PODCAST: What happens when your husband decides he’s a woman?

In this episode, Meghan Murphy speaks with Shannon Thrace, a woman whose husband came out as transgender after 14 years together.

Transgenderism is often discussed in terms of personal identity — a person expressing themselves, becoming their true self, connecting their outer persona to an internal feeling, etc. — but what about those around them? What happens when a woman’s heterosexual partner decides he is, in fact, a woman? How does this impact the relationship?

In this episode, I speak with a woman who saw and experienced this firsthand. In a relationship with her husband for 14 years, Shannon Thrace’s life went into turmoil when her husband decided he was, in fact, a transwoman. She describes the extreme changes to his personality as well as the painful impacts on their relationship and on her life.

Shannon is a grad student, writer, and IT professional. She is currently writing a memoir, tentatively titled, 18 Months, about her marriage to and divorce from a transgender person.

I spoke with her over the phone from her home in the Midwest.

Meghan Murphy
Meghan Murphy

Founder & Editor

Meghan Murphy is a freelance writer and journalist. She has been podcasting and writing about feminism since 2010 and has published work in numerous national and international publications, including New Statesman, Vice, Al Jazeera, The Globe and Mail, I-D, Truthdig, and more. Meghan completed a Masters degree in the department of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies at Simon Fraser University in 2012 and lives in Vancouver, B.C. with her dog.

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  • ALD

    If I found myself in that situation, I would take all the money out of our joint bank accounts and put it my own bank accounts, cancel the credit cards, pack up all the stuff I wanted from the house and put it in my new condo, have all further communications handled by my attorney.

    • Marita

      Careful not to give anyone any ideas… cause you know… the Trans Woman in said case could just as easily do this to you herself before ever coming out to you.

  • Thistle Pettersen

    Wonderful interview. It made it crystal clear that online social networks have provided the space for the trans trend to grow and that regular people can get sucked into it online. People, who before the internet, would not have had so many social peers reinforcing such a strange and harmful ideology of misogyny and body-hatred.

  • Michelle

    I liked reading your story:) I’m glad you feel comfortable with who you are now. You seem like a really smart, awesome person. Thanks for sharing your story.

  • Madam DeVille

    Thank you for doing this interview. I loved hearing another woman’s struggle with this. I am also married to a trans “woman,” but my story is quite a bit different. I am very much against the transition, but I still love my partner so much I couldn’t possibly leave. I miss the sweet, gender non-confirming guy I fell in love with. The online forums hijacked his mind, and I feel a lot in common with this woman’s views on the whole thing.

    • FierceMild

      I am so sorry you’re going through this. Please, at least try to build a support community for your needs.

  • Can’tUnseeIt

    Thanks it is disappointing to be trumped by an ideolgy but you’re right about friendships sometimes going untested and being based on illusion. Things change over a decade and like any relationship some things we take for granted about each other we probably shouldn’t.

  • FierceMild

    What is a woman?

    • Milli

      For me, everyday reality. Body. But I started to think about “what it means to IDENTIFY as a woman”. For me, this is solidarity with other women. Feminism. For them (trans) – maybe solidarity with female ancestors and relatives and friends, identifying with female archetypes, feeling they do not belong to the male group. I don´t know if it´s valid, I think it´s possible. I think it could mean being “gender non-conforming to the extreme” and transition could be conscious and subversive manifestation of that discomfort (in a one-man-less in a world way”). I like to consider those trans women “allies to womanhood”. As long as we live with patriarchal construct of gender, they should have the right for this personal riot. The problem I see here is that many of them are just fetishists. And that their personal riot sometimes miss the target (patriarchy) and harm women around them. And – that for some people it´s not riot anymore, it´s just “I´m feminine, I´m woman” thing.

  • FierceMild

    I am so sorry. It really sucks to damage a friendship over men in dresses. And once you realize that the feelings of hypothetical men in dresses are more important to your friend than your carefully examined thoughts, there really isn’t a way back to neutral ground (not that I’ve found anyway, f you do, please share).

  • Hekate Jayne

    It is also the difference between how women move through the world.

    We have to be aware of everything, but especially males. Conversely, males move through the world oblivious to everything and everyone. Males don’t make way for us on the street, they don’t notice the objects around them.

    Unless the object gives him a boner.

    And that is why we can almost always tell a trannie is male. We spend our lives scanning our environment for threats.

    Males ARE the threat. They don’t notice us, except for marginally, at best.

    However, they do acquaint themselves with the typical “hot girl” or porn star look. Males study those women because they want to fuck them, and when they decide to lady, they want to be those women.

    It is the male ideation of what all of us should be. ALL trannies look the same. They aspire to the ultimate fuckability standard imposed by males.

    Almost no women meet those standards. But dudes delude themselves constantly, about how smart they are, how competent, how motivated, etc. Males think that they are superior in every aspect and they ignore very obvious and tangible evidence to the contrary. So of course, when they lady, they must be the hottest of all the ladies. They aren’t accustomed to failure, even though they fail all of the time. They just aren’t used to having to acknowledge that they can’t have/be/do everything.

    Most of them feel like they have failed at being male and when they don’t pass, then they have failed at being (lesser, inferior)a woman.

  • anonymouse142

    Thanks to the interviewee for sharing your story. At some point I have started to feel like I am totally alone in my experience so it’s nice to know I’m not.

    My partner came out to me as trans* (MtF) a few years ago. I didn’t mind in principle, I tried to be accepting (and I think he’d agree I did pretty well). I expressed worries to him about how I (as a straight woman) may or may not be likely to be as attracted to him if he transitioned to living and presenting female completely. I also wondered to him about whether, if we lived in a world without gender stereotypes (so he could practice and express gender however he wanted) whether he would have felt the need to transition. He said he thought maybe not, but we don’t live in that world (which I agree – and I think that should be a focus of feminists’ efforts).

    I was also concerned about the fact that he would only dress / present as female or even feminine after drinking too much – if this identity was really so freeing, why the need to use alcohol to facilitate it? Like the podcast guests’ ex, my husband was extremely self-conscious and anxious whenever he presented as female (even at home), and his entire existence became about trans identity and trying to pass. I have to wonder if some of these negative feelings and experiences aren’t reported online because of the “cheerleading” and performative aspects of social media… where you are only allowed to show the good parts of your life, only allowed to say “supportive” things. Advice about how to help my spouse through their downward emotional spiral was basically “validate his identity” but the more I did that the more anxious he seemed to become.

    In the end, after about ~18 months of HRT and ~2 years of trans identification my husband desisted / detransitioned. I asked him if this was because he just felt upset that he couldn’t pass and was “giving up” because I wouldn’t want that. He said, no, he just realized he’s a guy and has always been a guy. That trans identity was something he built up in his head as a possible solution to other problems he had. Those problems still exist, but at least the other issue of trying to be accepted as a female person by an intolerant society is gone. My husband is a thoughtful, loving, kindhearted, feminist person which I think is why my story turned out differently than the authors’. I am so glad to still have him in my life. I think in some ways we are going through a phase where trans identity is on an upswing culturally and it’s being (mostly unconsciously) appropriated by some feminine and gender non-conforming men. I only hope we can find more ways to help these men to feel safe in their own skins, instead of feeling as if they need to alter their bodies, upend their lives, and rewrite their own histories. It should be possible to do this while also accepting and welcoming trans* people and their unique concerns and issues in society.

    • BornACrone

      “That trans identity was something he built up in his head as a possible solution to other problems he had.”

      I can sympathize. If the problem is with how you fit into the world, you can either carve the peg into a new shape, or change the pegboard. But when the changing the pegboard means CHANGING THE ENTIRE WORLD … well, that’s not really possible, at least not within one or fifty human lives, really. Admitting this is admitting that you’ll always feel out of place on your own planet. It’s not easy. But there are a lot of things in this universe that are unpleasant but true; this is only one.

      It does seem like this trans business is nothing more than a gang of weird MRA alt-right woman-haters who are leeching off of the unhappiness of people who have a really hard time fitting into a broken world. That they are vampirically feeding off of iconoclastic people’s justified unhappiness at trying to fit into a broken world makes me so damned angry. Iconoclastic people are what drive all societies forward. Instead, all of that creative energy is being chained to the oars of the status quo.

      And hey, if doing so means they can target women and turn it all into rage at lesbians and iconoclastic women …. AARRGGHHHHHH …

  • Michelle

    Could someone please post information about support groups for the spouses of transgender people? Thanks in advance!!

  • peopleareweird

    They don´t need to identify as trans to say stupid thinks like “we are pregnant”. The number of men who insist and insist on having a child, and when their SO finallly gets pregnant they get jealous people ask HER about her and the baby’s health and end up cheating/leaving. In my generation that is quite frequent.