How Gender Ideology Destroys Relationships
Early in his time as a cross-dresser, Jamie came across a joke on one of the on-line bulletin boards that he had begun to frequent.
“What’s the difference between a crossdresser and a transgender person?
“I don’t get it,” Jamie said to Shannon, his wife at the time. And then he came to embody its truth.
Over the course of eighteen months, after well over a decade of marriage, Shannon Thrace found her once beloved life partner disappearing from her. Increasingly, he demanded that she cede everything that brought her joy. This was not because he wanted her unhappy, but because everything now revolved around his new identity, which changed constantly. Their evenings were spent with her consoling him as he cried. When she told him that he was just fine as he was, she was rebuffed. This was not the right answer—couldn’t she see that his life as a man had been a lie?
At first, he just wanted to cross-dress. “I am not trans,” he declared confidently. Months later, he was sad and hurt that strangers “mistook” him for a man.
“Don’t I look like a girl?” he asked Shannon, who was just as middle-aged as he was.
“A girl?” she wondered to herself.
Shannon Thrace has written an excruciating memoir of a marriage undone by gender ideology. She is honest, her thoughts by turns polished and raw, her writing exquisite. Her book is 18 Months: A Memoir of a Marriage Lost to Gender Identity. I recommend it most highly, and share an excerpt, below. Before I do that, though, I want to share some truths from another woman I know who lost her partner to gender identity.
Rachel is a bad-ass who spent much of her 20s working as the only woman on a team of men, on jobs that ranged from commercial fishing to arborist. She was far beyond competent, though, so was almost always treated with respect on jobs. She also knew, from a young age, that she was a lesbian. So while she had always had many male colleagues and friends, she had no sexual interest in any of them. At some point, she moved to Seattle from the Midwest, and there she met her partner. Kai and Rachel were together for over a decade before Kai began to transition. At first, Rachel was entirely supportive. She wasn’t sure she understood what underlay her partner’s newfound desire, but she loved Kai, and their bond was strong.
It didn’t take long for things to begin to unravel.
“I couldn’t tell if Kai’s increased aggression and ill temper was actually due to the T she was now taking, or if it was just an excuse. Either way, I wasn’t down for it,” Rachel told me. She continued, “I realized that I really am a lesbian. If you, my female partner of several years, are going to fashion yourself as a man, by taking testosterone and adopting tropes of masculinity, including dress and attitude, you shouldn’t be surprised if I’m not particularly attracted to you anymore.”
In the end, after much soul-searching, Rachel concluded, as if speaking directly to Kai, “You got so wrapped up in yourself and your new identity, that it’s time for me to move on.”
Their friends nearly universally sided with Kai. They asked Rachel how she could be so cold, leaving Kai in “his” time of greatest need. Kai began revisioning history to suit the story that fit her own fantasies, without regard for reality.
But Rachel was done. She’d done enough, and had enough. The aggression, the confusion, and most of all, the unending focus on Kai’s new gender identity, was too much. Their friends, whose loss Rachel mourned as well, bought into two narratives: first, that “trans” is the newest civil rights crusade, and that if you’re just a plain old lesbian, it’s time to take a back seat and let the truly oppressed take center stage. The second narrative that Rachel’s friends bought into was that the person claiming center stage at all times, while crying about being ignored and abused, is the real victim. And that person, that “real victim” is the only person worthy of being taken into account.
Both of those narratives are false. Feeding narcissists can be as dangerous as negotiating with terrorists. It perpetuates the behavior. It is not a kindness.
Excerpt from 18 Months, with the consent of Shannon Thrace, the author:
“How do I look?” you ask, waltzing through the den. You rotate on one heel to show me a tight, ruffly skirt paired with an Easter-egg pink blouse and an immense, butterfly-emblazoned necklace.
“You look great,” I say, looking up from the box of books I’m unpacking.
Your shoulders drop. “Tell me the truth.”
Apparently my face betrays insufficient enthusiasm. I’m not sure what to do about that; the outfit doesn’t appeal to me.
“What do you actually think?”
I’m growing tired of mincing my words. And telling you what you want to hear isn’t working, anyway. And I don’t like the way lies feel in my mouth.
So I give honesty another shot.
“I wouldn’t wear it,” I say. “But who cares? Wear what you want.”
You drop to the armchair amid the parts of an unassembled bookcase. I can tell you feel like a failure.
“Why wouldn’t you wear it?”
I take a deep breath. I’m not sure why my clothing preferences need to inform yours.
“It’s a bit precious. I’m not a fan of pink. That necklace is awfully large, and it’s a bit brassy. Why are you dressed up, anyway?”
“So it’s not to your taste,” you say, exasperated. “But that’s beside the point. Should I wear it?”
I’m confused. I don’t know what it means to evaluate your outfit without invoking my taste. Are you asking if others will be impressed? In a world where people expect you to dress like a man? They probably won’t.
Are you asking if it’s flattering? It isn’t, though it’s no worse than your other choices. You choose outfits that compress and redistribute your body, now, instead of those that compliment it.
In truth, I don’t like this look on anyone. Those ladies at work who squeeze their butts into pencil skirts and their feet into stripper shoes—they look helpless and inept to me, always managing creeping hems and falling straps, the very opposite of cool and collected. I associate that look with a need to get ahead in a world controlled by yuppie men. Certainly I’ve played their game, wearing its uniform as a scuba diver wears a wetsuit. But I wouldn’t wear a wetsuit if I wasn’t near the water.
I shrug. I accept your presentation—isn’t that enough? Must I be called to the carpet for my innermost thoughts?
“Why can’t I get this right?” you ask, moving toward the mirror in the foyer. You look at yourself from the side, from the back, desperate to understand where you’ve fallen short.
But you are not made of ruffles and pink; a rejection of them is not a rejection of you. And I have earned my opinion. I learned at a young age that dressing sexy was my job. That in pants, I was too shapeless; without makeup, too blotchy and plain. I stopped shelling pistachios to preserve my manicure. I stopped climbing trees to wear heels. I learned to express my opinion less and smile more. Then, a little too late in adolescence, I realized that shit was holding me back. I needed to navigate the world with my hands and feet unfettered. I needed to experience and to grow. I started unlearning my socialization. And I am still unlearning it.
So these fabrics and pigments don’t hold the magic for me that they hold for you. They bore me, at best. At worst, they mean submission to the male gaze and life unlived. I don’t owe a reverence for femininity to conservative geezers who wish I’d “put in a little effort.” And I don’t owe it to you.
But a more immediate problem plagues me.
You saw through my polite fib. But my honest opinion crushed you. I’m out of options. How can I respond when both truth and lie are wrong? What words can I choose that will save us from this death spiral?
As I watch you slump in the chair, your lower jaw shoved forward, I realize something important.
You don’t want me to tell you what I really think.
But you don’t want a lie, either.
You want a truth, but one that isn’t mine.
You believe your clothing, shored up by self-identification, transforms you. You want me to see this transformation. And you want me to be into it. Neither the truth nor a well-meaning compliment will suffice. What you want is for my perception itself to change.
You want a different me.
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 Names and identifying features have been changed.