How many sleepless nights have we laid awake or sat, staring at the computer at 1AM, our faces pale blue in the monitor's reflection, our minds sucking up as much information as we can about how to cope with the news? The news being, of course, that our mate, partner, father, mother, or even our business partner is...transgender. And even when the news is somehow manageable (I've read as much by people in long term or bi-sexual relationships, or those who knew of their lover's cross-dressing beforehand) there's still a hyper-focus on the other person that can leave us neglecting ourselves.
As well-intended as I was to support my spouse to find herself, by the end of the marriage I'd lost myself entirely.
It was 2010 when my husband began wearing lipstick and women’s rhinestones in public. After freaking out...I went to the Internet for help. But I’d never heard the word “transgender” before, so I started my search with “cross-dressing.” That led me to an archaic site with a psychiatric manual. It scared the hell out of me.
The professionals were still calling what is now referred to as Gender Dysphoria, a “Gender Identity Disorder.” The terminology, which didn’t change until 2013, hardly calmed my nerves. More searching on the net was fruitless. There was very little support for SOFFAs at the time. When I did find LGBTQ activist organizations sympathetic to family and friends, most of their literature had to do with what pronouns I should use and what behavior I should do to show respect for my mate’s struggle. And when Guinevere and I (who went by Steve at the time) finally told the marriage counselor what was really going on in our lives, suggesting it “might” be the root cause of our problems, she told us that she hadn’t been trained in gender issues. She gracefully ended her counseling with us, but gave us no other names to see.
There's a lot more information and profiles of transgender people today than there was in 2010. But support for SOFFAs still has a long way to go. Having made it to the other side, that is, to a place of contentment where I've filled my own heart back up again, it's time for me to help change that.
I begin by linking you to blogs, articles, support groups, websites and forums so that you can get the support and information you need. For instance, below is one of a a five-part series on on how to take care of yourself during your own important transition.
So please, take the time you need for yourself. And remember, as SOFFAs, we're in the wild and amazing journey together.
Finding Support During Your Own Transition
- FIND A COUNSELOR WITH GENDER IDENTITY TRAINING. Fortunately, today’s private marriage and family counselors are seeing the importance in training in gender identity issues—but not all. That’s why I’ve included an article by a pioneering Family Therapist Ari Lev called Transgender Emergence: A Family Affair. It’s a superior reference for developing a checklist of questions for interviewing your own counselor. And interview you must—whether you are seeking counseling as a couple or for yourself. I recommend both so that you can speak freely at your solo session, though the expense is not something everyone can afford.
- ASK OTHERS HOW THEY FOUND A GOOD COUNSELOR. Even better is to ask others in the TransFamilySpouse.com or Engender_Partners chat group what questions they asked of prospective counselors. You'll find others in the same boat as you there.
- CHECK OUT THE TGP RESOURCE PAGE. In any case, whether you are or are not ready to tell the world (or even just your best friend) what’s going on in your life, check our the TGP (TransGenderPartners.com) resource page for online chat-groups, great reading in blogs and publications, and ways to support others, too. After all, your perspective may give someone else the comfort and clarity they need to get through one more day, too.
In all cases, please know that you're NOT alone.
Check other blogs for caring for yourself during your own time of transition under the "Self-Care" category on the home page index.