This is a piece that looks at the very worst aspects of gender dysphoria and its effects upon an individual and within the family unit. For the purpose of this article, since this is a site for the female partners of transvestites and transsexual people, we will consider only gender-dysphoric males, although women can also suffer from gender dysphoria and there are biological women who transition to live as men.
A man with gender dysphoria, while he may outwardly be an entirely normal and healthy male, has problems with fully identifying himself as such. These may range from the occasional urge to dress, present and be regarded as female, to a firm and unshakeable belief that he actually IS psychologically female. As a child, he may prefer playing with girls to joining in rough-and-tumble games with the boys. He may prefer dolls and girls' books to toy cars and adventure stories. He may want to wear dresses instead of trousers or shorts. He may even believe that when he's old enough he will actually become a woman rather than a man. This often causes conflicts within the family, especially where one or both of his parents have a conservative view of gender roles and gender-appropriate behaviour and are disturbed or distressed by the fact that their young son shows no interest in football but wants to go to ballet classes, for instance. At the opposite end of the scale, he may have a perfectly normal male upbringing with none of the above behaviours.
For a person who has been brought up as male, to realise that there is another side of himself which doesn’t conform to the expected norm is very distressing. Boys learn early on to hide that side of themselves and to try to repress the thoughts they have. This may manifest itself in many ways - everyone has their own unique coping mechanisms. Sometimes while young, a transgendered male will present as overly masculine, maybe throwing himself into manly pursuits such as playing Rugby or joining the Army - generally anything that is considered very masculine. It seems that this a form of over-compensation, often in an attempt to prove to himself and others that he is a "real man", and may also be intended to try to cure or dispel the feminine urges, whether they be urges to dress and present as a woman (TV) or to transition (TS), or just an overwhelming feeling that they are different - a feeling they cannot quantify or categorise.
It is never simple for the gender dyphoric individual to say "oh I am .. A, B or C". In fact a lot of transsexual people start out by convincing themselves they are just transvestites or occasional cross-dressers. This is more pronounced in those who have had a traditional upbringing. Happily, society is slowly becoming more open and accepting of "difference", and younger transgendered people are often less concerned about staying "in the closet". But even if there are no constraints on gender and sexuality, it can take many years for an individual to truly accept himself for who he is. Because of the complexity of the situation, and with each situation being unique to each individual, time is invariably a factor.
The problems come in as a transgendered individual fights against his deeply-held feelings and tries - often very hard - to be something he is not. Problems can manifest themselves in many ways. Some men become closed-off and sullen. Some are violent and angry, some hate themselves for what they may secretly believe to be a perversion that is wrecking their lives. Depression is very common among the transgendered, especially those who are severely gender-dysphoric.
In an attempt at normality many transgendered men will marry and have families. Often they are transvestites who have a need to dress, are heterosexual and very scared that their unusual habits will ostracise them from those they love. They may or may not tell their fiancees/wives/partners that they are transvestite - many don't, because they sincerely believe that marriage and a family will "cure" them of their need to dress. This almost never works - even if the married TV manages to give it up for a while, sooner or later the urge to express his female side will return. This is the point at which many, many marriages run into trouble.
Transvestism is nothing to be scared of; some women even find it a turn on. For some couples it enhances their love life and brings a new closeness to the relationship - see other articles and personal histories on this site. For some couples another question is raised, that of sexuality. Sometimes a transvestite partner may wish to experiment sexually, and this can lead to problems - again, see other articles on transvestism and sexuality. Sometimes a man will keep his transvestism totally hidden from his partner and and experiment in secret, although the consequences of this can be devastating to a woman who discovers that the man she thought she knew has been keeping such a huge secret from her.
More severe cases of gender dysphoria may find a partner needing to seek medical help, to alter their body to match how they feel about themselves. Transsexualism is not an easy condition and if you offered a transgendered person the chance to take a tablet to cure themselves, usually in the case of male to female transsexuals, they would take the pill if it would make them fully female. Transvestites often say that they would take the pill if it would stop them needing to dress!
Some transsexuals find themselves married with children, and try their best to repress their feelings, or to control them. But there invariably comes a point when they can no longer do this. Some may mask their discomfort using drink or other substances, some may just be grumpy, most are deeply unhappy - sometimes even to the point of suicide. Whatever happens, when a partner accepts and admits, to themselves and to others, that they are indeed transsexual, it is usually the most scary thing they have ever done in their life, and only done when they feel they have no other option and no further way of coping.
No matter how much such a revelation hurts, the partner of a transsexual must endeavour to remember that their partner is, at such a point, quite emotionally desperate. No matter whether your future is together or apart you will harbour a great deal of resentment and anger.
This can manifest itself in many ways. Some women choose to blame the transsexual partner for something which is really out of their control. Some use their children as a weapon with which to hurt their partner, which serves no good purpose other than to deprive a child of two loving parents.
The myths that surround transsexualism are many. Some people believe that it is not a genuine medical condition but a "lifestyle choice", that it can be "cured", or that the transsexual has in some way deliberately misled their partner. This is not the case. A transsexual may have spent many years unable to understand themselves, thinking they are a transvestite, thinking they can control the urges whilst not understanding them. For a transsexual the feeling that they have done wrong and are letting people down is an intense one, yet their condition at this point is not something which will go away.
Some women choose to stay with a transsexual partner. This takes great effort on both sides, indeed it is probably easier to split up and most couples in this position do separate. The transsexual / female relationship is one of the most complex to unravel. Being the partner of a transsexual woman, who was in all likelihood once your husband, raises some very difficult questions. Not least your sexuality, the way in which you envisaged your life's path, the way in which other people perceive you, your children, your partner. All are difficult questions, as the one thing a transsexual cannot be at this point is invisible.
No matter what you do, as adults always try to remember that this is no ones fault. However your relationship may or may not progress, try to treat one another with respect as best you can.