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Living with Transvestism

If you are the wife or partner of a transvestite, and you have read through the earlier articles in this section of the site, you should now have a good idea of what transvestism is, what it involves and some of the problems which you may have to face in your relationship. I'd like in this final piece to talk about what it's actually like to live with a TV partner.

First, a warning - transvestites can on occasion become over-focussed on their dressing, to the point of seeming completely self-obsessed. This is especially common among those who are newly "out of the closet" (see the article in the TG section titled 'OTT Behaviour'), who can often be so delighted and relieved that they no longer have to keep their transvestism secret that they lose all sense of proportion for a while.

If this happens to your partner, try to be as patient as you can - it will wear off eventually, honest! - but if it gets too much, or goes on for too long, don't ever feel that there's anything wrong in pointing out to him that there are two of you in this relationship, and that your needs are due as much consideration as his!

You originally entered a relationship with a man, not a woman, and if you live with a TV you're entitled to expect that man to be there for you when you need him. Most TVs, once they've got over the initial euphoria of having their transvestism acknowledged, will understand and accept this.

If you accept his dressing and are willing to support it, you may find that his need to do it regularly will change. My own husband, who used to dress for a few hours in secret whenever I was away from home for an afternoon, now feels no need to do this - we see TV and TS friends three or four times a month and he will dress then for an entire evening, and finds this is sufficient to fulfil his needs.

You may take pleasure, if and when you're comfortable with seeing him dressed, in helping him to develop his own style. If you feel that his fashion sense, hairstyle or use of make-up leaves something to be desired, tell him so - he'll probably be delighted that you're interested and be more than willing to listen to advice. If you're the same size, you might also enjoy the benefits of having a whole new wardrobe, but if you're not happy about letting him borrow your clothes and make-up, don't automatically expect to borrow his!

If you haven't yet seen your partner dressed, but would like to, you may want to look at the piece on the TG section of this site entitled "Meeting 'Her'" before you do so.

One thing you may find yourself having to decide is how much you want to tell your friends and family. Some TVs become very politically-minded about transvestism, in much the same way as gay men and lesbians were in the mid-1960s with the "gay rights" agenda, and there are now a number of groups, such as Press for Change, which exist for the purposes of promoting the human rights and liberties of transgendered people. Raising the public profile of the transgendered is a legitimate tactic, but negative perception is still widespread, and at this stage "coming out" publicly as TV still undoubtedly carries the risk of harrassment, discrimination and misunderstanding.

This is an issue which you and your partner will have to discuss if and when it arises. In my own case, virtually all of our closest non-TG friends are aware that my husband is TV, but we have not told my mother-in-law, who is in her 80s and who we don't feel should be forced at her age to cope with something she wouldn't understand, nor either of my sons - although they may be told at some time in the future.

My own view, and I should stress that it is ONLY my view, is that if close friends and family members are likely to become very distressed by the discovery of your partner's transvestism, there is no need to tell them unless there's a very strong reason for doing so - for example, if they are likely to be told by somebody else. But against this, it could be argued that if they can't accept your partner for who and what he is, do you really want them in your life in the first place?

This particular issue is very much one in which you should allow yourself to be guided by your own feelings, in discussion with your partner. But I will say again that, as with so many other issues around transvestism, you should not at any time feel obliged to do anything which makes you feel unhappy or uncomfortable.

The same applies to going out in public with your partner when he's dressed. He may be eager for you to accompany him to clubs, on trips out with other TG people or to visit and socialise with other TVs, or even just to go shopping dressed. But if you're not comfortable about being out with him in these circumstances, you should never feel that you have to do so.

Having said which, if you DO want to go out with "her", there is a whole new world out there waiting to be discovered, one which most non-TG people never see. A trip to an LGBT or TG club, or an evening socialising with TG friends, can be a fun and fascinating experience (albeit slightly surreal if you've never done it before!) and if you like new experiences and enjoy meeting unconventional people, you'll probably enjoy it and be warmly welcomed.

Involvement with the TG community can be very absorbing and a lot of fun, but your partner needs to avoid the temptation to become so involved with TG friends and pursuits that he loses contact with the non-TG world. As with most things in life, there is a balance to be struck between the TG experience and his everyday male existence. The happiest and best-adjusted TVs in my experience are those who have fully accepted what they are, have both TG and non-TG friends whom they see regularly and are neither inhibited nor obsessive about expressing the "female" side of their personalities.

Finding this balance may cause problems for your partner. Even with your acceptance and support, it is often very difficult for a TV to come to terms with being what he may perceive as "not a real man". Early conditioning in acceptable gender roles and social norms can run very deep and be hard to overcome, and depression is not uncommon among TG people who have not fully understood that the cultural rules which they learned as children, especially those relating to gender, are not written in stone. In these circumstances, the help of a counsellor who specialises in gender issues can often be very useful. If your partner is suffering from depression severe enough to warrant medical treatment, your GP may be able to refer him to a suitably trained and experienced counsellor, or you can ask the Gender Trust (see Links page) to recommend someone (you do not necessarily need a medical referral).

In conclusion, I hope very much that you have found these pages of use in understanding, accepting and supporting yourTV partner, and if you should find yourself needing to talk to someone who's been through some of the same problems and feelings as you are experiencing, whether to ask questions, share experiences or just to chat, do feel free to contact us at any time.

  © Transpartners 2008