We watched. Even though many of us didn’t really want to.
Bruce Jenner Interview With Diane Sawyer – Credit ABC News
And whether we wanted to watch or not, none of us could really look away for long from Diane Sawyer’s two hour interview of Bruce Jenner on ABC, or the promotions leading up to it, or the mediastorm afterward. We couldn’t look away even if we wanted to because so many of us have similar stories – and we needed to hear this one, or at least parts of it.
The interview was carefully laid out, to avoid sensational vulgarity and to educate the general public about the experience of being transgender. Some of the more important points included the difference between sexuality and gender. Bruce refers to his inner person as “her”, but has not yet made the physical transition, so still accepts being called “he”. But his sexuality has not changed – he still desires women.
That clearly can be a problem for a woman who wants a man. Yet, in the interview, he says that if it had been ok with Kris, his third wife, it probably would have all worked out.
This is the type of comment that causes straight spouses to shake our heads and say “WHAT????”
And yet, there are couples who do stay together after a transgender process is complete. They are rare. But it happens. This is a highly individual experience for the spouse. Remember, marriage involves two people.
Diane Sawyer did a very good job of establishing a timeline of disclosures. Bruce told his first two wives during the marriage. In fact, he said began to transition back in the 80s when he was married to his second wife, Linda Thompson. Linda herself confirms this in her excellent article for Huffington Post.
So…if Bruce was growing breasts when he was married to wife #2, well then, what about wife #3, Kris Jenner?
Straight spouses know all too well the interrogation that happens when we disclose the truth about our spouses, or when they come out.
You know, the constant harping on “what did you know and when did you know it? Oh, you HAD to know. ” or “REALLY? Are you sure??? How long have you known this? What makes you think this…” Often these phrases are followed up with advice to just get over it, stop dwelling on it, stop talking about it, or just plain “nah, you’re wrong”. Some of us literally have nowhere to turn. That is why the Straight Spouse Network exists.
We don’t care what Kris Jenner knew and when she knew it or what she should have known. Because even when we think we know, we really don’t know the full impact of our LGBT spouses’ true identities on our lives. People talk a lot more about transgender issues now than they did when Kris and Bruce were married. We hope the media and the general public will treat her with compassion and cut her some slack.
Two of Bruces wives wished him well with statements featured on the broadcast. He was joined by four of his children. Kris had no comment. We understand her desire to not comment at this stage of the disclosure. This is a shattering experience for spouses. It takes years for many of us to truly get to a point where we can sincerely wish our spouses well, as Bruce’s first two wives have done.
Linda Thompson commented on how shattering the experience was for her, and how it caused her to question her own sexual worth. This is a woman who first laid eyes on Bruce during his 1976 Olympic Decathalon competition as she watched on TV while in bed with Elvis.
She went on to become a television actress, a Malibu mom, well known for her fitness and beauty. If this experience causes such an obviously physically beautiful woman to question her sexual worth, imagine what it does to the average wife. None of Bruce’s wives are average people – and yet – it takes time to heal. As many of us know, it can take a long time.
The Straight Spouse Network exists to give free, confidential peer to peer support for the heterosexual spouses, ex spouses, and partners of LGBT people. It doesn’t matter if they are in or out of the closet. It doesn’t matter if they admit what you know. It doesn’t matter if you aren’t sure and are wondering. If this is an issue in your relationship, we are here for you.
There will be more attention paid to transgender families in the media – there is already a series “TransParent” on Amazon, and a new series is coming to ABC Family. It is our hope that the real story of our families can be told – the path to acceptance and support, the grief process, and all the complicated issues that are present in families of all types are clearly a big part of our story. Much of what we see portrayed in the media is only supportive family members after they’ve resolved their own feelings, or the destructive emotions of those who disown transgender youth. We are here to support all our families telling their stories, in safety and truth.
The Straight Spouse Network has an online support list – TransFamilySpouses, an email list for spouses or partners of transgender men or women, including transvestites and transsexuals at any stage of transitioning. Join the list at groups.yahoo.com/group/TransFamilySpouses
There has been a lot of attention in the mainstream media of late concerning Bruce Jenner’s sex change. The fact that an Olympic champion can want to live his life as a woman and declare it publicly at age 65 seems to have the whole world talking.
Some of the comments on news stories are really painful to read, for trangender individuals and their families. There is a great deal of speculation on Jenner’s motives for going public with this personal detail, as he is a reality show star. He was divorced last year from his wife Kris, who is the matriarch of the Kardashian clan. She and her daughters are well known to the American public.
Kris Jenner is in an unusual situation for the spouse of a transgendered person. She is famous, and her marriage has been viewed by millions. Consequently, the peek into her life via television can give some an impression that they know her, know what she thinks and feels.
Comments and social media discussions speculate on what she did or did not know, or surmise that she drove Bruce to it. Others think its just a publicity stunt. Many of the comments in general are painful for families and transgendered individuals to read, as they are rife with misinformation, personal perspective, and just plain snarky. The social media storm is a reminder to many trans families that the general public regards their family life as a freak show.
Many of us know from our own experience that people make assumptions about us and our lives that just are not based in fact.
Kris is welcome to contact the Straight Spouse Network if she wishes, as are all of Bruce’s former wives. They will receive the same highly confidential support and acceptance that we offer all straight spouses of LGBT people. Their stories are their own, and right now they do not appear to be sharing much. We cannot really comment on their experience, or what it must be like for them.
Being the spouse or family member of a transgender person is one of the most widely misunderstood experiences that anyone can have. We are sharing a story from Rose, one of the ladies who has been part of our network for several years, in the hope of letting others know that you are not alone.
It started December 9, 2009. My husband never came home from work.
By the time I got off work at 10 p.m. I didn’t know what to do. I called the priest he said call the police.
Long story short he checked himself into the mental hospital. He would not take calls or see me or my son, who also lives in the same area. He was there for nine days.
Looking back on life I must say those days were the worst days of my life as I had no idea what was wrong.
We started right away seeing a psychiatrist and therapist. He was doing weird things like plucking his eyebrows, wearing nylons, shaving his legs, pierced his ears. At first the therapist thought he was a cross dresser. But then he started wearing lipstick, eye shadow outside where neighbors could see him. I was so embarrassed I didn’t know what to do. At that time we had been married 39 years.
I stayed with Jack for three years trying to get him help. He didn’t want help!
Those three years were the darkest deepest hole I have ever been in. Things that I would find, womens clothing, lipstick, it just went on and on. He would steal my jewelry, my underwear. I was so beside myself I had nowhere to turn.
He served in the United States Army for 20 plus years. The VA helped him enhance his breasts by hormone shots. They gave him a letter so he could change his name and sex on his driver’s license. He is now transgender but has not had the surgery.
We separated in December of 2012. The stress I went through in those years was unbearable.
Thanks to my adult children I’m now divorced as of July 1, 2014.
My life for almost 43 years was all lies.
Jack ( Jackie ) was in debt right away. Nothing is easy for him/her. The lies are still there and may never go away. But I can now sleep at night and not go around looking and wondering what he/she is doing.
I went through grieving therapy. I found the straight spouse group which I feel saved my life. My family and friends were there for me but they really didn’t understand what I was going though. Only a person that goes through what I have been through will understand that pain. To know there is someone there in the group at anytime and will not judge you for the way you feel, is the best feeling.
I have three adult children. The oldest I adopted; his/herdaughter. She has nothing to do with him/her. We have a daughter who does stay in touch but knows he/she isn’t the same person he was. Yet he/she tells everyone he/she is the SAME. We also have a son. He talks to him/her but has a very hard time with all this. There are 8 grandchildren. It just makes me sick to think about what must go though their minds.
My family all is in grieving. My grieving therapist told me it was worse than a death, as that person can try to come back into your life even if you don’t want them to.
It’s been very hard to try and pull my life back together as I never knew anything but being married. I don’t think I ever really loved him/her. And I’m now finding out who I am. I do know I’m strong. And life will go on.
By Georgia Lynne Pine
Looking back, I should never have ignored that sharp, spinning sensation in my mind when I found concealer under my new boyfriend’s bed. If I am honest with myself, and these days I try very hard to always be honest with myself, I knew his explanation wasn’t the truth.
“It’s from my old girlfriend,” he stammered. “I didn’t know it was here.”
I offered to throw it away. I was right near the garbage can.
“Well, I use it, sometimes, to cover my pockmarks.”
But my own father had rugged skin. Clint Eastwood! Pockmarks are masculine. Sexy. Nothing to hide.
Of course, he never looked like he wore concealer. And he still wouldn’t throw it away. It was just something he wanted to keep, even though it had no meaning for him and he never really used it and he hadn’t realized it was there anyway. I should just hand it to him and forget it.
It was the first of many times that I chose to ignore the voice in my head, and accept the story he told as “close enough to the truth.”
Sometimes, my boyfriend was going to lie. And as a good girlfriend, I was going to let him. Because men are fragile and sensitive and their egos can’t handle too much direct confrontation. He had that concealer for some reason, and he didn’t want me to know why, and for god’s sake he had proposed to me. He was committed. He loved me. Right?
A wedding, two international moves, and four children later, I was organizing my lingerie drawer and all my good stuff was gone. The red, lacy panties. The black ones with the narrow straps at the hip. The deep, emerald green. The leopard print. After a few weeks of wondering what the heck happened to all my fancy lady gear, I found it all, in the bottom of the laundry hamper in the basement. Stretched out, covered in dried semen, and rolled in a towel.
My husband emerged from his office–directly off the laundry room–and I confronted him about what I called, “Victoria’s Other Secret.”
“If you’re going to wear women’s underwear, the least you can do is buy your own. This is all stretched. And gross. It’s gross that you’re wearing my underwear to masturbate.”
He kind of ducked his head, and smiled, and said it was fun. I shouldn’t think much about it.
It wasn’t all that fun for me. I had a husband who wouldn’t have sex with me, and now all my best underwear kind of felt like it had been stolen. Used. And yet I washed it, and put it back in my lingerie drawer, and got back to the business of raising my children and keeping my questions to myself.
A few years later, he asked me to swap clothes with him, “just to see. Just to try. It could be really sexy.”
I was so desperate for him to touch me or look at me or want me, by then, that I was willing to do just about anything he suggested. So, I gave him free access to my closet, and I wore the outfit he chose for me. I can’t remember what he wore, that night, but I remember he put me in a pair of his khakis, a yellow, Oxford-cloth shirt and a tie. He let me wear my own loafers, because they were masculine enough.
I spent the entire sex act staring at the top of his head.
Afterward, he asked me.
“Was it hot? Did you like being in men’s clothes? We could do it again, if you’re into it, sometime. For you.”
I told him the truth–that it was neutral, for me. After all, a shirt and khakis are clothes I might wear, anyway. He seemed disappointed, even though he was glad that I was willing to do it because I loved him and it mattered to him (and I wanted my husband to have sex with me, but what was the point of beating that dead horse?) Then he asked another question.
“Was it hot to see me in your clothes?”
He seemed stunned when I said it wasn’t. That I had had to try not to see him dressed as a woman, to be able to have sex. That it was gross, but I had been willing to try it because it mattered so much to him.
“Well, fine, then.”
He went back to his office, next to the laundry room, where he spent so much of his time. And I went back to the business of raising my sons, and working up the courage to leave my closeted, gay husband.