I don’t “Keep up” with the Kardashians. I’ve never watched a single episode of the original or the many spin-off shows about the most obnoxious American family. I purposefully try to ignore any Kardashian news entirely but it still seems to filter through. I know it all started with an “accidentally” leaked sex tape, a friendship with Paris Hilton and the O.J. Simpson trial. There was also a wedding and brief marriage that may have just been for the endorsements and publicity. The family is rich, shameless and made their fortune by doing not much of anything.
Kris Jenner is the woman at the helm of this narcissistic empire, and she’s not exactly likable. In some ways she’s the ultimate Disney villain – an aging yet glamorous woman obsessed with looking youthful, concerned about style over substance, dressed in the best clothing money could buy, and paranoid that her star will eventually fall. I will confess I’m not a fan, but I can’t help but feel a kinship towards her. I’m not rich, I don’t have reality show or any plastic surgery, but my ex-husband was a closeted gay man. When I made the discovery six years ago, my sanity, and financial wellbeing fell off a cliff. I’ve since met countless other straight spouses and some of them, like Kris, found out their husbands were secretly transgender. For many they discovered their husbands wanted to change their gender, but had also changed their sexual orientation and were now having sex with men. To use the word devastating to describe such situations would be a huge understatement. Even phrases like ‘soul crushing’, or ‘life destroying’ don’t really capture the personal torment these women go through.
Now before you exclaim “BUT KRIS KNEW BEFORE THEY WERE MARRIED!” you might want to hear what she had to say about it.
“Why would you want to be married and have kids if this is what you wanted since you were a little boy? Why would you not explain this all to me?
“He was married to me, and he wasn’t who he wanted to be, so he was miserable,” she said. “It was the most passive-aggressive thing I think I’ve ever experienced.”
“This was a conversation that took place in the early ’90s. So, what he was telling me happened a decade earlier, and he never really explained it,” she said. While Caitlyn said she had B cup breasts at the time, Kris said she thought it was a “man boob situation … there wasn’t a gender issue. Nobody mentioned a gender issue.”
According to an interview with Buzz Bissinger Caitlyn insists that Kris was very much aware of his struggle.
“Jenner is emphatic that he told Kris he had taken hormones in the late 1980s up until the year they met, and was equally emphatic in saying there were other side effects besides breast growth,” Bissinger writes.
“He finds it implausible for her to suggest she was not aware of his gender struggle. But he does concede that ‘probably a mistake I made was maybe not having her understand—not the severity of it but that this is a condition you cannot get away from. From that standpoint maybe I blew it away a little bit, sort of ‘This is what I do.'”
From my experience, I’d say with full confidence, that in about 90% of these unions the straight spouse had no idea their partner was gay or trans before the marriage.. Caitlyn’s second wife Linda Thompson revealed that Jenner also didn’t disclose her dysmorphia until after their two sons were born. Caitlyn may have believed that she could control her inner conflict, or that it might eventually go away. Being transgender in many ways is much more difficult than being gay. A gay man can have sex with another man, even if he hates himself for it, or has to lie to do it. A transgender person looks in the mirror and sees a stranger staring back at them. It would be quite difficult to remedy the disconnect in your mind, especially 30 or 40 years ago when less was known about transgender people, and the topic wasn’t openly discussed.
I’ve seen the press bash Kris Jenner as being selfish, emasculating, narcissistic, and cruel towards her former spouse. Some of this might be true, but no one but the two people in the marriage have any idea what really happened. Most of what we know about their marriage is from a highly edited, manipulated and partially scripted reality show. The tabloids also chime in and they have never been known for their accuracy or ethical reporting.
Caitlyn has publicly said that her divorce was 80% because of poor treatment by Kris, and 20% because of her gender identity. I’m sure Kris would most likely have a far different opinion. It’s common for many closeted spouses to say very similar things after a split. They rarely blame their orientation, even though living a lie or in constant psychological torment is definitely going to affect a marriage. Kris didn’t marry a trans woman, she married a man. It’s incredibly difficult for the wives and husbands of transgender people to suddenly accept their partner’s new identity. For some it does work out, and both spouses learn to love the new normal, a few marriages even grow stronger. But for the vast majority of marriages it’s just too much. A straight woman may no longer be attracted to her husband now that she’s a woman, or the transition could be so overwhelming the marriage just can’t handle the strain. Transitioning is a long intense and expensive process that puts both partners on an emotional roller coaster. When a trans woman also proclaims she wants to date men, what’s left for her straight wife? I know infidelity did not play a role in the divorce of Kris and Caitlyn but I bring it up, because it’s so incredibly common in these situations.
We can celebrate Caitlyn for her bravery and strength without trashing her ex-wife. I’m not here to demonize Caitlyn or minimize what she has done for the trans community, but I get sick to my stomach when I see people dragging Kris through the mud over this. I can’t help but see my own divorce and remember the misguided nonsense I endured.
- You turned him gay. (No one can turn a person gay)
- You need to have more compassion for your ex-husband. (After 9 years of lies and betrayal)
- How did you not know? (Because he lied to me from day one)
- I can’t believe that you didn’t know you had to have known. (I had to assume my husband was a liar?)
- You used your ex-husband (My ex-husband used me)
- Your marriage was an arrangement (Yes, and that’s why will pulled our families into it, just to hurt as many people as possible)
- You somehow prevented him from coming out sooner (His struggle was his own, and had nothing to do with me)
- You are still using your ex-husband for publicity (No I’m actually doing this to help other straight spouses)
The tabloids will continue to rip into Kris without much concern. She’ll return to play the part of the over-bearing matriarch of a self-obsessed brood. We can’t forget that she’s not a cartoon character, but a human being. She just found out her former husband of 24 years is now a woman, and that’s never an easy thing to go through. Ironically thanks to the actions of Caitlyn, we might be closer to a world where a transgender person can be open and honest about themselves well before three marriages, 10 kids, multiple grandkids and their 65th birthday. As much as I can’t stand the Kardashian empire, I do have empathy for Kris Jenner. Caitlyn needed to come to grips with her identity by herself, and Kris had no control over any of it. Maybe they had a bad marriage, maybe they didn’t, but it has nothing to do with Caitlyn’s decision to live an open and authentic life. We can celebrate Caitlyn Jenner without trashing Kris. It would make a great reality show plot to have the straight person as the evil oppressor and the trans person as the ever suffering hen-pecked victim, but reality shows are not real life. In actual marriages things are far more complicated.
- On Being a Straight Spouse: Broken Memories (julietjeskeblog.com)
- Gay, Lesbian or Bi in a Straight Marriage (gayambassador.com)
- Gay Husbands Straight Wives (gayhusbands.com)
- Straight Spouse Support Network (straightspouse.org)
- Ex Gay Married = Situational Heterosexuality (gayambassador.com)
- Straight Spouses: Homophobia – an Equal Opportunity Destroyer (julietjeskeblog.com)
- Emotional Affairs – A brief introduction (danchar.wordpress.com)
- Why I Keep Writing about Being a Straight Spouse (julietjeskeblog.com)
- A straight support group fortifies the former spouses of gays (uk.reuters.com)
- Love, Marriage, and Battleaxes (mommameghan.wordpress.com)
- Coming out to my wife (salon.com)
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