This is the fourth of a sequence of posts in which I describe my personal experience with concerns and confusion over my gender. This was hard to write and even harder to put out in public. Please be kind. This part contains the experiences of the first 7 years of my marriage, up to the point that I told my wife about my wish to be female. Part III can be found here.
Getting married was great, but had the opposite effect I had hoped with regards to my concerns over my gender. In fact, if anything, it was harder because now I was now in the intimate presence of a woman and I was reminded on a regular basis what I lacked.
Like we did in courting, we moved fast after being married also. While I continued my studies (in an area I didn’t like but felt I had to pursue to support a family) Andromeda dropped out of school, got a job and soon got pregnant. With that our ‘honeymoon phase’ ended quickly. She was incredibly sick. She was spending her time working and being sick for our child, and in return I was a beast. I was unhappy and stressed about what I was doing in my studies, I was stressed over how sick she was and how rough it made my life, and on top of it all I was more stressed than ever over my unhappiness with my gender. I tell you, I really was being a self-absorbed beast. I look back on my selfishness and mistreatment of my wife with great regret.
Sexual intercourse, far from providing the cure I had hoped, only made things worse. As much as I loved Andromeda and enjoyed being with her intimately, the way in which I was expected to interface with her felt so wrong. My sexual functioning became a huge conflicting paradox that provided minimal satisfaction and great torment. It’s hard to describe how conflicting it is. It was bad enough, though, that I’d often prefer to avoid it all together.
This resulted in a lot of problems for us, in part because I wasn’t fulfilling her expectations of what a husband should be (particularly in being aggressive about sex). I was distressed and frustrated with myself, clueless as to how I was going to ever be pure of this evil, and I wrongfully took it out on her. I was losing hope quickly that I would ever get rid of my dark secret. Our relationship was far from healthy, and though we never considered divorce at that time, that was only due to her patience and selflessness.
The next few years just continued the same unhealthy cycle. Our second and third children came very soon after the first, and while we can look back and remember good times, our relationship continued in its downward spiral. We had so many stresses in our lives from our three young children to stresses over my schooling. I finally reached a breaking point during my last semester and changed my degree. It threw my career plans and our family’s future plans out the window and all that was left was a very bleak outlook on what the future held.
In many ways it was getting harder to convince myself that these desires could be denied or overcome. That’s not to say I was a slave to my appetites; rather, I’ve always been very disciplined and have a strong sense of self-control. But I didn’t (and still don’t, for that matter) know how to change my wants or likes. I started to consciously realize more and more that my wishing to be female was no different than I how liked Legos, or was attracted to women, or hoped to be able to live in Europe someday. I couldn’t deny that it existed any more than I could deny my other wishes, likes, and hopes. Feeling female, though, and wishing that my body lined up with that, was even more core or central than all those other things. It seemed underlying and essential.
This realization came slowly. I was still very hesitant to think about these things because I was fearful of starting down a path of apostasy. I didn’t want to jeopardize my testimony or do anything sinful and I didn’t know how to see my desires to be female as anything but. I was already so worried that I had lived my life ‘unworthily’ because of all I had done in the guise of being righteous: my temple sealing, missionary service, church callings, and temple and church attendance. My wife, my love, still didn’t know. She didn’t know me, who I was, what my deepest hopes and dreams were, and it was all because of my deliberate deception. I told myself that I had to just keep trying. I buried myself in school and work so I had no time to think about it. If I could just quit wanting it I could repent and go on with life the ‘right’ way without hurting anyone. I knew I had to keep trying; it was never too late to repent and change.
But in spite of all my efforts to keep my secret hidden, it started to leak out. Incidents happened which wouldn’t have if I had been a normal, honest husband. I would apologize and/or lie and attempt to avoid what I viewed as the ever-growing elephant in the room. I was panicky that my ruse would be found out before I was able to repent and take care of it. As I’ll discuss more in the final part of the story, Andromeda never actually suspected that I was gender dysphoric at all.
After some troubled times deciding what direction to go with my career path after my last-minute switch, I finally settled on and applied to some graduate schools. I was admitted to one program, so we moved and I did what I’d always done – bury myself in school and work and fail at trying to not wish I were female. Many of my colleagues were homosexual, liberal, or had different standards from what I had been raised with and I realized for the first time I realized that gay people weren’t out to get me. In fact, I realized that not only were they no more or less predatory than heterosexual people, but that their sexual orientation really had no bearing on anything other than whether they were attracted to men or women. Some of my colleagues were wonderful, good people. Some were less-concerned about being good. There was no correlation between ‘goodness’ and sexual orientation. This was very eye-opening to me, and an important first step towards being able to look at my own feelings more rationally and honestly.
By the end of my master’s degree, I was very stressed over my unsuccessful efforts to find employment. The economy was tanking and jobs in my field were few. My degree was also not viewed as a terminal degree for the types of positions I was applying for. At the last minute, an opportunity for an additional degree at a very good school back east opened up and we took it. It was a very stressful time as we moved our family across the country without even housing arranged at our destination, but fortunately things all worked out.
It turned out to be a wonderful opportunity. The program was fantastic and has resulted in many employment opportunities since. Nothing had changed in my relationship patterns with my wife. I was critical, demeaning, and inconsiderate. I didn’t prioritize her or my children. The bad relationship patterns that had been established in the first few months of our marriage had become ingrained and worsened over the turbulent six years we’d lived through.
Things finally came to a head soon after we arrived. My wife was expecting again, this time with twins, and near the end of the pregnancy she was unexpectedly directed to go on bed rest at the hospital during a routine check-up. One of the babies was much smaller than the other and the doctor was worried. After the appointment was over she called me on her way home and told me to pack her things and have them ready for her to go right away. I, who had told her earlier in the pregnancy how I didn’t know how we could handle bed rest with my busy school responsibilities and three other children still at home, was deeply offended that she would make this choice without discussing it with me first. She wasn’t open to discuss it, so I gave her an ultimatum and told her that if she did this then she was on her own. Fearful for the health of the children she was carrying, she went anyways.
With this choice, our relationship exploded. This event was the straw that broke the camel’s back in our marriage. The six years of unhealthy patterns in our relationship came out in full force during those two weeks she was admitted. I felt abandoned and lost. I was hurt by her inconsideration and retaliated in a very cruel manner. I was angry and lost perspective. Like many of my actions towards the one I loved the most, I very much regret how I treated her and I make no excuses for my bad, self-centered choices. I think that this event really opened up the floodgates after six years of an increasingly unhealthy relationship.
By the time she came home, we (miraculously) made some uneasy amends, but what we came to call the bedrest incident continued to be an infected wound that never fully healed. Neither of us truly forgave the other for a very long time. This was the first time that I wondered if divorce was in our future. It was the last thing I wanted for us, especially as I had had a firsthand experience with how damaging divorce could be from my family of origin. But I had lost track of the value of my relationship to Andromeda. I couldn’t be honest with her regarding who I truly was. I didn’t feel valued or respected, and I blamed this on her. She didn’t meet my (unfair) expectations, and I didn’t meet hers. When a relationship provides no true intimacy or respect, what worth is there in continuing it?
I felt like I just didn’t know that I loved her anymore, and I didn’t know what to do about it. I knew that something had to change or I (and we) wouldn’t last.
In the next installment I discuss the process through which I ceased to view myself as damned for my desires to be female and my decision to tell my wife. Continue on to Part V here.