by Sarah Rutledge Fischer
I’m a 23-year-old transman married to a 30-year-old woman. I adore her, but I am such a disappointment to her. It has to do with my family.
My family lives across the country and doesn’t know that I am trans. They think I’m a lesbian. The thing is, they are fairly supportive about that, but they’ve made statements about transfolks . . . I just can’t tell them. Not yet.
My wife insists that I am being a wuss about the whole thing. How can I be a real man, she’ll say, if I don’t even have the balls to tell my family. I know she’s right—that I am weak, and I deserve everything she says.
Something weird—I think she may have access to my phone. The other day she knew about a voicemail that my mom had left. She blew up because I still haven’t told them. We had such a big fight that I had to borrow her makeup to cover a bruise before work. She’s threatening to out me to my family by sending texts that will look like they came from my phone. She locked the credit card, saying that she doesn’t trust me—She knows I have to buy uniform clothes and shoes this week or I’ll lose my job.
Anyway, it’s probably nothing, but all my friends have pulled away, and I don’t know who else to ask. I love her so much, and I know she only wants what is best for me. How do I explain to her that I just need a little more time? What if she just keeps getting more and more angry? I’m too scared to be on my own. I just want things back to the way they were.
First of all, I’m so glad you wrote. It sounds like you are feeling isolated and confused. I want to suggest that there might be something wrong in your relationship, and it is not that you haven’t come out to your family. When and how you choose to come out is no one’s decision but your own. There can be wonderful gifts that result from coming out to family, but there are also real risks. Anyone who is pressuring you to come out before you are ready is not acting in your best interest.
So, I want to talk about Intimate Partner Violence (IPV), which you have probably heard of as domestic violence or domestic abuse. There are aspects of your question that leave me worried that you might be the in an IPV situation. When most people think about IPV, they think about physical, and it does sound like physical violence is occurring in your relationship. (No one should need to cover a bruise after an argument.) But there are other red flags I see in your letter as well.
Some of the hallmarks of an abusive relationship are isolation, harassment, emotional abuse, and financial exploitation. I see each of these demonstrated in your letter—friends who are no longer around, threats to impersonate you to your family, name-calling and insults, and locking you out of access to your own financial stability. This may be hard to hear, but if this relationship is abusive, it will likely only continue to get worse. I’d like you to consider planning a way out.
Below, we have a phenomenal resource guide from a trans-advocacy organization, Forge (forge-forward.org). I’m sorry to say, but as a transgender person, a safe exit from an IPV situation may be more complicated for you. Review this guide and make a plan.
In the meantime, if you need to talk to someone, or just need another perspective on whether your relationship is in fact abusive, reach out to the National Domestic Violence Hotline by phone at 1-800-799-7233 or online to chat at thehotline.org. That should get you started.