BISEXUALITY. It is real.
Some organizations explicitly state that there is no such thing as bisexuality. The Straight Spouse Network is NoT one of them. Since 1992, the Straight Spouse Network has had among its core beliefs that bisexuality does exist. our Support Groups include many Straight Spouses of bisexual partners.
When you first suspect or find out your spouse is bi, it is shocking and disorienting. You do not need to make any instant decisions. Give yourself time. Talk to us. No matter what you decide to do, you’ll get all the support and understanding you need with the Straight Spouse Network’s support groups, Support Contacts and other resources we’ll provide to you.
Bisexuality is a complicated orientation. Like all sexual orientations, bisexuality is multidimensional; individuals changes over time, and their bisexual orientation is determined by their own self-identification, not by outsiders’ labels. While bisexuals are attracted to both sexes, it’s rarely a 50/50 balance. They usually lean more toward one sex than the other.
When a bisexual spouse comes out, the Straight Spouse has to deal with the unknown same-sex attraction that exists alongside the known opposite-sex attraction. This creates cognitive dissonance as well as sexual confusion. As Straight Spouse Network’s founder Amity Buxton stated in The Journal of Bisexuality, “one has to break through the ‘either/or’ binary perspective by which most of us tend to look at the world, and instead look at life through a ‘both/and’ lens”. one Straight Spouse explained their husband’s bisexuality by saying, “he does not see gender”; a small statement which goes a long way in helping us understand bisexual persons.
Adding to the confusion, there are times when a spouse will come out as bisexual and later tell their Straight Spouse that they are gay. The reason for this could be that at the time of coming out, they did not realize where they were on the preference balance. Some believe that at times someone will tell their Straight Spouse that they’re bisexual to ease the shock of their coming out.
What Will you do?
When a true bisexual marries a straight person without telling them about their sexual orientation, and then comes out, there are options. Staying together is not for everyone. For some bi/straight couples, marriage may have a better chance of continuing than a gay/lesbian-straight marriage. Amity Buxton’s research
and group member’s experiences have shown that post-disclosure spouses can create unique strategies for maintaining their marriages. This may involve a great deal of patience, creativity and open-mindedness, but it can work. The bond bi/straight couples form during the process of redefining their relationship is often stronger than that of many heterosexual couples. Some Straight Spouses are not suited for such a challenge, and should do what is best for their own future and peace of mind. But it’s good to know there are options and that you have a support system within the Straight Spouse Network to help you explore them.
To help Straight Spouse understand their transgender mates
Technical terms and acronyms
Transgender, TG: a person whose behavior, appearance, or identity cross, transcend, or do not conform to their biological or assigned sex. Transgenders include cross-dressers, transvestites, and transsexual persons.
Cross dresser, CD: a person, usually male, who privately enjoys wearing the clothing, hair styles, makeup, etc. and uses mannerisms typical of someone of the opposite sex.
Transvestite: persons of either sex, generally males, who publicly and often flamboyantly use make up, dresses in the clothing of, and acts in the manner of the opposite sex. Sometimes called drag queens or kings.
Transsexual,TS; M2F, Male-to-female transsexual; F2M, Female-to-male transsexual
This is the medical condition of a woman being “trapped” in a man’s body or a man trapped in a woman’s body. One of the biggest decisions a transgender/transexual faces is making a plan for Sexual Reassignment Surgery preceded by hormone therapy and counselling. In these procedures sexual organs are removed or added to change a person’s body into that of the opposite sex. Some individuals are Dual gender: presenting themselves as one or the other sex alternately.
Common Coping Stages and Emotions
Spouses of transgenders cope in the same way all Straight Spouses do. Their struggle, however, begins much later than that of their partners. Their differing stage of coping can create an extemely uncomfortable situation, especially if they are living in the same home. As with straight/lgb couples, the trans partner’s struggle has a different focus from that of their spouse. Their’s is a struggle about something initiated from within. They are trying to create a different identity that matches their inner reality and to integrate that into their physicality. Their heterosexual spouses are attempting to integrate their partners’ new gender identity into their marriage, family, and future. These changes outside of them occur on a continual basis, as their spouses add new aspects of the opposite sex onto their bodies and behaviors. Dealing with these challenges, spouses of trans progress through familiar coping stages: shock, denial, grief, accepting reality, healing, re-configuring identity integrity and belief systems, transforming their lives.
As common to spouses of gay, bi, or lesbian partners; lack of understanding shown by friends, family members, clergy, and therapists leads to isolation, which in turn exacerbates the intensity of these issues and emotions and prolongs their resolution. In addition, the visibility of the trans partners’ physical changes can’t be hidden from public view. The straight spouse has to cope with all the emotions of their partner becoming another gender.
Common and distinctive issues
Spouses of transgenders express a sense of sexual rejection or sexual-mismatch, concerns about the future of the marriage, worry about effects on the children, and their own crises of identity, integrity, and belief system. These issues, however, take on a strikingly different cast, especially in the areas of sexuality, the marriage relationship, and their identity and belief system.
TRANSEXUALS and marriage
Concerns spouses of trans express about their sexuality and the couple relationship diverge from those of spouses of lgb partners because of the information disclosed by their partners -- their sex is opposite to what their spouses thought -- and the subsequent physical and psychological changes that make the sex change a reality. While transsexual partners change their expressed gender physically and psychologically to the opposite sex, the change may or may not involve a change in what was assumed to be their sexual orientation, something that many straight spouses find hard to understand.
At the same time, visible changes denoting their partners’ new gender and their continued sexual attraction to them cause many spouses to question their own sexual orientation. Continuing the marriage is possible, more so for cross dressers. Given physical and psychological changes, it is hard for both spouses to maintain the relationship. Like mixed-orientation couples, how they work it out depends on the individual spouses, the quality of their relationship, their family and social contexts. In addition, the degree and impact of physical and psychological changes and financial considerations play key roles in whether or not they stay married.
Concerns for their children are similar to those of spouses of lgb parents. With some additional issues and the possibility of more negative reactions and behaviors among classmates or neighbors because they have a transgender dad or mom. A key concern is what the children will call the transitional parent. Some chose to continue to say Dad or Mom, even if Dad is wearing pearls as she goes about daily activities. Some children decide to call their parent by his or her first name.
Regarding the impact of negative social views on the children, some spouses of trans use the same effective strategies for addressing possible teasing or bullying at school as do spouses of lgb parents. This would include speaking with the school principal about children’s home situation.
Especially difficult for spouses of trans, are the visible, physical changes of cross-dressing partners and the actual psychological and physical changes of transsexual partners. Those changes in their partners affect straight spouses, their marital relationship, and their children.
They need to talk to someone with expertise in transgenderism; one who is non-judgemental about either spouse. They need affirmation of their self-worth and a discussion about their unique concerns.
They need to accept that their partner’s priorities are not about them. Irrespective of their mate’s changing sex, the straight spouse is worthy of attention, love, and fulfilled sexuality. Straight spouses need help in formulating questions to ask their partners so they don’t get a defensive or attack/blame response. Straight spouses need to define what they themselves see as a successful outcome.
Straight spouses need to take care of their own health; mental, physical, and spiritual. They need to get involved with other people; friends and other straight spouses, whether in a support group, online, by phone, or a one-on-one meetings. Self-exploration of forgotten interests and talents is very important.
Current literature for spouses of trans:
Allen, M. P. (1989) Transformations: Crossdressers and those who love them. New York, E. P. Dutton
Boyd, B. (2003) My husband, Betty: Love, sex, and life with a crossdresser. New York: Thunder’s Mouth Press.
Boylan, J. L. (2003) She’s not there: A life in two genders. Broadway Books.
Brown, M. and C.A. Rounsley. (1996) True selves—Understanding Transsexualism. Josey Bass (John Wiley)
Buxton, A. (2007 ) Counseling heterosexual spouses of bisexual or transgender partners in Becoming Visible: Counseling Bisexuals Across the Lifespan, Beth Firestein, ed., pp. 635-665. New York: Columbia University Press.
Lev, A. I. Transgender Emergence: Therapeutic Guidelines for Working with Gender-Variant People and their Families. (2004) Hayworth Clinical Practice Press.
PFLAG Opening the Straight Spouse’s Closet (booklet available via SSN Office)
TransFamily web sites:
Informaion based on excerpts from American Psychological Association
Task Force Report on transgender facts and issues