Some long while ago I wrote on this blog in response to the accusation many people born trans face: that they are being selfish. (Self, Self(ish), Selfish)
What do people see? They see a person whom they thought quite stable and happy, suddenly doing something quite bizarre. And that apparent behaviour intrudes on their lives, disrupts and challenges it, whilst insisting on acceptance. That is not always forthcoming; families are destroyed by lack of understanding and unreadiness to change. Is this still the same person? Even a clinical diagnosis is met with scepticism. This, surely is a derangement, a lifestyle choice. With all our shared social conditioning, this is weird.
A man does not become a woman in our world. They become some pretence, some male-looking actor mistakenly persuaded that their role belongs in real life. Somewhere between this perception and the reality, so often, destructive and divisive forces are at work. I haven’t even been able to have the conversation with my grown-up daughter, to find out why we cannot even have dialogue about her impressions, feelings and perceptions. But surely there must be a mixture of confusion, embarrassment, anger and blame.
As I work out what possible grounds for divorce are honest and truthful, I compare this birth condition with others. A congenital muscle disorder that might leave me in a wheelchair? How disruptive is that, how life-changing, how relationship-changing? And yes, it can lead to marital breakdown, as can mastectomy or impotence. But blame? ‘I married a fit, strong man, not this!’ Is this completely different from gender? Is the love of the other really so different in each case?
My wife and I do not use the word ‘blame’. I consistently use the word ‘cause’, because I fully accept that the way I was born, being hidden so long, has resulted in loss of my family, marriage and home. I could no longer be ‘her man’. The operative element that has to be examined is choice. Why could I not have continued as I was? Well, all my life there was a part of me that I hated. I feared it; it was morally wrong to me, a perversion even. Largely unexpressed, but incapable of eradication. And therefore not something I could ever disclose. My wife said to me this week: ‘No-one should hate themselves.’ What kind of choice is this: between hating yourself – and being authentic but unloved and unwanted?
This is the result, and gender dysphoria is the cause. There is no blame. Why? Because my wife reacted and responded as the overwhelming majority of wives would. It’s very ordinary and simple really. As in my last blog, marriage is a self-serving contract; it is not really about the other at all. A wife has a husband for a reason, and if that husband is no longer going to play that male role, it’s over. Tough. I’ll let you be different if you’ll let me be normal, but don’t expect me to live with you, let alone want you like that. So there is a cause in the other too: conditioned normality within strict boundaries.
So much for cause but no blame. What about fault? Fault has several meanings. It can mean defective. This is my fault because there is something defective about me. It can mean a fault line. Two masses (or people) rubbing up alongside each other in contrary directions causing division and friction. It can mean the result of a careless or deliberate act that causes damage. Well, I still maintain that when a person experiences gender dysphoria, their transition into gender congruence is not a deliberate chosen act, but rather inevitable and perfectly fair and reasonable. There is no fault in being authentic: we are not nasty or even unloving people. Nor is it defect: only variance. 1 in 1,000 of us are to some degree intersex, 1 in 4,500 (birth identified) men and 1 in 8,000 women experience gender dysphoria. This is no defect deserving of rejection or blame. This is not fault.
The fault-line analogy is better. Both sides are working in opposite directions. So if fault has any meaning it belongs equally with the socially-conditioned partner for whom what the previously-loved partner is, matters vastly more than who they are. So love dies, because that is what it was founded on. This was our fault-line.
And so the cause, the blame, and the fault, when a family or a relationship fails under gender conflict, are equal. Neither side should bear more than the other. In a few cases, love is of a different kind. Perhaps sexuality is more fluid, or love more unconditional, or compassion profoundly greater. But losing everything is almost normal for the transitioning person, however lovely, loving, kind, talented, generous and committed they are. Person-hood does not play a part. I am fortunate compared with friends facing vindictiveness in partners. And in those cases, I do tend to feel that there is blame, simply because such attitudes are unjustified, deliberate and sustained.
And so finally, to ‘responsibility’. This is the missing word so often. It means whether you are the rejecting one or the rejected, you accept responsibility for the outcomes. Each must recognise the cause of their response, whether becoming authentic, or choosing to keep their norms unchallenged. And as above, this should be equal. As in my last blog, my marriage failed because of both of us. My dysphoria was the cause of my necessary change, but my wife’s conditioned normality was the cause of her rejection: our degrees of choice were perhaps not dissimilar. I shall not argue whether either of us could have resisted each of those pressures.
I took my responsibility by dissolving the emotional torture through leaving. I bore that burden first not just because I was no longer wanted, but because I felt I could and should. I had a life to develop and clear aims in achieving peace with myself after forty years. No-one was going to help me with that and I no longer hoped or expected it. But now we come to part two.
Part two is dispersal of our shared house and assets, and that means a secure family home that still exists, with cats and a productive garden, energy efficiency, and all we worked for together over 30 years. So it’s where the real hit is for my wife (son and cats), my daughter having just moved out to start on her own. It’s the end of everything, and it will hurt. Not me, so much, because I went through all that six months ago. I have nothing left other than the financial asset to help me find a more permanent and sustainable home. But I know it will raise in the others the same old feelings of cause, blame, fault – and responsibility. That too is equal. But I know that a new reality is sinking in for those who used to be my family; it’s time for them to realise their responsibility, not least in failing to gather around me when I needed it, and in the rejection that has now lost them their home too. They don’t even talk together about what has happened.
And that, however it is said, is not me blaming them. There are causes on both sides, there is responsibility too. And that needs to be fully recognised. ‘I take full responsibility for rejecting you and ending my love for you.’ How does that sound? I think it is fair, and perhaps worth voicing.