I was in a hospital bed. There were dozens of people present. Doctors, nurses, friends, family,
“Can I just get my abortion now?” I asked the doctor. “What’s the delay?”
Like many dreams, this one seemed to go on forever. Things were surreal. I felt sick and feverish.
“We’re just running some more tests,” a nurse responded.
“But why?” I demanded. “I just want my abortion.” I couldn’t understand why anything further should stand in my way.
I got up to pee. “There’s nothing more lovely than the silhouette of a pregnant woman,” said a bystander, with admiration.
I looked at my belly with horror. “You mean I’m showing?” I had thought I was less far along. “Then we’ve really waited too long. Let’s get the abortion underway. Please.”
I was back in the bed. “You’re experiencing some complications,” the doctor said. “Let’s not be too hasty,” someone added. There was a general murmur of agreement in the room.
“I’ve been in this hospital bed forever!” I yelled. “I’ve waited long enough! I’m sick. I’m exhausted. I want out. I want to leave this room and move on with my life.” I reached a desperate note. “When will this end? Why can’t I terminate this pregnancy!”
I pondered the dream for half the next morning before I realized that the pregnancy was my marriage.
That I had tried and tried, had done my due diligence, had become sick and exhausted with trying. That I had tried long enough.
I lived happily — blissfully unaware how happily – for 14 years with a man who seemed sensitive, kind, intelligent, liberal, and feminist. We were deeply in love and the kind of couple people looked up to. My marriage was permanent; it defined my future. Two years before my marriage imploded, I would have told you we were unshakable. I couldn’t imagine a scenario that could break us up. My husband was also, to all outward appearances, happy. He enjoyed life and was uniquely easygoing and content. Those qualities made him a joy to chat with, to vacation with, and to live with.
Then my husband woke up one day feeling a little “gender-fluid.” Within months he developed the conviction that he was a woman and he “came out” to everyone he knew.
He left his job and he dropped out of life. While I worked outside the home, did all the housework, ran all the errands, and even moved us from the city we lived in back to the hometown we missed — from the planning to the packing to the coordination with realtors and financers to selling the old house and completing the final paperwork to buy the new one — my husband laid on the sofa and cried. He cried because someone “misgendered” him. He cried because his shoulders were too broad for his new dress. He cried because he couldn’t completely eradicate the stubble on his face. He cried because his new habit of flipping his hair back with a limp wrist had gotten him mistaken for a gay man.
My formerly easygoing partner became incredibly uptight. What if someone thought he looked manly? What if he had to get the mail in jeans and a t-shirt? Could he enjoy camping anymore, if it meant that make-up and dresses were impractical? Were strangers laughing at him? Were his friends and family talking about him?
He got counseling and joined support groups, where he “learned” that he was “literally” a woman, and not just someone who identified as one. He announced to all comers that he’d found his “true self” and had become “happy” for the first time in his life. His alleged happiness didn’t stop him from spiraling into an even deeper despair. He became suicidal. He was prescribed antidepressants. He adopted bizarre beliefs and became hysterical if anyone questioned them.
All interests were abandoned for endless monologues about transgender rights and his “gender identity.” One by one, his friends and family began to tell him that they didn’t recognize him anymore. This made him angry.
He became unavailable to the marriage. He lost his capacity for empathy. He couldn’t explain, couldn’t compromise, wouldn’t even slow down. I had been the primary focus of his life, but now I was secondary, or worse.
I lost him. We all lost him. I became a “trans widow” long before I admitted defeat. I tried to get him back, an embarrassing number of times, before I reluctantly initiated the divorce. He wasn’t coming back.
I loved him, but staying with him meant completely losing myself.
“Men should think twice before making widowhood women’s only path to power,” said Gloria Steinem.
She surely speaks of an oppression, and perhaps a solution, more sinister than mine. But perhaps I had to lose him to really find myself.
Trans Widows Voices have republished this article, with permission, which can also be found on the author’s substack.
For Shannon’s full story, see her recent book: “18 Months, A Memoir of a Marriage Lost to Gender Identity”