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
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.