November 29, 2016

How to find love: The challenges facing crossdreamers and transgender people

There is someone for everyone, even if you are gender variant.

I have been communicating with a lot of male to female crossdreamers during the last nine years or so, and one of the major challenges facing many of them is extreme loneliness.

Drawing by Slav
Many of them tell me they have few if any friends. The discussion that follows often leads us in direction of the topic of romance and sex. 

There several reasons for why this becomes problematic:

Firstly, the are often confused about their own gender. As one young British crossdreamer recently told me: "I want to be a girl!"  And if that isn't possible, this person wants at least to dress up like one.

It is hard to go out and seek out a woman for love and companionship, if she expects you to play the role of the straight non-transgender man, and you dream about being the female partner. 

The fact is that many of those who are safely anchored in their assigned gender, also fear condemnation and ridicule if they reveal their gender variance to a partner.

So crossdreamers are facing two problems:

1. To find someone to love

2. If they do find someone to love, they might lose them if they tell them about their transgender nature (and I am using the word transgender in its broad umbrella sense here, including all shades of gender variant).

This is especially a problem for male to female (MTF) crossdreamers who love women.

It is possible to find love

Helen Boyd has written extensively about this dilemma in her books, and as she points out: Some female partners do not accept this side in their partner. She has quite a few harrowing stories about male to female transgender people being thrown out of their houses and denied access to their kids after coming out.

But she also adds the following:
If crossdressers realized what is going on in the rest of the world, they might realize that it's very possible for them to find relationships in which they can commit to a partner and still find themselves sexually satisfied.
Be open about it

She argues that younger women now know about their partner's crossdressing long before marriage, and start in a more accepting place. 

Indeed, much of the anger and disappointment felt by women who find out that their partner is a crossdreamer and/or a crossdresser is not that they are gender variant, but that they have kept this important part of themselves secret. 

The obvious solution is therefore to be upfront about this before the two make a long term commitment. But since most male to female crossdreamers have been conditioned by friends, family and peers to feel ashamed about their feminine inclinations ("real men" don't  dream about being women), they keep their mouths shut out of fear of losing the one they love. That is not an irrational choice. Far from it!

Women who stay

But how tolerant are women when it comes to this kind of gender variance?

Over at Unordinary Style Nadina has done some number crunching based on data from the forum. I won't argue that she follows every rule in the rule book of proper social science, but her numbers are interesting all the same.

What she found as regards partners' reactions when they found out their spouse is transgender, was the following:
  • 84% of partners did not leave the relationship upon the reveal
  • 74% percent of the partners are at least somewhat accepting of the gender variance, which could range from DADT [Don't Ask Don't Tell]  to full inclusion and acceptance
  • 68% would be considered to be openly accepting of their partner's gender variance
That is very good news for male to female crossdreamers who want to stay with their partners.

Love is more than sex

From what I see and hear, the key to such acceptance is found in three different scenarios.

The first one is that there probably are as many female to male gender variant people out there as there are male to female (and all genderqueer variants in between).

Although I know that some crossdreamers develop a more exact "queerdar" as they learn about their own gender variance, other crossdreamers are often hard to identify. This also applies to female to male crossdreamers.

MTF crossdreamers and transgender people who are attracted to men may use the gay community to find role models and lovers. This is most often not an option for those who love women.

The second one should be obvious, but is often ignored by crossdreamers who have absorbed the transphobic shame of their culture. There is much, much more to romance and love than gender stereotypes and sexual bravado.

People become friends. Friendship becomes love. And true love is, as I see it, defined by you accepting the other person as he or she is, in full, warts and all. Indeed, people who love each other often come to see the "unexpected" sides as an integrated part of the personality they have come to embrace.

Over at Crossdream Life, male to female crossdreamer Jasmine tells about the pleasant surprise of finding out that their partner did not leave when finding out about Jasmine's transgender nature:
My 'best case scenario' did not include what happened. Not only do I think she would have been 'okay' with me transitioning (though I think with my coping mechanisms I discussed with my therapist I very likely won't need, if only because the benefits won't outweigh the costs), but she's completely on board with me fulling exploring my feminine side through dressing, cosplay, etc.  
Here's the thing that surprised me. I told her about Second Life (which she knew about) and how much I've still been using it (which she didn't), but she's also okay with me having 'sex' with men on Second Life. "It's just the internet," she said. "It's not like you're going out and having sex. THAT I wouldn't be okay with".
My own wife has been extremely supportive, and has done a lot to help me cope with my dysphoria. You can read about her reaction in this blog post.

Sexuality and gender are more fluid than most think
Photo: Andrej K

Thirdly, it turns out sexuality is much more fluid than people are led to believe. Most sexologists admit that such fluidity is a normal part of female sexuality, but I am pretty convinced that this is the case for male sexuality, as well.

Men are just punished so much harder for admitting to "feminine" traits than women are for their "masculine" inclinations.

Some partners of MTF crossdreamers and trans women realize that they are really queer, bisexual or polysexual, and that this broad sexuality/identity leaves more than enough room for loving a trans person.

Amanda Crose, whose partner is now living as a woman, tells such a story over at The Establishment:
I know other women like myself whose spouses’ transitioned genders, and who stayed post-Gender Confirmation Surgery. I can’t speak to their experiences or sexuality, but I can say that I personally stayed because I loved my husband and I knew I could love my wife as well. My spouse, regardless of gender, makes me laugh, is kind to others, is politically active, shares the same political opinions as me, and has the same geeky loves as I do, including, but certainly not limited to, Harry Potter, Star Wars, and Doctor Who. We had a great life together and a beautiful son.
I didn’t want to leave. And so, I stayed.
Physical differences in my wife are becoming more apparent by the day. At first it was the removal of hair, the application of makeup, and the growth of her head hair. Then came the changes of medical transition: the growth of breasts, the development of hips and a waistline, and the softening of her facial features. 
Through these changes, I’ve remained attracted to my spouse. I find her new look to be beautiful in the way I have always been able to find other women beautiful, but the attraction is deeper since we have an emotional connection as well.
And here is the Swedish feminist and scientist Sofia Zettermark talking about her relationship with a male to female transgender person. (The video is from 2011, but as far as I have been able to find out, they are still together).

Having a challenging love life is not a transgender thing

I believe it is also important to keep in mind that love and sex are difficult areas for all people, cis or trans, straight or gay, binary or nonbinary.

In Norway 44 percent of marriages end in divorce, in the US 53. It is a fair guess that the remaining marriages are not trouble free either. And most of these couples do not contain a transgender partner.

And sometimes breaking up is the right thing to do, whether one partner is transgender or not. Life is like that. Sometimes people are unhappier together than apart.

The most important thing to keep in mind is that such a break-up does not mean that you do not deserve love or that love is impossible. This applies whether you stay as your assigned gender or whether you transition.

See also:

The loving wife of a crossdresser
How I found out my husband is a woman inside and what happened next
Cosmo: The sex life of crossdreamers 
Crossdreamer love (MTF hooking up with an FTM)
Sally's list over resources for partners of transgender people
15 Spouses of Transgender People On How Their Relationship Changed After The Unexpected Transition

And since I know that so many MTF crossdreamers think everything is impossible, I also include Jessica Darling's video (No, I have no idea why she chose that soundtrack...).

Here is another one by Sissy Bouget:


And here is a partner's reaction to a female to male reveal.

Discuss crossdreamer and transgender issues!