Dear Andy (Amanda),
Thank you for being open enough to allow my story to be told, honestly and without restraint. If you remember, you encouraged me to make this move many years ago. Unfortunately, I was still in the tremendous upheaval of discovering that my life was about to change in a very profound way. You and I know the struggles that we went through during that time and now it's time to tell the story. The story that, for so long, I felt I had to keep a secret...
I was only 18 when I met Andy at an amusement park in Central Pennsylvania. He was standing there...tall, dark, handsome, and dangerous!! He had a pair of cut-off jeans on, mirrored sunglasses, mustache, cigarette dangling casually from his lips, and his shirt tucked partially in his back pocket. The image before me, took my breath away and I leaned over to my girlfriend and all I could say was "Ohhh Myyyyy Goddd!". Andy leaned over to his friend and said "I want the one on the left." (guess you all know that was me!). And so it began! Two and one half months later we were married!
The first time Andy (Amanda) "revieled" a bit of herself to me, was just four months into our marriage. He came from our bedroom in pantyhose and a denim skirt. I am fairly open-minded, and figured he was simply throwing a little kinkiness into our private life!! I played along, had fun, and didn't think much about it afterward. Then things started to get more bizarre.
I was pregnant soon after getting married. Andy had a few friends over one night and I went to bed. I woke in the middle of the night to find Andy dressed in my favorite dress, and in bed with his friends!! My heart is pounding as I write this... In that moment, my world was turning inside out! I could hardly temper my soul from screaming out loud. How could this be happening? What happened between us? Was I not attractive to him? Was it because I was pregnant? And to wear my clothes? What was that about? What was happening? Maybe my Mother was right...damn her!! Maybe we shouldn't have married. But NO!!! I'd be damned if I was going to have a failed marriage! I loved Andy no matter what. I would love and accept him, no matter what baggage he was carrying! I went into the bathroom, vomited, and went back into our bedroom...and cried into the wee hours of the morning until I fell into a tormented sleep. In the morning, there was distance between us, and then profuse apologies from him. It would never happen again...
We had a beautiful son together. He gave new meaning to our relationship and Andy would be a wonderful father! And he was, when he wasn't drinking or drugging in some way. What I now understand, is that is very common in folks struggling with gender identity (and other issues). The using of substances became more frequent. His time away from home, also did. I felt abandoned. We had little money, and I was trapped. There was no phone, no car, and we were out in the middle of nowhere. The nearest store was 20 miles away. I was raising our son the best I could. I was so young. My family was far away. And I wouldn't let on that anything was wrong, had they been closer. He was my husband and father of my child. We would get through all of this somehow...
One day, Andy chose to buy drugs instead of groceries. We separated on the same day. Our son was around six months old. A beautiful child. And I adored him! He was the only good thing in my life and I clung to him as if my own life depended on it. What I didn't realize at the time, was that I had my own addiction issues. But my using took on the form of "binge using". I would carefully plan the time when I would drink; arranging baby-sitters for our son...to extend at least two days. See, when I started, I had a hard time stopping. And it took a while to recover. But in my twisted mind, I was a good parent. Making sure my child was cared for during my absence. And why shouldn't I drink?! Once in a while would never hurt me! And it was my husband that had the problems!!
And so it went...for months...until Andy and I were in the car together (for what reason, I can't recall). He decided that he had enough and wanted to go for alcoholism and drug addiction treatment. For the first time, in a very long time, I had hope for us. After all, it was he that had the problem!
Andy returned from treatment 6 weeks later, and I had everything I ever dreamed of...on the outside. He was my husband again, father of our child, my lover and friend. But somehow, I was dying inside. What was wrong with me? I feel so alone! He's always going to those damn meetings!! What is all that about? Why do I feel so empty? Why can't I FEEL what's going on around me? I was living a very private hell. Not wanting to upset Andy, for fear he'd drink again. Hiding my own usage, for fear he'd use again. Dying my own personal death, yet struggling desperately for my next breath!
I went to treatment when our son was 14 months old. I had finally found what was missing in my life. I faced those horrifying demons inside of myself that had kept me crouched down, in a dark corner of my soul, sobbing...and very, very afraid. Things were better than I ever could imagine with Andy. Soon, I was pregnant with our second child. Everything was so different this time. We were both sober, Andy was wonderfully supportive, we had a steady income, and I felt like I was truly blessed. Our second son was born. It wasn't long until the demon, the one I had forgotten about, reared it's (her) ugly head.
I can't clearly recall how his transvestitism manifested itself at first. But I suppose that's unimportant now. I can remember being scared and hesitant. But we were sober now! Things were different for us! I was certain that he loved me. And God knows, I loved him! I reassured myself with the teachings of a twelve-step program. "...unconditional love...acceptance is the key to all of your problems..." Taking those words to heart, I approached my husbands' TV tendencies with the "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em" philosophy. Andy, in the meantime, had found a support group that most of you are familiar with. I helped him do his nails, let him wear my clothes, taught him how to do his make-up and even did his hair for him! And off he would go!!...to those damn meetings!!
Our sex life took on new and different approaches as well. I really don't feel the need to elaborate, but with a little imagination, the reader can figure it out. There were times in bed that it would seem that we BOTH had gender identity issues!! (If you know what I mean.)
So now that you all know the history, here's what happened to me in the process. I completely sacrificed myself, trying to keep my marriage and family together. Every time I helped my husband get dressed, Every time I played a role in bed, Every time we talked about his new experiences, I'd get that all to familiar nausea in my stomach and my skin would crawl! I did a pretty good job hiding it though. I felt I had to so Andy would feel loved and supported. And then there were our boys. "Please, please, please Andy! Whatever you do, don't let the boys see you dressed." was my plea. Once again, I was feeling like our children were the only good things in our lives. Not only did I not want the children to know, I didn't want another soul to know! It was our secret. I was ashamed, and so was he, but for different reasons. And then came the day when he told me, with tears streaming down his face, that he feared that he was a woman trapped in a man's body. I was shattered! My whole life and psyche blew apart into a thousand pieces! I felt as though I had failed as a woman. That I had failed by choosing this man, this flawed man, as my husband. What was wrong with me that he wanted to dress like a woman? Screw that!! What was wrong with him?! Why did he want to throw away everything we had worked so hard for? How could he betray me?! How could he betray our marriage...our children...our families?! He was a freak!! He was a self-centered warped freak!!! I HATE YOU FOR RUINING MY LIFE AND MY DREAMS!!!!
We separated again, and for the last time, a few months later. I could never find the words to express to you the overwhelming grief that overtook me. I had lost. I lost my husband, my marriage, and myself. I entered into therapy and remained there for a year and a half. How can I summarize for you what evolved over that year and a half? I suppose I first had to deal with what was in front of me. The "death" of my husband. The sadness consumed me. I couldn't appreciate anything or anyone around me. I was horribly depressed and deeply sad. What sobriety had given me (hope and light), was now extinguished, and the cold wind blew right through my soul. I was dark again and oh, so sad. I had to say good-bye to the man I loved with all my heart, good-bye to a marriage that meant more to me than life itself, good-bye to a family that I so desperately wanted, good-bye to a part of my life that would never be again. I cried every day for one year. I still can vividly recall going to bed one day and being astonished that I had not cried that day.
I had to rediscover me. Who was I? What did I stand for? What were my beliefs...morals...standards? And what are you going to do with your life? Your children need you! Get off your sorry ass and DO SOMETHING!!! So you lost! What do you plan to do?...SIT IN THERAPY AND WHINE AND SOB FOREVER?!! Are you a loser? Or are you going to face the world, with your fears and insecurities, and BECOME? Whatever that is...BECOME!!! BECOME!!!
Five years into sobriety, a new relationship, a new daughter, I enrolled into college. And yes, Andy was still part of my life. He and my current husband were friends before the divorce, and remained so...even during times when I spit on the very ground Andy walked on! He (Andy) was in OUR lives during my therapy period, stayed with our boys while I went to have my daughter, was present for every birthday, holiday, picnics, and just any day. For a time, after my daughter learned to talk, she called him Daddy right along with her own!! (Not that it pleased my husband much, but we wanted Andy to be part of our lives.) He was there when I started college. He was there when I graduated. And somehow he's... (she's) ...remained.
So they tell us that time heals all wounds. I don't know if that's entirely true, or perhaps I wouldn't have cried through writing some of this. I'm currently a Trauma Nurse at a Level I Trauma Center in a large metropolitan area. However, I still live out in the country, where I first came when Andy and I married. I've grown to love the mountainsides, wide open fields, fresh air and calm approach to life. I'm happy with my life again. Even more, I'm happy within myself.
Before Andy left Pennsylvania, we (Andy, my husband and myself) spent time with the children (our boys, as well as my daughter), explaining the decisions that had been made, why he was moving, and allowing them to express how they felt. A lot of tears were shed. But not near as many as Andy and I shared together shortly before he left. What was different this time was that the tears were ones of remembrance...of happy times that we shared together. Remembering our sons' milestones, silly things in our past, making fun of one anothers' family, picking on one another's character flaws (that had nothing to do with gender), appreciating each other-- to each other. Saying good-bye...awaiting the holidays when we can all be together again.
So maybe time does heal. Amanda has finally found the peace and is developing into the person that she has sought all her life. But the one thing that endures forever... is love. And after all, isn't that what all human beings need more than anything?