Anne Vitale PhD, Editor
Notes on Gender Role Transition
By Julie Freeman
June 8, 2009
Editor's Note: Ms Freeman is the long time wife of a crossdresser. Her column "A Significant Other View" appears regularly in Devil Woman. She has given permission to reprint what follows.
Helping to Make Your SO More Supportive
A friend of mine whom I correspond with on a fairly regular basis asked me what could crossdressers do to make their significant others more supportive. As we all know, there are some significant others who are accepting from the very beginning and have little problem with crossdressing or even transsexualism. But then there is the other extreme – wives and partners who cannot tolerate the idea of a husband who desires to crossdress. It is very difficult to reach this latter group as their minds are already made up to resist any action on the part of their husband, support group, helping professional, or even other wives to become supportive or at the very least try to learn why their spouses are transgendered.
But the vast majority of significant others fall somewhere between the two extremes. This group may consist of SO's who are largely supportive, but from time to time find their comfort zones impacted, and begin to back away from their previously unconditional support. This group may also consist of wives and partners who are very new to crossdressing and are understandably fearful and confused but with guidance and direction may become supportive and encouraging of their husbands.
So it becomes very important for the crossdresser to know what can help a relationship as well as what can destroy a relationship. A common complaint that I hear from many a wife is that her husband is now like a "kid in a candy shop" running from one activity to another, spending money wildly on wigs, clothes, and makeup, and somehow forgetting family responsibilities and considerations. So without a doubt if the crossdresser can learn to balance family priorities with "femme" activities he may make strides in strengthening his relationship with his significant other.
But even before the balance of activities becomes an issue, a transgendered individual must be able to explain why he is transgendered to his partner, what it means, and why it doesn’t have to be feared or ridiculed. He should have materials available for his partner, particular if she is uninformed, to read and then be willing and able to discuss any questions she may have. Some wives have complained that when they attempt to talk to their husbands about the crossdressing, the husbands clam up and leave them frustrated and angry. Although the husbands may be extremely fearful in talking with their wives, they need to realize their wives have questions and need to know their partners are not out of control, are still responsible, and most importantly still want to keep their family units intact.
Support groups can be very helpful to a wife new to crossdressing. Some wives find their partners reluctant to join support groups and they themselves have to try to find answers via the Internet. There have been many wives who have had to search out support groups for their husbands and even attend meetings without their husbands. This is not conducive to promoting the relationship as the wives do not feel it is their responsibility to find support for their husbands. Crossdressers need to step up to the plate and have information available about support for their wives and not depend on their wives to find support.
Some wives may feel that therapy is necessary. Now the crossdresser may not agree, BUT if his wife feels that strongly he should allow her to contact a therapist, but his job would be to find a therapist who understands transgenderism.
Above all, the crossdresser should not expect his wife to understand and become supportive instantaneously. Many wives say their husbands expect them to understand their husbands' behavior from the getgo. Support groups for wives tell newbies to take "baby steps." We wives know that it takes TIME and even more TIME for a wife to become comfortable with the world of crossdressing. Even the most accepting of wives will tell newbies that there was a time when they were so confused, angry, and most of all afraid, that they never thought there would be a time when they would become supportive. The crossdresser needs to progress slowly, answer questions honestly that his wife asks, keep reassuring her of his love, and continue to show that he is still the man she married.