Dr. Phil talks with couples dealing with extreme circumstances in their marriages.
“I think transsexuals are probably some of the most misunderstood people in the world,” says Nancy, who supported her husband’s decision to have a sex change operation. “That was what was going to free him from this prison he’d been in for so many years,” she says.
Jamey, formally James, explains, “We’re talking about a birth defect here. A person who has the mind and emotions and the heart and soul of a woman in a man’s body. If I had had the ability to choose whether to be born a boy or a girl, I would’ve chosen to be born a girl … I married four times. I thought that’s what was expected of me, to be married. And each time, it only lasted a few years because I could only keep up the facade for so long,” she says.
Jamey’s daughters, Amy and Angela, both accept the transition their father has taken, but not without some hesitation and questions. Angela had just had a baby and was expecting her child’s grandfather to pay a visit. “I was so shocked to open the door and see my dad in pink lipstick and fingernails and blue eyeshadow. There’s no way you can be prepared for that,” she says.
“I don’t want to judge whether it’s the right decision or the wrong decision,” says Amy, “but I will say she’s easy to talk to, and seems more comfortable than ever than her old self.” Amy wants to know how she can go about explaining the change to her kids, who are 5 and 3. “They knew Grandpa Jim. They knew he was a boy. I don’t want to hurt my kids by confusing them in this way, but I don’t want to inadvertently cause prejudice by keeping it from them.”
Angela also wants to know how to explain it. “This choice my dad has made has been kind of thrown upon all of us, and none of us know how to deal with it. I don’t know how to go about introducing Grandma and Grandma,” says Angela.
Jamey explains that the first time she realized she would be more comfortable as a girl was when she was 11 years old. She was dressed up for Halloween as one of the Beatles, and everyone thought she was a little girl. “And that made me feel so good,” says Jamey. Clarifying that her decision had nothing to do with homosexuality, Jamey says, “Gender and sexual preference are two totally independent spectrum.”
Nancy explains that the relationship she has with Jamey feels right to her now. “I’m more myself than I’ve ever been,” she says, because having a female partner is more comfortable to her than having a husband.
Still, they don’t feel acceptance from the entire family.
Amy and Angela ask Dr. Phil how to address Jamey’s change to their children in a healthy way and at the right time.
“The good news is children are very, very resilient,” says Dr. Phil. “At 4 1/2 years of age, sexual differences are really insignificant to them.” When the time comes to explain it, Dr. Phil tells them to make it age appropriate. “Probably the best way to do that is to say, essentially, that granddad felt one way on the inside, but looked a different way on the outside, and went through a process so that now the outside matches the inside.”
Dr. Phil tells them that it’s OK to be open with their children at this point, if they do it gradually and let their relationship with Jamey build. “I do not believe that there is some great danger of introducing Jamey to the children at this point,” he says. “Be as open and honest as is age appropriate. That’s the key.”