Getting Honest As the Ex-wife of a Transgender Woman

I don’t want to lie to you anymore.
Photo credit: © Bowie15 |

Photo credit: © Bowie15 |

by Maisie MacKinnon

Don’t want to, don’t want to, don’t want to….

Write. A. Blog.

It’s been weeks since I wrote a blog—and I have plenty to share so that isn’t the issue. But darned if each time I’d sit down at the computer I’d suddenly have the urge to pluck my eyebrows instead. Doing a little soul searching, I came up with what’s going on.

So now it’s time I told you—and myself—the truth out loud.

I wasn’t cut out for this kind thing, meaning writing blogs about being the ex-wife of a transgender woman, let alone inspiring some kind of peace of mind for readers who are rowing the same boat.

All I ever wanted to do is move on. To this day I’ve never watched a transgender-movie though almost everyone that learns my story tells me, “Oh, you should really watch the movie, The Danish Girl," as if I hadn’t already lived the pain. 

Don’t people know that I no more want to constantly revisit the topic of gender transition than say, if I’d lost my husband to cancer, I’d want to go back into a chemotherapy clinic to comfort others still hooked up to a chemical drip?

Some very brave people can comfort others in their time of suffering though, and I imagine it's because they know the other's suffering intimately. I see it on the online forums all the time and I can do nothing but admire their dedication. There's a definite "calling" in being able to listen and soothe others, or help to make sense of things.

The only sense I can make of my own journey is to do everything I can to make sure that as a society, we allow our children to determine their own gender, even their non-gender if they wish. If I’m driven to speak for any reason it’s so that our children grow up authentic from the start; so they aren’t forced to deceive or worse, hate themselves, or tear their family’s worlds apart when they finally have do whatever it takes to become who they’ve been all along. 

But I digress from my confession.

I don’t like reading any of the forums for spouses or significant others of transgender people either. I don’t like to, but I do, because nothing adds more to a painful situation than believing no one cares. And I care. I just wince while I’m doing it.

I wince from the pain I feel when newcomers ask readers—meaning me since I’m reading it—how they dealt with their spouse’s surgery. (The answer? Not well, and I wasn’t even around for it. Guin told me after I left the marriage that she was going to have reassignment surgery, and I still fell to the floor and cried uncontrollably for an hour before pouring myself a stiff drink.)

I ache when I read the loneliness they feel over losing physical affections, and maybe because I'm terminally straight, I get exhausted just thinking of the effort it takes many spouses to learn new ways to have sex with the same sex. Likewise, because I lived it, witnessing others’ minds twist and turn, recoil and even succeed at embracing such traumatic change, isn’t my idea of a good time.

Worst of all, I get down-right pissed off when I read about a SOFFA who’s just been accused of being transphobic by their transgender spouse when they slip up and say “he” instead of a “she” or vice versa after ten or twenty-five years of saying the opposite—and that’s after sleepless nights and months of selfless support by the SOFFA for their partner’s transition!

And yes, I’m also encouraged by the consideration and kindness transgender partners have shown their spouses, too. But none of this is what's keeping me away from writing.

What keeps me away is that I don’t want to lie to you anymore.

I don’t want to say that I’m the one that will help you make sense of this weird adventure. I don't want to tell you that, “if you look at it this way,” it’ll help, and I definitely won't say that “God has a plan.”

What I will say is that being married to someone who represented themself as a man, and who came out seven years into the marriage that he was really a she, was the biggest mind fuck I’ve ever been through.

There, I said it.

So why not bag the blog?

Because I want to tell you, no, show you, that I still have the guts to sit down and write even when I don't feel like it because, well, it just might make a difference to somebody. I want to shout out loud that my life, and our grandchildren’s lives, are richer for knowing Guin despite the road less traveled; that it’s wider, deeper, and more compassionate for the aching. I want to say that I see now, that no matter the challenge, we’re all just making the best of what we’re given to deal with. Either that, or we'll fall victim to a mysterious force we believe is personally picking on us, go crazy and turn to hate.

I’m compelled to write because like you are doing right now, I’ve survived a Big Deal—one that’s made me more capable than I used to be, more empowered. Life’s little stuff doesn’t bug me anymore. I’m kinder to my grandchildren. I allow them more choices over their lives, and I listen to their perspectives. I don’t curb their behavior like I did with my own children because I’ve witnessed first-hand the destruction that happens later in life when narrow-minds restrict impressionable ones.

All to say that yes, being a SOFFA pulls the guts out of our stomachs and stomps on our hearts. But in the end, the experience...

...just might make us feel.

 And I hate to say it, but there’s just no better way to “Know Thyself.” 


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Ahhhh. I believe my writer’s block just broke free. That, and It might just be time to watch The Danish Girl.