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where there is love

John Shore is a personal advice writer for the Citizen Times in North Carolina and his sensitive and delicately phrased response to an older couple who deeply care about their daughter and soon to be former son-in-law was impressive. Whether or not you agree with his optimism on the chances of survival of this couple's marriage, he nevertheless outlines remarkably well the challenge that both the transgender person and their partner face:

"Q: About a week ago, our son-in-law told us that he has realized he is transgender, and that he will be starting the MTF (male-to-female) process in the next months. While fully supporting him, our daughter is also broken-hearted, since she still loves the man she married. He still loves her, too. Because of their love, and the beautiful little girl they had together, they’re going to stay married.

My daughter now describes their relationship as “two good friends who love each other and are raising a child together.” But she’s very sad, because she feels that she has lost her husband. And because they’re staying together, she feels she’ll never have the marriage she desires. For the sake of their little one, she doesn’t see the possibility of ever leaving him. (Sorry to be using masculine pronouns to refer to ... the woman formerly known as my son-in-law. That’s only for convenience’s sake during the writing of this letter; I just couldn’t figure out how to write it any other way.)

My problem isn’t really with my transgender son-in-law. He's told us of his difficult journey through depression and discovery, and I have great compassion for him. It’s more trying to deal with an overwhelming sadness for my daughter. How can she ever be truly happy in her marriage now?

A: There’s no denying that life has thrown a curve ball to your daughter — and also of course to your granddaughter, who will soon enough have to process the fact that her only father has transformed into her second mother. But she will process that, and it will be fine: The two parents who have always loved and cared for her will continue to love and care for her, and she, more than anyone, will understand that nothing else really matters.

Similarly, your daughter will more than likely find herself adjusting to her new life. It’s true that in a very real sense she has lost the man she married. But she did not lose the person she married. And it sounds like she still loves that person very much. So their story is far from over. There’s no reason it can’t have a happy ending. Given the love between them, and the bond of their child which keeps them in such strong union, your daughter and her spouse have an outstanding chance of growing into a life together which is every bit as wonderful as any they could have imagined for themselves.

Bottom line: The sexual relationship between your daughter and her spouse must change, for sure. But that doesn’t mean that it must change for the worse. The best and richest sexual intimacy is, after all, born of love. And love, like life itself, always finds a way. And sometimes finding that way can make for considerable pleasure.

And this being a family newspaper, that's all I’ll say about that.

Before despairing of it, give your daughter's marriage some time. People are nothing if not adaptable, and none more so than people in love. The chances are better than good that your daughter and her wife will find new ways to live into their new lives, to know and understand themselves, to love and serve one another. For as I’m sure some poet somewhere has written: Where love exists, all walls fall"


  1. "The two parents who have always loved and cared for her will continue to love and care for her...."
    Perhaps. It would be nice and maybe, just maybe the young child will be able to adapt to this rather radical change. There is so much that can go wrong and given Murphy's Law...I think John is being overly optimistic.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. I find it interesting, Whatever, that you prefaced your skepticism with the clause about how both parents will continue to love and care for their child. Oh, my skepticism of the author's pie-eyed confidence that love will conquer all all runs wide and deep. But he didn't lose me at that point in his response.

      The notion, for instance, that the wife of a transgender person who comes after having married and reproduced just might be able to continue a sexual relationship with her post-transition partner marks an almost pathological ability to look on the bright side. The wife has a right to refuse even to consider altering her own sexual orientation for the marriage. As much right as the trans parent has to risk the marriage by transitioning, and optimism about the marriage is premature before ascertaining what the wife wants for just for her own life. And she should be told that she would not be harming her child by ending a marriage in which she would be sacrificing herself.

      Nonetheless, the one thing I do not doubt is that a parent's transition will not dilute that parent's love for their child. Sure, divorcing parents often lose sight of the best interests of their children in the fog of their mutual resentment, but such is the nature of divorce, not being trans. Indeed, if both of these parents love their child while married, both will continue to love their child if they go their separate ways.

    3. what I found for my own marriage and that we both freed ourselves from a model that could not possibly work. She needed someone normal and I am a transgender person. My children are both well adjusted and happier seeing each parent be more content.

      While I strongly admire his optimism the statistics are completely against this marriage lasting. Neither partner should sacrifice their identity or orientation and one hopes that no transgender person ever needs to enter into a marital situation without 100% disclosure in advance.


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