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Beyond Gender: The Reality of One Woman and Her Spouse’s Transition

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Leslie Fabian met her spouse in 1987: a cross-dresser named David. Throughout twenty years of marriage, David believed himself to be a cross dresser and identified with the female persona of “Deborah In 2009, David finally decided to transition and live as a woman full-time.

Before transitioning, David sometimes said he would have loved to live as a woman if “it were possible.” The fears that came along with transitioning, such as losing her job or even her wife, prevented David from believing that life as a woman full-time was a possibility. With the support of Leslie, David eventually made the transition to Deborah.

According to Leslie, it was her early life that gave her the strength and liberal-mindedness that allows her to both understand and accept Deborah. Early on Leslie was ensured that she would live a nonconventional life, as her mother was diagnosed with polio in 1952 and was put into a wheelchair. Leslie observed her father devote a great deal of energy and support to her mother, which taught Leslie the importance of sacrifice and dedication for the sake of love, which has carried out into her relationship with Deborah.

In addition to her mother’s illness, Leslie Fabian also disclosed that two of her siblings committed suicide at the ages of twenty-two and thirty-nine. These tragedies showed Leslie what happened when people were unable to find happiness and, as a result, she did not want to prevent Deborah (David at the time) from doing what made her happy. Despite Deborah’s declaration that she would not transition if it meant losing her spouse, Leslie insisted on the transition because she knew that in Deborah’s case, living as a woman would make her truly happy. Prior to the transition, Leslie witnessed David’s grief whenever he removed the female clothing, to play the role of David in the outside world. This grief proved to Leslie that a transition was necessary to maintain Deborah’s happiness.

 

Leslie Fabian reveals that sexual intimacy has been the most difficult aspect of having a transgender spouse. She had always been sexually free-spirited and supportive of her husband’s desire to be Deborah in bed, but she’d sometimes wanted something different. This struggle was painful for both Leslie and her spouse, as David would think that this meant Leslie wanted Deborah to go away completely. The close link between David’s sexuality and his transgender expression made it difficult for him to play a different role with Leslie. However, despite the enormous effort, somehow he’d always manage to do it.

 

Ultimately, Leslie Fabian felt challenged in having to give up her male sexual partner. However, the difficulty with intimacy was not a deal breaker. Instead, they have both learned to cope with the sexual side of their relationship and remain fully devoted to one another. While they now tend to stray away from affection in public, the Fabians maintain their close physical expression in private. Leslie says that she is content without being sexual because she and Deborah find their happiness in being best friends who continue to share a loving, intimate life.

During David’s two-year transition into Deborah, Leslie discovered that her spouse wasn’t the only one who had to change. Leslie underwent a personal transition of her own. Though Leslie is unquestionably heterosexual, she suspects that people may now see her and Deborah as a lesbian couple. It is also possible that people recognize that Deborah is transgender or assume that they are two women friends. However, regardless of what others may assume, the Fabians are content to be happy together, celebrating the extraordinary relationship they have created.

 

The final element of Leslie Fabian’s transition was the loss of the vision she had for herself. She had always envisioned being in a heterosexual “with a man [she] adores.” While Deborah was finally becoming the woman she knew she truly was, Leslie was losing the relationship that she had always wanted. However, she preached the importance of complete respect, believing that we must always “find a way to be respectful of the dignity of other human beings.” This respect means calling someone what he/she/they, etc. would like to be called, while it also means that there needs to be equal respect for those who are close to the individual transitioning. One primary reason that her marriage to Deborah is successful is that Leslie respects Deborah’s decision to transition, while Deborah respects all that Leslie has given up.

Author: Maddie Edwards

I was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York and attended a private Quaker school from first grade up until my senior year of high school. T I am now a rising junior at Trinity College where I major in English with a concentration in creative writing and minor in Women, Gender, and Sexuality. Throughout my first two years of college I expanded my interest in creative writing, as I learned how to successfully write and edit both poetry and short stories, while I also became heavily involved in the women’s movement and feminist theory.

About Maddie Edwards

I was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York and attended a private Quaker school from first grade up until my senior year of high school. T I am now a rising junior at Trinity College where I major in English with a concentration in creative writing and minor in Women, Gender, and Sexuality. Throughout my first two years of college I expanded my interest in creative writing, as I learned how to successfully write and edit both poetry and short stories, while I also became heavily involved in the women’s movement and feminist theory.

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