"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"