A story from before the Gender Recognition Act
It was Monday night and Coronation Street was just about to start. My husband was having a bath and I wanted to ask him something. I walked in to find his leg sticking out of the bath, covered in shaving cream, and a razor in his hand, poised to shave.
“What are you shaving your legs for?”
“Because I want to be a woman”
With those words, I found that the 12 year relationship I’d been in for most of my adult life was built on lies, my world fell apart, and my ability to trust disappeared forever.
He came from a dysfunctional family unit and had severe issues with self-esteem growing up. He’d never had a girlfriend before he met me, but I knew from the start had a couple of brief gay encounters which had arisen through him being interested in a lesbian who took pity on him and introduced him to her friends. Some men hit on him instead, and he was desperate for human contact so he went along with it – he told me it did nothing for him so he didn’t continue.
Our sex life was fairly disappointing and limited by his libido I thought, but he gave every indication that he was only interested in women. There was absolutely no indication given throughout the time I was with him that he was anything other than a man with heterosexual interests and gender conforming hobbies till he announced he wanted to be a woman.
That Monday night was hard. “You are not a woman!” Tears and snot running down my face as I tried to comprehend, but couldn’t. We went to bed and I needed him to hold me whilst I couldn’t believe the nightmare I was now in - and it was only to get worse after I urged him to speak to his GP. I went to work the following day and left to come home within minutes. I couldn’t speak to anyone about what had happened, much less do a job.
He went to the GP and, instead of telling me more about what he had been told about his desire to become a woman, he told me that he fantasised about BDSM sex constantly with a decidedly masochistic streak, and masturbated to his fantasies daily – this was pre-internet days and he owned a total of 2 soft porn magazines, so it was all in his head. I now understood why we had such a poor sex life.
He went to numerous doctors, psychologists, psychiatrists, and counsellors in the 9 months till I filed for divorce and, throughout that time, his only thoughts were for himself. He became consumed. He was not prepared to rest until he had gained the necessary agreement to have his penis removed and my feelings were never given any consideration.
During those 9 months, his narrative about his feelings started with him wanting to become a woman, to hating his genitals, morphed into him wanting to be a sexless robot, and then veered towards wanting to swing with me and other couples, or have BDSM sex. On one memorable Sunday morning, he went through all of those options in the space of an hour before returning to stating he wanted to become a woman. He rejected any suggestion that his upbringing had repressed him sexually and was, perhaps, the basis of his belief that his penis had to be removed.
He was encouraged by healthcare professionals to meet with other transsexuals at the local Transvestite/Transsexual group (remember this was all a long time ago and LGB didn’t exist – much less LGBT). His social life expanded as he started to be egged on to go out dressed as a woman. He bought many outfits which could only be classed as overly revealing and would generally not be acceptable on a woman of his age, nearing 40. He was dressing like his sexual fantasies. He was aroused by wearing women’s clothing, and masturbated in changing rooms when trying it on. He was “coached” by his new friends about what he had to say to have medical professionals believe that he wanted to become a woman and treat him. He threatened suicide on a daily basis. He made a guillotine and rigged it up to an anvil in the garage and attempted to cut his penis off. He wanted me to stop pleading with him not to self-harm “but to take me to the hospital when I do it again”. He had no concern for what this was doing to my mental health whatsoever; he just wanted to have the operation, take the hormones, and ultimately live with me as a lesbian. He couldn't understand why I couldn't accept this. That’s simple: because I AM NOT A LESBIAN!
Through his TV/TS group, he was put in touch with a psychiatrist, Dr R, whom he saw privately (after he had rejected the diagnosis of an NHS psychiatrist). He was diagnosed with gender dysphoria and permission was given for him to proceed with the removal of his penis as a private patient by his second appointment, which was within a year of his coming out as “transsexual”, and without any period of living as a woman. I sent written protestations which were rejected by Dr R., then decided that I could no longer live with the person he had become so I started divorce proceedings. I truly believe it would have been easier for me to bear if he had died because he changed completely after making his declaration.
It should be noted that Dr R was subsequently found guilty of misconduct of his handling of people with gender dysphoria.
The operation to remove his penis went ahead and a few months later, I received a letter from my ex-husband blaming me for forcing him to go ahead with it because he had now discovered that he had just wanted to have wild sex and had been repressing those urges. Looking at his behaviour through the lens of time, I believe he was an autogynephile. I don’t know whether he detransitioned fully or just had immense regret.
If I had stayed with him, there is no question that I would have had a complete nervous breakdown. As it was, it took 4 years of counselling to come to terms with what had happened, and many more years before I felt it no longer defined me. I chose to be secretive about it because I was humiliated that I found myself in that position; I did not want people to gossip about me behind my back, I didn’t want to be seen as somebody who had been so misguided to have married a man who wanted to become a woman – or worse, that I had driven him to it. Today, I still have those feelings of guilt and shame, but I’m also angry that if he had those feelings from childhood, as he claimed, then he lived with and married me purporting to be something else and his actions were fraudulent.
Whilst the people I told at the time were supportive of my position and horrified on my behalf, transwidows now face the prospect of being considered transphobic bigots for not accepting their partner’s “true identity” or wanting to remain in a sexual relationship with them when the goalposts of their relationship haven’t just been moved, they have been taken and put up on a completely different pitch.
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