A Plea for Help for Feminists from a Trans Widow
Updated: Oct 17, 2019
I was inspired to get up and speak at the Manchester “Make More Noise” the Elephant in the Room, event when Sarah Cookesley said, when talking about domestic abuse “Some women are being killed- softly, softly, drip by excruciating drip.”
I am an elephant in most rooms because I am a trans widow.
I married a man who fathered my daughter in the conventional way. Ten years later he decided that he had been a woman all along and so our marriage ended. I left the marital home, taking my daughter with me. The man I married, no longer exists and I am forbidden from referring to him by his former “dead name”.
Having your boundaries gradually and forcibly broken down and compromised over a period of time until your marriage becomes nothing like the arrangement that you signed up to, feels exactly like Sarah describes- a slow death with everything you thought you knew about yourself being gradually crushed out of existence. But with the support of other women, we trans widows can rise again.
My experience is becoming more and more common and I have spoken to many women who have found themselves in a similar situation. Women who previously felt completely alone in their struggle.
What can you do to help women like me?
Don’t call my ex “she” when you talk about him to me. Call him what you like when you speak to him, but describing him with female pronouns to me, makes my life not make sense and my daughter’s life not make sense.
Don’t, under any circumstances, refer to him as my daughter’s mother. She only has one mother and it is not him.
Seek out and share the stories of trans widows. Help our voices to be heard. Late transitioning men leave women and girls in their wake- wives, mothers, daughters and sisters who are asked not only to rewrite their past but to celebrate a new future that they do not recognise.
Many trans widows report feeling gagged by everybody else lauding their partners as “stunning and brave”. Our ex’s are often celebrated twitter personalities, newspaper columnists or the subjects of documentaries, but those of us wives who leave are forced to remain anonymous for fear of reprisals. Support those women who put themselves and their children first.
When you hear of a late transitioning male, let your first thought be for these women and how they are affected. If it is somebody in your circle of acquaintance, seek out the wife or the mother and let her know that she has your support.
Defend our use of the term “Trans Widow” as some people question its appropriateness. However it is the name that we have chosen for ourselves and it is enabling us to find each other and to share our experiences. Women talking to each other is a powerful weapon.
Don’t exclude some women from feminism in the interests of inclusiveness. Imagine seeking support from other women, only to find that your husband or father had got there first?
When you allow our ex partners space in your feminism and give them platforms in your organisations and at your meetings, you exclude their wives, daughters, sisters and mothers from accessing these spaces and making use of resources that were set up to support women like them. Prioritise women over your desire to have a “get out of jail free” card to hold up against hostile accusations of bigotry
Above all, the most important thing that you can do to help trans widows, is to centre women and girls in your feminism.
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