11 Common Questions from a Spouse
It is still difficult to find good solid support systems for the spouses of those who are still closeted. Often, when the wife discovers their husband is a closeted cross-dresser, she finds herself in the closet as well. Information and help may be hard to find, but not impossible. She will have many questions. Here are 11 common questions along with some short answers. I hope these help.
1. Is my husband gay?
Usually not. Most men who cross dress are straight. The percentage of men who cross dress and are gay is no different then the percentage of gay men in the general population. Perhaps 10% or less. There is a difference between gender identity and sexual orientation, and the issue of cross dressing has to do with gender identity.
2. Is it my fault?
It is very unlikely that the wife is ever the cause of a husband’s cross dressing. Usually this has to do with gender identity, and is something they were prone to well before you ever met him.
3. Are the children in psychological danger?
Usually cross dressing in secret has little or no impact on the children. Even if they know or suspect something, most children are focused in on their own needs and wants. If these are being met and the child feels loved, then the relationship normally is unaffected. It is best to talk with the children in an open and age specific manner. There is a long article under “Practical Helps” entitled, “How to Begin a Conversation With Your Children.”
4. Are the children in psychical danger?
Not from the act of cross dressing. In fact, those who are male with a gender identity disorder and are able to express themselves as female, are often less frustrated and easier to get along with than those who are suppressing these feelings. If you do suspect physical abuse, this is a separate issue and should be dealt with regardless of your husband’s other issues.
5. Is this just a phase?
For those with gender identity disorder, that condition is one that more than likely existed since the womb. His thinking patterns and gender expressions are ingrained in him and really cannot change. However, how he handles these thoughts and feelings may change. The expression of cross dressing itself may be just a phase, especially if the reason behind the cross dressing has to do with some issue your husband is working out. Perhaps he is trying to come to grips with past abuse? If this is the case, then this phase may be important for him in regards to therapy. Either way, it is best to focus in on the cause or reason behind the cross dressing and not the cross dressing itself. A trained therapist can help with this process.
6. I thought I had married a strong man. Why is he so weak?
If your husband is dealing with a gender identity issue and is over the age of 30, then I would say he is a strong person indeed. Since this group is so heavily closeted it is difficult to get good information, however, it is a known fact that nearly half of those who identify as transgender attempt suicide before the age of 20. Over 50% of those who are transgender die by the age of 30. If this is any indication of what your husband has struggled with and he is still around, then I would say that he is strong indeed.
7. How will others look at me and the children if they know my husband is a cross-dresser?
The first question a person asks when they find out that a married man is a cross-dresser is, “How does your wife feel about this?” Followed closely by… “Do your children know?” Most relatives and friends of the family are more interested on how this impacts the man’s family than any personal question they might have for the husband and/or father. Usually the reaction the wife gets from others is sympathy. It is also up to her to set-the-tone for the acceptance or the rejection of the husband by friends, church congregation, co-workers and family. If she is vocally negative, the response by-and-large from others will be negative as well. If she is supportive or at least understanding, then acceptance by others is much higher. The wife sets the tone for future interaction. If she demonstrates that this is a private matter, then the issue will usually remain so.
8. I thought we had a good marriage. Is it over now?
If you have had a good marriage before you knew he was a cross-dresser, then your marriage should be able to stand up to this latest challenge. In fact, his keeping this information to himself was a wall between you both and now that wall has come down. It may not seem so now, but you have the opportunity to partner with him and the two of you could even grow closer as a result. If your marriage was bad before, then this could become a lightning rod for all the hurt you have felt and an excuse to end the relationship. Those who take their vows seriously to love each other find this can be a time of healing and closeness. If you can find a way to accept him, chances are he will never leave you and love you all the more.
9. I am in over my head. What am I going to do?
Yes, you are in over your head. If this is all new to you, you should know that the learning curve is steep. There are many things you can or should do. Here are a few in order:
First of all, allow yourself the freedom to cry or yell. What you are feeling is normal and your response healthy.
Second, give yourself time to process this information. He has upset the apple cart of your marriage and it will take time to clean up this mess. Hopefully he came out to you looking for support, but even if you have found out this information on your own (which is harder on you), he still needs your support. If he has been unfaithful as well, then you both need support and a marriage counselor should be a top priority.
Third, seek out help or someone to talk with. You may feel as if your world has flipped right now, and are unsure what to do with this information. Although you may not know where to turn, it is important to find someone you can bounce your feelings off of. This is primarily your husband’s issue, but he has made it yours as well. If your church has a Stephen Minister you can talk with, that could be a good resource. Anyone that you know who will keep a confidence might be another option. Your “best friend” might not be the best choice. See the section “Therapy and Medical Resources” for ideas and information. Going to your head pastor, your husband’s boss, his mother or a family member may only make things worse. Seek out someone, perhaps a professional therapist who understands gender identity, who is not directly connected to your community.
Fourth, connect with your husband and let him know you love him. This is a great opportunity to show the compassion and love of Christ. You may be scared, but his worst fears have come to pass as well. He may get little or no support from anyone other than you. Here are some more supportive ideas and words you should consider:
- Empathize: Empathy is the concerted effort to gain an accurate perception of another’s experience, and then to share that perception in one’s own words. Let them talk, and try to “actively listen” by reflecting back what you hear in your own words.
- Non-judgmental: Try to focus in on the issue at hand and remove the element of judgment, either positive or negative. It is not your task to determine whether the person being helped is functioning “good” or “bad,” but rather try to help them and you gain insight into the person’s cross dressing experience.
- Assume respect: Unconditionally assume the respect of your husband. The action of cross dressing should not be the only thing that defines him. People are respected, valued, and cared for simply because they are.
- Focus on Feelings: Look at the experience that the person shares. Do not try and fix or facilitate “help” for your husband who is sharing the experience. Focus on that person’s feelings, which will lead you both eventually to the real reasons behind his cross dressing. Only the person sharing the experience knows what it is until it is shared and understood by the listener.
10. Should I talk with my paster about this? Perhaps he can talk some sense into him?
It is important to seek help, however most ministers will not be thinking of your husband’s, yours or your family’s welfare. They will be more concerned with the impact it will have on the church. Unfortunately, any help your pastor may want to offer may have his agenda attached to it. There are some very good and understanding ministers out there but most have no experience with transgender issues, and it may not be fair to ask them to make a judgment.
If you want or need to talk with a clergy, you should talk with someone from another congregation who has no ties with your church. There are resources on this web site to help find those who can help. The best course of action is to contact a neutral trained therapist, or seek out a support group. Do not make this a general prayer request. The damage that could be done, you may not be able to be fix.
11. What is going to happen to the life I thought we both wanted?
This was one of the main reasons why you may not have been previously told about his cross dressing. He also did not know what would happen to your relationship. He is sharing with you now because he wants the relationship to move forward. It is up to the two of you to determine what the future will bring. I know that this will be a bit scary, but for those who have worked this out together as a couple the rewards are usually worth it.
Others, like yourself, are asking questions about their transgender spouse. This web link is for a support group for spouses and partners of those who identify as transgender.