Harry Eastlack, through nothing he did, through no fault of his own, was born with a body he would not retain throughout his life. Eastlack donated his skeletons — yes, skeletons, plural — to Philadelphia’s Mütter Museum1, where it is on permanent display. His normal skeleton betrayed him, transforming his connective tissue into bone as well; a skeleton over a skeleton. Transgender people find themselves in the same grip of a body they did not intend to inhabit. After they marry (or sometimes even before), their bodies betray them, and they are left with the tangle of divorce.
Two Possibilities, Six Paths
With transgender divorce, most attorneys recognize and can assist with two situations:
- Your wife wants to transition to a man
- You want to transition to a woman
This need to inhabit a different gender can collide with marital bliss in three ways:
- A desire to make the transition
- Already transitioned
This creates six different paths worthy of exploration.
My Wife Wants to Transition to a Man
If your wife has come to you to say that, in searching the depths of her soul, she feels she is a man trapped in a woman’s body, the gender dysmorphia she feels can cripple her and your marriage.
In choosing to share your life, your wealth, and your health with your wife, you (more than likely) did not marry her anticipating that she would want to share your gender. Your wife is turning her world upside down, and with it goes your world. Consider three points along her path:
- Wanting to transition — What can you say or do to be both supportive and make clear your own feelings? You know you did not sign on for this; no compromise exists with this binary decision: either you two will stay together and you will support her becoming him, or you will divorce.
- Transitioning — You tried to be understanding; you helped her chop off her hair and buy men’s clothes; you even went with her to hormone therapy appointments and all the rest. Soon she must decide if surgery is the next step, and this is a step you cannot take with her; divorce may be your only way to stay true to yourself.
- Already transitioned — The transgender aspect may simply be the proverbial straw that breaks your camel’s back; you have dealt with other, mounting issues in your marriage, and stood by your wife as she transitioned into a man, but you realize you have reached the limits of your ability to support her while still getting something meaningful out of the relationship; divorce is a survival strategy to retain some part of yourself.
No matter where you fall on the band of transgender transition, you and your wife are protected in marriage (after the June 26, 2015 Supreme Court decision, same-sex marriage is legal). You also have the same rights to divorce as any other Virginia couple and can proceed with an uncontested divorce. Separate; mark the date; wait six months (a year with kids); get a good lawyer, and then file for divorce under Code of Virginia § 20-91.
I Want to Transition to a Woman
A February, 2017 study published in the American Journal of Health puts the number of transgendered Americans below one million, or about one in every 250 adults. This means, statistically, about half a million men are on the path to transition to women; you may be one of them. Your wife is faced with the same struggle as our hypothetical guy above. Beyond that, though, are the internal conflicts you feel:
- Wanting to transition — Perhaps your Virginia marriage never felt authentic; perhaps biology alone did not bring the mental consummation you hoped for; how honest can you be with your wife about your desires and intentions? Divorce may shield her from the lengthy process and give you room to explore and understand yourself better.
- Transitioning — You have started a transition from man to woman, but are unsure of how far you want to proceed; your wife is struggling to be supportive, so perhaps divorce will give you a respite from guilt, from lengthy explanations, or from her contempt/confusion/contumely (take your pick).
- Already transitioned — Against long odds and in the teeth of a fierce national battle (as outlined in saddening detail by 2015’s U.S. Transgender Survey), you have transitioned from a man to a woman and must divorce your wife for the sake of both your psyches.
Transgender Fathers & Child Custody
A monumental wrinkle to this whole difficult area of Virginia divorce: children. As with every other area of Virginia law, your interests (transgender or not) come second to the best interests of your child. Determination of child custody, child support, visitation and other situations will be made by a Virginia judge without regard to your gender or transgender. If you can provide a wholesome, stable home for your kids, the judge should not care whether you are Mr., Ms., or Mrs.
By calling 757-383-9184 or by contacting us online, you can speak with an attorney at The Firm For Men who will listen carefully and support you fully. We have offices in both Virginia Beach and Newport News, so call today to schedule your consultation.