The number of my female friends who have helped me to crawl inside what my wife must be going through, what she must be feeling, outnumbers those who have given me unstinting support. Not that they would deny me the support in a public forum, no, I am sure that I could count on them. Can’t say what might be said privately, but life’s too short. They are also still all very good friends, very good.
I read a book recently, Women Don’t Owe You Pretty, by Florence Given, where the author promises to always support women, to always stand by when they talk about discrimination, abuse, the travails they face in daily life*. And I realised that men, typically don’t do this. I realised that the ex-man I was failed in this regard, maybe not often, maybe not as my default, but on a few times that I can remember, and therefore important times, I failed in this.
And as I look back at such moments, I cannot help but see them through the lens of my current trans-feminine journey. We can change ourselves, and not just in the “superficial” ways implied by changing sex. Similarly, when we throw up our hands and say we cannot change someone else, that’s quite different. In fact, it is wrong. Wrong in the sense that it is impossible to change someone else, and is also not right, as in, the wrong way to behave. But we can change ourselves. Exerting our agency to root out aspects of our character, times where we have failed, and seeing them for what they are, and using these times to sear into our synapses how we will behave the next time we are confronted with these issues.
My energy friends call this raising our vibration. It takes work, self-understanding, in a word, enlightenment, to bring this about.
When I met the spirit energy that came to me during my series of Ayahuasca ceremonies, I accepted the trans-feminine journey with all its consequences, good and bad. Part of that is working towards being someone who is less selfish, less motivated by a desire to get my way, is more frequently spiritually good, but is essentially in the flow. This has helped me enormously in my love relationships, both potential and pre-existing, and also my friendships—and at work.
It has worked with everyone except my soon-to-be-ex-wife. She seems to be angrier and angrier with every passing day. I read some research recently that said women are statistically much happier than men after divorce, for at least two years following divorce. I can’t say what will happen in the future, but I already contemplate it feeling great. My wife remarked, “I think you hate me.” Of course, I said I didn’t. And that was true at the time. And though her actions might provoke feelings of anger (I need this to self-protect) and in others might engender hate, now I feel mainly pity for her, and sadness for what her actions are doing to our children, to our friends, and to our finances. But whatever nastiness comes, I know that it will make me stronger. They are life lessons, and my life is richer and richer with every passing day.
My female friends who ask me to see her perspective, to see her as a wounded female, I fear are guilty of buying into the trope that sex roles need to be clear-cut in order for us to accept ourselves. My gender identity, however, exists entirely independently of anyone but myself. I can’t get my head around the idea that my wife feels that somehow my gender identity is a slap in the face, that it is taking something from her.
I was born this way. I have been open about it to any intimate partner that has lasted beyond a few weeks. How I articulated has evolved as I have come to understand it better, but I always did make a very important distinction: I don’t do this for a sexual thrill, I do it because it is who I am.
Our marriage was far from perfect, but we were committed to one another, and had much fun together. We also have had the most blessed children…And silly me, I thought we were friends. What were we if we weren’t sleeping together for 15 years, three-quarters of our marriage? Certainly, more than roommates, but no, not intimate partners, and, not partners at all. And in that, our divorce needed to happen. I had been frustrated for years that our relationship, which began as one of partnership, had long since slipped towards one of dependency, of her on me. And I don’t mean financial, but rather emotional, spiritual…she dreamed through my dreams.
I have written an awful lot about how much I love strong women, women in full command of their agency, women who own themselves, are free spirits, are just free. Submissive women are not for me. It has nothing to do with not appreciating the full range of human emotional expression, and I would feel differently were society equal. But the politics for me are centre stage; and the politics of society that suppresses female agency is such a deep wound for me, that I struggle to look past it. That said, some of my deepest friendships, longest lasting, and most profound, are with women who are submissive. And yet, these submissive women are also the strongest women I know. The most independent. The fiercest. The most grounded in themselves. They are lionesses.
Ex-Mistress helped me understand this once over a lovely meal when we were first getting to know each other. She is a switch. She has had submissive female clients. She spoke eloquently about how submission for a woman is also about reclaiming agency, about working through the trauma of social positioning, or a form of taking control in a way that society denies. In any event, such a woman is not suited to me. Never mind that one of my longest loves is for a woman that is hopelessly unsuitable to me…and that has been the basis for the most delirious friendship. Attraction without a desire to consummate.
I mistook my wife for a dominant woman. I believe that she is strong, or at least used to believe so. But our relationship evolved to a place where she relied on me for her sense of self. She said to me, “I defined my femininity against your masculinity.” She described a session with a therapist wherein he told her that she needed to rely on me to help her let go of her masculinity. Somebody take his license!
I read a wonderful book this past week called Three Women by Lisa Taddeo**. Why bring it up? In one vignette a character describes how her frigid husband refuses to just ‘take her’ and says that ‘he’s not like that’. Uncomfortably familiar. My lifelong commitment to consent, particularly regarding touch, runs in a similar vein. I would, however, be capable of, and desirous to be an animal, be wild, and to overpower. I can see my way to consensual non-consent, even as the ‘dominant’ party in full knowledge that I am much more than a submissive, I am a slave. A slave truly takes pleasure from the pleasure s/he can arouse in others through acts of support in whatever form they take…including those where s/he is not present. This is multi-dimensional compersion.
In other words, my wife’s therapist was giving bad advice…telling her to find what she needed from someone other than herself. And while her time with this therapist was short-lived, the thinking was not, and was all her own. It was also a line of thinking that came to define much of her existence—at least in our relationship.
And that’s a pity because it meant we should have separated long ago. My loyalty, however, willingness to work at it, and importantly, my conscious refusal to be like my parents, meant I was incapable of asking for a divorce, let alone even thinking of it. But now that it has been thrust upon me, all I can see are the benefits.
With 20+ years of a magical friendship, one would think that you would really know your spouse. I was naïve to think that my wife would stay my friend. She has not. And this betrayal places her firmly outside of the rest of my life. We have co-parenting obligations, but these won’t last forever.
She was withering and dying in our relationship—after all, who can possibly live through someone else, for someone else. Worse still is having to carry that burden.
Did I enter the process of transformation I am living through, and I think back of my spirit animal the butterfly, as one with at least part conscious guilt of what it might do to her? Did I even care? Probably not. Did her dependence on me slow me down—or speed me up? I know she is speeding me up now, and I can thank her in part for my determination to experience all of this, and to be fully out, and to do so with neither hesitation nor trepidation. To be totally in your face about it—not in a political way, but no, I’m not hiding. If someone can’t take a trans person in their midst, that speaks of them.
My wife feels humiliated. She said at one point she is less bothered by the transgender ‘stuff’ than the kink. But of course, nobody ever knows about the kink unless they come into your bedroom. And anyway, my kink is pretty un-insistent (not that should make a difference at all). In other words, I don’t believe her. Superficially, being gay would be easier than being trans, because it isn’t visible. There is no way someone who sees me won’t see the ballerina giraffe. Not anymore. My spiritual pink tutu flutters around me at all times.
Silly me that my wife and would stay friends. After all, there was nothing in our home arrangements that needed to change. If anything, they would have dramatically improved. But she said, “I’m not going to be your coach.” Fair enough. I am finding coaches all around me, and in truth, I am happy that I am getting this from others than from her, though am not sure this would have been the case had we stayed together. Part of what is so rich in my life right now is just this.
But she was not willing to be seen out and about with a ballerina giraffe. After all, what would the neighbours think? What would her friends think? And good gosh, what if they knew on top that I was kinky? That she had married a kinky person? Heavens!
“I used to think it was like David Bowie,” she once said (one of our mutual idols). It is, only this David Bowie is going to have a vagina. The males in my life are curious about whether I can have ‘sex’ any longer. The women in my life are far more enlightened on this topic, reflecting the fallacy of the phallus. And there is nothing that this person loves than a bit of learning, a bit of a quest, a bit of service, a bit of a challenge…but pleasing a woman in bed, intimately, emotionally, is for me the essence of my commitment.
My kink has changed away from objects, the essence of fetishism, to one of emotional connection. This speaks to the power of hormones, and their action on our sexual selves. I still don’t like men, though at times I fantasise of the women who might enter me some day, which some men in my life point out is a desire for a man. Silly boys, to think you are reducing yourselves to a penis. The cxxk can be beautiful, but a shame that it is attached to a man. It’s the rest of him that isn’t for me. Bless the inventor of the strap-on. Despite this meandering thought line, what I am saying is that the emotional connection with another human is becoming the essence of my sexuality, and being a slave to that is something I can really get behind. And my poor, untouched wife—this is what she wanted…only it seems, not from a ballerina giraffe.
What’s going on? My wife is a product of a conservative patriarchal system. She is a victim. She also sadly is/was not comfortable enough in her own skin to accept her own femininity. She needed that to come from outside of her. ‘Tis a shame, as she is and was a most beautiful woman. A real catch. She will surely land on her feet. I just wish she wouldn’t slam the door so hard on her way out.
* It is a fabulous book which merits a review, and one I particularly appreciated for its inclusion of trans women in its assessment of beauty and social pressure.
** Another review. Pinky promise.