As one can imagine, there are a lot of complicated conversations that happen when your significant other comes out as transgender. One of these joyful topics is no different than any other couple: when and how do we want to have a family? Before Katie came out to me, I was on the fence about kids. We had always tabled the conversation as a strong “maybe” and agreed to talk about it more seriously when I turned 30. Well, folks, I’m 30, but didn’t imagine I would be making the “let’s have babies” pro/con list while simultaneously intermingled with a transgender checklist also.
I have a lot of questions about Katie’s timeline for her transition, a topic that has come up many times in our therapy together. I’ve asked for a list several times, knowing that reading it would be very hard for me, but also understanding that it’s difficult for me to make decisions about my life without it. Among many questions about what my sex life will look like after Katie surgically transitions or how our dynamic will continue to evolve as Katie feminizes, I need some sort of picture of how long I have to adjust to these changes. In reality, Katie and I can manage how fast or slow we each change, but we cannot control how we emotionally react to it or how much space we can make for the other while doing so. I ultimately cannot control if either of us wake up one day post-surgical transition and our chemistry is gone. Despite all the progress made in the past 11 months, I still have a visceral fear that Katie’s transition will change the way she is able to love and make space for me in her life. I fear the same scenario in reverse. In my mind, despite how unrealistic I know it is, a list helps me plan and dispel some of the unknowns I cancontrol. I can control the planning for how these events will happen, how we pay for them, how I prepare for them emotionally even if I can’t control the outcome.
On Monday, my anxiousness of not knowing what’s next swelled into a conversation that Katie wasn’t ready for. We sat on our couch like we did 11 months before and I asked her when she thought we would have children. Somewhere in the past 2 months, I went from “maybe” to “yes” and I hadn’t had a chance to tell her. I told Katie I knew this conversation was bigger than we could solve for on a Monday night. I told her that I needed to talk, that I needed her to listen to my needs and concerns and that I wanted her to take time to consider what I was saying in tandem to her needs. I’m afraid we both make decisions about our individual needs because we are afraid to lose each other. As we step closer towards very serious life decisions (kids, surgeries, buying a home, etc.), I want to make sure that we are considering what is actually best for ourselves, even if that means we need to consider a 3rdless preferred and more painful option: the one where we don’t stay together.
I explained to Katie what I see for my future, for our future. I told her about wanting at least two kids closer in age, so they could one day be friends when they grow up. I told her about wanting to watch one of them graduate from high school before I turn fifty. I talked about our baby-bucket-list, the trip to Paris where we walk from our hotel to that café in Montmartre that opened in the 1760s without anyone to worry about but ourselves. I told her about how good of parents I think we will be, about how cute our kids will be, about the love I see in our future.
I referenced our mutual fears about what happens when the transition is complete and how I’m confident that if we can make it this far, we can do anything. I told her my imagined timelines. If she doesn’t want surgery for a few years, maybe we could start having babies now and space surgery somewhere in-between? I asked Katie questions about her timeline. When does she want to change her name? Her gender marker? When does she want to start electrolysis? Does she still want gender re-assignment surgery? Can she stack-rank importance of these things? I explained to her that I understood the answers to these questions may not be known yet and that’s okay, but I feel like we need some semblance of a plan. Having babies isn’t as easy as having sex anymore. It’s going to take time and money and doctors as is every next step of this transition. We don’t only need a plan to securely wrap our emotional lives and our marriage, we need a financial plan too. I know this conversation is complicated which is why I have likely not forced it in such directness until now. I wasn’t ready before, but now I am. I told Katie that I loved her and that I needed her to know these things.
Throughout our conversation, I told Katie that I knew she may not be prepared to answer my questions about what she wants. I presented all the options about our life, consistently attempting to make this conversation not appear as an ultimatum. As I explained to her what I felt were unknowns in Katie’s transition timeline, I watched the light drain from her eyes and Mopey Zoo Lion dance in and out of the conversation. There was a moment where I asked her if she needed to cry, to release what I could see was the stress of this conversation manifesting in her posture. She had retreated into the couch, resembling the cushions on it more than the human that is my wife. She made eye contact with me and as if taking a breath for the first time choked out the words “I don’t want to lose you.” Tears rushed down her face and I moved next to her, so I could more easily rub her back, assuring her that I’m still here. I’m still here, but I still need to know these things about our future. I hate saying this, but we aren’t getting any younger and these questions aren’t going to get easier to figure out.
I don’t want to rush Katie’s transition. I don’t. I don’t want to stall it either, make her wait longer than she can for a life she believes will make her a happier person. I want what’s best for her. That said, I also want what’s best for me. I believe marriage is two individual people compromising to make a life together. They support each other to help the other realize their potential. Transition is really complicated, and it feels additionally complicated through the lens of a marriage. How does the person transitioning make space for their loved one to mourn what is the happiest moments of their lives? How does the spouse honor their transgender partner’s identity without compromising what they want for themselves? How do you plan a family in-between? We have a lot to figure out. Status? TBD.