Notes on Gender Role Transition
Anne Vitale Ph.D. Editor
A Significant Other View
by Julie Freeman
This article is reprinted with permission from DEVIL WOMAN, the Diablo Valley Girls newsletter. Ms Freeman is the wife of a crossdresser. She can be reached at Julie39@comcast.net
I was asked recently about the best way to tell a significant other that one is a crossdresser. Oh boy, I thought. Is this not a loaded question! What works for one does not work for another. That we know. Just recently a significant other mentioned that she found out when her husband suddenly appeared in bed "en femme." Although she was shocked, she also found it erotic! Since then, she and her husband have had long talks and their lives have taken a turn for the better. He is happier than he has been in years and she has discovered that their poor relationship for the past few years was not her fault, but due to his guilt and shame over his desire to crossdress. So it worked out for her, but for many women, finding out in this manner would be the final blow to a frail relationship already strained by secrets and moodiness.
We know that significant others when first finding out about their partner's crossdressing react in a variety of ways: shocked, disbelieving, curious, understanding, puzzled, bewildered, angry, amused, fearful, embarrassed, interested, resentful, concerned, etc. Some are positive reactions; others negative.
So if a crossdresser wishes to tell his significant other he should know at the outset she can react in a variety of ways. If he knew ahead of time that she would react positively then it would not matter so much how he were to tell her. But this of course is impossible. So a few guidelines might be helpful.
It would be beneficial for him to have on hand some books or magazines on crossdressing especially those geared towards significant others. There are also support groups for SO's on-line and he 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. This means that the crossdresser has to have done his homework; he should not tell her unprepared to answer questions she may have.
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.
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 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 know his own answers to these questions before he tells her and he also needs to realize where she is coming from.
This means that he has to be prepared for her setting forth some guidelines and considerations for her needs and concerns. He may or may not want restrictions but this may be an outcome if their relationship is to continue. 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. But hopefully he has already decided that keeping the secret is just too much for him to bear and that if this is her reaction then so be it.
There is no easy answer to this question. But certainly being prepared is a necessary first step.