The Trans Experience: Divorce


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Part of being trans is the difficulty of staying married to one’s spouse. Despite a sort of “honeymoon” during the early days of my transition in the long run it just wasn’t going to work out for us. Today the divorce papers were signed, sealed, and delivered. It will be a couple of weeks before it’s really legal and official but as far as I’m concerned I’m divorced as of today, October 20, 2014.

Transitioning is an inherently selfish act or rather process. But if you’re trans it’s an absolutely necessary process. If you have “Gender Identity Disorder” (in the words of the DSM V, the psychiatrist’s diagnostic handbook) and you don’t transition the prognosis is not good: basically, a lifetime of worsening depression and gender dysphoria. Misery in other words. One must do what it takes to save oneself from such a life but in doing so you must disregard the effects it will have on family and friends and loved ones. …no, disregard isn’t exactly the right word: how you’re affecting family, friends and loved ones is constantly on one’s mind and a constant source of paradoxical regret and pain. But as they say, you have to take care of Self first, because nobody else is going to.

I decided to transition when I was living apart from my wife for several months and I had no hope at the time that we would ever be together again. I had to move out of the town I was in, a small town in rural Appalachia where a transgender woman would never ever be accepted. I had two choices of where to move to. The first was Asheville, NC, a sort of trans haven of the South. But that would have meant, in effect, abandoning my wife and children forever with little or no hope of reconciliation. The other choice was to move to Carrboro, NC, perhaps the most progressive town in North Carolina and only a few miles from my wife and kids. So Carrboro it was.

Initially of course my wife was terribly shocked. But as the months went on we became friends again for the first time in years. We became such good friends that in time I moved back home with her and my kids. My kids accepted me as I was and quickly learned to call me Rachel. My wife and I became lovers again. She loved the androgynous me. But as my body began the slow process of feminization, well, the spark died. I was devastated, as was she. Eventually we decided on separation and divorce. I moved to yet another apartment in Carrboro. And as of today we are divorced. It was an amicable divorce, thank the Gods, and I can see my kids any time.

Of course not all couples where one spouse transitions during marriage drift apart and divorce. There are many couples where one spouse has transitioned and the two are living happily together. But even though I don’t know the statistics — because they don’t exist — I suspect that divorce is the norm in such cases. A sad fact, but very probably true.

Why am I writing this? you may wonder. I’m writing this precisely because I believe divorce is a large part of the trans experience, at least for those who transition late, that is past the age of about 19 or 20. And because I wanted to share some more of my own experiences of being trans.

I’ve been devastated for months because of the separation and impending divorce. I’ve suffered from major depression and panic attacks. That’s the biggest reason I’ve let this blog sit here neglected for so long. But today is different. Today I feel at peace, although emotionally exhausted. I’m ready to slowly, slowly begin to move on, to really start living my new life for the first time. Healing won’t come soon, but it will come. I truly hope I find someone else. I truly hope I can find the happiness I’ve been searching for since I was four years old.

As Ee-yore says, “Thanks for noticin'”. Peace to you all and much love. -Rachel