Ask Ammanda

My husband of 42 years told me out of the blue that he wants a sex change and I don't know where to turn.

After we had been married for a few years he admitted that he liked to dress in women's clothes to relieve his stress. He stated then that’s all he needed and it didn't mean he wanted to be a woman.

We are both almost 61 years old and I am feeling lost and betrayed.

Ammanda says...

This must be a terrible shock for you. I can completely understand the turmoil you must be in right now because so much of what you thought you knew about your husband has been washed away with his intention to have a sex change. When a partner says something like this, it’s likely to turn your world upside down.

You say that years ago he told you he wanted to dress in women’s clothes but that was the limit of his interest as he didn’t actually want to be a woman. You don’t say how or if you were able to talk together about his need at the time. This is not an uncommon issue that arises in some relationships, and naturally partners have different ways of responding to it. For some, there’s an easy acceptance: the couple are able to talk together and decide how they’re going to ‘make room’ in the relationship for it. Other couples can’t talk and while they both know that this is happening it’s not discussed. And of course, for some, finding out that their partner has been dressing as a woman comes as a complete shock and either gets ‘ignored’ or ends in painful questions and accusations that can be very difficult to answer.

The reasons for choosing to dress as a woman are often complex and for the person who is doing this, can become more and more important to them as they experiment. This can and does lead to more overt behaviour and it’s often this that creates the difficulty between partners. I’ve worked with couples where the wives said they didn't mind their husbands dressing as a woman within the confines and privacy of home (and sometimes only at certain times) but for some men it’s difficult to continue to agree to this arrangement as time goes by.

You don’t say if he’s sought professional support and advice yet but whether he has or not, it’s important that you get support and advice for yourself. There are likely to be many questions you want to ask him but these will probably become clearer if you have the chance to speak with a counsellor about what’s going on for you—as well as what may happen to the marriage. While you may well be able get this support from friends and family, in my experience, your partner may be very reluctant to share this information with people you know until they’ve had a chance to think through things for themselves. I also urge you to seek couple counselling together too.

I know I’m recommending quite a lot of professional support. But this is something that can feel so overwhelming that it becomes impossible to talk about together in any helpful way.

You obviously have a very long history which, from what you say, may have sometimes felt difficult. Even so, you have stayed together. Now with your husband’s latest decision you must be wondering whether, even if he decides not to take his wish for a sex change any further, you can remain together. There are no easy answers, but right now getting the right kind of support for both of you may help you to explore what’s possible and where you go from here.

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