Life With a Transgender Person Before Transitioning Is Like Living With an Alcoholic
By U. A. Nigro
I was young, naive and prepared to do anything to get out of my mother’s house. I thought I knew everything. What I didn’t realize at the time was that I was jumping from the pan right into the fire. At twenty-one, my ex-husband, already in the electrician’s union, was set in his career and ready to settle down. I thought we were normal twenty something’s just having some fun, but then I found myself pregnant. Not long after my daughter turned two I was pregnant with my second daughter. By then I knew that my ex had a real drinking problem. I lived through the severe highs and the lowest lows. I dealt with verbal, physical abuse and him destroying the house along with my things. Of course his apology the next day was always heartfelt with a side of promises that it would never happen again. He was a miserable person who didn’t want to do anything to help himself or keep his family together.
I begged and pleaded with him to go and get help. I told him that I would be there every step of the way. I told him that half of his problem was hereditary and the other half was depression. I told him that it wasn’t fair to the girls to have a father who was a drunk three quarters of the time. I told him that I couldn’t stay married to him if he continued to be abusive. I talked until I couldn’t stand the sound of my own voice. The littlest thing could set him off and I would be the one to pay for it. I had more sleepless nights than I care to remember. I lived on the edge and in fear. He put my life and the lives of my children in danger on numerous occasions without a second thought. It took me years and the support of a domestic violence center to gain the self-confidence and safe plan to leave.
“I FELT LIKE I WAS DRAGGING HIM THROUGH THE LIFE THAT I WANTED HIM TO LIVE AND IT WAS AWFUL.”
Then, there were the years I spent married to my wife while she was living as a man. Once we moved in together, everyday was not filled with joy and elation. We were happy as a family unit, but I could see that my spouse was suffering, but from what I didn’t know. There were severe bouts of depression. Sleepless nights spent in front of the television. Mood swings and self-medicating. Disappearing into the office for hours on end and missing out on time spent with the girls. Slapping a smile on his face so he could attend family events. I felt like I was dragging him through the life that I wanted him to live and it was awful.
I began to think that his absence from our lives was somehow my fault. The thoughts circling around in my head were starting to make me crazy. Perhaps “he” was having second thoughts about marrying a woman with three small children. He was well on his way to an exciting career that would have taken him all over the world and now he is strapped down with a family. Could there be another woman pulling him away from me? Maybe he has fallen out of love with me and can’t find the right words to tell me? We have always had a very open relationship, able to talk about anything and everything. Why now would he not want to share his feelings with me? It made me feel like I was going down the path to self loathing again and bringing back a sense of feeling inadequate.
“IN RETROSPECT, LIVING WITH MY WIFE BEFORE SHE KNEW THAT SHE WAS TRANSGENDER WAS A LOT LIKE LIVING WITH MY EX-HUSBAND WHO WAS AN ALCOHOLIC, MINUS THE ABUSE.”
We had plenty of late night conversations about how he felt different than everyone else. He couldn’t put it into words, but would refer to himself as an alien. I always reassured him that it was his creative side that made him different. We share a love of the arts and artists aren’t always normal people. I too had similar feelings of being looked at like the odd man out. Finally after being together for a little over twelve years “her” bell rang. It happened on a weekend when the girls and I were away visiting family out of town. In retrospect, living with my wife before she knew that she was transgender was a lot like living with my ex-husband who was an alcoholic, minus the abuse.
Watching someone slowly kill themselves with alcohol is torture. It is almost the same as watching a car wreck in slow motion. Without treatment, eventually they drink themselves to death or they saturate their internal organs until they no longer work. Some alcoholics make the fatal decision to get behind the wheel and kill themselves that way. They call alcoholism a disease and there are treatment facilities all over the country to help them get better. This is a condition where without help; they can’t come back from it. I see living with a partner who cannot transition as being the same as living with an alcoholic who won’t get help. Too many transgender people feel that it is not safe to come out and their families won’t accept them. Some of them turn to alcohol. They themselves are looking for ways to die. Some spouses refuse to let their partners transition because they are uncomfortable with it. To me this is just like sitting by and watching them drink themselves to death. It makes me incredibly sad to think about transgender people all over the world who are unable to transition because of intolerance from their families. You can choose to stay or let them go, but let them get the help they need.