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2004-02-26

Scenes From a Marriage: Married Transsexual Couples Speak Out

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Kate Michelman, President of the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League ( "NARAL").

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Married transsexual couples are the focus of an NBC Dateline special premiering Friday night entitled "Scenes From a Marriage." We speak with Cindy and Miriam, a married couple who married as husband and wife. The husband, Roger, then became Cindy and Miriam chose to stay with her. [includes transcript]

It’s become one of the most prominent acts of civil disobedience in recent times. San Francisco’s mayor this month ordered city officials to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Thousands flocked to city hall to get married.

Most people view this as the first time in U.S. history that same-sex couples could enjoy the same legal rights as a married man and woman. But for some time now, hundreds of same-sex couples across the country have been living as married couples under the law. They are couples who married as man and woman and later, one spouse underwent a gender change.

Transsexual or transgender couples are the focus of an NBC Dateline special that is premiering tomorrow night. Dateline followed several transgender couples for two years to get a closer look at the lives. This is an excerpt of the Dateline special that is airing tomorrow.

Today we speak with one of those couples: Cindy and Miriam Huebscher-Scott. They are a married couple from the midwest. They married as husband and wife, then Roger became Cindy and Miriam chose to stay with him. They are the founders of an internet support group for the spouses and partners of transsexuals.

  • Scenes From a Marriage, excerpt of NBC Dateline special.
  • Cindy and Miriam Huebscher-Scott, a married couple from the Midwest. They married as husband and wife, then Roger became Cindy and Miriam chose to stay with him. They are the founders of an Internet support group for the spouses and partners of transsexuals.
  • Dr. Virginia Erhardt, licensed psychologist and gender specialist based in Atlanta. She has treated dozens of transsexuals and their partners. She is a founding member of the American Gender Institute and a member of the Gender Education & Advocacy Advisory Board.
  • Dawn Fratangelo, New York-based correspondent for Dateline NBC.

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Transsexual or transgender couples are the focus of an NBC "Dateline" special that will air tomorrow night. "Dateline" followed a number of transgender couple for two years to get a closer look at their lives and the transformation they underwent. This is an excerpt of the special that will be airing tomorrow night.

GUEST: This is a true test of marriage.

GUEST: Yes it is.

REPORTER: Meet Melissa and Stephanie, Judy and Lee Ann, and Cindy and Miriam, all of them like Joyce and Victoria, married when the husbands were still men. This couple later renewed their vows as two women.

CINDY HUEBSCHER-SCOTT: I Cindy, take thee Miriam,

OFFICIAL: To be my wedded spouse.

CINDY HUEBSCHER-SCOTT: To be my wedded spouse.

REPORTER: While politicians in the public debate whether to legalize gay marriages in a few states, marriages like these are legal in all 50 states. That’s why — that’s right, couples are still considered married under the law even after one spouse goes through a sex change.

REPORTER: Are you in love?

GUEST: Yes. Oh, yeah.

GUEST: Madly.

REPORTER: Love may conquer all, but each of these wives has shared some of the same strains Joyce talks about.

JOYCE: It was kind of like, oh, my god, where are we going from here.

REPORTER: Melissa’s first reaction to the news her husband was becoming a woman — dead silence.

MELISSA: It was a jaw-drop. I definitely was not ready for that.

GUEST: I have to admit it was selfish. What does this mean to me?

GUEST: Is that selfish?

GUEST: Isn’t part of the relationship about you?

GUEST: Yes.

GUEST: Did any of you question whether you would stay in the relationship?

GUEST: Oh, yes.

GUEST: Yes. My second reaction after — after she told me she wanted to transition was that’s it, I’m gone.

GUEST: But she chose not to leave. Just like the others. Joyce tells the group about her uncertainty over the sex change. But gives it a positive spin.

JOYCE: We have a different adventure to go on. We don’t know where we’re going to yet.

REPORTER: And Joyce learns that she and Victoria are not the only ones having trouble defining their changed relationship.

GUEST: Lee Ann and Judy, are you a lesbian couple?

GUEST: No.

GUEST: no.

GUEST: No. We’re spouses.

GUEST: I’m a lesbian.

GUEST: You’re a lesbian.

GUEST: Yeah.

GUEST: I’ve always loved women. Not the case for her.

GUEST: You’re not a lesbian couple.

GUEST: We’re married.

GUEST: There are people who are going to be confused.

GUEST: We’re not too clear on it, either.

REPORTER: Two of the wives admit their husband’s gender change had made them wonder if there might be something wrong with them. Did it make you feel less of a woman?

GUEST: I think it did at first. Because it’s like — how can he be this way? How could you not want your penis? I’m serious. Every man that I have ever been with or knew, that was the most important thing to them.

REPORTER: Joy, though, believes a husband’s sex change shouldn’t affect a wife’s self-image.

GUEST: They feel compelled to change. Do you feel that you have been forced to change? In some ways as a result?

GUEST: No. It’s a choice. You have a choice to stay, or not to stay. If you love that person, you make the choice that is right for you.

REPORTER: Still, when the conversation turns to sex, Joyce doesn’t want to say much.

JOYCE: And what you do behind closed doors is your own private business. You’re married.

REPORTER: It’s clear she’s not ready yet if she will ever be, for the sexual experimentation the other couples have tried.

GUEST: When you love someone, you know, you are going to be together. You’re going to show each other that you love each other.

REPORTER: For all of those people who are wondering, are you having sex? Are you — yes?

GUEST: Well, at this moment, no.

AMY GOODMAN: An excerpt from the program airing tomorrow night on "Dateline" called, "Scenes from a marriage." Today we’re going to speak with one of those couples, Cindy and Miriam Scott. They’re a married couple from the Midwest, married as husband and wife and Roger became Cindy and Miriam chose to stay in the marriage. They’re founders of an Internet support group for spouses of partners of transsexuals. The correspondent on the piece, Dawn Fratangelo, who is an NBC "Dateline" correspondent and psychologist and gender specialist based in Atlanta as well, also joins us. But let’s begin with the couple, with Cindy and Miriam, how — let me ask how you, Cindy, decided to make this transition?

CINDY HUEBSCHER-SCOTT: It was a life choice. There was just no other way around it. I was born with this. I realized from the age of four that something was wrong, even though I didn’t have a vocabulary to express it, and I fought against it all my life. I tried to be Mr. Macho, do all kinds of manly things, and it just didn’t work out. The fact that my brain was oriented towards being a female was always there and always interfering.

JUAN GONZALES: And when you decided to make the change, about how long has it been, and also, did you have children beforehand?

CINDY HUEBSCHER-SCOTT: Oh, yeah. I have two children. They’re both technically adults right now. One is 19. The other one is going to be 21 in about a week. The first part of the question again? How long have I been transitioned?

JUAN GONZALES: Yes.

CINDY HUEBSCHER-SCOTT: About five years.

JUAN GONZALES: How did your children deal with it?

CINDY HUEBSCHER-SCOTT: We took a very unique step. We sat down — we decided we were going to have kind of a family dinner conversation, try to keep it casual, and Miriam, actually, is the one that told them about it. We figured it would be better for them to hear it from her so that they would be reassured that the relationship, our relationship was safe, and we were correct. They took their acceptance cues from Miriam.

AMY GOODMAN: We are also joined by Dawn Fratangelo. You have been following the story of not only Miriam and Cindy, but a number of these couples, over two years. Remarkable that you should be on a story for that long.

DAWN FRATANGELO: I want to commend these couples for letting us and our cameras into their homes to follow some of the most intimate and difficult issues in their life. We actually spent a year and four months with another couple that you saw in the clip from the hour-long program, Joyce and Victoria. And Victoria transitioned from David. We focus on the wives in the hour-long program and why and how they choose to stay. As Cindy was saying, she knew from the age of four that she felt like a woman, like a girl. She felt compelled to change her gender. Well, these wives when they choose to stay, for lack of a better word, are forced, if you will, to change their sexual identities if they want to remain intimate in this relationship. That’s not an easy thing to do. Actually, that is at the very heart of the survival of the marriage of Joyce and Victoria now is intimacy. We follow that from beginning to end. I mean, how can a wife become intimate with another woman who was once her husband? Although it’s the same person, that person is changed dramatically.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, let’s put that question to Miriam.

MIRIAM HUEBSCHER-SCOTT: What was the question again?

AMY GOODMAN: How you made that transition, that your husband became your wife?

MIRIAM HUEBSCHER-SCOTT: Slowly. Cindy and I talked about this at great length before she even started the transition, and decided to take it in baby steps. And it wasn’t like she was roger one day and then Cindy the next. It was a gradual process that took; I’d say maybe a year to two years to complete. So, I was introduced to Cindy in small doses.

AMY GOODMAN: And at this point, how do your children accept Cindy’s children — how do they accept the transition from their father to — do they consider you their father or their mother, Cindy?

CINDY HUEBSCHER-SCOTT: I’m still — I’m still dad. There have been occasions out in public where they have called me mom for convenience stake, at a doctor’s office or something like that, but generally in public, they refer to me as Cindy and at home, I’m still dad.

MIRIAM HUEBSCHER-SCOTT: Oh, dad —

CINDY HUEBSCHER-SCOTT: Or dad! It was kind of hard for my daughter to lose the masculine — strong masculine personality, but in my son — He’s just been nothing short of amazing. Amazing, it’s really made it a tremendous difference in his life, in his temperament, his demeanor, his personal compassion, his ability to grow.

AMY GOODMAN: In this last minute, we want to bring in Dr. Virginia Erhardt the licensed psychologist and gender specialist in Atlanta. You have worked with a number of transsexual couples. How trip cal is Cindy and Miriam’s transition. What do you find are the greatest obstacles that couples have in transitioning and do most leave each other if one wants to change the gender?

DR. VIRGINIA ERHARDT: Oh, fortunately, it’s still unusual for couples to stay together. In the past couple of years, I have seen an increase in couples trying to continue the marriage, and those who come into therapy are much more likely to continue. That is — that shows a great dedication on the wife’s part, just to be willing to come in and make that effort. There are many, many obstacles. As you can imagine, particularly the wife’s initial reaction because the wife may initially be in shock. She may have discovered that her husband is transgendered rather than having it disclosed to her. She may experience disbelief and a sense of betrayal at the deception perhaps revulsion, fear, shame and she may be very hurt and angry. Scared and ashamed.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, we’re going to leave it there, but tomorrow on "dateline tomorrow night, very interesting hour following a number of transgender, transsexual couples through a two-year period. I want to thank you all for being with us.

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