R and mfrazercani (my straight husband) have been friends since they were 8 and 6, respectively. They're not genetically related, but they consider themselves brothers and have done a religious/magical ritual to become blood brothers, which is a permanent, intimate bond. I met them both 15 years ago and was originally friends and lovers with R rather than with my now-husband. The three of us have been a trio, though, since I met them. He's probably our closest friend and, though I'm married to mfrazercani, R and I have continued to be lovers off and on until about a year ago. (My husband knows about this; we have an open marriage.)
R is somewhat homophobic and transphobic. He had some bad experiences as a child and the thought of two men being together sexually really disturbs him. The thought of being with a man himself sickens/panics him. He's okay with our gay friends socially, and he has no problem with lesbians whatsoever (!?), but men being together is "just wrong". He's very vocal about this. He's also horrified by men trying to look like women. He's described feeling physically ill (as if this were only the natural, inevitable reaction) when he saw someone from the back and thought she was attractive, only to discover when she turned around that she was actually a male coworker of his. (This was a Halloween costume; I don't know exactly how he feels about actual transsexualism). I've talked to him in the past about some o my gender issues and he didn't seem to take me seriously. Of course, mfrazercani says that I always talked about it like it was no big deal and he didn't realise I was serious, either. R seemed to think it was impossible that I could be anything but a woman and he seemed very disapproving of my thinking there was any possibility of being with mfrazercani as a man.
At this point we live together and have for about a year. mfrazercani and I have been hiding this situation from him completely, but we can't do that anymore - I'm tired of having to present as female at home and having to watch what I say and keeping such a huge secret from someone we're this close to, and he deserves a chance to know what's really going on and adjust to it before I begin any kind of transition, if I do. We're not certain how he's going to react; anything from being cool with it to being completely freaked and declaring he has to move out is possible. mfrazercani and I both expect a decent amount of drama, however.
This is probably the coming-out situation I'm most stressed about.
Anyway, here's the letter:
To Our Brother,
You may have noticed that ---- and I have seemed distracted or upset lately. We've been going through something very difficult, something we had to deal with on our own, first, to figure out where we stand, but we think it's time we let you know what's going on. You're very important to us and the person we're closest to, and we hope what we're about to tell you won't change that.
What does that mean? You and I have talked in the past about my not really feeling like a woman. At the time I was identifying as genderqueer: neither female nor male, but both. I was wrong. I've finally, after years of struggling with depression and unhappiness, had to accept that my internal sense of self is not female or even genderqueer. Despite my current anatomy, I'm a man.
This is a difficult thing to explain to someone who hasn't experienced it. There are differences between the way men and women think, feel, see themselves and experience the world, and they go beyond socialization or masculinity versus femininity. For most people, their physical sex and their internal gender are the same, so they never have to think about or notice it. If they don't match, the person develops something known as gender dysphoria. This is a dissonance between who they are inside and what they see in the mirror, as well as how people react to them. Someone with this condition is transgendered or transsexual – two terms that are largely synonymous, though there's some debate as to exact definitions. This condition is called gender identity disorder. No one knows the cause of transsexualism, but it's been around since the beginning of humanity. Gender dysphoria is an emotionally painful, sometimes crippling condition that effects every area of a person's life and can cause extreme depression, anxiety, social discomfort and sexual dysfunction – though most people with the condition are quite adept at covering these problems up, at least for a while. It worsens over time, and most people reach a point where they have to do something about it. The suicide rate among untreated transsexuals is over 30%. This isn't an easy thing to realise about yourself or a decision lightly come to; as overwhelming as living with gender dysphoria is, the treatment is difficult, scary and can disrupt or destroy your entire life as you know it.
Transsexualism has been recognised by western medicine for over a hundred years and many techniques have been attempted to fix it, from electroshock aversion therapy to psychoanalysis to hypnotism. Only one treatment has been found to relieve the intense emotional discomfort of gender dysphoria, and that treatment is transitioning physically so that the body matches the internal gender of the patient. Transition typically involves using hormones to basically put the body through a second puberty, creating chemical and physical changes to make the body normal for an adult of the correct gender, followed by surgery to correct those features hormones can't alter.
We're not sure at this point what kind of steps I'll need to take toward medical transition – some kind or degree of transition is likely, but we're trying to balance what I need to be happy with what ---- needs to be happy. I've already begun to transition socially, at least part time, and will probably be presenting as male around the house more that you know what's going on. When I'm doing so, I would greatly prefer you to use the name I've chosen – Tad – and to use male pronouns to refer to me. I know that can be difficult to remember and to feel comfortable with, but I ask that you give it an honest effort.
The two most important things for you to know are these: One, I will still be me. The person you know is not an invention or a lie. I've worked hard to be as true as possible to my inner self, and though I wasn't able to admit until recently that that inner self was male, I've still always expressed that self as honestly as I could. And, two, ---- and I will be staying together no matter what. This hasn't been easy on him, as you can imagine, but he's shown amazing strength, understanding and generosity. We're both committed to each other's happiness and are actively working towards communication and compromise that will allow our relationship to not only survive but flourish. Already, just by virtue of my now being able to be honest with myself and with him, our marriage is better than it has been in years.
We told you this news by letter so that we could make sure to give you the important information as clearly as possible and so that you could process it in your own time, but we're eager and available to talk to you as soon as you're ready – together, separately or both.
Here are some resources for you if you'd like to do some further reading on the subject of gender identity disorder:
A video on transgender basics: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UXI9w0PbBXY
An FAQ for those who just learned that someone they know is transgender: http://www.tsfaq.info/cgi-bin/index.cgi
Also, if you're interested, you can visit my LiveJournal at http://thaddeusdagan.livejournal.com/profile. It gets kind of personal, but it may explain a little better the process that brought me to this point.
R, I love you. This doesn't change that. I'm not doing this to hurt or confuse you or anyone else. I have to do it to solve a lifetime of discomfort and not feeling right in my own skin, and to finally have a chance at being truly happy. I hope you can accept me as your brother and brother-in-law. I know you'll always be mine.
All our love,
---- and Tad
Thank you for taking the time to read and comment. Any feedback is appreciated.
X-posted to my personal journal.