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Who does she think I am?

  • Posted on April 26, 2014 at 8:36 pm

Nearly two years ago, just before I decided I had to leave my home and walk away from my marriage, I tried to write from my wife’s perspective. I wrote Who does she think she is? It was an honest attempt to see what it was like for a husband to be replaced by an intruder, a woman, uninvited. At the time we were in therapy, and she objected to this post, despite its caveat, and asked that I remove it. One of our therapists said no, it was my valid experience and expression. I still feel that I captured something, even if it wasn’t my wife’s voice as she would have written it herself.

This question: ‘Who does she think I am?’ is again my imagined question, as if from my ex, in response to my protestations over the past few years. Again, I cannot claim to speak for her, I’m only trying to see the other side.

This week was bruising. I am a writer, and I can’t resist the urge to write. In my work I am meticulous in removing ambiguity, in my poetry I ‘show not tell’, deliberately introducing ambiguity. In my emails, at least with my ex, I am a terrible writer. I write when I should not, and I write in a way that is easily misunderstood, and probably show misunderstanding. I can hardly write dispassionately and objectively though, so I constantly make mistakes. Every time I attempt dialogue, she feels I’m invalidating her feelings, every time I try to stretch her imagination, I remind myself that it’s all over and that it is not my place to know her life as I used to. It is factually immaterial that I lost all family life, along with all we’d built together. It is not for me to claim that I lost more than she did, and there is no point speaking about the responsibility each of us shares. Everything has gone and we both lost. No-one won in this one.

And then an exchange on Facebook about trans suicide rates came up. Add to the ‘at least attempted’ all those who considered it, and the score is horrifically high. Fundamentally it is because being transsexual robs you of your place in society, among friends, in your family, and wrecks a large slice of your personal life. Faced with the choice of being wanted or loved for what you are not, and being authentic whilst losing it all, sometimes the only way out is down.

Then an entry in the thread, by a wife, pulled me up short. Suicide can be for spouses and partners too.

It really is that big. Why should you have to change your world view? It’s an earthquake in your life; it is traumatic, unexpected and unwanted. ‘What have I done, for my very macho, strong, secure, masculine husband to be removing all his body hair and transforming into something that looks a bit like a woman, whilst claiming that’s what they are?’ How can you live with that? This person who used to love you as a man is willfully undermining everything you hold dear, every reason you loved them, becoming a stranger and negotiating very little. How can that be OK? You do not have to go along with it, and maybe your survival means detaching from it. No, I was not the macho husband-man, nor was my ex suicidal. But I still perceive the reaction:

It’s obvious, isn’t it?! Who does she think I am?

From the inside, from the other side

Never ask a transsexual person to understand what it is like to be ‘cis’. We honestly don’t know. We can only imagine from the other side of transition, when memories fade. And don’t ask us to remember like you do. We can’t. Every single one of us can only remember our past experience in terms of what it meant or felt like to be ‘me’, from the inside. I wrote to my ex: ‘In a land without mirrors, my face has become ugly, and everyone can see it except me.’ What I meant was not that I am completely unattractive, but that (a) from the inside I cannot really understand why no-one wants to get physically close to me any more, and that (b) all my memories are from the inside of me, whilst everyone else’s memories of me are of the outside.

But I do still try to understand the impact of my transition, and I don’t take it lightly. Grief, rather than belligerence, mars my understanding. I do know that my wife had a man as a husband, and that this was the deal. Had I known at the time that I was born with gender dysphoria, I hope I would have been honest and dealt with it then. I would not have enjoyed 30 years living with my wife; we would never have married, because she was not looking for a woman. She would not have looked twice at me, and today, perhaps we would simply be writing occasional letters as friends from university days.

I am responsible for dissolving the husband/man façade in front of her eyes, pleading, yes, to be seen as a person not as a strictly gendered accessory. From my perspective, I can’t see why sex is so confined, and why people aren’t more attractive than their bodies. I can’t see why intimacy has to be hetero-binary. I can’t, because this is not the land I live in. But I do know that in her land, the ‘normal’ land, this is exactly how it is. Adam and Eve, Tarzan and Jane, and that is the way that most of us are made. It isn’t about the intellectual explanation, or the analysis I’ve been at pains to work through on this blog. It isn’t open to persuasion. My land is not her land, and she’s gone home. We went to the border, and she waved me off. If I was writing an apologetic for my country, then as a writer I failed, I was unpersuasive. That pen must now finally be put down.

If I have anything to say to you dear reader, if you have a transsexual spouse, or know someone who has, we may be unable to escape our gender dysphoria, but it does not mean we don’t try to understand how it is for you. It is just that authenticity comes first, and we have been forced finally to face inescapable realities that we have no choice than to embrace. You have that choice, and we cannot presume to make it for you. I hope your love is of a kind that prevails, but sadly it is rare, and you would not be unusual.

I argued a long time back to my then wife, that in the land of the blind, my hands would still feel the same, and love would not be turned away. I just see things differently, and as much as I cannot describe the colour blue to you, other than by attaching it to things, so I must accept that I could never describe my world to her. Her land is her land, and I no longer have a passport, but she has a life to lead, and maybe I’d just better not try to meet through the wire.

Which reminds me of a poem some while ago: Losing my touch (I counted on you).

Ex-communication and divorce

  • Posted on February 1, 2014 at 8:38 am

This week, nearly three weeks after the fact, I received a letter. I was already divorced and hadn’t known it. I had even written of it prospectively when it had already happened. What a strange thing. Everyone talks about divorce, some with bitter thankfulness, including those with several to their name, but this one is ‘mine’. And yet I still don’t want to own it. It was handed to me, and at the time of initiation it was a requirement, without which I could not be fully documented with a gender recognition certificate.

It wasn’t so much a door closing as standing in front of an already closed door and hearing the footsteps die away on the other side. Is there any reason any more to communicate? My ex (no longer just my PSO – previously significant other), had always said there was no reason not to be friends again, but so far has remained cold and distant. I don’t yet fully appreciate that I was never truly loved simply for myself, despite countless thousands of moments of intimacy and expressions of love. I was not my body, nor am I now. She does not yet fully appreciate that the person she loved was always a woman, and that my body was everything, my soul nothing. It’s not a criticism; it’s normal. I perceive coldness; love-amnesia. She perceives anger and resentment, not grief and profound disappointment.

Excommunication has happened. Ex-communication has not.


It is three years ago that I was preparing to leave my last job under redundancy terms. If I had known then how things would be now, I might have been less able to make this change. I am glad I did not know. I’ve got some things right and some things wrong. I’ve been a difficult friend to some and a novelty or curiosity to many. Of the people I’ve encountered in these three years, most will never have knowingly met a transsexual woman until me. I have learned, they have learned. Those unwilling to communicate or get close, those who have excommunicated me (or themselves) have been afraid that knowing me, being associated with me, or loving me, would change them, making them as socially anomalous as they perceive me to be. But just as I have written several times here, whilst our appearance and attitudes can change, we all remain the same people throughout life events. Some of us face this and dismiss our fears, others face the fear and close the door on opportunities to grow or embrace new life.

I regret ‘my’ divorce enormously. I thought love and commitment were forever and I was wrong (yes, W H Auden’s Stop all the clocks is very resonant for me). I am still adjusting my understanding of love, and realising how terribly lonely this life is if souls don’t meet.

And so I have often wondered why gender has to be everything in a love relationship. I am in the very vast majority in losing my marriage, and happy as I am for every one that holds together, it hurts that mine didn’t. Would better counseling for families and partners make any difference? There is even less support for them than there is for us, but I’m not sure whether it would help anyway. We both read the books, life stories, academic research, and all the rest. My ex was a trained counselor, and we spent a fortune and many hours in deep therapy together. None of this made any difference. Was I just hoping it would ‘change her mind’? Maybe I was, but above all I wanted her simply to see that I was just me, and that as a person I was just the same, and just as worth being close to, committed to and supported by. As being loved by.

I guess that is the hurt. You are a woman? I cannot love a woman. You always were a woman? I never really loved you at all, then, only what I thought you were. You will find someone else, just don’t expect it to be me. Yes, that hurts.


Divorce in this context is annulment. It is finding your heavily-insured Rembrandt is a worthless copy. It isn’t ‘I don’t love you anymore’ so much as ‘If I’d known, I never would.’ I feel that my love and my love-worthiness has been completely devalued and become worthless, empty. I still have my love for her, but it is like coinage for Samarkand in my pocket.

As I run my fingers through my now lovely hair, and feel how thin it is on top, I wonder how it could have been if I had grown up in a world that had acknowledged transsexuality when I needed it. I feel caught in the nick of time in several ways.

And then I recall one of my psychiatrists ending the session with: ‘And are you happy?’ My spontaneous response was: ‘If I’d known I was allowed to be this happy, I would have done this a long time ago.’ So do I regret loving someone as I have, and raising a family, and being ‘father’ in my own way? No, I don’t. What I really wish is that all of us had been aware of transsexuality and understood that it doesn’t make the person, it just makes them a different configuration from cissexuality. I wish that we had all understood that what makes a family, that what makes for loving, committed relationships is not perceived gender but a wealth of much deeper things.

This, then, is a turning point for me. There is no longer any need to communicate with my ex. We may, we may not, but it isn’t up to me any more. A final statement on her love has been made, underlined, and presented with an official red stamp in the corner. This is the reality of being born transsexual.

Divorce and the transsexual

  • Posted on June 29, 2013 at 8:18 am

It is bad enough to face divorce at any time, unless it really is a relief and an escape for you. It must be awful under the existing regime, to be a transsexual marriage survivor and have to choose between your legal gender identity (Gender Recognition Certificate, or GRC) and your marriage. Identity is your most essential right, and to require another’s permission or conditions, to be registered for who you are, is plain wrong. Under the proposed Equal Marriage legislation, a transsexual partner will still require permission from their partner to request their GRC. This too is entirely wrong, simply on principle. For a working marriage, of course it is not a barrier, but it is in no-one’s rights to even have the capacity to grant or withhold another’s identity.

Write or wrong?

Should I write about my divorce? I cast no blame and I accept none. It is personal, but also it is not private. This is a public declaration of the dissolution of a marriage. That is the whole point. Marriage is specifically public, and divorce is too.

I want to relate the experience as I go through it, because I think it raises issues of equality, fairness and justice. Let me say that what I write is not against my wife in any way, but against the system in which I feel trapped.

At this first stage, I asked to be petitioned (rather than be separated for two years) for two reasons. One is financial, and there is no need to discuss that. The other is that my GRC really matters to me, and that I can claim it long before an uncontested two-year separation, which would allow the marriage simply to dissolve. I believe it is wrong that my identity depends on my marital status, however that has been damaged.

More than this, I was brought up sharp by the realisation that legally I am still male. I cannot divorce as a female, or stay married as a female, and therefore cannot be identified as a female in the petition. And so, Ms Andie Davidson is ‘he’ throughout. There is no alternative; Catch 22. My old name and title cannot be used (I have the legal document), nor can my true gender (I cannot obtain that legal document). I have to be mismatched, and I find that objectionable.

Is it unreasonable?

And then there are the available grounds here in English law. It would have been a lot more fun to have had an adulterous affair, then at least I could have enjoyed what would lead to a very easy petition! But because I still love my wife, and because I will not call anything she has done unreasonable, there is, for people like us, only one option: to say that being transsexual is both a behaviour, and unreasonable.

I do not believe that you can call the traumatic coming out as transsexual, and the long trail up to a formal diagnosis, unreasonable behaviour. But I have to. I recognise that it was not a process of reasoned and calm discussion: ‘Darling, I think I’m trans. Can we talk about it and find a way to understand this together?’ No it was years of not understanding, longing to be discovered, and pleading to be accepted. We become not so much unreasonable as irrational in believing that clues about ourselves will make sense and derive sympathy rather than revulsion. And along the way I could have done some things better. But the outcome would have been the same. People like me live in utter fear. And the more they love, the more scared they are. I used to say: ‘I can’t walk away from this. You can. Please don’t.’


Was it unreasonable to buy heels for going out in? Or only to keep them discreet? I guess the old battered brown loafers would have looked just as unreasonable with a skirt. Is it unreasonable to wear a skirt when you know you are really a woman? Or was it unreasonable to live in fear and hide things away rather than leaping home with: ‘Look at these lovely shoes I found today!’?

Well, you tell me. The bottom line for me is that, contrary to the solicitor’s expression (I will not blame my wife for any of the actual words), I am, and was not, a transvestite, indulging unfairly in cross-dressing for perhaps fetishistic reasons in expectation that she would accept or enjoy it. Anything I did that was unreasonable was due to being undiagnosed, and therefore not knowing what was going on, or how I should live with that knowledge.

So, for me to claim my identity as soon as I wish, I must ask for divorce, and to obtain a divorce I must be named as male, indulging in ‘unreasonable behaviour’, which in the end was only congruent with my identity, which should not be in anyone’s gift to withhold from me.

In legal terms, I do think that we need at least to provide for an unwilling partner in a marriage to say that, their partner having been diagnosed as misgendered, the agreed contract of marriage has been simply broken. No blame, no bad words, no necessary legal accusations, just that formal diagnosis changes the basis of the original contract.

I have to say that being written about in this way in the petition, and at such length, has been like a victim having to relive their experience, be taken through court and cross-examined, accused and threatened, when the fault is none of their own. I don’t see myself as a victim of anything, only that the scenario of being named male, and my identity spoken of as behaviour and unreasonable, puts me back through a lifetime of self-hate that I have left behind.

So please, understand that this piece is not a personal statement of what I have to do, in order to slight anyone else. This is rather a protest about the confusion of law and its incapacity to deal with people like me fairly. If marriage were a conditional contract rather than a pretence of unconditional love, then the grounds for annulment would be much more straightforward. But of course it isn’t. Some marriages put up with adultery and are ‘open’. A few embrace an altered gender recognition (it isn’t gender change). The former, however, is grounds for divorce, the latter is not. Or maybe we should just have ‘I shall marry you and stay faithful for as long as it suits me’. That, at least would be honest.

And the rest

What I haven’t discussed here, is those not diagnosed as transsexual, but who are not in the regular, ‘legal gender binary’, and who similarly feel that being honestly who they are in gender terms is no more a choice than mine. Why should their status be regarded as unreasonable or behavioural? If you married someone who turns out to be gender queer, or who was born intersex and mis-corrected at birth, or indeed whose sexuality was not clear, they should not need to be blamed in legal terms just because you dislike it to the degree that you prefer to end the marriage.


I have to say this again, because it is near the bone. The only real reason I need a divorce on grounds, rather than after two years irreconcilable differences, is to secure my identity. The decision to end my marriage was not mine, but since it has been made, comfort in its execution should not be reason to delay obtaining my legal identity. If the marriage were not ending, I would wait for the Equal Marriage legislation to catch up, however wrong I feel that to be.

If my self-understanding is correct; if my clinical diagnosis is correct, then my wife married, loved and lived with a woman in a man’s body for 30 years, and enjoyed what we were. She doesn’t have to like that fact, now we both know it, but this scenario does not have a legal reference in order to deal with it fairly and properly.

Unreasonable behaviour

  • Posted on March 17, 2013 at 10:58 am

I have felt so unwell this week I haven’t even been reading books. I am not a lot better now, so no profound reflections this week, just this short piece I prepared earlier.

This is the week in which Vicky Pryce and Chris Huhne were handed custodial sentences for perverting the course of justice. The heart of it seems simply to be that Huhne has a tendency to drive too fast and get caught, and stood to lose his licence, and some mobility as a then Euro MP. It seems reasonable from the evidence that his then wife was under at least strong emotional pressure to dig him out of his hole. The law says it would not have been unreasonable for her to say no, but it was wrong to say yes. Huhne plainly didn’t think it unreasonable to ask. It’s what partnership is about, isn’t it?

Last weekend I encountered a neighbour from the flat below. She clearly suffers with dementia, having let her in several times from outside the front door in cold conditions, not sure what to do. She is vulnerable and I have sometimes felt bad about not taking time to stop and talk because I am on my way somewhere. She seems to have a thing about my flat, and at the weekend was knocking on my door. I let her in, a bit lost, but it happened several times in the afternoon, and whilst I did bring her in and sit her down and offer tea, she did just walk straight in without waiting. And she sees people and things not there and addresses them. Anyhow, the night I went down with flu she was talking to herself on my landing for a while, knocked on my door at 3 am and loitered, talking, in my lobby for hours. I didn’t sleep. Was she being unreasonable? I had two options: call the police (it wasn’t her fault) or wait and call social services. I did the latter, but it doesn’t guarantee anything, and my sleep may again be disturbed all night.

The following morning, with a half-hour walk in snow, not feeling too good, I found myself talking to a solicitor on my own. How, and when, and to what advantage, should we process divorce? There I was, aiming to kick into motion the one thing I never, ever wanted to do. I still don’t want this to have been the only reasonable thing we could have done. But we came soon to grounds for divorce. Either we live apart for two years (what’s this? More ‘real life experience’?) with loose ends on shared assets, or one must petition against the other. How do you dissolve a marriage that one partner does not want to hang onto, and the other cannot afford to? There was no adultery, violence or even what one would term unreasonable behaviour. It isn’t unreasonable to be what you were born, I wasn’t diagnosed until recently. I didn’t ‘turn into anything’, and it isn’t unreasonable to be a woman. More importantly, it isn’t behaviour. But equally, is it unreasonable for a wife to withdraw all emotional and sexual support? It’s in the legal list –, but for a trans partner? So to respond to the finality of my wife’s decision, one of us has to have behaved unreasonably, at the same time as saying we don’t blame each other. Maybe neither of us has. So the law would not allow us to stay married (if I want gender recognition) and has no mechanism to allow us blamelessly to part without simply waiting on a situation that cannot change.

So, back to Pryce and Huhne and justice. If we do a deal, one to petition the other for unreasonable behaviour, when truly we don’t feel that to be true –, would that be to pervert the course of justice? I shall not contest: there is no point. So what do you have to do, to really, really demonstrate that marriage has come to an irretrievable end because one partner has apparently ‘changed sex’? Just wait? I shall be up for my gender recognition certificate before we can do it that way. A one night stand would be so simple by comparison …

So a desperate politician, a loyal or afraid wife, an old lady with dementia, a wife who can’t love a woman and a woman being as reasonable as she can about herself. Maybe justice isn’t always as clear or obtainable as we would like it to be.