Kristin Collier’s book, Housewife: Home Remaking in a Transgender Marriage is a must read for any couple going through this transition.
When Kristin’s husband, Fred, announced just after their second child was born in 2005, after ten years of a good, close, communicative marriage, that he is a woman, Kristin’s life was turned upside down.
As each of them researched books on the topic, Kristin wasn’t able to find a book written from the wife’s perspective. So with bravery and compassion, Kristin wrote this book to help other wives.
Fred was diagnosed with gender dysphoria, a DSM recognized disorder. (I saw in the news yesterday that Denmark is the first country to downgrade transgenderism from a mental disorder to a code—an issue, as opposed to a mental illness.) According to Kristin’s research about 1% of the population transitions from male to female, and about .5% go from female to male. Transgender people may feel so wrong in the body they were born with, and without a solution in sight, many consider suicide.
Kristin naturally felt shock, disbelief, betrayal, and questioned the whole marriage (was it a farce?). She researched options and the process of a gender change. Treatment generally consists of counseling, hormone therapy, electrolysis, and gender confirmation surgery. Not everyone who feels other-gender has surgery; rather a person lives as the other gender in certain or all settings of their lives.
An experienced therapist who works with transgender issues will take a lot of time with a person to help them understand gender, and their place on the continuum. There are many aspects to a person (mental, intellectual, spiritual, physical, emotional, practical, and so on). Does the person feel the “other” gender in every aspect of his or her life? Or do certain parts of one’s life match the gender of their body (also known as cis-gender)? One’s gender identity is separate from one’s sexual identity.
Kristin spent a lot of time questioning herself as well as Fred. She was wondering and fearing what would become of their family. She worried about how their family would be seen and accepted (or rejected) in their community. She asked: What will we lose? What will we say to our kids? How will we support our kids as they come into puberty? How will they continue to provide a secure, loving family for the kids? Would Kristin and Seda stay together? Stay married? Did this mean she was a lesbian? Heterosexual? Would Fred (now having taken the name Seda) want to have a sexual relationship with her? With men?
Kristin wondered what their future held. What path would they choose? Would either or both have romantic relationships outside the marriage? What would her relationship look like with Seda? The commitment they made when they married was important to both of them. What did that commitment mean now?
Kristin and Seda’s ongoing communication (what they shared all their lives together) remained intact. They were able to talk about any and everything.
Kristin became trained in Nonviolent Comminication (NVC). The principles of NVC are learning “to hear our own deeper needs and those of others. Through its emphasis on deep listening—to ourselves as well as others—NVC helps us discover the depth of our own compassion. This language reveals the awareness that all human beings are only trying to honor universal values and needs, every minute, every day.”
NVC helped Kristin to see Seda’s transition as meeting her deepest need. This framework helped Kristin and Seda and their family.
The two things that helped Kristin the most was her own spiritual path of inclusivity, community, and it was a huge source of comfort and guidance for her. The second thing was writing. She wrote in a journal, wrote poetry and eventually blogged.
By the end of the book (and not the end of their story), Kristin and Seda are co-parenting and providing love and support to one another and their kids, as they always have. They live as a family.
I will let you read the book to learn more about their ongoing journey and romantic lives.
My only issue with Housewife is that Kristin as the storyteller has a good, truthful voice and flow. However, she occasionally shifts into educator mode (and provides useful information), but it’s a bit jarring to go from the story to being taught.
One of the resources that Kristin leaned on heavily was an online support group for spouses of transgender people called TransFamily.
If you are going this transition, please seek support, either online or with a knowledgeable therapist.