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May 15, 2012 7:57 AM   Subscribe

"I’ve felt like my gender doesn’t match me for a very long time.” A Quiverfull mom describes her family's journey after her spouse comes out to her as transgender. (Excuse me, I have something in my eye.) (Via No Longer Quivering.)
posted by cereselle (53 comments total) 33 users marked this as a favorite

 
From the article,
Quiverfull theology teaches that couples are to have as many children as God grants them, and raise them up in the lord.
...in case you're like me and had no idea what that meant.
posted by Hypnotic Chick at 8:02 AM on May 15, 2012 [5 favorites]


Great series, thanks for sharing.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:06 AM on May 15, 2012


I cannot imagine the challenge of being trangendered and starting from such a restricted environment of gender norms. It sounds like both folks in the couple are coming from a place of acceptance of and love for each other, so good on them. I wish them the best.
posted by rmd1023 at 8:07 AM on May 15, 2012 [4 favorites]


That's lovely. How hard it must have been for them, considering the profound gender essentialism and transphobia of the Quiverfull movement! I would have loved to hear something from the transitioning spouse about her own perspective on this, but I know not everyone is comfortable with blogging so candidly.
posted by Sidhedevil at 8:12 AM on May 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


What a brave thing they're both doing.
posted by rtha at 8:23 AM on May 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


That was really nice to read. I am glad that the transitioning spouse had chosen such a great wife, and bonus that she is attracted to women and they can remain together and raise the children.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:39 AM on May 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


rmd1023: "I cannot imagine the challenge of being trangendered and starting from such a restricted environment of gender norms."

I can't either. But on the other hand, I can totally imagine why, if you were trying to suppress it, you would be so attracted to a lifestyle where the gender norms ARE that restricted, one where those restricted norms are celebrated. If there's nobody questioning you from the outside, it makes it easier on the inside.

It doesn'treally make it easier, obivously, but I can see why it might feel that way.

posted by MCMikeNamara at 8:42 AM on May 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


Quiverfull theology teaches that couples are to have as many children as God grants them, and raise them up in the lord.

Sounds like they've reinvented Catholicism, something that really didn't need doing.
posted by Segundus at 8:42 AM on May 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


...in case you're like me and had no idea what that meant.

I had to look it up too, but had assumed it was going to be yet another term for some sort of sexual/gender identification.

posted by tylerkaraszewski at 8:43 AM on May 15, 2012


Based on her blog, I don't think they really "chose" this lifestyle. They were both raised in very in strict religious environments (also abusive), and she even describes their courtship as being orchestrated and literally chaperoned by their parents right until they were married.

After reading the site, I'm pretty convinced this woman is real but it's a fortuitous coincidence that they married each other without knowing much about each other, certainly as virgins, and both radically change, or accept pretty radical truths about themselves, and still turn out to be compatible both sexually and emotionally...strange.
posted by PJLandis at 8:51 AM on May 15, 2012


Wow, that was quite a read. And the family sounds like they are doing great.
posted by gaspode at 8:52 AM on May 15, 2012


I must admit that I was somewhat gobsmacked that a couple that self-identified as Quiverfull could also be this open-minded and understanding about how neither of them fit smoothly into the traditional mold, much less about gender decisions that could shut off the possibility of future children.

Then I read one of her other essays, linked in Part 7 of this one, and saw how she'd wrestled with doubts over Quiverfull and the nature of motherhood and womanhood even before these sexuality/gender issues came to light.

Sometimes love finds a way despite what all the rulebooks say.
posted by delfin at 8:52 AM on May 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


Sounds like they've reinvented Catholicism, something that really didn't need doing.

Oh, Catholicism needed reinventing. It's just that Quiverfulls did it in exactly the wrong way.
posted by mightygodking at 8:52 AM on May 15, 2012 [6 favorites]


I read that particular post as well, delfin. A particularly sad passage:
I no longer feel that quiverfull convictions are a healthy reason to have a large family, but the old theology has done it’s work. I have trouble seeing anything that I could do or explore as having value. I cannot wrap my mind around being “done” having kids. I can’t shake the feeling that without continuing to have kids, I basically don’t exist. I sometimes feel like I will never be able to rid myself of the crippling guilt connected with my fertility.
posted by gaspode at 8:54 AM on May 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


I just hope I can meet someone special I can be that in love with.
posted by Samizdata at 8:54 AM on May 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


Its really good to hear a couple to give the finger to their upbringing and do what makes them happy. I'm trans and while I have a girlfriend who's beyond supportive, her family is excessively religious.
posted by Ksilebo at 9:00 AM on May 15, 2012 [4 favorites]


Their kids have the best parents.
posted by Dysk at 9:24 AM on May 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


Quiverfulls would be appalled to be compared to Catholics, for the most part, because a bloo bloo bloo kissing the Pope's toe blah blah.

It's not just the "no birth control" thing, it's a lot of other stuff like women not doing paid work and husbands (or fathers) making 100% of the decisions, etc.
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:25 AM on May 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


This is the sort of story that gives you hope for the future, to see people that are this radically enclosed in rigid gender structures can break through them to their real selves and that the people closest to them can accept that and grow along with them.

It's not just their own personal story, but also seeing those little steps towards acceptance of transgendered and genderqueer people of all persuasions happening much faster it seems than acceptance of LGB people happened earlier. Not to be too pollyanna about of course, I'm sure for many people it is still a struggle for both themselves and their environment to get to grips with not fitting the acceptable heterosexual ticky boxes, but I do have that hope that sexual and gender bigotry is slowly starting to die out.
posted by MartinWisse at 9:30 AM on May 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


The writer is pretty damn super awesome, and I don't think anyone would have begrudged her for making a different choice. This also illustrates the power of the internet to educate people who have been repressed under an insular society. Imagine what this story would look like if it were told 30 years ago.
posted by moammargaret at 9:38 AM on May 15, 2012 [8 favorites]


It's not just the "no birth control" thing, it's a lot of other stuff like women not doing paid work and husbands (or fathers) making 100% of the decisions, etc.

Similarly, the Catholic position is more "it's okay to limit the number of kids you have, you just have to do it by keeping it in your pants for a few days a month rather than using a condom or something", as opposed to the Quiverful position of "have ALL the babies".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:58 AM on May 15, 2012 [3 favorites]


in my reading I had started to realize that LGBTQ people were denied many of the legal rights I took for granted. Growing up as a conservative Christian I was always under the impression that our rights were being snatched away one by one by the liberal and secular government. Now I was starting to realize how many U.S laws were based on religion.

Funny how reading works. So damn well.

Their kids have the best parents.

These folks seem OK, and getting out of organized religion, I would hope. But "best" parents? No. The best parents are the ones you never, ever hear about and you never, ever notice. :D

The kicker of the story is saved until Parts 7+

And as I’d begun to unwrap my own sexuality for the first time, I was starting to feel that if we were to separate for some reason, or if my spouse were to die, I would be romantically interested in women anyway, so I had nothing to lose by staying together.

That changes things a lot.

Anyway, interesting read, if frustrating in some parts. Long story short, it's a woman and her family's journey out of the backwards shit they got taught by their church. At its heart, it's really a lot more about that than accepting the transition (which her same-sex sexual orientation surely helps out with.)

the people closest to them can accept that and grow along with them

Well, kinda. They did leave their church and relocate, so pretty much starting over from scratch. There was very brief mention of family, if I remember ...

When we went down to visit family over the summer we had several different family members ask if my spouse was gay.

I'm not so sure their family is going to accept the transition. Who knows, though.

My only question:

He admitted that he had been crossdressing in private since he was young, but said that it didn’t do anything for him sexually.

I am more sexualized than most, and I struggle with gender confusion myself, and I know people for whom the above might be true ... but c'mon. He's lying, right?

On preview, great point, moammargaret. We really are still only scratching the surface of Internet reach and impact. This does give me great hope.
posted by mrgrimm at 9:58 AM on May 15, 2012


"it's okay to limit the number of kids you have, you just have to do it by keeping it in your pants for a few days a month rather than using a condom or something"

I'm pretty sure they are OK with withdrawal (but not oral, I guess.)

Oh shit. I'm wrong.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:01 AM on May 15, 2012


That was a sweet, touching read. Thank you.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 10:04 AM on May 15, 2012


mrgrimm: My only question:

"He admitted that he had been crossdressing in private since he was young, but said that it didn’t do anything for him sexually."

I am more sexualized than most, and I struggle with gender confusion myself, and I know people for whom the above might be true ... but c'mon. He's lying, right?


Why would we assume she's lying? My personal experience is pretty similar, and I know the same is true of many others...


Long story short, it's a woman and her family's journey out of the backwards shit they got taught by their church. At its heart, it's really a lot more about that than accepting the transition (which her same-sex sexual orientation surely helps out with.)

It's just as much a long story of self-acceptance, and acceptance of others. It's the profound underlying respect they clearly have for each other that makes this so beautiful to me.
posted by Dysk at 10:05 AM on May 15, 2012 [5 favorites]


It's almost like they were courting while married, which I suppose is how it's done sometimes. Thanks for the perspective, Dysk.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:11 AM on May 15, 2012


Sidhedevil: "Quiverfull" women often do do paid work - they just don't work outside the home. Many of them in fact take the line from Proverbs 31 about a woman who buys land to make a vineyard ("She considereth a field, and buyeth it") to mean that they can and should run home-based businesses.

PJLandis - the type of highly supervised quasi-arranged marriage these two had is quite common among US conservative christians, not just the Vision Forum/Beautiful Womanhood/Above Rubies types: it's called Christian Courtship. The difference with the extreme types is that an unmarried woman, no matter how old, is expected to be a "stay at home daughter" and remain with her father as her 'headship' - that means that there's a lot of pressure for women to marry to get out of the house!! Other groups that practice courtship will allow for 'pure' singleness outside the home and for unmarried daughters to go to college (taking the pressure off to accept the first guy dad proposes) but it sounds like the church these two belonged to (for which they did a church plant) was of the more extreme type.

Agreed about the power of the internet: we should remember this the next time someone says that religious people 'brainwash' their kids and make it totally impossible to change, an argument you often hear when people are arguing for more control over others' parenting decisions. Many people do leave these extreme groups, and its easier now to get the information you need to make the break than it ever has been.
posted by Wylla at 10:16 AM on May 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm starting to wonder if there's some necessary connection between particularly rigid religious communities and people with gender issues. Such communities seem to have closeted individuals at a much higher rate than in the general population.
posted by Mental Wimp at 10:30 AM on May 15, 2012


I'm starting to wonder if there's some necessary connection between particularly rigid religious communities and people with gender issues. Such communities seem to have closeted individuals at a much higher rate than in the general population.

Cite? Or at least more specifics about what you're thinking of. Because all I can come up with is the fact that there are more gay Catholic priests than there 'should' be given the frequency of gay men in the general population.
posted by hoyland at 10:57 AM on May 15, 2012


I found the series to be completely gripping and engrossing, and I'm filled with so much hope for the future. What heroes the writer and her partner are, to have reached this place from where they started! I love that she ends the series on the meaning of Acceptance - both for themselves, but also for others who don't currently share their view.

I poked around the website a bit and read about how they decided to stop spanking their kids; how she started going to college because she realized she was worthy in her own right, not just as a baby machine; and how she still struggles with keeping the good things about her upbringing while changing the less-than-desirable things.

This level of soul-searching and introspection is incredibly hard in its own right. To also write about it and share these thoughts 'publicly' is just as hard. I have such immense respect for her and want to thank her so, so much for being brave enough to do both. Wow.
posted by widdershins at 11:01 AM on May 15, 2012 [5 favorites]



It just goes to show that everyone has their own sexuality. How magnificent was it that under all of these circumstances that two people should find each other and be so perfectly suited for each other?

Sometimes, when I read stories like this, I believe that God does have a plan after all.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:12 AM on May 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


Thank you, Internet.
posted by stoneweaver at 11:26 AM on May 15, 2012


I think we're drifting off-topic a lttle. Can we not drag the Catholics out into the town square for a quick beating quite so often?
posted by wenestvedt at 11:33 AM on May 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


I am more sexualized than most, and I struggle with gender confusion myself, and I know people for whom the above might be true ... but c'mon. He's lying, right?

I'm straight and non-trangendered and I don't get turned on when I wear man-clothes, or as I call them, "clothes." I don't see how a trans person is necessarily supposed to get horny just because they're wearing clothes with which they're intrinsically comfortable.
posted by mightygodking at 11:43 AM on May 15, 2012 [20 favorites]


Thanks for the correction, Wylla. So no paid work outside the home. Still sucks from my point of view.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:45 AM on May 15, 2012


The sheer luck of a lesbian and a transgendered, female attracted person both being able to hook up before they both knew what the words they now identify with really meant is more than a little amazing. In a good way.


I know people for whom the above might be true ... but c'mon. He's lying, right?


You know those clothes you have that just feel right and fit right and were completely you? Maybe they're your comfy sweat pants, the footie pjs you wore as a kid or maybe they're a job interview suit you wear because it makes you feel as capable as you wish to appear? All people seem to at least wear a symbolic genital cover, excluding nudist colonies, and they're not all fetishists.
posted by Phalene at 12:38 PM on May 15, 2012


Oh, completely - still very limiting...I'm not arguing that at all! (I am all for people choosing to stay home if that works for them and their families, but the pressure that women raised in these groups get to commit to doing so from about age 6 is both impractical and creepy.)
posted by Wylla at 12:39 PM on May 15, 2012


"I'm starting to wonder if there's some necessary connection between particularly rigid religious communities and people with gender issues. Such communities seem to have closeted individuals at a much higher rate than in the general population."

I don't buy that, I think the difference is in perception.

If you come out as LGBT to your parents and they say "that's nice, can we do anything to help" it's not going to garner as much attention as when they deny/ostracize or even begrudgingly accept.

I think LGBT people are probably more likely to be unnoticed, either because they choose to remain so or because we don't single them out as often, in a more socially liberal environment. I imagine LGBT people who are raised in cultures that deny their feelings/identities are probably more likely to seek out and embrace culture and people centered around that identity. In other words, if I was gay and raised in a homophobic fundamentalist Christian family once I'm out and proud, and either ostracized/shamed or just strongly discouraged by my family, I think I'd be more likely to participate in outrageous gay pride parades, just as example; whereas if my family were Vermont hippies I'd probably be more inclined to engage in non-gender/sexuality based activities. Just as a tendency, not as rule.

While that doesn't really apply to this blog, but if she were just another a woman who came to accept her homosexuality while supporting her husband's transformation from into transgender woman, this blog would be super boring.
posted by PJLandis at 12:43 PM on May 15, 2012


Dear mrgrimm, you're describing the feelings of a crossdresser, someone who gets sexual pleasure from wearing women's clothing yet still identifies with the male gender regardless of their sex partners gender. I think it was brave of you tell us all that, and I'm sure many of us have found ourselves without clean underwear and went the panty route with positive results.

That's cool and all, but it's pretty clear from her blog that her husband is unhappy as a male and has always had a strong feeling that he is a woman, not just a desire to dress like a woman and have sex with whoever, but a constant sense that he was born to the wrong gender. Your kind of trivializing it which is I think what she was trying to dissuade with that comment.
posted by PJLandis at 12:52 PM on May 15, 2012


Because all I can come up with is the fact that there are more gay Catholic priests than there 'should' be given the frequency of gay men in the general population.

Well, I don't know about gays, but there seem to be a lot more pedophiles than expected. No, I was also thinking of fundies whose churches fulminate against "homasekshuls" and then they turn out to be rent-boy clients and such, or, like this guy, turn out to be transgendered. Maybe it just gets publicized more when it's associated with a sexually restrictive religion.
posted by Mental Wimp at 12:58 PM on May 15, 2012


Such an interesting read, especially a lot of her other posts about learning to adapt to life outside the quiverfull ideas and such. Also, some of the comments as she goes through the "onion" story on her blog are really interesting, especially if you read some of her earlier posts and comments on those.

We spent a little time on "Quiverfull" in a feminist theories class I took in college. They really do believe that the woman is solely there to reproduce, and the effect of that on the women who cant have children for one reason or another (heaven forbid their *male* partner be at fault), is just devestating. While not my bag, if it's what you were brought up to believe, I can see how the fanaticisim could enrapture you to believe that your only purpose is to breed.
posted by bleachandink at 1:42 PM on May 15, 2012


I am shocked SHOCKED SHOCKED at how amazing the comments are.
Internet, you've changed!
posted by Theta States at 1:49 PM on May 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


I was surprised by that at first, too! Then I kind of thought maybe the nastier comments were just being culled. Hopefully not. A genuine tidal wave of positive comments would make me happy.

I am more sexualized than most, and I struggle with gender confusion myself, and I know people for whom the above might be true ... but c'mon. He's lying, right?

I'm sure she's being truthful. Transvestitism and transsexualism are two completely different things that don't often overlap. A transvestite might be sexually aroused by crossdressing--and that's fine!--but not identifying as the opposite sex is typically part of that. A transsexual person psychologically is the gender they identify with; that's why medical transition works. Does a woman get turned on by wearing a bra? It depends on context--maybe it's a sexy bra!--but nine times out of ten? Not really. It's just functional or aesthetic.
posted by byanyothername at 1:57 PM on May 15, 2012


You know those clothes you have that just feel right and fit right and were completely you? Maybe they're your comfy sweat pants, the footie pjs you wore as a kid or maybe they're a job interview suit you wear because it makes you feel as capable as you wish to appear? All people seem to at least wear a symbolic genital cover, excluding nudist colonies, and they're not all fetishists.

I wasn't going to continue the derail, but feel like I need to respond. I'm not trying to trivialize it at all. It's clear she wasn't always entirely honest to her, wife and I was actually curious about personal experiences.

Transvestitism and transsexualism are two completely different things that don't often overlap.

I will accept your expertise on it, but from the (admittedly few ... 2?) transsexuals I've known, there is an overlap.

I'm not talking about a specific thrill (i.e. a fetish). I'm talking about how being comfortable in your skin (or comfortable clothes) is going to result in positive sexual feelings.

For example, her Christmas pink slippers. (Again, my POV I'm fighting, but) I can't imagine those didn't make her feel more aroused.

But again, yes, I am oversexualized. I need to go post a proper comment to that Michael Ian Black thread...

it's pretty clear from her blog that her husband is unhappy as a male and has always had a strong feeling that he is a woman, not just a desire to dress like a woman and have sex with whoever, but a constant sense that he was born to the wrong gender. Your kind of trivializing it which is I think what she was trying to dissuade with that comment.

I'm not sure why whether or not she had a sexual reaction to wearing women's clothes trivializes anything. Unless, of course, sexual arousal and/or transvestites are trivial subjects.

I suppose some of the negative reaction comes from my use of the word "lying" which wasn't totally fair.

The major reason most of us are here is sexual arousal. It doesn't seem trivial to me.
posted by mrgrimm at 2:05 PM on May 15, 2012


I'm not talking about a specific thrill (i.e. a fetish). I'm talking about how being comfortable in your skin (or comfortable clothes) is going to result in positive sexual feelings.

While I understand your point, I think for the purposes of distinguishing between transvestism and transgenderism, that's a mindset that's kind of a reach. It's kind of the equivalent of this guy I knew once who was playing a game of Scattergories and was challenged to "name something beginning with the letter 't' that you'd find at a football game," and he said "testicles". Technically he was right, but....
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:12 PM on May 15, 2012 [4 favorites]


I think maybe you're describing a normal sexual reaction to wearing stuff that makes you feel good about yourself or your body, which I consider very different from being aroused by wearing clothes associated with a gender you don't identify with. Of course people feel sexy in That One Outfit! But it's not because of the thrill of wearing something other or exotic or forbidden.

And of course feeling sexy is different from sexual arousal, so it kind of gets split there, too. I guess the distinctions here may seem subtle to others, but I think they're pretty night and day. It's the difference between the full range of experiences and emotions possible for a gender versus something more specifically fetishy.
posted by byanyothername at 2:16 PM on May 15, 2012 [2 favorites]


I feel comfortable and attractive when I wear clothes that are, in whatever respect, "me." But not aroused. I mean, I don't feel turned on when I wear my sharpest suit, nor my favorite jeans.

I would feel unattractive and awkward in typically female clothing. (I'm female.)

For example, her Christmas pink slippers. (Again, my POV I'm fighting, but) I can't imagine those didn't make her feel more aroused.


Maybe this is just a failure or difference of your imagination? Because the story about her in her pink fuzzy socks didn't make me go "Oh I bet she feels haaaawt! in those!"
posted by rtha at 2:40 PM on May 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Maybe this is just a failure or difference of your imagination? Because the story about her in her pink fuzzy socks didn't make me go "Oh I bet she feels haaaawt! in those!"

I figured they made her feel confident and self-assured. For me, that leads to a heightened opportunity for sexual arousal (but most things do).

It's more of a failure/difference of POV. My imagination is pretty robust. As someone who is both SGD and a transvestite, I would be more "comfortable "(relaxed, at ease, happy) while wearing conventional women's clothing or androgynous clothing (skirts, blouses, etc.). I know this because I do it (a lot) with no intent to arouse myself. But, in those cases, I am much more likely to be aroused, and there are definitely specific types of women's clothing that arouse me.

And, as my first offensive comment indicates, my first transgender experiences came from transvestism (which apparently also does not happen, so I guess I'm wrong.)

Anyway, sorry for the derail and sorry for my offense. As you can tell, I am also pretty confused about the whole thing. Two genders seems so limiting ... Carry on ...
posted by mrgrimm at 3:04 PM on May 15, 2012


Thanks, mrgrimm - I understand a lot better where you're coming from now.
posted by rtha at 3:11 PM on May 15, 2012


One day we were flipping through the channels on the TV (TV was still pretty new to me at the time) and we happened onto a Tyra Banks show where there were Transsexual people talking and competing in a fashion show. I knew hardly anything about transsexual people. As we watched the tall thin women on the screen talk about how they used to be men, I felt uncomfortable. But I could tell that my spouse was very interested in the show and even seemed to know a lot more about what was going on than I did.

Next time I get into a pop-culture-criticism debate with people who say, "Honestly, it's just reality TV/superhero comics/narrative trash, what difference does this one portrayal of transgender people/bisexuals/women/Muslims/disabled black atheist lesbians make anyway," there's my answer. It matters to somebody.
posted by nicebookrack at 3:35 PM on May 15, 2012 [9 favorites]


Wow, what a journey, amazing they seem to have made it out in one piece. It's rough when you discover the person you are doesn't mesh with the person you were raised to be. There are so many parts of that story where things could have gone terribly wrong (wife didn't understand, extended family got involved, etc), great to see it worked out for the best.
posted by kilbasar at 9:11 PM on May 15, 2012


mrgrimm, I don't think anyone is trying to pile on you. I'm certainly not - your experience is yours to define, and is in no way less authentic than anyone else's. By the same token, however, the article author's spouse's story and experiences are theirs to define. I think people get a little touchy because of how overwhelmingly common it is to see trans narratives questioned and dismissed as 'merely' some sexual thing - it's a generalisation you're probably not going to be get very popular pushing to trans people. If it's your own experience, and not a lazy generalisation, then there's no problem at all! Just do expect some touchiness if you try to generalise from your own experience - not that it's any less valid than anyone else's - given the particular context surrounding it.

And yeah, two genders is pretty limiting. No reason to confine oneself thereto if one doesn't desire it!
posted by Dysk at 11:37 PM on May 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


PJLandis: "Dear mrgrimm, you're describing the feelings of a crossdresser, someone who gets sexual pleasure from wearing women's clothing yet still identifies with the male gender regardless of their sex partners gender. I think it was brave of you tell us all that, and I'm sure many of us have found ourselves without clean underwear and went the panty route with positive results."

Or you show up at a party to find out it's a toga party, and the host has a toga for you, but you went commando that night, so you borrow your girlfriend's unmentionables for the night...
posted by Samizdata at 9:48 PM on May 17, 2012


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