“I am just not available for that. I cannot help. I cannot have it as a part of my life. I don’t want to tell anyone. I don’t want anyone to know. Not my sister. Not my mom. Not my friends. Not our kids. No one we know. I don’t want that in my life. I don’t want that question on anyone’s lips. I just can’t handle it. It’s too primal. Too impossible.”
And with those words, I was pushed back into my closet. What I thought was a potential opening has been slammed shut, at least for now.
I understand her feelings. And I will respect her feelings. And I will push it down again like I have so many times before.
When I said that I was tired of hiding, she said that she could understand that “sort of intellectually, and I’m sure it’s difficult.” But it changed nothing.
When I said that I hated hiding myself from her, she asked what “not hiding from me” would look like. I only mentioned conversation, and mostly about transgender news stories such as the reversal of the Boy Scouts. I could tell from her tone that anything more physical on my part (clothing, shaving, hormones) would be way beyond her threshold, so I didn’t even bring it up.
She said that she no longer thinks about the subject of my gender identity every day like she used to, and finds that to be a welcome relief. But she also said that the one friend she revealed the issue to asks about it in every phone call (which, due to circumstances, thankfully happens only once or twice a year).
I told her how having conversation, which I did recently with a friend, makes me feel known and valued and releases the pressure which builds up. She encouraged me to continue using him as a sounding board, and not her.
The subject came up in a conversation about my mental health. She has made comments recently that I may be suffering from depression or anxiety and could potentially benefit from a low dose of an anti-depressant. I know that’s not true (HRT is probably the only medication which can help me). But when I suggested a return to therapy to explore the options, she was surprised that I would go back to my old therapist, who specializes in transgender issues. She genuinely didn’t understand why I would do that.
“Continuity,” I said at first. I explained that it would be a little crazy to start over from scratch with someone new. It would take too long and cost too much. “But anyway,” I said, “my mental health is always about gender identity to a certain degree, and it always will be.”
She does not understand how persistent the problem is. She doesn’t understand how pervasive the problem is. She doesn’t understand how invasive the problem is. She does not understand how disruptive the problem is. And nothing I say can seem to crack through that shell. She doesn’t want it to, and lives in a sort of cognitive dissonance in which I occasionally have this small crossdressing problem, but it doesn’t hurt anybody, so it can be safely left off of her mental and emotional plate.
I’m disappointed and sad. I had hoped, given her advocacy on behalf of the LGBT community in her public work, that she could find some level of understanding. But it’s a very different thing when gender identity issues invade your own house and your own husband. I get that.
I certainly don’t blame her for this reaction. How else might she react? More than anything, I appreciate her honesty. The worst thing she could do is pretend to happily play along until some line is crossed and she can’t take it anymore.
There was no sign this time that her feelings will ever change. It would be easy if I didn’t love her, and our children, so much. You might think that something this big might be a deal-breaker in a relationship, but it’s not. We are truly great together, and we are a great parenting team, and I could scarcely imagine a better life partner. No, this is a case where self-sacrifice is really my best and only option.
When we love, we sometimes have to do things like that. It’s part of the human condition, and I accept that. Sometimes I think that an overwhelming self-centeredness in our culture is what drives so much of the loneliness. Expecting perfection not only isn’t practical, it’s unwise. We give and we get.
Relationships are always a give-and-take, at least up to certain genuine deal-breakers like physical or emotional violence. I’d also place deceit on that list, which is why I raised the subject and really hoped for some permission from her to be more of myself to the world. I hate deceiving the world, but I hate deceiving her even more — despite the fact that she has made it very clear that this is exactly what she wants.
So that’s where I’m at, and that’s where it seems I have to stay.
At least I’m good at hiding. Maybe no one will ever know.