My ex-husband and I were together in total for 12 years, and married for 7. Whilst I knew that he had one brief gay relationship before we met, I was his first girlfriend and female partner. He had difficulty forging relationships and he acknowledged that his gay relationship was because he was desperate for human contact.
His social awkwardness had stemmed from severe bullying whilst he was growing up, but was exacerbated by his upbringing. He was the first child to a couple in their 40’s who had been born in the 1920’s and lived through the war. Austerity, making do and mending, and keeping up appearances dominated their lives. His father was head of household and what he said, went. His mother didn’t work, didn’t socialise, wasn’t allowed to make decisions, and was anxious. The family dynamic was strained, and his younger sister suffered from severe depression for most of the time I knew her. I had assumed my ex-husband was the “normal” one of the family; I was wrong.
Our sex life was disappointing and limited by his libido I thought (but subsequently found out that he masturbated daily to BDSM fantasies), but he gave every indication that he was only interested in women. There was absolutely no indication given throughout the time I was with him that he was anything other than a man with heterosexual interests and gender conforming hobbies (weightlifting, metalwork and DIY), till he announced he wanted to be a woman. He was having a bath and I walked in to find him shaving his legs. I asked why and that was what he told me
I believe it would have been easier for me to bear if he had died because he changed completely after making this declaration. He went to numerous doctors, psychologists, psychiatrists, and counsellors in the 9 months till I filed for divorce and, throughout that time, his only thoughts were for himself. He became consumed. He was not prepared to rest until he had gained the necessary agreement to have his penis removed and my feelings were never given any consideration.
His narrative about his feelings started with him wanting to become a woman, it morphed into him wanting to be sexless, and then veered towards wanting to swing with me and other couples, or have BDSM sex. On one memorable Sunday morning, he went through all of those options in the space of an hour before returning to stating he wanted to become a woman. He rejected any suggestion that his upbringing had repressed him sexually and was, perhaps, the basis of his belief that his penis had to be removed.
He was encouraged by healthcare professionals to meet with other transsexuals at the local TV/TS group. His social life expanded as he started to be egged on to go out dressed as a woman. He bought many outfits which could only be classed as overly revealing and would generally not be acceptable on a woman of his age, nearing 40. He was aroused by wearing women’s clothing, and masturbated in changing rooms when trying it on. He was “coached” by his new friends about what he had to say to have medical professionals believe him and treat him. He threatened suicide on a daily basis. He made a guillotine and rigged it up to an anvil in the garage and attempted to cut his penis off. He wanted me to stop pleading with him not to self-harm “but to take me to the hospital when I do it again”. He had no concern for what this was doing to my mental health whatsoever; he just wanted to have the operation, take the hormones, and ultimately live with me as a lesbian. He couldn’t understand why I couldn’t accept this.
Through his TV/TS group, he was put in touch with a psychiatrist, Dr Russell Reid, whom he saw privately (after he had rejected the diagnosis of an NHS psychiatrist). He was diagnosed with gender dysphoria and permission was given for him to proceed with the removal of his penis as a private patient by his second appointment, which was within a year of his coming out as “transsexual”, and without any period of living as a woman. I sent written protestations which were rejected by Dr Reid then decided that I could no longer live with the person he had become so I started divorce proceedings. It should be noted that Dr Reid was subsequently found guilty of misconduct. The operation went ahead and a few months later, I received a letter from my ex-husband blaming me for forcing him to go ahead with it because he had now discovered that he had just wanted to have wild sex and had been repressing those urges. Looking at his behaviour through the lens of time, I believe he was an autogynaephile.
If I had stayed with him, there is no question that I would have had a complete nervous breakdown. As it was, it took 4 years of counselling to come to terms with what had happened, and many more years before I felt it no longer defined me. I chose to be secretive about it because I was humiliated that I found myself in that position; I did not want people to gossip about me behind my back, I didn’t want to be seen as somebody who had been so misguided to have married a man who wanted to become a woman – or worse, that I had driven him to it. Today, I still have those feelings of guilt and shame, but I’m also angry that if he had those feelings from childhood, as he claimed, then he lived with and married me purporting to be something else and his actions were fraudulent.
The proposed changes to the Gender Recognition Act to allow people to self-identify cause me grave concern in relation to men self-identifying as women. I am aware that my ex-husband’s motivation was sexual and there were other men who attended his TV/TS group who were aroused by dressing as women – they were completely acknowledged as heterosexual, just with a kink.
Transvestites don’t believe they are women, and they are not women by any stretch of the imagination, but under the Trans umbrella described by Stonewall, they are women and, it would appear Stonewall propose transwomen should be entitled to every sex based right that has been granted to women. However, sex based rights have been granted for a reason. Women require safety, privacy and dignity. That will not be possible where their segregated spaces have to be shared with men who claim to be women, even those who may have had gender reassignment surgery. Figures suggest that over 80% of transwomen retain their penises, and many identify as lesbians, so it is fair to assume that a large number don’t have gender dysphoria, will never have sex reassignment surgery, and should not ever be considered to be women.
Considering self-ID also opens the doors for predatory men who will take advantage of this change in boundaries and cause women distress with no recourse since self-id would allow any man to say they are a woman without any real ability to challenge the declaration, whether this is in a toilet, changing room or prison.
Whilst the people I told at the time were supportive of my position and horrified on my behalf, transwidows now face the prospect of being considered transphobic bigots for not accepting their partner’s “true identity” or wanting to remain in a sexual relationship with them when the goalposts of their relationship haven’t just been moved, they have been taken away and put up on a completely different pitch.