I should have known the first Halloween.
I had seen the pictures of him before when he was in the Navy. Dressing in a sexy red dress that was still in his closet with a blonde 80s rocker girl wig, makeup done well, fooling everyone until you saw his hands which gave it away instantly. It was only for Halloween, he said. He was ever so proud that that guys had bought him drinks.
But I was a theater girl! It was fun! A man wasn’t any less of a man because he could pull off dressing as a woman. We did that all the time with stage effects. It was cool on Halloween! What better day to do it? Right?
I should have seen it. But I didn’t.
There were other flags and I ignored them all. Everybody outside of our nuclear could be the enemy if they didn’t believe the way he did. Even my own parents became the enemy. And my friends. Only his friends and family remained. I loved him. It could work, right?
Then came the autogynephilia.
First it was him wanting silky underwear. He appropriated mine when I brought them home. Then he had to shave his pubic hair, underarms and legs, just like me. Then pedicures. And why shouldn’t he get acrylic nails as well, he was there already you know?
We had two beautiful children. I couldn’t leave because what would that do to my girls? It didn’t matter that their father belittled me. That he was a functional alcoholic who drank a fifth of vodka in two days. Our family was intact. It was going to be ok. Right?
He went on travel for work. I noticed one of my nice skirts was gone. I thought I had just lost it in the closet.
When he returned, he confessed. He was a cross dresser. He went to a place that sold wigs to Drag Queens. He didn't buy one, just talked options with the lady. He brought my clothes and looked at himself in them with a wig on. He loved it.
He was afraid that I would leave him. I felt cold inside but assured him it was OK and we would deal with it. I would be a good wife. He said he loved me. We would be OK. Right?
The process sped up.
He wanted to know what it felt like to have breasts. I made him fake ones, but that wasn't enough. It was my bra he needed and real breasts. I got a prescription for birth control pills to develop his moobs. He had to be professional at work so I bought him sports bras for work to contain them.
On the weekends he wanted makeup – but I had to apply it. It made me cringe inside. It felt so wrong and I did everything I could to beg off.
He didn't want to buy his own stuff. He WANTED MINE. He liked MY things. He wanted to look like me. Wear my clothes. Wear my shoes. Have me put my makeup on him. It made my stomach churn.
Then I broke. I will never forget that night. He wanted to wear my lingerie. He wanted me to wear a strap on, to get on top of me and ride me. I let it happen, feeling numb. I will never forget the look on his face as he straddled me riding the dildo, wearing my red corset, hurting my pelvis with his bouncing. I tried to not cry as the last pieces of my heart broke.
I went through the motions as I repressed everything. I needed to talk to someone. I couldn’t stay married to a woman. I wasn’t a lesbian! But our family code of silence was to continue. I already had 15 years of obeying him. There were no resources for me in the early 2000s. Nowhere to turn.
Eventually I confided in an internet friend who would understand. She walked into her marriage knowing her husband was an autogynephile and it didn’t bother her because she was bisexual.
My husband found out. The argument that followed lasted days. I betrayed him! How could I do this to him? I cried for days. After I groveled enough to "allow" him to still be my husband, I cried myself to sleep almost every night after I knew he was asleep. I cried at work. I cried in the shower. Everywhere he couldn't see I cried. I felt completely broken and despondent.
He then said that he wanted bottom surgery. He was ecstatic because he knew that he would have no issue at his job with acceptance – someone else had already blazed the way before with HR. But we would have to save up thousands of dollars for the surgery – insurance companies hadn’t gotten woke yet. It would never happen because of how horrible he was with money and I smiled a bit inside.
He was playing a phone MMO as if he was female in real life, flirting with men. It took the pressure off me to play into his fantasy, so I was happy for it. When asked for proof of being a girl, he used pictures of me.
Then it happened. I fell in love.
Not with my husband, but with someone online who actually was the man I needed. We got caught and this began a year-long cycle of me being sneaky and talking with my online lover, my husband finding out and browbeating me into submission only for me to start all over again. My husband sought to get back at me and started talking with a girl online. It didn’t work and I ran even harder towards my lover.
He convinced me to go to a “Christian” counselor. We had a joint session first, focusing on the emotional affairs. Then came the separate appointments for more detailed assessments. I finally spilled my guts. The shock on the therapist’s face when she heard me detail everything and my issues with it all told me that it was so far beyond her ken. Too far. I began to get a sinking feeling.
When we came back for the next joint session, it was if my session had never occurred. We just rehashed the first session, with more focus around my emotional affair. How I needed to start to try to love my husband again because that was the way to heal our marriage. It was all about fulfilling him.
But what about me? What about the elephant in the room?
I instead began to speak back to my husband in ways I never had before - openly defiant, no longer afraid of causing a fight in public. He seethed more and drank more. Eventually his anger over losing control moved the emotional abuse to physical - he smashed his fist through a door next to my head. I told my lover about it and we began to secretly plan my escape. We knew it was only a matter of time.
One day a few months after our 20th wedding anniversary, I said I was going to drive into town to get something. I took the $3000 in cash that I had hidden and the car that I had already packed with my clothing and instead drove three hours to the airport to pick up my online lover and drive back across the country to start our new life together.
If I had thought the verbal and emotional abuse was bad before I left, it went through the stratosphere now. I was a whore. I hurt him so badly. He did everything for me. He couldn't understand why I left. He turned my children against me. Almost turned my mother against me. Made all his evils - alcoholism, emotional abuse, physical threats, financial incompetence - into mine in his stories about how everything exploded.
I testified in open court for our divorce at a hearing. I began to tell my story and take my power back. He had either a panic attack or a mild stroke as he realized I would expose everything. The hearing was abruptly ended and he didn't contest anything afterward. Four years after I left him, our divorce was finalized. My ex-husband married his new girlfriend the next day. She is bisexual, so if he ever decides to go back down the road of transition she might not mind.
My children came back to me eventually – the older within six months after I initially left, the younger took five years. They saw through their father's lies and now no longer have relationships with him. They bear their own scars though.
I didn't get the therapy I needed until Bruce Jenner made his transformation. I began having all the classic signs of PTSD after reading the tabloids. Panic attacks, hysterics over nothing, horrible nightmares. I saw a therapist who believed me, who validated my anguish over it all, and who helped me do the hard work to get myself under control and not let my ex still control me. I eventually learned not to punish myself for all the what-ifs.
Just this past March at the age of 50, I married my online lover. He stood by me through years of recovery, hoping that I would come out ok on the other side. I did and we did, and I couldn’t be happier. My girls were by my side when we got married. My family was made into a new circle with a new beginning.