This is an article which has come to my attention several times since it was published on Feb 1, 2013. I saw it was linked to again today and I again went an read it though I have done so more than once already.
For those who don’t want to follow the link, the title is, “Should I become a woman and risk causing pain to my wife and children?”
I think it is easy to see why this is a subject I would be interested in. Obviously I don’t know the person who wrote in seeking advice. I don’t know her situation, (I am however going to use female pronouns as it seems appropriate.)
Now one thing I will say is I would suggest speaking to a qualified professional before writing in to an advise column. The simple fact is a good therapist is better at helping to answer such questions because they will have a better understanding of the individual and her unique circumstances. While the advise the columnist gave wasn’t bad, he was at a disadvantage by not being able to give any specific advise but having to speak in only general terms with limited information.
I of course am in an even worse position for giving advise, being neither a mental health professional, nor in knowing this writer or her circumstances and I am not going to embarrass myself trying. What I can do is to put this into terms regarding my own life, I find myself in a similar situation, and speak to the decisions I have made. I doubt she will ever read these words, but I cannot discount the possibility.
One thing I am not clear on is if she has come out to her wife and family yet. She does mention having her self diagnosis confirmed, from which I infer she has seen a therapist. She said she has started her transition, though there are no specifics given. Is she beginning her mental transition, physical? Is she dressing? Each of these things requires a different approach. She can begin her mental transition and still keep things n her head without causing disruption to those around her, not to mention keeping things as “normal” as possible at work.
She says she is in a “happy marriage”, is this without coming out to her wife, or afterward? If there is one thing I know it is this is a revelation which will stress a marriage to the max. Even when your spouse decides to stand by you, to give you her support, there is still so much which changes in the relationship. So much which must change. Constant, open and honest, communication is required.
She says she haas a successful career. If she plans to fully transition, then she needs to find out what policies are for her workplace. She needs to learn about her state and local laws regarding discrimination, hiring, and firing due to gender expression specifically and LGBT in general. She also needs to be aware of how her fellow employees and clients regard LGBT issues.
Now comes the point at which she speaks of cost.
Again, no specifics, but she says there is going to be pain to her family. I am sorry to say, she has no idea. This is the one thing I can speak of from personal experience. It is going to hurt those she loves. There is no getting around this fact. The hardest thing she is going to face is the guilt she will feel for being the cause of that pain.
And then we come to the final piece to this puzzle.
She says she has three children and she worries about how this will affect them. I know this all too well. I too have three children, and I worry about the same thing.
She doesn’t give the ages of her children and that is the key to how to handle sharing this information with them. If they are older, late teens or easily twenties, then simply setting them down and explaining things might be best. If they are young… well then things become complicated. Also, she doesn’t say if there are other issues at play such as Autism. Not having any information makes it pretty much impossible to talk about effective ways of talking with them about this. Not only are the guidelines vague at best, they are different given the ages of the children involved. I know for me, I have an 13 autistic child, an 11 year old, and a 5 year old. I have spent considerable time and effort into trying to gauge how they view these things, how much they know about them, and how developed their comprehension is. Each of them is a unique individual and each require a different approach.
Every one faces a different situation in regards to transitioning and no one can tell you what is the best path to follow. I know there are other women out there who had no choice but to transition in a way which has destroyed their marriages and estranged their children, it is a terrible cost but one which simply could not be avoided. Then there are those like myself who have and will fight every second to spare our loved ones, but even this path is not without its cost.
The writer put her question into terms of what is ethical. I don’t know if this was the right way way to discuss this issue. I think many would read that article and say the only correct answer was one of self sacrifice. I don’t see it in such a way. It really comes down to a matter of life or death. Yes, it really is that stark, that serious. There are those who can keep their heads above water long enough to give those around them the chance to adjust, to become old enough to make their own decisions. To wait until they no longer need worry about careers, or even a marriage. There are others who are drowning, who cannot do any other thing but what they must in order to survive. So what then is ethical? To live a lie or to accept death? What would ultimately cause your loved ones the most pain?
The final part of this is a question of happiness. As pointed out in the answer, there is already a level of happiness in the questioners life, but under these things is a deeper, more profound, and personal sense of sadness. I don’t know if transitioning is the answer to this personal issue, for some it is and others it is not. That is something to be spoken of with a personal therapist. I don’t know if this can be reduced to a yes or no, right or wrong answer, maybe in the end all we can is our best as we see it at this moment and hope we made the best decisions we could… and that those who are hurt will one day be able to forgive us.