“My husband decided he was a woman”…REALLY???

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By Kenneth Justice

~

By Kenneth Justice

~ This past week at coffee I’ve been hanging out at new café in my area and the assortment of people I’ve met has been totally unusual to say the least.  Yesterday a mid-50ish Orthodox Jewish woman sat down at the table next to me and immediately started asking me questions like, “So that’s a nice computer, what kind is it?” and “So what do you do for living? I am a….

When I told her I had recently returned from the Caribbean she excitedly volunteered the information that she too had spent the last week in the Caribbean (a different country than I) and it wasn’t long before she began talking about her recent divorce, “It’s been almost one year to the day of my divorce,” she said, “After 25 years of marriage my husband decided he was female, he divorced me and moved out to live his life as a woman” she said

If it wasn’t hard enough to deal with the dissolution of more than 20 years of marriage to a husband that she had no inkling whatsoever to this side of him; because she is Orthodox Jewish, “We in our community still practice matchmaking and I can pretty much kiss goodbye the idea of any of my children marrying another Orthodox Jew……while we haven’t been kicked out of the community, there isn’t any family that will offer their son’s or daughter’s up for marriage to my children because of my ex- husband’s current lifestyle

As the woman talked about the various intricacies related to all that had happened, her eyes became glassy a number of times, “Shortly before the divorce I suffered a heart attack and much of my body was paralyzed for a period of time…..I’m not sure but I think a lot of it had to do with all the stress of what was going on with my husband” she said

However, what stood out to me the most about this woman is how joyful she was, I even said as much, “I don’t get it, you seem so joyful and happy. What’s your secret I asked?”

You’ve got to accept life and move on” she said, “There’s no point in me allowing all that my husband has done to me wreck the rest of my life…….hey, you don’t know of any 50 year old Orthodox Jewish men do you who are looking to date” she asked with a twinkle in her eye.

Her husband moved out of town a couple years ago and yesterday, after not hearing from him in more than a year he sent a picture-text of himself as a woman to their teenage son……the boy had never seen what the father looked like and there was no explanation, no sentences, just a picture of the father….she showed it to me on her phone, “Can you imagine how my son feels. We’re all trying to accept the choice their father has made and out of the blue he just sends my boy a picture of him looking like a woman……its sh*t like that; if I obsess over it I’ll go nuts, so I have to take a deep breath and move on

I’ve written a number of articles in recent months about disappointment, the dissolution of dreams, and failed expectations. For young adults like myself (even though I’m approaching forty I still like to think of myself as a young adult) we’ve been told our whole lives that we can do anything we want. Consider for a moment popular sayings in our culture;

—-) “The world is your oyster

—-) “Just do it

—-) “Be all that you want to be

And while on one hand I would never want to shatter people’s dreams of grandeur……yet if we aren’t careful our ostentatious dreams could be setting us up for a big-time letdown. This woman I met yesterday was looking forward to a simple life; marriage, children, a nice little business that she ran……and everything seemed fine until that one day when her husband announced that he wanted to be a woman.

Can anything truly prepare us for a moment like that? I honestly don’t think so……and what it comes down to is our ability to stay grounded in the reality of the here-and-now and acquiring the ability to accept the hand that life has dealt us and move on.

My own life has had many ups and downs and if I’m not careful it’s easy for me to become fixated on the ‘downs’…….yet the true measure of our maturity is how well we accept and handle adversity. It’s not that we will never ‘mess up’……sometimes we might end up dropping a curse word at the wrong moment. But how well we pick ourselves up and move on with our life will determine the direction our life takes in our ongoing journey.

I appreciate meeting joyful people and it was nice to chat with the woman yesterday; she’s one of the most joyful people I’ve met in recent months……..”What can I say” she said, “I can only trust God that there is a purpose to all this and move on with my life

Time for my morning coffee,

Kenneth

If you haven’t heard I’m currently on a national and worldwide tour of coffee houses meeting with readers and bloggers, my next stops include Atlanta, St Louis, Chicago, Philadelphia and more. Click on the Home page of my website for dates and locations.



Categories: Culture & Society

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99 replies

  1. It seems to me that people who have dreams and go for them are exactly the kind of people who will pick themselves up and get on with life if their dreams fail.

  2. Great story. There are so many amazing people in the world…more interesting when you sit down and have a conversation.

  3. I would really like to hear the husband’s side of the story. Had he (or should I say she?) struggled with his own identity for his entire life? Did he somehow still manage to give his wife over two decades of good married life? How did he feel about coming out and leaving the family?

    • Me too! All those questions are ones that were floating around in my mind…… hell I even thought of asking the lady for his phone number but I just couldn’t do it cause it would of been so not the thing to do.

  4. Something I am coming to enjoy and know – still a youngish adult myself even though some years ahead of you on the clock – is that everyone has a story to tell. Everyone has a life worth listening to. Some aren’t good story-tellers, and others don’t realise they have a story to tell. And then most of us are too busy to stop and listen. It all means we forget to see and hear stories. Simple and profound – and real – stories. All around us.

    You do – and I think that is what you tap into for the rest of hurry-worriers! You bring us the community and stories we miss.

  5. uh, gosh, this hits close to home. dumped because husband is asexual. he just doesn’t need it anymore. sorry, i do.

    • i am going on with my life, but this is still new… since october. hopefully, i will get the twinkle back in my eye like the wonderful woman you write about.

    • Wow Kimberly, that sucks…. my heart goes out to you. I can’t imagine how difficult a situation like that is……. October wasn’t that long ago either. I imagine there are all kinds of reasons but it sure would be nice if people like your husband would figure out their s**t BEFORE they get married so they aren’t throwing this kind of stuff at another person like yourself after you rearranged your whole life for them…….

    • i can’t really judge him… he was married once before and left her suddenly too, it made me suspicious when he didn’t really have a REASON, but you know, i err on the side of giving people the benefit of the doubt. and this hasn’t changed me.

  6. i swear on my father’s vagina that i’m a woman too. i don’t imagine my wife will be pleased to find out, considering how seriously born again she is and all. great entry! thanks a bunch.

  7. “Be all that you want to be”

    That bit of advice has always set my teeth on edge. It’d make more sense to me if it was: “Be all that you want to be, wherever you find yourself to be.” Perhaps context is implied when one says it, but I don’t think most people get that.

    All of which is my longwinded way of saying that this woman is a perfect example of being all that she can be under the circumstances. I admire her courageous, common sense attitude toward something so unexpected that there’s no road map to follow. Her story resonates with a truth that gives me hope.

    • Yea, I remember the commercials (was it army or navy?) “be all that you can be in the ‘army'” …..as though that were even true! Lol……. what if I want to be an author or gardener; can I be all that I can be in the army and be a gardener?

      Thanks for the great comments 🙂

  8. I’m happy for all of them. He is doing what he feels is right, and, even though what the husband did appears selfish and will likely lead to some bad feelings in the family for awhile, she gets another chance to find love. I would guess that there were probably some not-so-small emotional and physical relationship issues with the couple. And, in that case, this new start for both of them may be just what the doctor ordered. It even sounds like the wife is already trying to move on. In time the kids will, hopefully, understand. Celebrate new beginnings!

    Nice article. Thanks for sharing.

  9. “yet the true measure of our maturity is how well we accept and handle adversity. ”

    Well said.

  10. The first thing I thought was, Damn, can you imagine what kind of woman he looks like? I mean, come on,, he’s a fifty-ish Jewish man.

  11. A fulfilled life might well be how well we can cope with what ever comes our way. and smile at the end of it all.
    Keep smiling and cheers on the coffee.

  12. I think all this stuff is a result of over-the-top trying to find yourself . . .

  13. That had to be a surprise! And what kind of people would punish childen for the father’s decision? Who would punish ANYONE for anything, for that matter. My friend said that her son would never find a “good” jewish wife because he wasn’t a doctor or lawyer and no one would want him. He just isn’t successful enough and he knows it. Amazingly, she was right. I’m SO happy that I don’t understand things like that. I’m glad the woman you spoke to is getting through it with a good attitude. Not only did she lose her husband, she lost her community as well, which just goes to show that she never had the community at all. It’s was never real because people who care don’t walk away when things don’t turn out the way you expect them to…they rally around you and give you support, not shun your children. Hey, I’m just saying’.

    • The Orthodox Jewish community is a very tight bunch……i’ve got so many stories in relation to them and this one in particular is pretty representational of how they would respond in such a situation…… they aren’t too big on out-of-the-ordinary behavior. The women still are mandated to wear long skirts and full blouses that cover everything……

    • Did she have a wig? My understanding of the Orthodox Jewish community is that women cover their hair (save in the presence of their husbands) because their hair is viewed as a naked, private thing.

    • A wig? Huh? I know a lot of orthodox Jewish people actually because one of the coffee houses I hang out at is owned and operated by a Rabbi (it’s a kosher coffee house) and I’ve never seen any orthodox women wearing wigs. They do wear head coverings of various kinds though.

  14. Ability to accepect and handle the issue will prevent the repetition..opens another door to move on. Wish life would had come with instruction, so definitely not easy for a new start. The 50- 60 yrs old man deciding to change his life style might be ok, but should of thought of the other lives involved, being effected and maybe destroyed. Hope the woman finds peace and support.

  15. “My own life has had many ups and downs and if I’m not careful it’s easy for me to become fixated on the ‘downs’…….yet the true measure of our maturity is how well we accept and handle adversity.: Amen, well said. I was also struck by how she’s determined to remain faithful to what she believes. He doesn’t blame God or anyone else…she just moves on. That’s also a hallmark of maturity in my view.

  16. It’s amazing what people share in such short times!

  17. Ideally he could have involved his family in his suffering and by that maintained a strong and lasting connection to them. It’s hard to see how abandoning his family creates the wholeness he seems to be seeking.

    • I agree. It’s a tough situation, but one would want to think there might be a way to not abandon anyone. Of course, he/she probably feared abandonment, too.

      thanks for your reply.

  18. I wish I could hear what her husband had to say. Many people have used stories like his to show that that kind of lifestyle is a choice. You hear the same thing with homosexuality. A person was happily married with children when they suddenly came out and got a divorce.

    I’d be willing to bet that her ex-husband had been dealing with his feeling of being a woman since childhood. When you’re raised in a strict religious community, people tend to suppress feelings that don’t fit into a heteronormitive box.They think if they get married and do what’s expected of them, they will get used to it.

    I’m not saying this is the case here. I just find it highly unlikely that a person suddenly discovers they want to live as the other gender that late in life. All the same, it’s great that his ex-wife is taking a positive outlook on life. I just hope she is not judgmental of all people who don’t fit into a heteronormitive box because of the actions of her husband.

  19. It can be very difficult to break free from the lifelong “codes of conduct” instilled in you by your family. community and religion. I often thought my grandfather had no interest in getting married but bowed to family pressures to give up his dream of playing baseball and persuing his law degree to come back and take over the family business and marry a nice Jewish girl to start a family with. He held off till he was 40 on finding the nice Jewish girl to marry which was almost unheard of in his community, no one can verify the marriage was happy either. It’s a shame that some people have to force their wishes on others, ultimately it leads to no one being happy. As much as breaking free from the shackles of oppression can cause ripples far greater than one could anticipate, I’m glad to know that this woman could persevere through the currents of change that have swept through her life.

    • “ultimately it leads to no one being happy”

      I swear this happens so much; all the time I see people making decisions based on what they were ‘raised to do’ and your exactly right, it rarely leads to all the parties being happy.

  20. Intense conversation for sure – but it really was her husband’s story that stays with me. He clearly has his demons and he will soon find his coming out disclosure is not satisfying either. He needs an encounter with Jesus and needs deliverance from his strongholds. And his poor wife and son! Seriously what a lost, lost, lost soul.

  21. Wow! That lady truly amazes me. I can easily see someone else being down and bitter about that entire situation, especially the random photo to his son and no explanation at all – kind of selfish and creepy if you ask me. That said – her handle on life is impressive. I would love to be like that. You do end up having the most interesting conversations Kenneth lol. I rarely have those experiences but I suppose part of that is living in a small town and already knowing certain things and a gossip chain to fill in the blanks (not that I’m making light of the seriousness of gossip or condone it in anyway). Yet again, it’s about finding a happy medium to pursuing your dreams and being persistent to knowing when it’s time to put the back up plan in place instead. If people weren’t persistent, at times, then no one would accomplish anything BUT there can for many people come that time when you have to realize something just isn’t meant to be. It’s hard to find that line at times.

    • Jen, as I was sitting there I couldn’t help but think of your comment the other day about the interesting people I meet ha ha…..i wondered if people would think that I was making this one up but I’m really not…. this lady actually sat down next to me and just started talking away, I barely had to even ask any questions. But I guess if your husband does what this guy did, perhaps all she can do is talk about it because its a way for her to release a lot of the emotions that are flying through her mind

    • Oh for sure – that totally makes sense to me. Apparently you just have an aura that says you’re a listener and friendly enough to not judge so people speak to you about whatever – that’s cool. I’m sure it gets difficult but still, you meet the most fascinating people that way. 🙂 Good thing you have a blog to record it all.

  22. great post – and well, this is an emerging topic that we are going to see more and more of.

    We know a guy – who claims he is a female who has been born in a male body – and he is waiting to have sexual reassignment surgery. I guess that before they can have the surgery they have to live dressed like a woman for at least a year (it may be longer) but wow, and without judging (you know without judging his background experiences as a child and as an adult – and without judging his heavy involvement in pornography exposure for three decades) well I will just say that we truly feel sorry for him and the immense struggle he has in this area.
    I feel like this area is one of the most difficult and messiest things a person can struggle with – feeling as if one is the wrong gender??? oh my goodness. However, unlike the lady in your story, this guy’s wife is staying with him – and we since have learned of another local couple that has remained together (and that guy is also in the process of wearing woman’s clothes every day and living as woman while he/she saves money for their reassignment surgery). I guess that sometimes the couple still stays together as friends… I heard that Larry Crabb is writing a new book about GENDER issues and I am curious to see if it addresses this topic.

    oh and one more thing – when I worked in Denver in the 1990s, we had a weekly harp player who was named Gayle, which was a guy who felt he was born the wrong sex – – and years later, I saw her on television, she had their reassignment surgery documented and it was a short summary of it. Anyhow, as I look back, I did not talk to Gayle very often – she was only there once a week, but I was always respectful and loving. I remember just feeling her uneasiness and because I did not know what to say – I just loved her. In fact, I just prayed for her right now – and pray for all of those that struggle with this sensitive area that impacts every single part of their life. wow.

    • First off I’m a HUGE fan of Larry Crab. I’ve read every single book he’s written and I’ve never said this publicly, but his last three books played a major role in my decision to leave the field of counseling. Yes there were other factors that I’ve written about, but I’m not sure I would have had the guts to abandon my future in counseling if it wasn’t for his own evolution of thought on the topic .

      I have mixed feelings on this entire subject and in college i almost considered adding a degree in gender studies….. perhaps one day I will publish me completed thoughts on the whole subject

    • Well I had the chance of meeting Larry Crabb and his son and lathered on the praise – but at the time i did not know much of his stuff first hand, but he was/is such a celeb at our school (CCU in Lakewood) and so when I met him it was cool. I personally find his writing laborious and difficult to get through (yawn, yawn and yawn) and I hope to dive more into his books later on. But “men and women, enjoying the difference” is my favorite book – while most folks I know love “inside out”

      anyhow, I did not know that his books influenced your decisions – how cool. 😉

      And one thing that really impacted me from Larry Crabb was when he shared a simple little story about dropping his wife off at church one Sunday because he could just NOT go in. He was the first one to ever point out the big social thing Sunday mornings often become = and believe me, I am all for the local church – but too often we hear about Sunday morning like it is this end all – and Larry went home that morning to pray and meet God there.

      I still think more needs to be written about “church” – the hazards of religion vs. faith – and how “we are the church and we bring our sanctuary with us” – and how maybe a Friday or Saturday night gathering could be just as potent as traditional Sunday morning.

    • There are TWO Larry Crabs; the first Larry Crab who wrote the majority of books while he was still a professor…. and the second Larry Crab who is still writing AFTER he has abandoned being a professor and professional therapist. As far as the books that he wrote prior to quitting: I agree. I read through them really quick, more or less skimmed them most of the time….. but his recent books are stellar and out-of-this-world. He is attacking the world of counseling head on and much of what he is saying is not popular with therapists and counselors AT ALL….

  23. I highly recommend checking out Sy Roger’s story about his “journey of sexual and emotional abuse and brokenness, the resulting confusion it created, and the dramatic intervention that changed the course of my life. Whether you or your family are facing similar struggles or you want a better understanding of these issues and the character of God, this encouraging and inspiring message is for you.”

  24. Huh! Kenneth! I guess in her turn I should be happy that she wasn’t dumped for a man not for another woman. What in the world I can say to this!? I would never understand these types… blame me, I really don’t care!

    • There’s not much to say Dana…. in fact I really just listened to her mostly, I mean what do you even say to the woman’s whose husband left her; I just told her I was really impressed with how strong she seemed to be holding up

  25. A strange story indeed. No doubt her husband was orthodox too, and gender roles are traditional and rigid within that community. In a way this is worse than being widowed, and her recovery will take some time.

    • Ron,

      You’re TOTALLY right. If her husband had died her children would have been fine in the community; they still would be able to find mates…. but because he is alive they probably will have to marry outside of the faith now.

  26. Wow, this woman is a teacher for the rest of us. She’s definitely making lemons out of lemonade. I know that I can certainly learn from her. Especially to not fret the small stuff. It’s so petty compared to what she’s been through and look at here. Good on her. I admire that.
    =)

    • Staci,

      I wish I could do a video interview of her in order to show people how joyful this lady was…..i swear, it took me a little while to actually believe she was telling me the truth; I even asked one of the employees if she was the real deal or if she was pulling my leg.

    • Hahahaha. I’m sure. I can see how it would seem kind of surreal. I need whatever she’s got. If you ever get the video interview, for sure post it. Would love to see it.
      =)

  27. wonderful spirit she has; thank God she is able to move on:))

  28. What strikes me is that the woman seems to have no compassion for her ex husband who probably lived a lie her (for she is now a woman) hole life just to keep those around her happy. She didn’t transition because of her ex wife’s paralysis/heart attack. But that might have woken her up to how short life is and that she no longer wanted to be miserable.

    I am grateful to my partner for loving me so unconditionally that she stayed with me after I transitioned from female to male. She’s a lesbian but loves me for me.

    Yes, the dissolution of a marriage must be awful. But the real issue here is that her ex husband has been rejected by all those who pretended to be her (the ex husband) friends, family and community merely because she was created as a transgender person.

  29. One of the most joyful in months….hey!!! What am I chopped liver? 😉

    Tis true focus on the good and what is happening right now. A great get up and keep movin’ post. I enjoyed it. She sounds fun, too.

  30. People take things so calmly these day, I would have given him a good old bitch beating!!!! arm flapping everywhere.

  31. I have to agree with this woman. In the face of any type of trauma/tragedy, one has to ‘grieve’ and then move on. It’s such a waste of life when one can’t.

    A good friend, after the birth of two children (now adults and married themselves) was confronted with a dear and loving husband who came home one night and told her, he had met a man from his workplace and fallen in love. She too, had no inkling of his alternate preferences, but she moved on and made a life for herself. She has another male partner now and after 15 years of living with him is content with her life. The interesting part about it all is that the ‘ex partners’ are all good friends and Christmas has all parties to their Christmas lunch.

    Life can be strange. Life can be tragic. Life can be sad.

    But the important thing is to move on and be happy with whatever Life deals out. We don’t have to like what Life deals out, but we do have to deal with it (and make the best of the future).

    • “The interesting part about it all is that the ‘ex partners’ are all good friends and Christmas has all parties to their Christmas lunch”

      Now I love happy endings like that!!! I wish everyone ended up as well as these friends of yours 🙂

  32. This was a good read on the way to work. The cases may vary but the message that we always need to be able to move beyond whatever curve balls life throws us is what’s important. There will be many for sure and some will be real tough to get pass, but we need to start training those muscles and reflexes early. How we react to difficulties and surprises has a lot to do with what we achieve out of life.

  33. Wow Kenneth, people really do tell you everything don’t they. Hope talking about it was of some help to her.

  34. My heart goes out to the entire family. In regard to the transgender woman (i.e., the husband): A few days ago I watched a speech given by a senior at the independent school headed by my wife. The senior is a transgender male: i.e., born female, but is now male. He spoke very movingly of his struggle for identity and his struggle for acceptance. (I’m proud to say that my wife’s school has been very, very supportive and accepting.)

    I’m sure that the husband struggled for years with his identity. He did not one day decide to become a woman; instead, he announced his identity one day. Or, more compassionately: She announced her identity one day.

    Yes, in doing so she hurt her wife and children; but I’m certain that, before that day, he (as he was then, at least to others) was hurting not only himself but also, in subtle but real ways, his wife and children. I suspect that he was not fully present to them. Now it appears that she is taking steps–stumbling steps, but steps nevertheless–to be known to her children.

    I’d also ask: What other option was open to the husband? Again I have no doubt that this announcement was not some whim, not something amenable to a good session with a therapist. Her other option was to continue to live a lie: to be dishonest, day in and day out, to her wife and children.

    I think that it’s hard to ask someone else to live a lie, especially in regard to such a fundamental issue. Yes, one can pretend to like one’s in-laws, despite their obnoxious ways. (I’m speaking hypothetically, of course.) One can pretend not to be bothered by one’s spouse’s taste in music, or in books, or the like. But this woman was faced with a very different problem: how to pretend, day in and day out, to be a man, when she was no doubt convinced that she was and would always remain–in truth, in her heart of hearts–a woman.

    As for the dumped wife and the children: They have long journeys ahead of them. It is unfortunate that their father’s struggles have injured them. I hope that they obtain the support that they need. It does sound as though the mother has a great attitude, and I hope that she can help her children navigate these difficult waters.

    Thank you, Mr. Justice, for focusing on the wife’s attitude, and for not decrying the husband’s decision. I appreciate and honor that.

    Finally, one story of a transgender woman whom I knew when she was identified (by others, at least) as a man: In her fifties, this woman–then living as a man–told her wife that she was, in fact, a woman and wished to live as a woman. They actually remained married. He underwent the whole process, including the operation. The last I heard (and this was back in the 1980s or early 1990s), they were still married–rather an early female-female marriage.

    • In encounters such as the one I had I think its important not to bash the people I haven’t met (although I try not to bash people Ive met either!) so because I only was hearing one side to the story I tried to avoid getting sidetracked discussing too much in relation to her ex-husband 🙂

  35. At first I was impressed with the post, then I became even more impressed with your answers to the comments………..wow, ……uh, …wow.

  36. every problem has one solution “MOVE ON”

  37. Good for you for being there at the right time and allowing this woman to open up to you. There are a lot of people out there who have a story they have to share.

  38. Omg, I love this post! Excellent subject matter! Pursuing our dreams is a beautiful thing, but we must evaluate them, because if our dreams will hurt those we love, it’s pretty selfish to pursue them.

    • ‘if our dreams will hurt those we love, its pretty selfish to pursue them”

      So true Kristi, I guess a lot of people believe their dreams are so important that whether or not they hurt people they are gonna pursue them…..

  39. A courageous woman with lots of wisdom! My only regret is that when I was 40 I was pursuing my dream to become a doc and too busy to write. On second though, you can’t win them all:)

  40. I have so much admiration for this woman. She could be completely miserable, but is moving on with her life, despite a serious shock and impact to her life. And it is very cool that you are the kind of person that draws out these kinds of stories from complete strangers, so you can share it with us!

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