to do. Out of the question: that’s now forbidden. He tells me he hates his male body, rejects male sexual response. He loves “being taken,” “giving himself up.” I don’t recognise his version of female.
He shaves off his beard. He shaves off his chest hair. He shaves under his arms, between his thighs. He says hair is male, and women are smooth. But he won’t shave his legs, because someone might “guess.” I have hair, too: on my legs, under my arms, on my face. When I shave my face I begin to feel shame; as a woman I’m clearly a failure.
He buys himself women’s clothes to wear around the house: a white slip, a swishy skirt. He adopts new mannerisms: simpering, dipping his chin, he coyly drops a slip strap. He grows emotional, makes a show of crying openly. A caricature of woman.
When I express my discomfort, my doubts, my pain, he tells me I’ve shamed him; he calls me cisgenderist, transphobic, a TERF. Yet living in his closet—where I never agreed to live—I have no one else to talk to. I can’t tell my family, my friends, my colleagues; to do so would be to “out” him.
No preparation. No warning. No clue. Just the announcement: “I’ve decided I’m transgendered.” We’ve been married for thirty-three years.
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