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Dear Little Bobby,
I got married right after high school. We have been together almost 40 years and have two grown children. Last year my husband told me that he wants be a woman and have gender reassignment surgery. He said he has felt this way for many years but I was completely surprised. He also told me that I have ruined his life, and that he wants to leave me. We still live together, but he has become an asshole. He lashes out at me and no longer communicates. I am devastated, confused and pissed off. I have been with him since I was 18. I am 56 years old and I do not know what to do. Please help.
—Devastated Soon-to-be-Ex of a Soon-to-be-Woman
Dear Devastated Soon-to-be-Ex,
I am so sorry that you are going through this. I want you to know that you are not alone. Thank you for reaching out to me and please reach out to others. I recommend PFLAG, a national organization which aims to help individuals and their families with issues of sexual orientation, gender expression and identity.
I can only imagine the frustration that you must be feeling as I have never been a wife or a mother—and you have been married FAR longer than my own parents were. As the son of a woman who was repeatedly mistreated by men, husbands, and society in general, I feel pissed off for you as well. Him treating you poorly is not excusable. It really angers me when a man mistreats a woman—even if that man is becoming a woman. Perhaps your children are feeling this anger as well.
This person has set you free.
But what I will also tell you is that I feel compassion for your husband/soon-to-be-ex-wife.
I do not condone his treatment of you but he has clearly been living with his own issues for many years. No, you did not ruin his life. You did not make him feel this way. You did not create our society’s fucked-up gender dichotomy and I seriously doubt that you made him marry you when you were 18, or made him fall in love with you or pretend to fall in love with you or whatever the particular situation was/is.
What I do know is that when I was 13, 14, 15 years old, on several occasions I got into my mother’s underwear drawer and closet and I put her clothes on. I did this for many reasons, some of which I will never understand. I liked the way women’s clothing looked and felt and I liked the way society attached special significance to women’s clothing and the women in it. I still like those things about women and their clothing.
But at the time I felt shame. I wondered and worried that I might be gay which was not something a teenager in early ’90s Texas wanted to be. However, unlike many gay men that I came to know as an adult, I did not have gay thoughts until I was maybe 15 or 16. Additionally, I felt VERY heterosexual. I was fascinated with women’s bodies, obsessed with (mostly heterosexual) masturbation, and I was absolutely “girl-crazy,” so this women’s clothing fetish I sometimes explored was VERY confusing. It was not until I was entering college that I decided to explore homosexual thoughts, and years later I realized I was something called “bisexual.”
Your husband has probably been dealing with his confused feelings most of his life. There is a good chance that he has been suppressing his/her identified gender. There is a good chance that he has almost always felt disapproval from society and perhaps he has even disapproved of himself/herself. There is nothing that you did that caused this. There is no part of this that is about you, or your femininity—and perhaps that is part of why you feel hurt and devastated.
You and he have been together for a long time and have children together. For many people, THAT is the entirety of their life. But you are 56 years young and this person, with all of their issues, struggles and anger…this person has set you free. You no longer have to be with this person who has clearly been struggling with who they are. I would recommend that you explore, discover and decide who YOU are. You are not just a mom, a wife or an ex-wife. If you can look your fears in the eye, the fear of being abandoned and alone—the fears that many of us feel—you can discover and determine much about yourself. You can steer your life.
Please reach out to others for help. Do not let his/her anger devastate you. Do not let this person’s confusion confuse you. Be strong. Be a mom. Be You.
—Little Bobby Tucker
“On the wall hung a tall mirror | Distorted view, see-through baby blue.” —Pink Floyd, “Arnold Layne” 1967