I recently received a copy of “My Husband’s a Woman Now” from Leslie Hilburn Fabian, a fellow (sister?) “wife of,” asking that I consider it for my list of transgender resources. It’s been added! There are so few books out written by or about wives affected by their husband’s transitioning (it’s OUR transition too!), so it’s great to see another one to choose from. The long-standing classics are by Helen Boyd, and I devoured those when seeking information. Those delve into quite a bit of gender theory, while Leslie’s story is totally personal and positive, living up to its subtitle: “A Shared Journey of Transition and Love.”
Any woman whose husband or partner is a cross-dresser or who has pondered transitioning, is transitioning or already has, and anyone who cares about those women will get a lot of reading this book. Those not directly impacted will be educated and those in the trenches will see themselves.
While my story is different from Leslie’s — Lina and I don’t have children and we never considered starting over in a new town — we have much in common. Some similarities that I think have helped us both: we’re older (I’m 56 and she’s 65), we met our partners later in life (in our more mature skins) and we are both soul searchers and not afraid to acknowledge vulnerabilities. Our sources for knowledge and strength are a little different, but we’re both seekers (although we both have gained support from the Unitarian Universalist church.) We also, from the beginning, knew our future spouses cross-dressed. I think women who accept and even embrace that tap into a deep reserve of empathy and care as opposed to the spouses who know but refuse to see their husbands “en femme” or acknowledge it. (I’m guessing those relationships don’t stay intact if there’s a transition.)
Leslie and I also have loving and mature spouses. In the preface, she wrote something that had me saying “Amen!” — “If you’re married to a jerk, transitioning will only provide additional fodder for your anger, judgment, resentment, and pain.” Some of the stories I’ve heard, I want to say to the women, this has nothing to do with being transgender, it’s because your husband is an immature SOB.
Leslie also says something akin to what I repeat to the hurting women who email me: “it may not work for you to remain in the relationship. However, it may be possible for you and your mate to create an end to your marriage with sensitivity, deep caring, and respect for your time together…” Another Amen!
One thing of note: David (now Deb) told Leslie he wouldn’t transition without her blessing because she meant so much to him. I hope spouses reading the book don’t get hung up on that. They would have been miserable without him transitioning, and that’s no formula for a happy marriage, and also there’s no way to know if he really would have held off forever. So don’t expect this of your spouse unless you want to stay in an unauthentic relationship with a depressed person. Instead, consider watching your beloved be true to him/herself — while also working to meet your own needs.
No spouse who reads “My Husband’s a Woman Now” is going to relate at every level, but I am sure the basic stages and reactions will feel familiar. First, the cross-dressing, then the realization it’s not enough, followed by the what-if scenarios. Throw in fear of the unknown, societal shame, fear of job discrimination (the Fabians are fighting a lawsuit), fear of losing friends and family, potentially losing sexual desire, and, above all, grief and depression over losing one’s husband, and you’ve got yourself a typical spouse’s transgender experience. But here’s another hallmark of it all — open yourself up to your spouse and those around you, educate them a little, show your vulnerabilities, and in the vast majority of cases, you’ll be embraced. I see this over and over and over.
Leslie and Deb have been together for several years now, have survived and are thriving. I can say the same about Lina and me and I’ve seen this happen with many other couples. If you’re a questioning spouse, maybe that will be your outcome. Maybe not. But, please, do your best to keep your heart open while on this journey. I promise it will help!