Honk If You Love Hillary
"In our long-suppressed drive to womanhood, we
1998: Christmas Remembered
|Most of us, no matter what our political preference, feel sympathy for the First Lady as she endures the embarrassment resulting from her husband's actions. Hillary Clinton has acted with class and dignity.
We say, "I don't know if I could still support him after everything he has done." The more we think about it, the more our feminist consciousness is raised. We remember the times we have been treated unfairly by men, and we think, "Are all men like this? Where are the good guys?"
Well... aside from the truth that there really are a lot of good men out there, there's another problem with this line of thought. Some of you aren't going to like the direction I'm taking this. Just remember, I'm including myself in the group also.
In the past forty or so years, the news reporting of sex reassignment surgery, along with the publicized transition of persons such as Christine Jorgensen and Renee Richards, was a source of intense interest for a small number of persons. These persons - we - felt a special bond with the heroines of the stories, because we also realized that we shared the same transsexual feelings.
But we did not act on our feelings. Younger transsexuals, looking back from the vantage point of 1999, may find it hard to understand. Knowing that a solution might be available for our dilemma, why didn't we pursue that solution instead of trying to live "normal" lives and ultimately failing years later?
It's a good question, but we felt that we had good answers. We felt we lacked the courage or resources of Jorgensen or Richards. How could we possibly succeed, living in a new role in a hostile environment? How would we handle rejection by family and friends, and the almost certain loss of higher education opportunities?
The early scientific literature was of no help. The first psychiatrists and psychologists to treat transsexual patients used words such as "perversion" and "deviation" to describe us. When I first read Benjamin's and Stoller's work at age 20, the disparaging, patronizing tone frightened me. I realized I could not pursue my dream of being a physician if I made the transition I so desired.
Furthermore, we believed at that time it would be possible to ignore our transsexual feelings. Whether by psychological counseling, spiritual healing, or our own strong will, we determined to put these feelings away and live "normal" lives. The key to living a "normal" life, of course, was to become a husband and father. The little inner voice seemed to say, "Son, you need a good woman to make a MAN out of you."
Well - it made sense, we thought. We could put all our energies into being the head of a family. In many cases, we didn't even realize that we lacked a normal male sex drive, and our attraction to women was a complex emotional bond of empathy and identification along with affection. Denial also played a major role in our family experience. It was the same drive which sent many of us into high risk professions such as military service, trying to remove ourselves as far as possible from the feminine imperative. Some of us had more than one marriage and several children.
It was an effort in vain. The inner knowledge of being female in spirit never could be suppressed for long. At age thirty - or even older - we found ourselves with the certainty that we would never suppress the conflict and live a "normal" male life. But we had to face the commitments we had already made to spouse and children.
For me, and many others, the next step was to retreat into despair. I did not consider suicide, although I know others who have. But I became withdrawn and silent, submerging myself in my work. I determined to live the rest of my life in the unwanted male role, no matter how unhappy it made me. In this way I spent over ten more years.
Finally the time came when, as our popular Anäis Nin quotation states, "the pain of remaining tightly coiled in a bud was greater than the pain it took to blossom." I had exhausted my strength, and had to deal with my dysphoria. Finally it was impossible to keep my story from my spouse any longer.
At the time of my first disclosure I really didn't know I would fully transition. I still clung to the hope that I could keep my family intact. I presented my story to my spouse in the context of seeking understanding, love, and support. It seemed a reasonable approach. From my point of view, the rejection I received was difficult to deal with. I kept seeking compromise and friendship, and couldn't understand why she wanted no more to do with me. In retrospect, I was very blind to the effects of my disclosure on this woman I married.
Now I can see her point of view, and what a different perspective it is. She married her high school sweetheart, bore his child, and devoted her life to her family. In return she expected security and support. Now her dreams were fragmenting in the realization that her husband had concealed a terrible secret from her for years! How could she not feel betrayed - crushed - absolutely furious?
In our long-suppressed drive to womanhood, we leave in our wake persons who depended on our manhood. This is transsexualism's dirty little secret. It's important, I think, to lift the curtain on the damage which is done to family relationships when we transition.
Many non-transgendered people are quick to condemn us for this damage. I try to understand their feelings: if we have suppressed this desire for so many years, why can't we suppress it for the rest of our lives? The feeling is widespread that this is a conscious choice we make, and could just as well choose to not make. Our life experience has taught us differently, but it's not possible to communicate this experience to others.
The fact remains that we took on responsibilities with our families, and if we renege on these responsibilites, how are we any better than any other "deadbeat dad" who abandons his support of his family? I don't mean to imply that we should remain in what usually becomes a very bad marriage. Rare indeed is the wife who will still respond to her transsexual husband with as much love as before disclosure. Most will harbor great resentment and will want nothing more to do with us.
It's very likely that the marriage will not survive. We must re-evaluate our responsibility in view of the likelihood that we will go our separate ways. Some wives will be very vindicitive in their divorce demands. It may even seem that the financial demands are structured excessively in order to prevent our transition. It would be unfair to allow this to happen, but equally unfair for us to walk away without any commitment.
Our responsibility to our children involves both our finances and our time. Some persons choose to postpone transition until their children are grown. This choice could have a positive or a negative effect. While our children do have the continued presence of their father, they may be less likely to accept our transition as teenagers or young adults than they would have been as small children. Whichever path we choose, we do owe it to them to provide for their material needs.
This is the heart of the matter: it seems quite hypocritical to claim feminist consciousness when we ourselves have left wives and children without support. We may be unable to remain in the role of husband and father, but at least we can show empathy and be willing to fulfill our responsibilities as in any failed marriage.
Finally, we can convey our experiences to today's young transsexuals who may know their path from an early age, profitting from our unfortunate example and avoiding the formation of relationships destined to fail. A never-married transsexual will be able to claim that "moral high ground" which seems a bit slippery for us sometimes.
We can still possess a feminist consciousness, but we need to heed its warning to us: fair treatment for every woman and every child.