This post is part of a series of nine posts. Please click here to start with the series Introduction.
It was the end of 2010. I was starting to question the existence of God while my spouse was as Christian as ever. Sometimes I did not understand how he could keep believing in a God who had made him this way and then said that he couldn’t do anything about it. I couldn’t understand how it was god-honoring for a person to live their life “the way god wanted them too” while being miserable and secretly hoping that they would get into an accident somehow that would force the removal of the hormone producing organs that caused them so much mental anguish. The thought reminded me of some Quiverfull women I had encountered who in their exhaustion wished that a horrible labour and childbirth would cause a uterine rupture or something, nothing too drastic, but enough to cause the removal of their reproductive organs and the reassurance that they would be done having kids without ever having to “disobey” God’s command to be fruitful and multiply. But the idea of limiting children through artificial means to save their life or their sanity wasn’t acceptable? It was better to live life trying to glorify God with the lot he had given you? I used to think that people like that just had a bad attitude and needed to find a way to be happy with whatever God had decreed for them, now I was starting to wonder if they were just stuck in a sick system.
My spouse often asked if he should stop talking about transgender questions and issues. He worried that maybe this was too much for me and that he should just fight this alone. But I had seen how healing it was for me to talk about my own issues and to let my kids express their feelings, and I didn’t want him to have to go back to bottling it all up. So I encouraged him to continue processing as much as he needed too, and told him I would always be here to listen. Now instead of being distant or depressed on a regular basis he tried to talk about the overwhelming gender dysphoria, trying to sort out who he was and where he fit.
He had begun to relax and be himself more. He started letting down his guard and not double checking how he was moving his hands when he talked or worrying that the way he crossed his legs was “too feminine.” He started buying his own clothes, choosing colors and styles that were closer to his sense of self than the pants and polo ensemble he had been letting me buy for him. We joked that he had enough style for both of us; I tended to be very practical in my clothing choices, comfort being my highest priority, but he actually cared about how he looked and that began to be reflected in his sense of style.
The dad who used to come home and usually disappeared into the basement to play video games had turned into a parent who played on the floor with the kids every day. He wanted to be involved in their day to day lives. He was learning how to feed them and dress them, he started taking them for bedtime walks bundled up in the wagon in the pajama’s each clutching a bedtime snack and their blankies. He would talk about how 3 babies seemed to be more work than 2, and I would laugh at him and explain that to me this was the easiest parenting period yet, because he was parenting them alongside me for the first time. He stopped complaining that grocery shopping was women’s work and began going with us to the store on his day off, I didn’t have to shop alone with multiple babies and toddlers anymore.
Genuine smiles had been few and far between during the last few years, I used to have to tickle him to get him to give a real smile for pictures. Now he was smiling all the time, and laughing. Instead of shrugging and vaguely referencing a life led by whatever ministry dictated, he was dreaming about the future again. Crazy loopy dreams, like driving out to Alaska or teaching English abroad or becoming a makeup artist in the movie industry. He was getting piles of books out of the library and reading sections of them aloud after years of saying he was too busy reading theology to check out anything else. It was as if his world had become more 3-dimensional. He was swimming regularly and had lost a lot of excess weight and had started letting his hair grow longer. Sometimes I caught him in front of the mirror, he would look at his reflection and say in wonder “For the first time I am starting to like what I see.”
It seemed so natural for him, that it didn’t feel strange to see him painting the kids toenails and then painting his own. It wasn’t out of the ordinary to see him in a bubble bath at the end of the day, I laughed at how happy it made him. Choosing anniversary cards and birthday cards was easier. For the first time I felt like I knew how to really love him. A flower left on his desk or watching a movie while playing with his hair meant more to him then the silly sex ambushes all the marriage books recommended. After being married to someone who had kept part of themselves so mysterious for so long, it was a relief to be getting to know all of him. I didn’t want to lose that ever again.
That Christmas was the best we’d ever had. For the first five years of our married life I had wracked my brain every Christmas and birthday, trying to figure out what to get him. It was always bewildering to try and pinpoint what he would enjoy, and when I asked him what he wanted he couldn’t really come up with anything that sounded cool. I usually went with a book or some article of clothing in the end, but this year for the first time, I knew exactly what he wanted. I knew what he liked for the first time. I bought him a hair dryer and curling iron, tools for a trade that he told me he had always been interested in. We had hopes that going into cosmetology would get him involved in enough feminine things that he would be happy living as a male. He had experimented with some of my eye shadow, so I bought him a kit of his own to have fun with. And the pink fuzzy socks I threw in his stocking became something he wore almost every day they were clean.
It was a good Christmas.
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You can read more about Permission To Live at her blog – Musings of a young mom.
NLQ Recommended Reading …
‘Breaking Their Will: Shedding Light on Religious Child Maltreatment‘ by Janet Heimlich
‘Quivering Daughters‘ by Hillary McFarland
‘Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement‘ by Kathryn Joyce