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.

      • Hanakai

        Oh, come on. Transsexuals are NOT the allies of women, they are the enemies of real women. They are seeking to supplant and erase real women, they are seeking to supplant women, to invade women-only spaces, they are seeking to have womanhood defined by males.

        Transsexuals are in no ways allies of women. Their ideology (that sex is one’s choice, that thinking something makes it so, that men can be women, that there are such things as ladybrains) is sick, twisted, wrong, unscientific and delusional.

        How are transsexuals going to be in solidarity with real women when the have never menstruated, never feared pregnancy, never been subjected to rape and sexual assault, never underpaid, never subject to daily misogyny, never been female?

        How one identifies needs to be in line with reality, or else it is delusional. When a man thinks he is Jesus Christ, or a women thinks she is a dolphin, we get that they are mentally ill and delusional. When a white woman says she is black because that is how she “identifies,” she is castigated as a delusional charlatan and liar. Human are a dimorphic species, born male or female, XX or XY being marked in EVERY single cell of the body. It cannot be changed. Transsexuals are delusional and they should be getting mental health treatment from sane professionals instead of support from brain-addled millennials.

        This whole transsexual movement is part of a larger scheme to eliminate women, supplanting real women with pornography, virtual reality sex, sex robots and transsexuals engineered with fake vaginas and the sexual proclivities of males without the drawbacks of fertility and menstruation. This is the vision of the patriarchal futurists, a world without real women.

  • 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.

  • Meghan Murphy

    How do you define ‘woman’?

  • Hanakai

    More troubling is how many men have the propensity to commit rape and violence against women. More troubling is how many male serial killers of women there are — serial killers of women are operating in every state of the USA. Infants only whine and wail and throw tantrums and are incontinent. Males actually harm women physically, mentally, emotionally, psychically. Male violence is destroying women, children, animals, wildlife, the oceans, the land and the whole planet.

  • Hanakai

    Unsurprising. Men have too much self-regard to partner with a fake.

  • Milli

    Maybe you are right, situation is not ready for that. To be crystal clear – I don´t advocate for “I am woman” thing. I just don´t want to deny them right for expression. They see identification as womanhood, I see it as “allying to womanhood” in case of gender critical trans women or “appropriation of womanhood” in case of fetishists. My experiences with trans women are very different from what trans activists say. Maybe it is local phenomenon – but seems to me this is more about online brainwashing than real opinions of real people. Unstable men can fall for it easily, it´s like new fashionable sect that gives the feeling they belong somewhere. What annoys me more is that bunch of few trans activists and online storm distracts mainstream feminism from bigger issues and weakens position of radical feminism in public.

    • Alexandra Yaseneva

      Thank you for upholding your position! I agree that often such nuances and the whole multilayer structure of sex/gender are omitted in favor of more superficial view – either from “gender identity” or from “biological” side.

  • Meghan Murphy

    You DEFINITELY seem like someone we should all be taking seriously.

  • Paul Schechter

    I applaud the woman who was interviewed. I thought she was quite articulate and well-spoken and I can empathize with her difficult 18 month experience, while her partner ‘Jamie’ dealt with traumas of defining/understanding her gender. I am writing this post because I would like to question a few of the concepts put forth in this comment section, and see what the reactions are. First, it seems like there is rather broadspread animosity towards the concept of transgender people. However, it appears as if most of the animus is aimed at trans-women. Do you dislike trans-men as well and if so, why?

    The story of the male-to-female transition and the resulting divorce is truly a sad story, for all parties involved. Do you think the outcome would be that different if a female partner in a heterosexual marriage revealed over 18 months that she was a lesbian? While it was implied that ‘Jamie’ had an overnight transition, fueled by social media, etc, it’s also true that couples can undergo similar fallout when latent homosexuality is revealed. In many of these cases, the heterosexual partner never would have guessed. If we can empathize with such latent homosexuality scenarios, why can we not with latent transgenderism?

    What strikes me as odd about this conversation is that actual trans people are not being asked for their input. Yes the above story paints a sad picture, and places the blame squarely on the ‘transition’, but what about Jamie’s perspective? Was he really happy during those 13 years and is she sad now? I think Jamie is the only one who can honestly answer these questions.

    Finally, with regard to gender pronouns, it seems hypocritical to me that most people on this thread do not believe in gender conformity and are fine with people “living life as a man” or “living life as a woman” but refuse to allow such non-conformity in pronoun form. If one wants to live life as a woman, why would they want to be called ‘he’ or ‘him’? That doesn’t make sense. Where is it written that gender pronouns strictly refer to biological sex? Afterall, they are referred to as ‘gender’ pronouns, not ‘sex’ pronouns.

    • Claire Avina

      Thank you sir.

  • Meghan Murphy

    You’re a middle aged, well off, white male lawyer claiming oppression… Ok.

    • Claire Avina

      Thank reason for intersectional feminism (which I learned at the foot of an African-American woman) that can countenance how one can be both oppressed and privileged at the same time. As far as white, NO. I am Latino, raised by a single mom in poverty. As far as being a middle aged lawyer I have no shame in my game — gotta buy my Frye boots and jewelry somehow. I guess middle class white feminists from countries with socialized everything might not be as receptive to nuances as African American women that choose not to duplicate exclusionary social boundaries.

  • Meghan Murphy

    How is a cross-dressing man a minority?

    • Claire Avina

      Merriam Webster calls a minority: the smaller in number of two groups constituting a whole; specifically : a group having less than the number of votes necessary for control The proposition was opposed by a minority of voters.

      NYT estimates transgender people at 1.4 million. vs the 325 million people in the US. Under these facts “men” as you call us that choose to dress as women are a numerical minority fulfilling the narrow definition.

      As far as oppression goes plenty of us are killed, denied work, denied healthcare, assaulted, harassed and so on. My point is not that this is greater than or equivalent to the oppression of cisgender women but it is real, material oppression with measurable consequences for this population from a public health perspective.

      You write well and intelligently so I am suspicious you already know all this and are simply transphobic. That said, facts are facts.

  • Claire Avina

    You are confusing your truth and reality with a valid judgment as to the reality of transgenderism for others. There is TON of science that supports the reality of transgender identity. Just because you falsely bought into the “wrong body/wrong gender” narrative doesn’t mean there aren’t people for who this is an abiding, sincere conviction and for whom HRT is an appropriate intervention. I went in the opposite direction from you — from birth I felt like I was in fact in the wrong body. I was confused by being both an assertive person and someone that longed to be able to have a child with my own body, to nurture, to cook for others, to be able to be in a caretaking role (among others). I did a TON of things to learn an extreme version of masculinity — broken bones from being thrown off horses and all. In the end I settled on being a femme, assertive, and nurturing person. People were SHOCKED when I came out because I was a very competent man. Hiding sucks. Now I’m a competent something else (I don’t care what you call me as long as it is respectful).

    Your comments likening trans people to otherkin is offensive to both. I have no idea what is going on with people that feel like they are another species but as long as they don’t hurt anyone I support their truth and joy. You sound like an apologist or perhaps a person of color trying to convince white people they “aren’t like those other BAD people” — in reality you are just supporting bigotry. Some will take objection at using a race metaphor and say there is no parallel — well people of color essentially invented intersectional feminism and so they at least have a robust and nuanced explanatory framework that can see how this metaphor fits. Apologists to the old status quo of feminism throwing a vulnerable group under the bus to further their own inclusion.

    I’m glad you came to accept yourself but don’t pass judgment until you have a much deeper understanding of the facts and some empathy for people that have a different subjective experience than you. Both are relevant.

  • Claire Avina

    All right — your question about the science will take some time but if you haven’t read my other posts in this forum I will say this. When I came out I specifically kept using the men’s restroom to avoid making ciswomen uncomfortable. I respect their need for safety especially in a vulnerable space. I have had the shit kicked out of me in fights and I know what it is to feel physical fear (so I avoid making others feel it unless it is in defense). I know what it is to win a fight too but that’s not directly relevant (I just don’t want you to think I am some shrinking violet that represents the retrograde tendencies of us “sissy” transwomen). Guess what? Big strong men complained about me to HR. HR more or less politely asked me to use the women’s restroom FOR MEN — to keep them comfortable. No where in my rant above did I conflate my desire to nurture or be assertive with some sort of monolithic, essentialist notion of what being feminine or female is. Nowhere have I tried to erase the biological reality of ciswomen or the oppression they experience that is categorically different than other forms of oppression based on that biology. My point was simply that I am a combination of traits — assertive, nurturing, and so-on. These do not map onto the typical radfem critique of transwomen that we somehow reinforce or “reify” (to use critical theory speak) normative gender or retrograde gender roles. I support strong women — I’ve had to fight to keep strong women on my team at work against the objection of men that were threatened by them. So long story short I don’t fit the narrative of radfems that we (transwomen) are all just a bunch of people pantomiming a retrograde fantasy of the feminine that hurts women by reinforcing a sexist template for the feminine. I learned how to do femme from female professionals that kick people in the teeth (figuratively speaking). I’m sorry if you don’t like my metaphor (not sorry). I dress femme. I’m not sorry. Plenty of radfems do too. Why do you want the radfems to like and accept you so bad? I ain’t working their plantation until they recognize the validity of my class and our right to exist. I would be happy to surrender use of she and the title of female or woman if someone made a reasoned and convincing argument that my using these terms materially hurts cisgender women. So far I haven’t seen one (the bathroom issue I was sympathetic to until I found out men can’t handle me in their spaces either). I do think transwomen need to do a lot of work to understand the issues of ciswomen because we both suffer under patriarchy and ciswomen have an elaborate and deep historical knowledge of how to resist this system. That said we (transwomen and drag folks) haven’t exactly been sitting on our asses (Stonewall anyone?). Sometimes the radfems seem like a gang that says “blood in blood out” — and by that they mean if you don’t bleed (biologically) you aren’t *real.* I don’t care about being seen as a real woman — the blood of murdered trans people and my working class background entitle me to stand tall as a PERSON. So we have bled if that’s the relevant currency.

  • Claire Avina

    I’m sorry you are incredibly disrespectful. I’ve been to a raft of shrinks over the years and not one of them has said my dysphoria was a sign of an underlying personality disorder. Just because you believe something is wrong with you don’t suggest I’m broken. Lookup Stockholm Syndrome

  • Claire Avina

    I’m not engaging with hateful people. This is a waste of my time. My day job is a project that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions. On the side I donate to causes that provide art supplies to homeless people. That’s when I’m not working on other (pro bono) work on the environment. My sense is this forum is underwritten by an intense transphobia and reluctance to even let us exist. All the trans people that hate on so-called TERFs (not my term) are just bad actors like so many people of every stripe including some (not all) radfems. This is an utter and complete waste of time. My country is in a complete crisis in terms of civil society and the breakdown of civil dialogue needed to support rational policy. This site is yet another example of this breakdown (sad to see this tendency across borders and politics). I came here someone that was sympathetic to the core, foundational position of the radfems (women — meaning people of the female sex — are oppressed based on their biology,and this is distinct from other forms of oppression). I don’t have a dog in the fight about are transwomen women. People like me have existed in various forms across most cultures. This is just a waste of time in the end. Your prescriptions for what to do will be utterly ignored.

    • Meghan Murphy

      You’re just pissed because we center women, here. #notsorry

      • Claire Avina

        I’m sorry for you and for the state of dialogue across the world. Anger isn’t worth the energy.

        • Meghan Murphy

          Oh no need to be sorry for me! I am beyond lucky to be part of this incredible movement and to have brave sisters all around the world #blessed <3

          • Robert Gonzalez

            Thanks for adding to this, Meghan. As expected, he provided no real answers to my questions about his supposed womanhood.

  • Meghan Murphy

    He’s a bigot why, exactly? Because he tells the truth about male violence against women?

  • Rich Garcia

    @mikeavina:disqus Oh, goody. I’m a bigot for calling a man a man, and highlighting how you impersonators pose a potential threat to girls and women like any group of men who are violent, unhinged, and suffering a break from reality.

  • Meghan Murphy

    Ugh. I’m sorry your ex put you through all that.