Last year when I was looking for a support group for spouses of trans people, I found a few on line, all of which described themselves in some variation of this: “For gay and trans people and the people who love them.” I wanted the other group. A group where I didn’t have to be politically correct while my whole life was coming apart. Eventually I did find a group of straight spouses and soon learned that many consider themselves to be “the victim of the victim.” At first I thought it was only a matter of time before we humans evolved to a point where no more victims would be created. I have to say though that it has been discouraging to meet 30 year old people, married recently, whose spouses were gay or trans and knew it and who deceived them. Which leads me to questions about deceit, selfishness, self-interest, and personal responsibility.
In the first episode of “Grace and Frankie” one of their children finally says what has to be said, something like, “If dad had been cheating with another woman all these years someone would punch him in the nose. Instead, we cheer him on.” If the husbands were victims, can we excuse them for deceiving their wives? Personally, I can’t. They didn’t have to get married, have sex with women, have children. They chose to. How does someone who knows they are gay or trans convince themselves that it is okay to deceive someone else…and not just a friend, a business partner, or a colleague, but the one person in the world whose life will become inextricably woven into your own.
A person jumping out of a burning building and landing on someone (and hurting or killing them), is a victim. They do have a choice: to jump…or die. That’s not much of a choice. And, they don’t plan to land on someone. A person deciding to marry someone when they know they are gay or trans has a choice. That’s as simply as I can put it. Personal responsibility is the issue here. Deceit is deceit. You don’t have a choice to be born gay or straight or trans. But every decision you make after that is your own. You don’t have to come out. That’s your choice. Maybe it’s too dangerous or frightening or shameful. I get that. But you don’t have to make someone your victim. That’s where I draw the line.
I’ve heard gay people say that they figured they’d never come out anyway so what’s the difference? They planned to perpetuate the fraud indefinitely. And if they did so, did they really think their spouse would not be effected? Every single spouse in my support group knew something “wasn’t right.” Every one of them thought “is it me?” Every one of them was deprived of the intimate love relationship they wanted, which included sexual intimacy. Many of them learned that their spouses were cheating with others of their own sex, which meant the gay spouse had their needs met but the straight spouse didn’t. If this is not selfish and self-serving, what is? It’s somewhat different with trans people. The trans spouse can perpetuate the identity fraud indefinitely because identity is a private matter, and if they are attracted to their spouse a love relationship can exist alongside with the hidden gender identity. I’m not sure how much about ourselves we are ethically required to reveal …even to our spouse. (Should we reveal that we still find an old flame attractive?) There’s lots of room for discussion and disagreement here, but I think something as fundamental as gender is something we are indeed required to be honest about.
A gay or trans person saying to their spouse/mate, “I’m still the same person,” is not only not credible, they are being insensitive and minimizing their spouse’s experience. A trans person saying “It’s not a big deal,” is a hypocrite. If it’s not a “big deal” why are they going through all the changes to their physical person, jeopardizing their love relationships and in many cases alienating people they care about? It’s a very big deal to them. They’ve probably thought about it for their entire lives and agonized over it. When they finally actualize themselves their entire lives change. If it can be a big deal for them, why can’t it be a big deal for us?
I know many gay and trans people who have suffered a lifetime of shame. When they finally decide to come out they are no longer willing to accept that shame. And I understand that. But if you have have already created a life with someone who didn’t know what they were getting in to, you need to own up to the fact that you are devastating them and upending their life. Minimizing their pain, pretending nothing much has changed, trying to impose your feelings about gender on them, or worse, accusing them of homo or trans phobia, isn’t acceptable. You knew you were gay/trans. You married them anyway. Don’t tell them “You must’ve known,” or “How could you not know?” When someone decides to deceive us, we will be deceived, period. I remember what a fool poor Kris Jenner was made to seem like when Bruce came out, and it was very disturbing.
I am on this soapbox because I am still seeing gay and trans people deceiving their spouses about their sexuality and/or gender. It is still happening in America in 2016 in spite of all the advances that have been made. But nobody gets a pass when it comes to personal responsibility and respect. To me that is what true equality means.