Anne Vitale PhD, Editor

Notes on Gender Role Transition


How to Tell Your Spouse

By Julie Freeman

Reprinted by permission of the author. Originally published in Volume 18, Number 4 of the Devil Woman, the newsletter of the Diablo Valley Girls


April 7, 2008


The question of when to tell a spouse about transgenderism has no one answer fits all. Every situation is different. Some crossdressers go their entire lives without ever telling members of their families; others eventually tell their spouses, and perhaps their families, but many times years later.

But imagine the following situation - a wife comes home one afternoon to find a note pinned to her bedroom door stating that her husband was inside, dressed as a woman, that he had been doing this for years and could no longer keep it a secret.  The wife could not open the door, totally lost. 

Imagine another situation - a crossdresser desperate for help feels that his marriage is about to explode. He believes that his wife suspects he might be a crossdresser or more likely suspects he is having an affair. He knows because she is searching the home for hiding places, scrutinizing his e-mail, and because he thinks what she was reading is out of context, might even believe he is gay.

So situations can get out of hand, as noted above, and it no longer becomes a question of whether or not to tell and when, but how to tell as quickly as possible and appropriately. Simply pinning a note on the door or telephoning the wife in a desperate moment is NOT the way to tell! Coming home and discovering your husband/partner crossdressed is never correct. Who knows what might be imagined or feared! There are so many issues to be addressed that surprise should never be a part of the disclosure. 

So how best to tell the wife. The wife or partner needs to be introduced to the world of crossdressing in a calm, rational, cautious, and appropriate manner.  It is up to the crossdresser to clear the air, state the truth, and deal with the fallout- whether it is positive or negative. Crossdressers most likely already know before telling their wives that they can react in a variety of ways, but should be aware of course that reactions vary widely. Some wives may resent not having been told sooner; others may be so filled with fears and anxieties that they won’t even listen to what their partners have to say. Some, but very few, may appear to be accepting from the get go. But this may or may not actually be the case.

So it would be beneficial and desirable for the crossdresser to have on hand some books or magazines on crossdressing, especially those geared towards significant others. Reading these books might help wives learn about crossdressing in an appropriate, non-threatening, manner. They are more likely to become accepting if they become educated as to the reasons their partners crossdress and learn that the sensationalism portrayed by the Jerry Springers of the world are just theatrics and not realistic.

There are support groups for SO's on-line and the partners might want to have available those e-mail addresses for her to make contact if she should so desire. He should also be aware of any local support groups and/or helping therapists for the both of them. But not having this information available should not prevent him from telling her! In dire situations, such as those described above, it would be best to mention that these resources are available and that he will locate them as soon as possible.

If he has time to plan, he should not tell her on the spur of the moment. It should be at a time when there is plenty of time for him to explain and for her to ask questions. It should be done privately, not where children, for example, might burst in on them. He should not tell her when she has an important conference the next day or is starting a new job, etc. But again don’t delay unnecessarily!

He should prepare her first by telling her he has something important to talk to her about and that he would like to explain quietly and then have her ask questions. He should NOT be crossdressed nor should he blurt out without any preamble, "I like to wear women's clothes." She needs to be prepared that she is going to be listening to something of extreme importance to her partner. She is more likely to receive the information positively if she is prepared beforehand - not surprised suddenly. He needs to appear that he is not out of control.

What is most important is that the crossdresser realize that she may react one way one day and one way another day. She will have her ups and downs and he needs to give her space - that means time to understand, time to come to grips with crossdressing, and time to incorporate crossdressing into their relationship in a positive manner. This means that his desires and his needs may need to be put on the "back burner" so to speak. He needs to progress at her rate, which we call baby steps, and not put any pressure on her to see him crossdressed or even see pictures of him crossdressed. He definitely should not assume that because she appears NOT to react negatively that she is fine with it. She may be internalizing her feelings and not actually showing her misgivings.

He needs to be aware of her concerns and reactions. Why did he not tell her before? What about the children? Is he gay? Does he want to become a woman? Is he going to want to crossdress around the house? Is he going to go out crossdressed? All of these questions and more are sailing around in her head. He needs to be prepared to answer her questions that day and in the days and months ahead. He should not shut out her concerns and issues.

He may need to be prepared for her setting forth some guidelines and considerations for her needs and concerns. He may also have to be prepared for her being unwilling to continue the relationship - that it is just too much for her to bear. That is perhaps the biggest obstacle to whether to tell or not. But sometimes whether to tell is no longer a choice, only how to tell.


Copyright 2008 Anne Vitale All Rights reserved.

Disclaimer: Nothing on this site should be viewed as providing therapeutic advice. No formation of a client/therapist relationship with Dr. Vitale or the D Street Counseling Group is intended or to be implied or inferred. The information provided in this site is for educational purposes only. I attempt to keep the information current but make no representation or warranties in that regard. You should not rely upon this information as a substitute for consul with a qualified mental health professional.