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Can't let go - won't let go

The anguish of the dilemma when GD strikes

Diana Aitchison

Women of the Beaumont Society Helpline: For more information see the helpline page.
 

Issue 15
Autumn 2001

 
Many of the calls taken on the Women of the Beaumont Helpline are concerned with a loved one moving on into their evolutionary state of becoming fully transgendered. Here we will probably discuss the hormone regime being entered into, a debate about whether the NHS or the private sector is the best route, how to tell the children and ultimately whether the couple are going to continue staying together. In the circumstances both parties have accepted that transgenderism is inevitable and despite the deep emotional difficulties yet to come, the couple are focusing on the practicalities of the situation as the next step on their journey. Very occasionally though, the phone call takes a different turn when it is the Gender Dysphoric person himself who is resisting the need to transition or at least recognising that he is Gender Dysphoric, and instead just wants to be cured. This is the case of Jack and Jill.

The call came from Jill a few weeks ago. She was utterly distraught. "Would I please talk to Jack as he was threatening to take his life?"

I had spoken with this couple a few times earlier this year and I was aware that they were in a stalling position which meant that Jack was grounded in his denial of accepting his feelings and needs and Jill was left wondering what would happen next. The moment had now come when the walls of Jack's resistance had broken down and his feelings were flooding out.

Jack is 34 and has the responsibility of a baby daughter aged 15 months who was abandoned to him by her mother, his ex-wife, shortly after the delivery. Jack immediately gave up a good job as a successful manager to take on full time parenting. He had been crossdressing regularly indoors but had kept himself busy enough to be able to take control of his increasingly persistent urges to dress. Now however he had time on his hands. Each morning when baby took her nap Jack succumbed to dressing for a few precious hours. He also has a 5-year-old daughter from an earlier relationship who he sees regularly and adores.

Jack met Jill who has two children of her own and they formed a close bond that in turn became a relationship. Jack is very much in love with Jill and she with him, and longs to settle down with her as her husband and as a father to all the children but suddenly all he could think about was being female.

Jack and Jill had discussed the situation and Jill was only too happy to support Jack as a crossdresser but when the word 'transsexual' entered the arena Jill became very worried. She discussed her feelings with me on several occasions and it was decided that after much thought she had to follow her own instincts. No one could make a decision for her and I assured her that she would be supported whatever her decision was. Eventually she had to tell Jack that although she would always care about him she felt that she could not remain with him if he transitioned. She wanted to be totally honest with him right from the start.

Jack took the news very badly. He could not contemplate life without Jill and became depressed and tearful. Soon he was screaming for help. "Please help me to get rid of these feelings. I don't want to lose my family, my friends, and my baby. I just want to be cured".

It was at this point that Jill called me. I listened to Jack as he poured out his feelings. He was empty, distraught and totally without hope. I was convinced that he was at risk of committing suicide. I have heard many cries for help but this was different. He told me that he had been offered counselling but that was not what he asked for. He just wants a cure. Nothing I could say would console him.

Jill had earlier called their out-of-hours doctor who turned out to be the same doctor who Jack had seen on a previous occasion and who had treated him almost with contempt. (As a person who was not born into Western culture the Doctor claimed not to recognise Jack's condition as a cross dresser let alone admit to understanding what Gender Dysphoria is. He just told him that the practice did not treat transsexuals and arranged for him to see the counsellor). When Jill told the Doctor that Jack needed help as an emergency the Doctor told her to tell him to go to the Library and read up on the subject. Understandably this lack of sympathy or understanding had served to undermine Jack's stability even further and I was, in their eyes, their last hope. Eventually Jack put down the receiver. I had lost contact. Fortunately I was able to retrieve their phone number from 1471 and called them back. No answer.

Acting on a hunch I called their Police headquarters having worked out roughly where they lived from the area code. Jack had mentioned a town that they lived near to and a very sympathetic policeman managed to track the couple down from the Police database. They had been called out once before it seemed when Jack had previously broken down.

About an hour later I received a call from the Police. A Doctor whom the two policemen attending the call had taken along with them was treating Jack. After offering tranquillisers which Jack turned down it was suggested that he be detained on a 28-day section so that he could be assessed. Jack also turned this offer down. There was little more that they could do but they had logged the case as one that they would keep an eye on.

A few days later Jack and Jill came to the social group that takes place in my city every Wednesday to thank me for trying to help. Jack talked to the transsexuals there and learned their stories. I watched and listened and prayed that this experience would be a watershed for Jack and that he would come to terms with his dilemma. Suddenly Jack burst into tears. Jack, Jill and I formed a group hug and several others hugged us. Everyone became aware of the genuineness of Jack's state of mind.

" I don't want to be like you," he cried. "I admire you all so much for having the guts to do what you have done but it is not for me. Please make these feelings in me go away"

Again Jack was inconsolable. There was nothing anyone could say or do. Jack looked exhausted and lost, powerless against his innermost feelings. One could see that he would transform easily although he had come in male clothes. There was femininity about him that cried out to be recognised but Jack just wants to be Jack; father, husband, son and most of all, MAN.

I have kept in touch with Jack and Jill on a regular basis. Jack has given up on starting counselling. His paternalism tugs at his maternalism The clothes draw him in every morning for another day of anguish. He cannot see how he can resolve his dilemma. In his dreams he is a woman but in his grounded every day life he resists his dreams.

"I will never give in" he tells Jill, me, and a few confidantes, including his 'Uncle Jane', a close family friend who has already transitioned and tries to help from her own experience, but Jack is adamant.

"No one can have everything in life" he tells us. "I have too many responsibilities and would hurt too many people. Society does not accept us and never will. I know that I am not mentally ill and I know that the feelings will never go away. I can have my dreams or even fantasies but I know that I will never fit in anywhere either as Jack or as a transsexual woman". Jack feels that he should have recognised his condition when he was a lot younger and dealt with it then but concedes that 15 years ago he did not know that there was help available for him. All he ever saw or heard about transsexuals was negative and he actually found himself agreeing with what was being said.

"I take every day as it comes and I know that some days will be hell but you have to get on with it," says Jack. "I dress in men's jeans every morning and they do not feel right so I am reminded straight away that I have this condition. I have always known that I am not a man even though I look like one and act like one" He is adept at multi-role performing; housework one minute, plumbing the next. Jack and Jill enjoy a level of self-sufficiency and grow their own vegetables as well as keeping hens. Jack is particularly independent by nature, starting early at 15 and has a quiet determination about him that sees him through but one wonders how much longer he can keep things going. The couple has an active social life although they live on a low income, and they make sure that their children have a good diet and a varied life style with regard to their social activities. Outwardly they are a normal couple living in a rural community with their families close by. In many ways they defy the concept of the nuclear family by having this level of support. It is understandable that Jack is so determined that nothing should spoil their lives together.

"I have met transgendered people who tell me that their children accept them but I know that by the time they are teenagers they may well change their mind especially if their peer group turns on them for having a transgendered parent. I don't want that for our kids. They don't deserve that"

Jack is going to see Jill's own GP next week who is far less likely to be hostile to Jack's condition. They don't know what to expect or even whether the GP will be able to help them but Jack is realistic. "I know that there is no such thing as a cure but surely somewhere there must be something that will help me fight my feelings. I don't want to be a transsexual because I have too much to lose and there is no reason to believe that if I went down that road that I would be any happier. All it would do would relieve some of the pressure but without Jill, I would never be happy anyway. I could not be so selfish; I am not a selfish person as to cause so much devastation to so many lives. My mother is unwell and doesn't deserve the worry and my daughters' need their daddy."

Jack and Jill's story has echoes for many couples. Usually the sacrifices have been made after the soul searching that Jack is under going. Many transgendered people will I'm sure identify with Jack and Jill. In most cases the turmoil will have existed within the person and although the wife or partner will have known that their loved one is deeply troubled they wouldn't necessarily have access to the root of what is essentially a secret to be kept from them. Jack acknowledges that he wished he hadn't owned up but he was too honest to keep secrets from Jill, the love of his life. The couple is so close that they agree that it would be impossible to ignore that one of them was not happy. How their life together will continue is as Jack says, "fate" because they are made for each other and each is equally supportive and understanding of the others needs but neither can face the crossroads of decision.

I will leave the reader to form his or her own conclusions about Jack. If you would like to discuss this case or offer any advice please e-mail me on wobsmatters@aol.com.

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