Unwrapping the Onion: Part 7: Charting a New Course

This post is part of a series of nine posts. Please click here to start with the series Introduction.

It had been a year since my spouse had come out to me. It felt like it had been much longer. So much had changed and yet nothing had changed. We still hadn’t decided how Christianity tied in with our changing reality: I was leaning further and further away from the idea of God but my spouse still believed. We felt like there were no real answers anymore. Life was not as black and white as people wanted it to be. My spouse was talking more and more about transitioning and I felt like there was no one-size-fits-all in gender identity. Maybe my spouse would become comfortable living as a man and wouldn’t need to transition, but maybe he wouldn’t. Maybe he would transition to living as a female someday, but again, maybe he wouldn’t. The idea just wasn’t that scary to me anymore. My spouse was already living as such a feminine person as he had grown more comfortable with who he was, transition would just be a natural next step if it happened.

In fact the only fear that still clung to me was how this would affect our children, and that made me wonder if my spouse should try to put off transition until the kids were grown up. The faith and culture that I had been brought up in told me that children had to have parents of both genders to be happy, healthy, and well-adjusted. Wouldn’t our children resent us for having grown up with two female parents? How would society treat them? Would they always be the kids with the weird dad? Was it even possible to raise kids without a “manly influence?”

Despite my fears and doubts, I couldn’t deny that my spouse was happier than I had ever seen him. He was relaxed and involved. He was dressing more and more femininely at home, and the kids didn’t mind at all. They were starting to figure out that their daddy was a bit different than other daddies, but they were happy to have a peaceful parent who loved them and cared for them, talked with them and snuggled them and listened to them. It was as if a huge burden had been lifted off his shoulders, like he no longer had to spend the majority of his time struggling to constantly tread water and keep his head above the surface and stay alive. Instead, all of the energy that had been consumed in that struggle could be spent on parenting and living. The conversation about transition “someday” started to change into transition being a real option in the near future, and I couldn’t come up with a reason our kids should have to go back to having a depressed repressed parent who lived as a male and struggled to survive with the help of anti-depressants instead of a happy relaxed involved parent who lived as female. A guy as feminine as he was turning out to be was going to out of the ordinary anyway. Why was I questioning this at all? To please a god? Who had played this gender joke on us in the first place? A god I wasn’t even sure existed?

So, to combat my fear of my children growing up with gay parents, I once again turned to education. I started reading about non-traditional families and one of the stats that startled me was that over 50% of families today did not fit the traditional standard that I had been led to believe was the only healthy family. There were many children being raised by single moms or single dads. Often parents divorced and children spent time living with either parent at different times. Children today are being raised by grandparents, foster parents, and widowed parents. My kids certainly wouldn’t be the only ones with a “different” family. Studies showed that the child’s emotional well-being and healthiness had more to do with how they were respected and loved and cared for as individuals than the exact set-up of their families.

I began reading more and more about LGBTQ parents. I read the stats on how their kids did in school, and how they matured emotionally. I read books written by people who had grown up with gay or lesbian or transgendered parents, and listened to their perspectives. The stats were encouraging, and most of the hardships involved with growing up with LGBTQ parents seemed to come from the pressure from society to conform and the prejudice that created, not the parents themselves. In fact, the divorce that commonly took place after the revelation of sexuality or gender identity questions seemed to have more impact on the children than the sexuality or gender identity questions themselves. The parents and the kids seemed to have the normal range of personality traits and issues that any family would have. Why would our kids be any different? We didn’t hit them, we would accept them and love them whoever they were or whatever they wanted to be. Their emotional health and well being was a top priority for us, and would continue to be so. Did it really matter that their dad would have a unique story? Normally, if a parent had a medical condition that hampered their ability to be happy and productive, society would bless and encourage their seeking treatment. Why should my spouse’s condition be any different?

One of the things I had to consider was that if my spouse did end up completely transitioning to living as female, the medical treatments for gender dysphoria would mean an end to fertility and further genetic children. I had already come to the conclusion that I did not want as large a family as I had grown up in, but the idea of limiting children or being done was still relatively new to me. We now had four beautiful children, whom I loved dearly and who had kept me from getting a full night’s sleep for five years straight. I knew I needed a break and I did not want to become pregnant again in the near future. I also knew I wanted to have the time and energy to be there for each one of my children. But because I had spent most of my life believing that my main purpose in life was to produce children it was hard for me to imagine any other reality.

I kept thinking about it, determined to get to the bottom of my feelings and make sure that I really was OK with a future with fertility limitations. Slowly I started to see that I had value outside of my fertility. I asked myself if my spouse had any other medical condition, would I demand that he refuse treatment because it could affect his fertility? I also learned more about the range of options available for people who are undergoing treatment that may compromise fertility, including sperm banking. And I wondered if perhaps there could be a space in our family for adoption or fostering children someday, a dream which seemed so impossible back in our Quiverfull days of having a baby every 18 months.

As the idea of transition in the near future became more real, we talked at length about our children and our marriage. We asked ourselves if was divorce something that needed to happen? My spouse wanted to make sure I was really OK with him going ahead with gender transition. He insisted that he would understand completely even if we needed to part ways, and that he would continue to provide us financial support regardless. We talked about our children, and asked ourselves if they would they be better off if we separated? But divorce still didn’t make sense to me. I was happy with our relationship and thrilled with my spouse’s new involvement in our children’s lives. Even if for some reason we decided that our relationship wasn’t going to work out, I knew I would still want him involved with parenting our children. I was attracted to him now, and I couldn’t see that changing. He had been the first person to love me unconditionally, and had been there for me all along my journey of questioning and healing from my past. He was a caring, empathic, patient and passionate person, and I wanted to continue my life-story with him. And as I’d begun to unwrap my own sexuality for the first time, I was starting to feel that if we were to separate for some reason, or if my spouse were to die, I would be romantically interested in women anyway, so I had nothing to lose by staying together.

It was better for our kids for our family to stay intact,
and it was better for us,
even if that meant going through transition together.

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  • Anonymous

    Ok, I have to confess that this whole time I was secretly expecting a breakup. I know it does you discredit, but I've seen it happen so many times. I've been rooting for you both so hard! This series is amazing, and a testament to the flexibility of true love. Good luck to you both!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07125082308016872672 Becca

    It makes me sad to learn how many of us women raised in this "religion" as it were have suppressed our sexuality to begin with. I think it is awesome you stuck by your husband and embraced the change, but I think it is even more awesome you were able to admit to yourself your sexuality. So many of us wait so long….

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03519675898483081005 Mrs. Searching

    It's fascinating to me to watch this unfold. And I have to admit it makes me jealous at times, because I feel like the more my DH and I unwrap ourselves, the more we realize how incompatible we are. Which is hard to reconcile with how deeply we each care for the other.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01858152577717538284 Alexandra

    I'm new to your blog after having found it through Libby Anne's, and am so engrossed in your story. It is so powerful, and you write so well! Thanks for being so brave to share.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02614822971755761394 Rebecca

    It's been a while since I was back to your blog. Just finished reading this series thus far. I was wondering if you're going to talk about the impact on your husband's ministry? Does the church know what's going on? Will he leave ministry?

    I think a tangential point you brought up here is important…why does the Quiverful movement support pregnancies every year but not adoption? I know they would not be against adoption but at the same time, you're right, the stress of constant new babies makes adoption basically impossible. This is yet another reason why the Quiverful philosophy smacks of legalism. What would Jesus want us to do? Yes, every baby is a blessing but if you feel called to have tons of kids, why not adopt them? Wouldn't that be a non-legalistic way to follow that calling?

  • http://articles.earthlingshandbook.org Becca

    This is a really great series, so interesting and so loving!!

    As a developmental psychologist, I certainly agree that the research indicates that children raised by same-sex couples do just fine and that gender role stereotypes are more harmful than helpful. What I'm less certain about is the impact on a child if the parent of the same sex is dysphoric about that sex and transitions to being the other sex–isn't there some risk that the child will feel his sex is "wrong" in general? Of course your son can have other male role models who like being male, but if his father rejects being male to the point of changing his anatomy, isn't that bound to have some effect on your son's feelings about the acceptability of his own body? It seems to me like a serious concern, but I can hardly say, "Don't transition because of that," because your spouse's dysphoria is there either way. I guess it's more of a concern you have to address in raising your son, than it is a problem you could eliminate by limiting the extent of your spouse's transition.

    My son is 7 and intrigued by the judgment processes people use to determine the gender of someone they just met. We talk a lot about stereotypes of who wears which color or has what hair length or plays what games, how those things don't make someone male or female. In our diverse social circles, we sometimes meet adults whose gender expression is unclear. I have taught my son that questions about this should be asked privately because some people are purposely playing with gender roles but others do not mean to look/sound like the other gender and will have hurt feelings if you mention it. I tell him that if you aren't sure a person is a "he" or "she", ask the person's name and use the name instead of pronouns. We both feel uncomfortable with the idea that some people want to be other than what their private parts say they are–but if that feels weird for us, think how weird it is for them, and have compassion; furthermore, their private parts are private, so let's respect their choice of public gender. I think he's developing pretty healthy attitudes, but I do find it a difficult subject.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13674332089949439989 Melissa

    I posted a little while ago that we have left ministry, and I will explain more in the last bit of this series.

    And yes, it is somewhat confusing on Quiverfull and adopting. Some Quiverfull families feel that adoption is wonderful and seek to adopt right alongside having children, som feel that people who are infertile are the ones called to adopt, and others feel that adoption is not ideal and shouldn't be done, it depends on who you talk to. Regardless, the main idea behind Quiverfull teachings is tied not exclusively to having many children, but to being completely open without any restrictions to having as many children as your bodies can physically produce, trusting that God will provide whatever you need to care for them.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13674332089949439989 Melissa

    Becca- I had those questions about raising children who could somehow feel their bodies were "wrong" too, I forgot to include that in this series somehow. Maybe I will be able to write about it at some point in the future. The short version is that many people have medical help for medical issues they face, that does not mean those persons children will feel the need to get the same medical procedures for medical issues they do not have. A parent refusing treatment to try and keep a child from feeling like they could ever need the same treatment doesn't make sense.

  • Sapphire

    I'm not a psychologist, but as a mom to 4 and with a background in physiology and education, I wanted to address your first paragraph. People dealing with dysphoria don't do it because of anything their parents did or didn't do. It's an inherent mismatch between brain and body. Sometimes there's a physiological reason such as a nonfunctional SRY gene on the Y chromosome, but often, we have no idea why someone developed with dysphoria. If a child of a dysphoric father doesn't have the same condition, under what circumstances do you think it would develop?

    This is not a choice. As I have said very bluntly and perhaps unkindly in the past, no one CHOOSES to be the freak. Everyone chooses to blend in. For people with gender dysphoria, the choice to blend in can only go so far, until at some point the majority either start down the road to transition…or attempt suicide. A study of 6500 transgender people found that 41% attempted suicide over this issue. That's 3 times, maybe even 4 times, as many that attempt suicide while suffering from depression.

    The son in your hypothetical example doesn't choose to be male or female because of role models. That child is whatever he is, and it won't change because a father transitions. Telling someone not to transition because of the kids, or because mom can't accept it, or because you might endanger your career, or because….whatever reason you can imagine…those are the reasons that people in this situation consider suicide so often. There's never a right time, and bigoted and uneducated opinions abound that reinforce the idea that there's something WRONG with you, and that YOU'LL SCREW UP YOUR KIDS or marriage.

    How exactly do you limit the transition? It's like a ball rolling downhill. Once it starts, where do you draw the line? Only the affected person can answer that. If you try as a spouse to limit your spouse's transition, that's a recipe for divorce. You married an adult, not a child, after all.

  • Anonymous

    Since when did she come out of the closet as a lesbian? I find it amazing and disturbing how many people reading this series are just chomping at the bit for Melissa to say she's gay and her husband to transition to a woman. What I don't see here is anyone chomping at the bit to care about how this will all affect the kids. Giggling with Dad while sharing nailpolish is about, let's see – 5 minutes into the process. I'm much more interested in seeing what her kids will be like and think about 20+ years down the road, which NO ONE can predict. And a parent turning gay, OK, maybe lots of kids have to deal with that, but a parent changing gender? Hardly common. And yet it's all discussed here as if it's no big deal because it's all about LOVE! LOVE! LOVE! What I see here is selfish ADULTS who claim to care about children but who ignore BASIC HUMAN ORDER that has existed for thousands upon tens of thousands of years. But because it's trendy to accept anything-goes in the last 50 or so years of history, well then, by all means, let's all go along with it. Applause and more applause.
    Kittengirl

  • Anonymous

    Well thank you very much for saying something resembling truth in your first paragraph. Yes, a parent changing gender is a very big deal and it would obviously require counseling and a plan of attack where children are concerned. One can't rely on snuggling and Dad/kids feeling more relaxed as any indication that all is well in this home. Not even close. I wish people would quit fooling themselves while they fall over themselves to offer congratulations to parents who are being supremely selfish. Melissa, you and your husband made your bed with having your children and they are your first concern, not your post-divorce gay tendencies or your husband's desire to transition. I'm not saying you and your husband deserve a life of utter unhappiness, but certainly, you both gave up many rights when you had kids. Your husband lied to you by marrying you, even if it is understandable that he was afraid. Separation for the sake of your kids only should definitely be on the table here. And not for lack of love of your spouse, but so that your kids don't have to see the day-to-day transition of a father growing breasts and having a voice change, etc. If you think that won't be disturbing to them and have a long-term impact on them that will be negative, think again.

  • Caravelle

    You are wrong that "BASIC HUMAN ORDER" is less important for kids' well-being than "LOVE LOVE LOVE". It's been shown time and time again, at least insofar as "BASIC HUMAN ORDER" means "1950s gender roles and prejudices".

    If "NO ONE" can predict how Melissa's children will turn out, how about you calm down about it and let Melissa deal with her own children ? Or even better do the research yourself as Melissa shows she did in this chapter and find out whether it is in fact true that "NO ONE can predict" that kind of thing. Because while transgender parents are more uncommon than gay parents, they exist too and have existed in the past.

  • Caravelle

    I'm not saying you and your husband deserve a life of utter unhappiness, but certainly, you both gave up many rights when you had kids.
    You're not saying, but…
    Utterly unhappy parents are less likely to raise happy children. Do you wish that for Melissa's kids ?

    If you think that won't be disturbing to them and have a long-term impact on them that will be negative, think again.
    If you'd read the post a bit more carefully you might have noticed the bit where she thought about it a lot more than you have. I mean, she actually resorted to looking stuff up gasp.

    You are disturbed. That is absolutely understandable; gender variance can be very disturbing to people who aren't used to it.

    But, and this might be hard to imagine, not everybody is as disturbed as you and many others are. Some people habituate themselves just from being exposed to the concept and digesting it, others just don't have the same hang-ups. You can see this very process happening through Melissa's story – how a disturbing concept became less and less disturbing as she thought about it, until ideas that were inconceivable before became options. Note that this took many months.

    Does this mean your disturbed-self's opinions on transgender issues are wrong ? Not necessarily. You could be right, or the opinions of those who aren't disturbed at all could be right, or the truth could be somewhere in between.

    But it does mean your opinions are uninformed. You are projecting your own disturbance onto Melissa's children; you give no reason why they would be damaged by their parents' transition. That reason is obvious to you after all ! But it is all borne from your own sense of disturbance; you don't know that it applies to Melissa or her children.

    Your next step should be to research the question, so that your opinions on other people's lives may have more weight behind them than your own personal emotional reactions.

  • Caravelle

    Thank you again for this series, it's amazing.

    I remember some time ago you posted about how strange the idea of not having twenty kids was to you, and I commented something along the lines of you could always stop now and have other children at any point in the future… I really feel stupid now when I realize in what context you were asking yourself those questions ! I guess it goes to show one should always think twice about assuming things about other people's lives.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06583242351453043902 Kelseigh

    Basic human order includes variance in gender, the same way there is variance in personality, skin colour, body type, sexual preference, etc., etc. Kids learning that yes, there are different sorts of people out there, who feel in many different ways, including ones that touch their lives in a very real way is a positive thing that will make them better able to function in the real world with less prejudice than you exhibit, dear Anonymous. Not lying to children is a very good thing, and children appreciate that.

    Oh, and regarding Melissa's sexuality, she's mentioned in this series about being attracted to women, and indeed in this very post states that without her spouse she'd be romantically interested in women. So we're entirely going by her own words here, not exactly champing at any bit.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06583242351453043902 Kelseigh

    I must thank you for this series so far, Melissa. As a trans woman myself, and one who's received a rather staggering amount of love and support from friends and family over the years, I appreciate this rare look into gender dysphoria and transition from a partner's point of view.

    You have shown yourself throughout to be intelligent, empathetic, kind and accepting. Your spouse is very lucky to have someone like you, and the love of your children, to get them through what tends to be a very uncertain and difficult process.

  • Anonymous

    Anon @ 12:24:

    I just wanted to chime in, although I'm not sure if you're in an emotional place to listen to anyone who disagrees with you.

    I totally agree that counseling is a good start. Heck, everyone should have a counselor! Going into unknown territory is always helpful with someone who has training in emotional support and can give an outside (and hopefully evidence-based) perspective.

    I disagree, however, that the parents in this case are "being supremely selfish." Staying together, knowing that her husband has gender dysphoria, while pretending nothing is wrong OR separating merely because of it will both be traumatizing to children. Children can tell when the adults in their life are not happy, and many times they will find a way to unnecessarily blame themselves. It sounds to me like Melissa is clearly looking for knowledge that allows her to make an informed decision here and then carefully decide what is best for her/her family.

    It doesn't even make sense when you say that "separation for the sake of your kids" has to be an option – this sounds just as traumatizing to me as many other options. Melissa clearly has her kids in mind when she is deciding her next step, so it seems strange that you think you already have the answer for how her kids will be affected (especially since we haven't even seen the end of the story yet!).

    Also, citation desperately needed for your claim that her kids will be screwed up because their father is transitioning. If anything, the kids will learn that not all people are the same and that gender is not the strict category that society will try to impose on them. Lots of bodies change over time – even theirs when they go through puberty. Does this mean that adolescence and aging should also be considered disturbing? Please stop grasping your pearls and lamenting the fact that her children may be more well-adjusted and compassionate than the general population. Diversity is healthy – it keeps the bigotry away.

    What seems most important is communication with the children to explain what is happening and why. And that it isn't their fault. And that everything will be OK even if you are a little different than the average family. Automatically declaring doom for her family seems awfully short-sighted and seems to be coming from a place of fear of the unknown. Try educating yourself a little bit please.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08782366056731381450 Froborr

    Well, it's not quite the same thing as changing gender, but my mother came out of the closet as a lesbianwhen two of her children were teenagers and one just barely prebuscent.

    We had a relative spewing the same BS as the anonymous commenter(s) (not sure if they are the same person or not) above. "Oh, it will confuse the children, you're being so selfish, what I am used to is the natural order and anything else is a risky experiment," all that garbage.

    You know what? The day she came out, the only person surprised was Mom, her surprise being that the rest of us had realized it long before, and the only reason we hadn't said anything was that we weren't sure if she knew!

    All three of us have developed into reasonably well-off and well-adjusted young adults, and are all in the early stages of starting families of our own. My mother remarried a few years ago to my completely awesome stepmother, whom I am very glad to have in my life.

    So, all you concern trolls with your "traditional families" (invented out of whole cloth by 1950s television producers, by the way) and "what about the children" and so forth? I cordially invite you to speak not whereof you know nothing, take your wholly imaginary "tens of thousands of years," and stick 'em where the sun don't shine.

  • Anonymous

    Oh, I see, Dad growing boobs isn't a good reason to be damaged by a transition. For crying out loud, can you hear yourself?

    I have gay friends, I have a gay ex. I've been around more of this than you know. In fact, I once had a drag queen for a room mate. That's all great(?), but there are KIDS, precious kids involved. Human beings are fragile.

    Live and let live if the consequences affect yourSELF. That's not the case here. And then we have a wife thinking that a sticker in a jewelry box possible translates into a lesbian orientation? Come on! If every girl who got her boobs felt up at a slumber party by another girl or every boy who had a one-month crush on a camp counselor convinced themselves that made them bisexual and then acted on it, where would be today? (WAIT: Someone is going to answer and it's going to be all good and love! love! love!)
    Kittengirl

  • Anonymous

    Why, yes, men and women having intercourse to produce children, and then living with said children as a family unit is soooooo 1950's. Tell me, how DID people reproduce prior to "Leave It to Beaver"? Aliens? Was there some secret gay parenting society in the dark ages that I don't know about? Were neanderthals reproducing and then breaking apart and living in same-sex enclaves? Did I miss something?

    AGAIN, can you all hear yourselves?

    Where is natural law in this? It seems to me the people here clamoring for same-sex marriage and gender-bending and Dad wearing a bra probably and mostly had the benefit of semi-intact family structures. Or am I wrong about that? Is the truth really that divorce, single-parents, and a slew of other dysfunctional family scenarios the real reason everyone is so pro-anything-goes-as-a-family?

  • lisbet

    I just wanted to offer my support to you. This is a challenging thing you are going through, but I'm so glad that you both have each other to lean on. Happy parents DO make better parents, and children seem to consider normal whatever it is they grow up with (until they reach a certain age and get super self-conscious about conforming for a while, I suppose). I'm really glad to hear your husband is transitioning and hope that if you want it you can find a way to be religious in such a way that is reconcilable with where you are now. I should send my husband over to comment- he's quite religious (Orthodox, as I've commented), and we have several friends who have transitioned- and my husband has quite a past history of gender-bending and crossdressing himself (not the same thing as being transgender of course; my comment is just meant to articulate that people can find peace with both.)

  • lisbet

    By the way, there is a great episode of the podcast/radio show This American Life about transgender children. If you haven't already heard it, I believe it can be listened to from their website for free. (It was only part of an episode, but SO compelling).

  • Anonymous

    You can call it diverse, you can call it open, you can call it loving, you can call it whatever you want, but it is not normal nor recommended to watch your father take hormones and grow breasts and go through multiple surgeries to form a vagina, etc. You can love a person all you want through such a process, you can be supportive all you want, etc. But in the end analysis natural law, like one of the anonymou's is arguing (thank you anonymous!) ought be the guiding principle. I hadn't thought about the physical implications of this, so I'm glad someone mentioned it and certainly it's not going to be healthy for a child to see these things or have such changes and surgeries explained.

  • Anonymous

    "Oh, I see, Dad growing boobs isn't a good reason to be damaged by a transition. For crying out loud, can you hear yourself?"

    Can you hear yourself?

    It's perfectly natural to have breasts if you are female, as her spouse is realizing about hirself. These kids ALREADY have a female "father" so it'll just be more damaging if the parents aren't honest to their kids about the (as Melissa refers to it) medical condition.

    Learning that people assigned one gender at birth can change that gender later will only serve to break down artificial barriers between the sexes. How is that a bad thing? Oh wait, only if you believe in 1950's gender stereotypes about the "proper role" and "proper look" of each gender.

    "here are KIDS, precious kids involved. Human beings are fragile."

    Wow, this is a clear case of ::fingers in ears:: "na na na na I'm not listening! Learning something new could change my mind and I don't wanna!" Education will set you free. Let people make their own decisions – deciding for them will create more hostility and damage than letting them decide for themselves.

    "And then we have a wife thinking that a sticker in a jewelry box possible translates into a lesbian orientation?"

    Since when can someone tell someone else's inner feeling and desires by never meeting them before?

  • Anonymous

    "Why, yes, men and women having intercourse to produce children, and then living with said children as a family unit is soooooo 1950's. Tell me, how DID people reproduce prior to "Leave It to Beaver"? Aliens? Was there some secret gay parenting society in the dark ages that I don't know about? Were neanderthals reproducing and then breaking apart and living in same-sex enclaves? Did I miss something?"

    "Where is natural law in this?"

    You sound like the anonymous that posted below. If so, then I would beseech you to, again, try to educate yourself before speaking.

    Prior to modern age, there have been many different types of relationships between adults – polygamous, homosexual, bisexual, etc. Transgender people are also not a recent phenomenon – there have been stories of people living as a gender that did not match their assigned sex throughout history. Yes, female-to-male mating causes children in the homo sapiens species, but that in no way implies any particular way that the adults that produced said children should live. Many species in the animal kingdom have produced male caregiver, multiple males per one female, multiple females per one male, monogamous, single-parent, and many other combinations of families. That IS natural. Just because you have a preference for how you live your life does not mean that it is the "natural order" … especially when evidence exists to prove otherwise.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06583242351453043902 Kelseigh

    " Dad growing boobs isn't a good reason to be damaged by a transition."

    Well no, why would it be? You haven't really given anything but your own supposition and "some of my best friends are gay", neither of which are substantial in any way. What comes across in your posts is neither knowledge nor compelling reasoning, but simple fear.

    What are you so afraid of? People being different from you?

  • Petticoat Philosopher

    Right, because we all know that the ability to reproduce naturally is what makes people good parents. Seriously, who cares? The only reason people with your ideas fetishize fertility in relationships so much is because it's the only thing that sets your Preferred People (straight, cisgendered people) apart from everybody else. Except straight, cisgendered adoptive parents. Whoops.

    And funny you should mention same-sex enclaves. Ever heard of the Shakers? They were a Christian sect in the 19th century and they DID raise children in same-sex enclaves. They also had a huge membership for many generations. If you actually take the plunge and research history and anthropology, you'll find that you can't take the "nuclear family" for granted as natural nearly as much as you want to. People from many cultures would wonder how one can properly raise a child WITH ONLY a mother and a father. How can kids be raised properly without the whole community taking part in their upbringing? How can they be raised properly with only the parents in the home, instead of multiple generations of one family all living together? There has always been a wide variation in types of families and there are many that work. The only common denominator among them seems to be love so, yeah, that's what we care about. I know, what a bunch of saps we are, caring about *shudder* LOVE! Clearly a threat to all of human civilization.

    And I hate to burst your bubble but gay parenting is not some big, new experiment. The results are already in and they say what any person without bigotry towards gay people would probably figure out on her own anyway: that children raised by same-sex parents do just as well as other children. Open LGBT families have existed for a while. I know people with gay parents who are my age–my twenties. They're fine, by the way. And I don't see why children of an LGBT family with a trans parent would be any different. Little kids aren't nearly as obsessed with gender as adults are anyway. We teach that to them. We don't have to.

    And where is natural law in this? How about this–maybe it's not there! True story: not everybody's a Catholic or gives a hoot about the Church's idea of natural law. yes, you've got to share the world with non-straight, non-cisgendered people AND non-Christians. The world's becoming a scary place indeed. Attacking this one woman and her family in ways that are, I must say, increasingly nasty, is not going to turn back the clock to a time when gay and trans people lived miserable, secret lives. Humanity is moving on. Sorry.

  • Anonymous

    Melissa, since I've posted a couple times anonymously, I just wanted to say directly to you that I respect you putting your story out there. There is clearly a backlash against it, with many people making moral judgments about something you are experiencing and things you have researched that they have not.

    Unless you have had gender dysphoria, or known someone who does, then it is hard to imagine what it is like and how it manifests. This isn't about dressing up at the opposite gender for kinks, people! Or to purposely mess up everyone's life around you! It's not about you! (sorry, rant over)

    It must be hard to get disparaging comments from complete strangers on top of whatever you have dealt with personally. One reason I spoke up now is to let you know that there are some out there who listen before judging, and think without letting their culture tell them how to think first, even if we don't always let you (or others in our lives) know. Thank you.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06583242351453043902 Kelseigh

    Awesome! It's diverse, open and loving, all things that are good for children to experience. Thanks for permission to say that, you rock!

  • Aubergine

    Want to give us some authority for your statements? I'd love to know what you're basing them on.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13136739606859501801 Dave

    Melissa, I've always enjoyed your blog since I first stumbled across it a while back, but this series is the most one of the most amazing I have read anywhere. Your unconditional love and support for your partner and your kids is inspirational, and I'm sure many of your readers take strength and inspiration from your story, so thank you for sharing it. You are one remarkable person.

    As a side note, I find it interesting that the positive and constructive commenters on these posts generally share their names, or at least a pseudonym, but the negative and judgmental hide behind 'anonymous'.

  • Petticoat Philosopher

    @ Becca

    Like Sapphire says, kids don't learn their gender identity from their parents. And if attitudes about what gender it's better to be affected kids' gender identity, then every single biological girl would choose to transition to being male, since girls are pretty much inundated from birth with the notion that boys are better than girls. Why would I have wanted to be the same gender as the characters on the cartoons that can't seem to do anything but get themselves into sticky situations that necessitate their rescue by a man? Why would I want to be the gender that the gym teacher uses to disparage students when they can't throw a ball well? Well, because that's just what I am inside. My body is female, my gender identity is female, and, oddly, I like being female, despite the efforts of all of society to convince me that I shouldn't! Goes to show you how intrinsic to an individual gender identity is.

    I didn't really used to understand the idea of transgendered people or gender dysphoria either, although I never had any issue with it. Then, when I was a freshman in high school, one of my school clubs had a guest in who was a trans woman and local LGBT activist. She told her story to us, explaining that gender identity and sexual orientation were not connected, that she had always been attracted to women but had just felt that she was born in the wrong body, had always felt like a woman inside. And I got it. I thought about my own identity, and how central being female is to my conception of myself. And I thought about how I would feel if I felt that way, but had a male body instead. I'd want to transition too! And that was that. I think my sureness in my own gender identity actually helped me to understand transgenderism better.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14423309373403650082 basketcase

    I know I have seen an article somewhere recently by a gay parent, whose son "came out" to them as straight.
    "Mum, I like girls". "Thanks for telling me that darling, thats good for you" was about the sum total of the conversation. He understands that not everyone likes the other sex, and he is a 4 year old telling his mum that he knows he is not like her.
    It was actually quite cute :)

  • Petticoat Philosopher

    @ Anonymous

    ZOMG DADS GROWING BOOBS WHAT IS THE WORLD COMING TO!!!

    Is the only thing resembling an argument you can make simply re-stating over and over again how freaky this all sounds to YOU? We get it, YOU think gender transitioning is icky. YOU are not one of Melissa's children.

    And I think little kids are probably MORE amenable to the idea of fluid gender and gender transitioning than adults. They haven't had gender pounded into them yet. You think little kids are going to be as freaked out as you are by the idea of dad having breasts? Well, I've heard mothers talk about how their sons–not just their daughters–imitated their breast-feeding with their stuffed animals when they were little. They clearly don't have the same fixed ideas about what kinds of bodies are appropriate for which as adults do.

    Kids just aren't as obsessed with gender as we are. They're curious about it but they're still learning. I remember when, at some point when I was an older kid, I came to the jarring realization that Elmo from Sesame Street had been a BOY! It's not that I'd thought he'd been a girl when I was little and watching him. It's that I just didn't really think of him as anything. He was just Elmo, and that was fine with me. I never questioned it. Kids just don't sort people into boxes as much as adults do and they're much more accepting and impressionable. Melissa's kids are all young, and this is going to be their normal. It doesn't have to be yours.

  • Anonymous

    Enh there are lots of things that I think are selfish when parents do them. For instance, I think trying to force kids into a certain ideological mold or a certain family style because it reflects well on the parents is selfish – whether it's Quiverfull homeschooling or "my kids love living in an anarchist squat with no running water and being unschooled by a drifter named Shingles". I think demanding that children define their family in a way that makes you feel better is selfish – from "tell Uncle Pete you love him even though he creeps you out" to "mommy and daddy are dating this nice lady and her children are now your brothers". I think making promises you're not going to keep to your children because you feel like it or want to believe them is selfish. I might think forcing kids to call their parent by a different title all of the sudden is selfish. Just because things aren't ideal, though, doesn't mean that they're selfish. This might be trans-negative of me, but I wouldn't have wished on Melissa's children that their father have a serious and poorly-understood medical condition that might require multiple surgeries and a daily medication to correct. That's not ideal – I wish her husband had been born with the right body! – but it's not selfish anymore than my mother having breast cancer when I was little is selfish. Did her needing to have her breasts surgically removed and go through several long and debilitating treatments change my view of my body as I matured? Well, yes, it really did. Was it selfish of her to treat a serious medical condition, knowing that it might affect me? Clearly the consequences of not treating it were worse. I am unnerved by what lies ahead for Melissa and her family. I don't trust that they're always going to make perfect decisions, because their situation is not ideal, but that situation is not a choice, only their responses are.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01403312898195300346 SquireBramble

    I haven't commented before, but I have really enjoyed Melissa's blog for the past 6 months (found it via Love,Joy, Feminism), but I just had to reply to this above:

    "But in the end analysis natural law, like one of the anonymou's is arguing (thank you anonymous!) ought be the guiding principle."

    Natural laws describe physical phenomena in the universe, for example, quantum mechanics, or general relativity. So according to Anonymous here, no perpetual motion machines for you or your spouse, Melissa! At least not in front of the children.

    "In this house, young lady, we obey the laws of thermodynamics!"
    ~ Homer Simpson

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02614822971755761394 Rebecca

    Thanks…I looked back and found that post. Interested to hear where your husband is in his faith too.

    Even if Quiverfull folks think adopting is ok…who can do it? Such legalism… Glad you found your way out of that…

    Although, there are definitely some differences in our beliefs re. sexuality, as always I appreciate your writing and vulnerability and heart to overcome all the dysfunction of your past. Glad to be back to reading your blog. (I've not just been away from yours but having trouble keeping up with most blogs I normally read!)

  • Anonymous

    She put it out here in public, so it's open for commentary, last time I checked. If you all don't want to hear an opposing view, then ask her to turn her blog private. (But then all the transgendered people innudating her blog wouldn't have a place to high-five each other.)

    Yes, Melissa is handling this with love and grace. No one is denying that. But to deny that natural law plays a role in genetics and physical development, etc., is blind, utterly blind.

  • Anonymous

    Emotions are not a medical condition. Emotions do no justify making decisions that are inherently wrong – mutilating your body in such a way is surely wrong and goes against, again, the natural order of things. Only in the last 20-30 years has it even been remotely possible to transition to another gender in such a complete way. Which does not make it a lasting thing or even a good thing. I'd say the jury is still out on that.

    And yeah, so sue me that I'm Catholic. Last time I checked, Melissa felt the only religion that understood and honored her situation was Catholicism. Too bad she didn't "research" the Catholic position on what her husband is actually proposing to DO to himself. (That word research! She's done soooo much research! Citing studies that 20 year old kids of gay parents are oh-so-great, even while there's still a lifetime of effects that gay parenting can have. Twenty year olds generally don't know jack sh*t about life, last time I checked.)

    But of course, one must be god-less to do any of this. One doesn't have to answer for what they're doing if one claims atheism. Very convenient. God would never OK this, even though he would certainly still love the person who does this. But again, this whole faith journey over here has really been the journey to un-faith. Too bad the husband came along for the ride.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06583242351453043902 Kelseigh

    You keep saying "natural law". I do not think that means what you think that means.

  • Anonymous

    I'm talking about natural law in the Catholic sense, which I realize no one here cares about, since virtually everyone here is anti-religion. But it bares reflection nonetheless.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06583242351453043902 Kelseigh

    "…mutilating your body in such a way is surely wrong and goes against, again, the natural order of things."

    Having pierced ears is evil, EVIL I TELL YOU!

    Seriously, you poo-pooh Melissa's research, but what have you provided aside from the equivalent of "trans people are icky"? And in the process get them mixed up with gay people, which does wonders for your credibility.

    A happy, healthy trans parent who's honest with themselves is better than a depressed, withdrawn, possibly suicidal parent who isn't. Not sure how a reasonable person can argue otherwise, but I suppose that's the effect of organized religion. It removes your reason and replaces it with someone else's.

  • Delish

    In all fairness, I came over here from a forum of similar struggling people in the LGBT community, and I think a lot of other similar people are finding their way to this amazing story, too. So we should all remember that perhaps there is an over abundince of people here who are sympathetic to the situation at hand, which might not be totally representative of the usual audience at this blog, which seems to be highly religious in nature. It's only natural that there would be voices here disturbed by this story, given what seems like a mommy blog of struggling Christians? Us Q folk do have a tendency to flock to places where we're welcome and for the time being it seems we're all welcome here because we can relate. There might be a majority of Q folk here discussing this.

  • Anonymous

    I just want to say to Melissa, please don't listen to the comments calling you and your spouse "selfish." Happy, fulfilled, loving parents make for happy, fulfilled, loving children. Your kids have two parents who love them and who love each other. That sounds pretty ideal to me. I grew up in a conservative Christian household with married heterosexual parents, and I did NOT have that. I would've given anything for a "dad" like the one your spouse turned into as she became more accepting of herself.

  • Rosa

    First, have you never heard of mental health? You sound like you want your emotions to be laws and other people's emotions to not count, even in what they do with their own bodies. How is that reasonable?

    Historically, people transitioned (as Melissa mentioned in a previous post) to the extent possible with the technology/culture they lived with. Cisgendered people emphasize their genders in just as modern and unnatural in Western society – the amount of dehairing, colorizing, boob-lifting (mechanical or surgical – I have a quite state of the art bra), hormone managing, etc. that cisgendered women routinely practice was culturally unthinkable 100 years ago and technologically impossible a few decades before that. So what?

    And out here in the real world, there are kids of out gay parents who are 30, 40, 50 years old – the studies took a while to catch up but it's not hard to see that queer parents are parents, with kids affected by many other things much more than their parents sexualities.

    What we don't have are good studies of the effects of homophobic and transphobic parenting, though it's not hard to find a LOT of anecdotes about the damage.

    • Dubliner

      I was reading the research on the damage that many conservative religious people do to their gay offspring quite recently. In Atlanta where it is not uncommon for so called Christian pastors to recommend putting gay children out of the family 40% of the homeless are gay boys/young men. And the suicide rate among them is over 60%. Religious right families seem to see love as far more conditional than those who are more religiously liberal or non religious. Give me an ala carte Catholic any day to a devout Catholic. Far more humane people.

  • Rosa

    I do admire your attempt to universalize Catholic ownership for the concept of "natural", though. It's not as effective as the way some Protestants have claimed the word "Christian" for themselves, but I can see you're really putting effort into it.

    Catholicism also doesn't equal religion, btw. People of faith can disagree with your judgements without hating religion.

  • Paula G V aka Yukimi

    Apart from all the very good reason that Peticoat Philosopher and Carvelle have already pointed, I would like to point that why do people think natural is always best? (apart form the fact that homosexuality is present in a lot of animal species for example anyway or that ancient cultures like the greeks or the oriental people practised homosexual acts) Is an apendicectomy natural? of a transplant or computers? What's the hung up with natural??? As a society we've learned to tolerate each other better and I don't know if that's natural or not but it's way better.

    For the other point, my parents divorced when I was 10 and they agreed my mother should have main custody which it's probably the best thing that happened to us. In fact my mother stayed with him for our supposed good for longer that she should have to the point that she was in a depression by the time they divorced. It was a healthier environment without the fights. I don't want to think how it would have been if they had continued together but I guess it wouldn't be pretty XP There wasn't love anymore there so call me sappy too but I value love more and I have no problem with LGBTQ parents.

  • Mary

    Anon@5:20:

    Not sure why it "bares" reflection since as far as I know Catholic theology can't get naked.

    For real though, if you don't believe in God, why would obscure religious doctrines in any way deserve consideration? Do you for example reflect on my personal doctrine of Christianity being harmful to the mental health of human beings before you teach your kids about the Nativity?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01403312898195300346 SquireBramble

    What good is this so-called 'Catholic natural law' if it does not describe reality, or cannot be equally applied to entities regardless of what religion they (if sentient) follow? Why don't you attempt to explain it rather than using vague equivocations? That's rather dishonest, as it pretty much shuts down the possibility of intellectual debate. But then, honesty isn't your goal, is it?

    There are no natural laws in biology in any case.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06583242351453043902 Kelseigh

    Catholic natural law, eh? Guess that makes sense. After all, who'd know more about marriage, raising children and gender expression than a bunch of celibate old men in dresses?

    One thing you're right about, I guess I am anti-religion. I'm not anti-spirituality, though. I don't need a phalanx of holy bureaucrats between me and my object of faith, telling me how to think.

  • Paula G V aka Yukimi

    Not believing in gods doesn't mean you are anti-religion, it just means that religious arguments make no sense at all to us. I'm not anti-religion althouhg people like you always tend to make me want to be ^^

  • Anonymous

    There are a couple of studies of this, largely by Tonya White. I only have access to White T. Adaptation and adjustment in children of transsexual parents. European child & adolescent psychiatry. 2007-06;16:215-221 through my school. Things I think are interesting from this article:

    - young children adapted pretty smoothly to parents transitioning. Teenagers had a harder time.
    - a longer wait between coming out as transgendered to spouses and transitioning did not improve family relationships; in fact, the longer the transitioning parent waited, the greater the level of conflict between that parent and their child seemed to be.
    - "There were two primary factors that predicted a healthier, or less conflicted relationship between the child and the transitioning and non-transitioning parent. These factors included a younger age of the child at the time of the transition (Fig. 1) and a positive relationship between the two parents."
    - While some children's grades declined while a parent was transitioning, it wasn't as clear a correlation as you see in studies of children's grades during divorce.

  • Petticoat Philosopher

    Why should people who aren't Catholic care one whit for Catholic Natural Law? Btw, I'm not anti-religion. I'm Jewish. Should I have to abide by religious teachings that aren't mine too? Should natural law "bare consideration" for me too, even though it has nothing to do with my religion? Ya know, we've already tried theocracy and it doesn't work very well.

    Catholicism: not the only religion in the world.

  • Paula G V aka Yukimi

    True but at least in the last 6 months there has been a great influx of people from Lovejoyfeminism for example whose readers include a pretty big number of liberal christians & atheists LGBTQ or allies so it's not like it's only only new readers are giving positive comments ^^ Anyway Melissa is a strong woman and she was more or less prepared for the expected backlash. I'm sure she is happy that her story is being shared in LGBTQ forums and that it serves as a positive example and also that it can educate some of her long time readers and amybe change the perceptions of some. Arggh, I'm babbling too much agian XP

  • Anonymous

    … But my mother was depressed. That was basically an emotion. She treated it with medication. Melissa's husband has gender dysphoria. She is probably going to treat it with surgery and medication. The brain is an organ. Sometimes things happen in it that aren't fair. At some point we will understand whether there is really a place that gender lives in the brain and we will know better how to proceed, but in the meantime, allowing people to treat a condition that makes them miserable seems kinder.

  • Anonymous

    I love all the anonymous posters talking about mutilating the body. Good Christians/Catholics would NEVER consider chopping off a part of ur genitals right? Oh wait, Ever heard of circumcision? Lol!!!
    -Sarah in class

  • C

    I'm raising children in a household where housemates (unrelated to my husband and I) are transgendered. So far, having a housemate whose appearance and voice doesn't match the pronouns we use, hasn't even registered with the children.

    My stance on explaining it is to be careful not to present it to a young child as an act of volition (in motivation). I do not want my boy to worry that he might accidentally become girl, if he thinks girl thoughts.

    With people other than my children, but in front of children (such as babysitters), I fall back on, "we use [whatever] pronouns out of politeness" if I'm asked what's going on – basically, acknowledge what they observed, and make it clear that I consider it neither my business nor theirs.

    I suspect that some of the upset commenters here are actually simply squicked by the idea of genital surgery, and feel traumatized knowing that it exists. If this is your problem: perhaps you should consider making a donation to a charity that's working to end female genital mutilation, or obstetric fistula? If you got worked up about those (horrible) things, then perhaps what informed and consenting adults might do to their bodies would bother you less.

  • Aubergine

    Anonymous at 6:18, that summary pretty much nails it. My younger son had an easier time with me than my older boy did, although they are both fine with it by now. (My older son is 21 now, a confident, aware, and happy young man.)

    The less said about how my Catholic relations tried to poison my relationship with my kids, the better.

  • Anonymous
  • Nerdiah

    lol @ Squire "no perpetual motion machines for you or your spouse, Melissa! At least not in front of the children." That's quite funny (and true (on a number of levels)) :-)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13674332089949439989 Melissa

    I have read Phil McHugh before. He is the one who shut down the John Hopkins University program in the late 1970s, at that time the only program in the US that covered Gender reassignment. His motivations for doing so have always seemed to be deeply rooted in his Catholic religious perspective. His research is not received favourably by the medical and academic community because of his self-imposed limitations to research the topic fully. He has been widely discredited in the last 20 years, and yet at a pivotal point in time did a large amount of damage to the Transgender community, and got most of trans people's medical expenses denied coverage by any private insurance.

  • Anonymous

    I think I would be described as a pretty conservative Christian (Lutheran). I came here via some positive parenting links and many of Melissa's posts resounded with me as her parenting and much of her faith journey mirrored my own experiences.
    A few years ago posts like this would have me raining down verbal hellfire and brimstone on those going through these difficult circumstances. I was taught most of my life that people choose these "sinful" lifestyles. I am humbly hopeful that God's grace to me has produced grace in my own life towards people who are going through struggles that I will never be able to imagine. I think my role in these situations is to extend grace and prayers even if I don't see eye to eye on every aspect of these issues. I cannot cast a stone or a condemnation. I can only offer compassion to Melissa and her husband as they traverse these stormy waters.
    As a side note I don't think you can determine what kids are going to turn out in any family situation. They are people just like us with their own wills, personalities and thoughts, not little programmable robots. Even children endoctrinated such as I was can make changes.
    Leigh Ann

  • Anonymous

    Melissa, when I gave my kids a primer on transgender people at the ages of 3 and 6 they were very sure that they were the gender they appear to be. And there's no way in hell anyone could convince me I was really a man. I highly doubt that parental example could do it.

    And I came via love joy feminism about six months ago, know no-one who is transgender, am as straight and suburban vanilla as you can get, and only have a couple of gay acquaintances, so my support is simply human compassion.

    Sarah

  • ScottInOH

    Slightly OT, but a quick thought on how conservatives use "selfish." For one thing, it seems only to apply to other people, and much more often to women than to men. For another, its real definition seems to be "doing something I wish you wouldn't." And finally, in the economic realm, conservatives seem to have no problem with selfishness.

    Melissa, I'm one of the many who has come over from Love, Joy, Feminism to follow this story. I'd read your courtship story earlier and now this one–truly amazing, wherever it leads.

    And a quick confession/clarification: I've been "asdf" for my last few posts. I meant for the first one to be a one-off comment that I wanted to post anonymously without being yet another "Anonymous" (so hard to keep track!). I'm not trying to sock-puppet.

  • http://jzygail.livejournal.com/ jzygail

    Melissa, I have no real dog in this hunt, other than trying to understand the community you grew up in from all angles. Your posts are beautiful–kind, compassionate and loving. It's been clear from the first post in this series. I wish all the best for you and your spouse and children no matter where your life path together leads you.

  • ScottInOH

    Anon @ 2:01 PM,

    So you're saying that those trying to support Melissa and her spouse either had "semi-intact family structures" or were the products of "divorce, single-parents, and a slew of other dysfunctional family scenarios"? Isn't that pretty much the entire universe of possibilities in your worldview? To quote you, can you hear yourself?

  • Caravelle

    @SquireBramble : But the funniest thing is that the "natural laws" we formalize are descriptive, not prescriptive – they're how we think the world works based on what we've seen. If the world breaks those laws then the world is right and the laws are wrong.

    So if Melissa and her spouse ever manage to make a perpetual machine that will ipso facto make it all right for them to have a perpetual machine. Even in front of the children !

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17355762116034141355 Becca

    It's very interesting how the most abusive comments, from people who presumably are so sure of themselves that they feel it's vitally important to say downright cruel things to Melissa in order to achieve…..something, all do so annonymously.
    To all the people who talk about 'messing up the children'- won't they be much more messed up with a repressed parent?

    Melissas love and concern for her children shines through every post. How anyone could say she is doing them a disfavour is blind.

  • Sapphire

    Something to consider: What would YOU do in this situation? In my case, I have been with my spouse for nearly 20 years. We met about the same time as Melissa met her husband, dated through college, married after we graduated, and had 3 children. Up until that point, we had been a completely unremarkable couple. We shared interests and were essentially best friends that happened to be married. When this came up, we were 15 years into a wonderful relationship and had, like Melissa, 3 kids under age 4.

    Another thing to contemplate: The spouse didn't just wake up one day and say, "Hey, I want to transition, deal with it." This comes on very gradually over several years. You can see in looking back over Melissa's posts that she has thought long and hard about the consequences of nearly every parenting decision she makes. It is obvious that she didn't walk into this lightly, and neither did I.

    So what do you do? Your wonderful, best-friend spouse confesses that he likes to wear women's clothes along with self-hate and shame, and offers to throw out the offending material. He says, "I don't know what's wrong with me. Maybe it's just a sexual kink and I'll feel better if I just do it once in a while." Do you REALLY draw a line in the sand and plan to divorce? This is your best friend, and reeling just as much as you. Or do you support your spouse through a period of self-doubt and loathing?

    Then a few years later, depression hits your spouse. You've moved. You've lost a job. You've had an illness. Your job is causing misery. Maybe all of the above. Whatever life throws at you, it's enough to trigger depression. Your spouse is coping with a medical condition that isn't uncommon anywhere in the population. So what? You treat it and move on, or is this somehow grounds for divorce? Naturally, you treat it.

    Coming out of depression, your husband revisits that old desire to dress. Slowly, over several months or a year, he comes to the conclusion that dressing is NOT about sex and really never was. It's about inner peace. Suddenly, he's no longer angry at the children, helping more around the house, happier in his job and has more friends. Again, what about this is grounds for divorce? You just got your best friend back after a year or two or three of coping with depression.

    And then it finally comes: "Honey, I think I'm transgender."

    How do you reconcile your media, church or family-taught beliefs that transgender means flamingly gay men prancing around on stage in feather boas a la Ru Paul, or that it means sex orgies and open marriages and genital mutilation and sinners from the Devil Himself, or whatever bizarre conception you've been fed…with your completely vanilla husband that you've spent YEARS building a relationship with and know without a doubt is none of those media images and instead has been tormented by self-doubt and depression specifically BECAUSE of those very same media and family comments. His biggest worry is finding peace for himself while at the same time in mortal fear of losing his family and career and hurting the person he loves most, his best friend: you. Is this where you divorce him? Really?

  • Anonymous

    @Anonymous (2:38 pm 4/23): what makes you think Melissa's husband will grow breasts, have the surgeries, etc? I know several transgender persons. Few of them have gone through the surgeries. Most are just happy living as the sex they identify with, perhaps taking the hormones, perhaps not. But why are you so worried about the children? Do you tell your children what you do in YOUR bedroom? All Melissa's children might need to know is Daddy is having an operation to help him. Period.

    You really don't have any reasons for your reactions except that YOU think it's icky.

    Maggie Rosethorn (Anonymous because I can't log in to anything from this computer)

  • Ethyl

    Reminds me of that scene in The Fifth Elephant where Sgt. Colon tells Vetinari he's against things that are unnatural, and Vetinari responds with "Oh really? You mean you eat your meat raw and sleep in a tree?"

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03519675898483081005 Mrs. Searching

    I know I'm just fanning the fire here, but I can't help being irritated by the assumption that Melissa's story is already finished and we know exactly how it's turned out. Ugh.

  • http://articles.earthlingshandbook.org Becca

    Sapphire wrote:
    People dealing with dysphoria don't do it because of anything their parents did or didn't do. It's an inherent mismatch between brain and body.
    I don't believe this is an absolute truth. As with homosexuality, I am convinced that many people "just are" in their inborn personality, but SOME people are shaped by experience. For example, I know a person who was the only male child in a family where mother, grandmother, aunts, and big sisters had turbulent relationships with men who abused, impregnated, and abandoned them. Due to poverty, he tended to wear sisters' hand-me-downs; living in a dangerous neighborhood, he played with his sisters and enjoyed "girly" games; at school the boys reviled him for this "girlishness". He saw nothing good about males, and by puberty he was, like Melissa's spouse, horrified to be turning into a man. He had a lot of trouble relating to women as a male, so in his 20s he began living as a woman, although last I heard (we lost touch) he was not planning surgery. Do you see why I think his experiences influenced his gender identity? Of course, it is also possible for a boy in this situation to react very differently–I also know some guys who are super-macho because of a very feminine upbringing, and some who sought out positive male role models and have turned out very balanced–individuals respond differently. I'm just saying I think dysphoria can have environmental causes too. That doesn't make it a "choice"; it is still driven by the unconscious.

  • http://articles.earthlingshandbook.org Becca

    Ooh, thank you for mentioning that about breast cancer treatment! I have known a few people whose adolescence was affected by a loved one's breast cancer–girls who feared growing breasts because they might kill them, and a guy who wanted to have sex with girls but felt afraid of breasts–and when I think about that impact vs. the loved one's "choice" to admit to and treat her cancer, then the issue of a transgendered parent's "choice" to transition seems more clear.

    However, I do think there's some distinction between physical illness and mental illness. When I say "mental illness" I do NOT mean "oh he's just crazy and it really means nothing"–it's a real illness and deserves to be taken seriously and appropriately treated, but because it is in the mind and minds are so much more individualized and more complicatedly influenced and less well understood than bodies, it is less clear what's the right treatment. I think it is crucial that gender dysphoria treatment proceed slowly and cautiously, with a lot of counseling. Melissa's spouse is going at what sounds like a reasonable pace. It would be a bad idea to treat gender dysphoria with the speed and drasticness of breast cancer treatment!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12230627343407777031 Zarina

    I support Melissa and I came from a two parent, completely "straight" family, with absolutely no interesting fetishes/sexual issues or gender issues at all.
    So I'm not sure why Anon is claiming only those with dysfuntional family scenarios would rally around someone with Melissa's family challenges. It's called being able to think logically, use your heart along with your head and keep an open mind.

  • Sapphire

    Becca, even in the case you present, how do you know that the brain didn't develop female or that it wouldn't have done the same even in a stable 2 parent family? As you well know, anecdote does not equal data.

    My spouse's counselor and endocrinologist have both stated that going on hormones would either feel really right or you would know almost immediately that it was a mistake. Not everyone that crossdresses is also transgender. Some people are happy with their anatomy and choose to dress for reasons other than dysphoria. Likewise, not all transgender people undergo gender reassignment surgeries.

  • Rosa

    Sapphire, I've said this to Melissa before about her parenting choices, but I think it holds true in general – that moment, when you are dealing with a real live individual human being, and you choose reality over theory, is a moment when grace comes into your life. I have been surprised over and over in my life by which people choose to love the people in their lives, vs. those that choose their beliefs over actual people – some of the kindest, softest women I've known have cut off children or siblings without a second look, in the name of Christ, and some of the most difficult and seemingly set-in-their-ways people have abandoned a lifetime of belief in favor of love.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06583242351453043902 Kelseigh

    "…my support is simply human compassion."

    This is one of the most wonderful phrases in this whole conversation. Thank you.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13674332089949439989 Melissa

    kittengirl- Is there a “right” way to describe one’s sexuality? I suppose you were looking for an exact description of what turns me on, or maybe an explanation of how often I have bedded girls in my dreams. I don’t have any slumber party stories, and if you were a regular reader on my blog you would know that I have never had any sexual interaction with anyone other than my spouse. Apparently there is line determining where one crosses from straight to lesbian, a line which I was not aware of, and a line that someone I have never met or spoken to can determine whether I’ve crossed.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15478206293584940876 DCKitty

    I seem to recall a post somewhere suggesting the 1950s style "nuclear family" is actually a relatively modern invention. That most families prior to this Norman Rockwell style life were much more varied than "mom, dad, 2.5 kids and a dog." I wish I could find it somewhere, but it basically stated that most families were much more extended than that – with grandparents living with the family, raising the youngest children while mom and dad did their own work.

    And that's not even going into the communal style family groups in tribal nations like those of some American Indians, where "family" meant anyone raising you, not just those to whom you are related by blood. Families were parents, siblings, teachers, chieftains, elders, all of those.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15478206293584940876 DCKitty

    Thank you for this series, Melissa. It makes me realize that I should work on my own gender dysphoria now rather than the future when it may be too late, when I'm involved in a long-term relationship. Much less drama.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05049442534437457900 Jessica

    I've been deeply moved by your story and I want to thank you and your spouse for sharing it. You seem like such loving, devoted people and I think so long as you continue to act on love and devotion to your family–regardless of where this journey takes you–your children will be blessed to be part of such a family.

    In my and my partner's case, he's a trans man and I'm a cis woman, so there's sadly no chance of us ever being fertile together. Reading about how you came to the conclusion that you are so much more than your fertility brought me to tears. This has been the source of the greatest concern and pain for me in this relationship, but I know we have so much more to give our future family than our mingled chromosomes. Again, thank you for that much needed reminder.

  • Anonymous

    And you know we love you just the way you are – especially in that black skirt…

    Hugs!

    Triskelethecat

  • stardust

    OK anon, if you're the absolute expert, why don't you reveal you identity and chart Malissa's life for her? Of course, you would have to take full responsibility for any unhappy consequences that may arise. Don't worry, we'll give you full credit for any good results too. Pray, pray rally hard to your imaginary friend that he helps you with your new mission in life. That always works.

  • http://articles.earthlingshandbook.org Becca

    The Way We Never Were by Stephanie Coontz is an excellent book about the history of families, very well researched but also fun to read!

  • http://articles.earthlingshandbook.org Becca

    Sure, you're right that I don't know how the same person would have developed in a different family.

    But other types of dysphoria are influenced by environment. Anorexia, for example: Almost everyone agrees that exposure to bad attitudes about body type is among the factors that trigger some people to believe they are too fat and develop a distorted perception of their own body. The fact that most people exposed to those attitudes do NOT become anorexic doesn't mean the attitudes have no effect. (Just like the fact that not ALL females want to become males does not mean sexism has no effect on ANYONE's gender identity, Petticoat Philosopher.)

    Daughters raised by mothers who are always worrying about their weight and connecting their self-worth with their weight–even when it's not to the extent of a full-blown eating disorder–tend to pick up those attitudes. Modeling is a powerful force on children. You can say, "I'm worthless and disgusting because I weigh over 100 pounds, but your body is beautiful, dear, so don't worry about your weight," but it's just not going to ring true. Similarly, I think that if a father is rejecting not just stereotypical male roles but also his male body, "I don't want a penis, and I'll be miserable until I get rid of this penis, but your penis is great, so enjoy it," is bound to be a confusing message. Let me repeat that I AM NOT SAYING THIS IS A REASON HE SHOULD NOT TRANSITION OR SHOULD KEEP HIS DYSPHORIA A SECRET. I am saying it is a concern that Melissa and her spouse should keep in mind moving forward (and Melissa said below that they are). Sapphire referred to this concern as a "hypothetical example," but Melissa and her spouse do have a son–just one, who will be the only male in the family if his father transitions. I think he deserves some consideration.

    Of course, it could have effects on their daughters, too, if they get the idea that Daddy "joined their side" and females are way better than males, or something. A lot of different outcomes are possible! But I think that Melissa's very loving, loyal, thoughtful approach is going to help her whole family come through this pretty well.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01403312898195300346 SquireBramble

    @Caravelle:

    "But the funniest thing is that the "natural laws" we formalize are descriptive, not prescriptive – they're how we think the world works based on what we've seen. If the world breaks those laws then the world is right and the laws are wrong."

    Yes, and Hume and Voltaire both took Thomas Aquinas apart and shredded his 'natural law = moral order' nonsense way back in the 18th century.

    I just think that Simpson's episode was funny – what if we *did* treat the physical 'laws' of the universe as legal pre/proscriptions? :) Transitioning is a moral act, because it is natural; however, we must weep for Melissa's family if her spouse attempts to transition faster than light speed, or in two different places at once!

  • Caravelle

    Oh awesome, now Anonymous is explaining to us how Neanderthals lived ! And it was just like in "Leave it to Beaver" ! That's pretty impressive since even paleoanthropologists who've been studying them their whole lives don't know much.

    I have no clue where you get this stuff about sex-segregated enclaves. Reproduction isn't so hard that many different social structures can't promote it, and it is a fact that different cultures have different customs on things like mating and gender. There are regularities, to be sure… but people find out about them by studying how differently and similarly things are done in all those different cultures, not by assuming that how they in particular think people should live is the "natural order".

    And even those regularities that show up very often in human societies are descriptive "this is how humans tend to behave", not prescriptive "this is Natural Law".

  • Petticoat Philosopher

    Becca,

    I don't really think the anorexia/eating disorder analogy really works. For one thing (despite all the pop science these days that seeks to justify current beauty standards as "natural" and some how adaptive) female beauty is socially constructed. People receive their ideas about how beautiful they are or are not from their cultures. People do not receive their gender identities from their cultures. I felt myself to be a girl long before I understood what it meant culturally to be a pretty girl or an ugly girl. Gender ROLES are certainly socially determined but gender identity?

    Secondly, you cannot really say "I'm worthless and disgusting for being x weight" without making a normative statement about the way all women should look. But you can certainly say "I do/don't think my sexual anatomy represents who I am inside" without making a normative statement about what gender it's best to be. "Pretty" and "ugly" are not opposites in the same way that "male" and "female" are. With pretty/ugly one is defined by being desirable and the other undesirable. Male and female are not similarly defined and I think it would be extremely difficult to impossible change that.

    As for the effects on the daughters, well if Melissa and her spouse were raising them to believe that people are defined by their gender and that the sexes have a necessarily adversarial relationship (which plenty of people do seem to believe), then I could see how they could maybe, maybe, MAYBE start seeing their daddy as some kind of gender turncoat. But since it seems like they are definitely NOT raising their kids that way, I can't imagine that being an issue. It seems like the way to avoid the issues you're talking about is to just teach kids healthy attitudes about gender, which you should do anyway. And for reasons already stated, I think it would be damn near impossible to convince girls that it's BETTER to be female in this society anyway!

    As for your earlier example of the boy who grew up around abusive men and ended up having gender variant tendencies, first, everything that Sapphire said and second, sadly, if every boy who grew up in these conditions grew up to be trans (which, I agree, it's not clear that that kid is), then there'd be a lot more trans women in this world. If this kid really is trans, I'm gonna say that that comes from inside him and nowhere else.

  • Jim moore

    It's hard for anyone to value your comment when you hide who you are. Melissa isn't scared of who she is

  • Anonymous

    wishing you and your family peace on your amazing journey.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00664669064795403538 yuenkay

    If we should go by "natural law" then there shouldn't even be monogamous marriages because it is probably most "natural" for males to impregnate as many females as possible, oh and we should all be naked because we don't naturally have clothes. So on so on.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00664669064795403538 yuenkay

    Those of us who aren't Catholic thinks of your Catholic natural laws as much as what Catholics think of what Zeus want for breakfast

  • Rosanna

    Not being 'normal' does not make something harmful.
    Also from what I can gather Melissa's children are very young. So having a transgender parent will seem normal to them even though the percentage of children with a transgender parent is tiny. Children are very adaptable.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13712045376060102538 Zoe Brain

    I must take issue with a few of the details, though not the general thrust of your comment.

    Yes, Dr Paul McHugh is incompetent as a scientist, coming to religiously-inspired conclusions, and then manufacturing evidence in support. Yes, he has done untold damage to Trans people. He's done no work that can either be debunked or confirmed, only stated as fact his own un-evidenced opinions. Opinions that evidence has shown to be nonsense.

    However…

    Johns Hopkins was not the only program in the US at the time, merely the best known. It was a time of transition from research labs and universities to the mainstream of medicine. The research centres were closed, because they were no longer needed.

    Johns Hopkins ceased performing surgery because their surgeon left. They continued to refer patients who were tracked for surgery to third parties, and do to this day. So while Dr McHugh claims to have "shut down the program", in fact it continues.

    Finally, the wholesale withdrawal of medical care for Trans people was not at Dr McHugh's behest. It was the result of Radical Feminist Lesbian Professor of Ethics Janice Raymond's report to the Carter administration. As she wrote in her book "The Transsexual Empire", it was her belief that Trans women were infiltrators sent by the Patriarchy to subvert Feminism, and should be exterminated. In her own words, "Transsexualism should be morally mandated out of existence". Her mentor, Mary Dailey, put it more bluntly, calling for a "Final Solution" to the problem.

    McHugh's influence with the Reagan administration came later, sealing the deal that was originally a Radical Leftist policy. It was one thing that reactionary conservative Catholicism, and Marxist feminism could agree on.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06437868996219775461 Ruth

    Melissa, I want to thank you for sharing your remarkable story as you and your husband make your way through the confusion and pain of this difficult situation. It is inspiring to see the obvious love you have for each other and your children. I admire your caring and care. I can see that you have been arming yourself with knowledge and letting it expand your view of the world. To me, this is the hallmark of a great human being.

    When you hit troubled seas, or insensitive commenters, remember, you also have many allies on this journey who are wishing you and your family well.

  • Solange

    We are all born with something not like the other. Even addictions run in families. I don't believe all needs and desires should be put before our children's. Letting things naturally flow is one thing, but to make changes yourself to how God made you is another. Fine, you feel like the opposite sex. But does that mean you make everyone around you change because you are not happy with what body you are in? I hope it works out for the best. it's so hard to comprehend this story with out thinking there is some selfishness here. It must be bought. I wish you the best.

  • Anonymous

    Of course younger children have a easier time dealing and will think it's "fine". Because they don't know any better. Children are a product of their environment.

  • Anonymous

    "I suspect that some of the upset commenters here are actually simply squicked by the idea of genital surgery, and feel traumatized knowing that it exists. If this is your problem: perhaps you should consider making a donation to a charity that's working to end female genital mutilation, or obstetric fistula? If you got worked up about those (horrible) things, then perhaps what informed and consenting adults might do to their bodies would bother you less."

    YES!!!!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14389343067155681668 Shannon Rose Bell

    When "anonymous"…the controversial one, mentions the 'kids' that will be hurt by Melissa's decision, they are ignoring a BIG issue: kids have their own struggles too! So as precious and innocent they are, they too will develop into adults that have personal struggles, as we all are aware it's very possible that at a young age they may struggle with their gender or even gender preferences. I bring this up because who better to have as your inspiration for living the life you were given and being proud of WHO YOU ARE and not feeling pressured into a box that society has given you, than your parents. Aren't parents supposed to lead by example? What kind of an example would Melissa and her husband be leading if they chose to ignore their own happiness? What they've chosen to do and how they've dealt with this will stand out to their kids as inspirational. Furthermore, their kids are going to grow into tolerant human beings aware of variation within society and aware of our differences as beautiful things and not as things to be hidden or pushed aside. Well done Melissa & husband, I thank you for being true to yourself and leading such a wonderful example for your children.

  • Melody in New York

    I don't want to be a naysayer, but has it occurred to anyone else that this blog is probably fake? I'm up to the 7th post in the series and honestly cannot believe a word of it. Like the Gay Girl in Damascus and that other fake lesbian blog that was run by a man, this seems just TOO perfect.

    Full disclosure, I'm a bisexual woman engaged to a woman and grew up in a conservative Christian middle class household. Oh, and I spent my teen years as a devoutly fundamentalist, youth-group attending, courtship-desiring girl.

    I've worked in the LGBTQQI world for a number of years, including at a gay counseling center. Even though I realize that people seeking counseling are a microcosm, I've NEVER read about or heard about someone from such a socially, culturally and religiously conservative and strict background just easing into their partner's transition and their own homosexuality.

    Call me a total naysayer, but from the very beginning this series of blog posts sounded as if it was written after studying a few articles written by actual transgender people, not by someone coming out of this massive Christian closet for the first time and dealing with a shocking new reality.

    I think it was written by someone who has been living/identifying as queer for a very long time in an effort to 1) gain fame (without ever showing their face(s), 2) shock people, 3) try to convince some conservative Christians that LGBTQQI people are "just like them," (which I totally agree with in certain ways, and totally disagree with in certain ways).

    For the record – I'm bisexual since age 12, out since age 24, dated and have been in love with women, men and trans-men. And, it would not shock me if my partner came out to me as trans, BUT I would have a hard time with it (even though I'd still be attracted to them), and I would experience deep feelings of loss if she were to do that. Just saying!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13674332089949439989 Melissa

    Melody- I realize our story is pretty bizarre, but my family reads my blog, and I know many of these blog followers in real life. I can't imagine someone writing on a small religious/mommy blog for over 2 years just to set the stage for a shocking series. I had already become pretty disillusioned with my past belief system before Haley ever came out to me, and a blog series can't accurately describe all the details of the emotional, sexual, and painful journey that we've been on. Our story is still in the works, so stick around if you like. :)

  • Anonymous

    This is so great to read, thank you! I think you are right to do this while your kids are young, both for the reasons you mention and others. When they're young, they don't think anything is weird and it is easy for them to accept things that social pressures might make harder later. Also, what a shame if your partner were to miss the child-rearing activities that are more acceptable when she embraces her femininity, and if you were to miss all the help and support in that regard! And a shame too if your kids were to miss out on that extra nurturing. I think it's awesome for the rest of society too that we can all have some variety and richness in our world, and see that we have some freedom in how we live our lives, even if it's often difficult. As someone who accidentally turned out to be quite conformist, I'm really grateful that not everyone does everything like me.

  • Anonymous

    You are good people :)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00612950889549668702 shaed

    Anonymous is talking about the arbitrary constructions the Catholic Church insists on calling "natural law" despite all evidence, not anything based on the laws of nature.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00612950889549668702 shaed

    Computers go against the natural order of things. Electricity is for smiting unbelievers, not communicating with other humans over vast distances.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00612950889549668702 shaed

    They don't know that they are supposed to be hateful bigots? How horrible for them. And wonderful for you, that you were gotten to in time.

  • Keena

    You know what else is "not normal nor recommended"? I'll give you an example.
    Children watching a parent battle cancer. Have extensive surgery. Have chemotherapy. One can argue that this is as unnatural as it gets and massively traumatic. Would this be a reason for you to declare that parent broken? Unable to maintain a healthy relationship with their kids and a threat to their childs wellbeing? Unfit to be a parent? Would you advocate the children being taken away from this parent?
    No?
    Here's a news flash for you: While some things may not be "natural" or "recommended" for children, we can't (and shouldn't) always protect them from these things. Nobody is arguing that it's recommended to watch somebody transition, as in "It would just be awesome and dandy if this happened to every family!!". You know, if Melissas spouse didn't have to transition at all, that would be awesome, certainly less painful for everyone involved. But the fact remains that she was born in a body that is not right for her, and she even had complications from that: depression, suicidal thoughts and similar things are not exactly know to be harmless. Her getting treatment is, while quite the burden, a necessity. Transitioning is not a months-long party by a carefree adult, but a taxing and sometimes distressing treatment for a condition that can not be alleviated otherwise. The condition being a whole wrong body, which is quite major as conditions go. Just a heads up, suicide as a result of gender dysphoria is just as much dying of a disease as dying of cancer is.
    We can't always be sure that kids will take a parent recieving extensive treatment well. But they should get open and comprehensive information and the familiy structure shall get as much assistance and back up as possible if we want to help them overcome seeing their parent burdened and distressed. How children and families deal with health conditions and treatments is well documented and researched, and one thing's certain:
    Exclusion, rejection and condemnation never helped anyone, much less children.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08229950594114279349 gracieallan

    ScottInOH:
    Sorry, just have to set the record straight. Conservatives actually give more to charity than liberals (30% to be precise). Google it; it's true.

    • Dubliner

      Take out the church tithing (buying your way to heaven) and the corporate tax write offs and I wonder.


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