Tell Me About It: I love my family, and I would not want to lose them for anything. Should I start the transition process? I really don’t know what to do
PROBLEM: Despite having a stable background, and being surrounded by a loving family and loyal friends, I grew up very troubled. In my early teens I tried to take my life, and on several occasions I ended up in a psychiatric hospital for several months. I could never make sense of why I never felt at peace with myself. I always felt odd, strange and different, and I hated my body. I didn’t have issues with eating, I just disliked my body shape, particularly my boobs.
Once I left school my life improved: I studied a subject that I really enjoyed and found a dream job. I also started to dress the way that I wanted. People tell me that I have got an original, edgy style. I have never had a difficulty meeting men, and five years ago I married a gorgeous guy. We have since had two children, who are now both toddlers. On my most recent maternity leave I regularly went to a cafe each morning and met the same group of people, who I spent a lot of time with. One of these people was a trans woman who I got to know very well.
We would often spend the rest of the day chatting in her apartment, and she told me all about her journey. I was always at ease talking to her, and her story seemed very natural to me. It was around this time that I realised that the reason I was unhappy during puberty was that I was becoming a woman when I really wanted to become a man.
I love my husband and my family, and I would not want to lose them for anything, but I am a gay man in a straight woman’s body. I have told my new friend about how I feel, and she has introduced me to other people in the trans community. Whilst they are all very welcoming, they all have different circumstances, and none of the people that I have met are married with children. Each person I have met has encouraged me to start the transition process, which I know takes years.
When I fantasise about living as a man I feel joyful and very comfortable. My husband is liberal-minded. However, I am not sure this is a situation that he could live with. If I were to speak to him about this, it could end my marriage — and, even if he was accepting of this, the transition could have a detrimental impact on my children.
I really do not know what to do.
ADVICE: When we take enough time away from the routine of our lives and we get to sit with ourselves, the unconscious can surface and offer us new awareness. It seems that you got this opportunity when you were on maternity leave and parts of the jigsaw of your past fell into place and it all began to make sense: your past teen trauma can now be much better understood as we now have a language and a deeper understanding of gender identity than was not really available at the time.
It sounds as though you are comfortable and clear about the direction your life must take and the issues you have are all around the possible hurt and pain your transitioning might cause those you love. There is no way of protecting your husband from the truth you have uncovered about yourself and so you must allow him the honour of knowing where you have arrived at.
This will take time and many conversations so do not try to deliver the perfect sentence but try to connect with him where he is at and allow that you may have to move slowly at his pace. It can be very tempting to disclose everything at once, so that you unburden yourself, but in a situation like this you may have to take your time and ensure that he has his own supports in place while he comes to terms with the changes in his life.
Getting some professional support might be useful for him on his own, or for you both as a couple, and TENI (Transgender Equality Network of Ireland) will have a list of counsellors who will have expertise in the area of transitioning. Your family need not navigate the journey ahead alone. TENI can also offer support to family members of those transitioning and schools are (mostly) dedicated to providing inclusive and wide-ranging education gender role models for pupils.
Your children will be among many attending schools who come from non-traditional families and young people have quickly adapted to idea of a range of genders and orientations, so they are not likely to feel excluded on that count. Workplaces too have adapted their Dignity & Respect policies to be more inclusive and so your ‘dream job’ is likely to continue without (hopefully) too many adjustments. It is very clear that you are happy and confident with your discovery and that you have found that you can now live an even more fulfilling life.
You cannot predict the effect this will have on your husband, but you can truthfully attest to the continuing love and devotion you have for your family and your determination that love will win.