Understanding for the trans’ spouse

Last week, to my post, “I Don’t Understand,” a friend authored an astute analogy. He suggested that the family member or close friend, who is dealing with a loved one’s transitioning sexes, might be akin to any person suffering significant trauma and, when in a traumatic situation, a person’s ability to deal with things easily can be profoundly affected.

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Since 2015, I have been corresponding with a man, whom I will call Jack. Jack is a traditional Christian, at the crossroads with his gender dysphoria, and longing to transition. Jack’s struggle has been manifold. He can only see transitioning as the remedy for his dysphoria, but his wife, whom I will call Barb, is completely against it, and they have all of the usual factors in their lives—children, work, church, family and friends—which complicate the situation.

Last week, Barb got directly involved in communicating with me. To summarize where she is, first, she is committed to a traditional reading of God’s Word and cannot fit into it that one might transition without it being a sin and, second, she finds in her husband longing to be a woman a direct attack on her own femininity.

As I pondered her long, question-filled, impassioned note, I realized that I could not only defend Jack’s need for relief from his gender dysphoria. I considered the trauma idea of my friend, and I added to it the attitude that I have had for my own loved ones, having determined that I would always be patient with them, recognizing that my news was tremendously hard on many of them. I knew that I had to display the same concern for Barb as I had for Jack.

I told Barb that I saw her to be in a situation which is, in its own way, as bad as her husband’s and, in a specific way, worse. The worse way? Jack could decide to transition and Barb could lose all that she has invested in their marriage, all that she is working hard to retain, and she wouldn’t be able to do a thing about it.

From what Jack has told me, Barb already has decided to divorce Jack should he transition, and yet Barb has no interest in being divorced. She longs to have her marriage—to keep the man, the male, whom she married—and everything they have built together. Yet, because she is convicted from God’s Word that transitioning is wrong, and because it personally troubles her so deeply, she would leave the marriage.

If this isn’t a case of being stuck between a rock and a hard place, nothing is.

Barb’s lousy position is where many spouses find themselves, whose mates reveal their gender dysphoria, whether or not that one goes on to transition.

We trans folks long for sympathy from our spouses. I am one of the too few who, in Julie, has a completely understanding mate. What of those, who cannot abide with their spouse’s transitioning, or their fear that it could happen at any time even if, as of yet, it has only come to the revealing of the gender identity issue? Should we trans folks not sympathize with them at the same level as we desire for ourselves?

This is not to speak of the parents of trans persons, or the children, the siblings, and name any family, friend, coworker, and so on. If our news is such that it does not match the worldview, or religious beliefs, or whatever the challenge might be for them, must they automatically drop those and accept everything about us, or shall we extend to them the same longing to be understood as we crave from them? And be patient with them? And show them compassion?

Yes, we should.

I loathe asking this question: who wins? Sadly, in so many areas of life, we humans do things in order to get our way with something, and, yes, we want to win. And we don’t care if that means making a loser of someone else.

Years ago, I was taught that, in marriage, one should never carry with his or her spouse the notion of winning something. Any loving spouse should never want to make a loser of her or his mate.

Spouses always should work on areas of disagreement so as to come to the most satisfying result for both, so that they win together as a couple. This is what love does. Love seeks what is best for the object of his or her affection.

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In the most difficult of situations—and what could be more difficult than what Jack and Barb are experiencing?—patience, compassion, and calm must be the order of the day. Since both parties want to retain the marriage, there should be no stop left unpulled, no angle left unpursued, no potential remedy short of transitioning left unattempted, no amount of studying not undertaken.

Both Barb and Jack want to preserve their marriage. Jack is hurting so badly that, right now, he only sees transitioning as his way to heal. Should he transition, and finds the relief he seeks and adjusts well in the many facets of his life, and Barb feels she has to divorce him, then Barb becomes the one in need of relief—from healing because of her lost marriage, to embarrassment she might experience, to any number of new struggles, including the concerns for her ex-husband which she would continue to carry.

Because of her husband’s challenging situation, Barb has suffered her own trauma. She also seeks relief, is in need of healing.

Barb deserves as much understanding, compassion, and patience, as does Jack.

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