My Cross-Dressing Husband Became A Woman — And We Stayed Together

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man and woman embracing

He'd come to present to my women's study group about being a cross-dresser. Among the four presenters were a postoperative transgender man, another cross-dressing man, and an androgynous individual, presenting partially as female, and partially male. 

I found myself wildly attracted to the man in the purple dress.

This was "Deborah"—known to the rest of the world as "David"—an orthopedic surgeon. Two years before, at 36, he'd finally begun addressing the pain and self-loathing he felt from a profound inner conflict: For most of his life, he'd wished he could be "one of the girls." 

It was not Deborah's physical appearance to which I was drawn but the courage and honesty I witnessed that day.

I was enrolled in personal-growth workshops and studying to become a psychotherapist, so yes, perhaps I was more open-minded than the average person.

But more than that, I was attracted to someone finally being true to herself, sharing her deepest truth with a group of strangers. We parted with a hug, and I somehow knew we'd meet again.

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It turned out that we had both signed up for an ongoing workshop called "The Living Soul" beginning the following month. I arrived and recognized David immediately, thinking how appealing he was as a man!

During this intensive training workshop, David and I learned to know and understand ourselves more deeply, and we became closer through the process.

The course encouraged digging within to acknowledge and appreciate our own inner workings, and our true natures were fully exposed to each other.

Outside of this situation, David was less open. At the time, he was married with four young children, and though this marriage wasn't working, he was not ready to end it.

So, we resisted acting on the smoldering physical attraction that developed between us. In 1988, realizing his marriage could not be saved, David ended it.

We married in 1991, and we've been together ever since.

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Because David's secret life had been revealed at our first meeting, it was no big deal seeing him in drag.

We'd go out with him dressed as Deborah for dinners with certain friends or an occasional weekend away. To me, my husband was "just a cross-dresser." 

But, as with any relationship, it wasn't all easy.

Our primary challenge (stepchildren and ex-spouses notwithstanding) was our sex life; specifically, the devastation David experienced whenever Deborah's time was over. I was delighted by the return of my man; his male persona was extremely masculine — and I liked that. 

But David didn't feel that way.

As an open-minded, adventurous woman, I was comfortable with whatever fantasies arose.

But sometimes I wanted something more traditional than a man in a nightgown coming to bed with me. I would ask if David could just be David once in a while.

This created conflict and invariably sent him into a downward spiral. Usually, within days, David would find a way to come on to me and we'd make love the way I wanted to. Then all would be well ... until the cycle repeated itself. 

Perhaps both of us were in denial about the magnitude of his need to be seen as a woman. 

The breaking point came in the fall of 2009, when David was again considering a new therapist, a different antidepressant, and some experimental method for accepting the grief of living a lie.

As usual, he bemoaned this process, but something unusual happened; I shocked us both by saying, "It's time to do something different."

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I suggested we talk to an endocrinologist. It was the first step toward resolving his now-60-year-long struggle and the beginning of a quest to honor the woman within.

I'd realized that my beloved would never be happy as a man, though I also knew that I could not commit to remaining in our marriage until I'd experienced our new, changed life. I made this abundantly clear to him, not threatening or coercing but simply sharing it honestly because it was my truth.

The next two years were a roller coaster ride for me. David told me many times, "I'll stop this immediately if it means losing you."

While I was touched by his willingness to forgo this dream, I knew that remaining married to an unhappy, inauthentic man was impossible. He had to move forward with his transition, but I still didn't know if I'd be able to stay married to him once he did.

We lived in this ambiguous state for more than two years until I realized that we belonged together, regardless of anything.

Ever since Deborah formally came into the world in October 2011, she has been relentlessly happy.

I've accepted this new life of ours, even if it may not be my dream come true—it's certainly hers. It's the life she thought would elude her forever, and I was able to support her as she made it a reality.

For that reason, our marriage is one of my life's greatest achievements.

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Leslie Fabian is a contributor to YourTango.

This article was originally published at Glamour. Reprinted with permission from the author.