16 avril 2010

My husband is trans - I feel like he was dishonest from the start

My husband of 29 years announced today that he wanted to start taking hormones. That he would grow small breasts and his voice would change a bit. That he would have to have his penis removed—as it would shrivel up because of the hormones. First of all—is that true? I am at a loss. I only knew that he liked on ocasion to wear women’s shoes—when we got married. It has escalated from there. He has has several affairs—he says only mentally—but I am not certain. I have tried to give him the benefit of the doubt—but I am not comfortable with his recent announcement. I do not wish to live as a lesbian—first of all because I have wishes and desires that will not be met. Also if my job gets wind of this—they will look for anything possible to get rid of me. There has really been no discussion of this—he refuses. He says that it is totally his decision and he does not care what I have to say or think about it. I feel like he was not honest with me from the start…

Kelley R

Hi Marie,

Thank you for sharing your question with us here at Alterheros.

Recently, your husband of 29 years came out to you about his transgendered identity. He advised you of some of the physical characteristics that would be changing, including plans to remove his male genitalia. In the past, you mention that he cross-dressed in women's clothing and has had “mental affairs” with others. This revelation causes you some discomfort and anxiety about your sexuality (i.e. you “do not want to live as a lesbian”). Furthermore, you have concerns with your employment being placed in jeopardy because of this. Your husband has been refusing to discuss this matter with you and is adamant about his identity, refusing to hear out your feelings.

When someone comes out to you saying that they want to change his/her sex, it can be a very emotional process, leaving feelings of betrayal, sadness and confusion. You are not alone in this. You have several avenues to explore. I will present a few for you today, but by any means, it is not an exhaustive list and you should do whatever you feel is right.

I would like to start off with saying that you should not feel like something is wrong with you or that you are the cause of your husband's gender identity. Chances are, he has felt this way for some time. He valued you enough and trusted you enough to come out to you about his identity. His honesty suggests that he cares about you and your marriage.

Yes, it is true that by taking hormones your husband will experience effects of feminization to his body. In transitioning from a male to female, secondary sex characteristics of the other sex develop. Hormones (eg. estrogen) would indeed alter the voice and promote some breast development. To answer your first question, the decreased amount of testosterone would ultimately cause a decrease in size of the testes but not necessarily the size in the penis: “Penis length is not reduced by hormones, but…may appear reduced…Testicular volume is reduced by 25% within the first year of hormone use.”* It is important to mention that for most individuals who are transgendered, they do not feel completely comfortable with their body's external sex characteristics (i.e. a penis if the trans person is transitioning from a male to a female). Therefore, your husband may want to remove his penis as a result of the psychological feelings associated with it.

You also mentioned that your husband has had several affairs outside of your marriage. While he said that they were “mental affairs” you are unsure of this. Regardless of your husband's gender identity, this issue should be discussed together.

Your husband's transition from male to female concerns you because you do not wish to live as a lesbian. This is understandable as you identify as heterosexual. Several straight spouses encounter this obstacle when faced with their spouse's transsexuality. Everyone has different ways of overcoming this issue. It is best for you to consider what you want to do and follow your heart. You may want to reflect on how you feel about your marriage to your husband and the consequences (both good and negative) that his transition will bring to the relationship. Many couples will go their separate ways upon the announcement of a sex change, yet others remain together after the transition. This matter is entirely up to you and your husband and should be considered with the greatest care.

The threat of losing your job can also be incredibly stressful. While some employers are homo/transphobic and fire individuals for those reasons, there are anti discrimination laws in place to prohibit the discrimination of employees based on race, sex, sexual orientation, religion, etc… Check the policies in your area about the protections you have.

It is imperative that you and your husband discuss this matter together. He probably feels vulnerable and conflicted at this time and may want to avoid this sensitive topic. However, by talking with him, you can get the answers you want from him. It is important not to accuse or threaten him, as this could provoke ill feelings and exacerbate the situation. You have the right to tell him how you feel and ask the questions you have. An option you have is to have a mediator who specializes in LGBT issues to facilitate this dialogue.

Remember that you are never alone in this journey. You can enlist the help of a close friend, professional or support group to help you through.

Please have a look at some resources I’ve pooled for you below.

All the best,

Kelley, for Alterheros

*This information and more information relating to the effects of hormones for trans individuals can be found under the heading:

“Effects of Cross-Gender Hormones in Male to-Female Transsexuals”

At the following web address:


Here is a .pdf article from PFLAG (Parents Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) a network for those supportive of the LGBT community. It discusses the circumstances surrounding the straight spouse after their partner comes out to them.


Additionally, there is a film made by a transsexual woman who documented her transition and the impact it had on her closest friends and family (including her wife). It is called “She's a boy I knew” made by director Gwen Haworth. This may be a resource you wish to explore in coming to terms with your husband’s gender identity. You can find out more about this by performing an online search.