Home/Rod Dreher/Some Woman’s Husband, Some Kids’ Father

Some Woman’s Husband, Some Kids’ Father

Joy Ladin -- born Jay -- was once a woman's husband, and the father of three children (TedX Beacon Street screengrab)

This is a powerful essay by a woman whose husband — the father of their three young children — decided that he was really a woman, and transitioned. It appeared in The Guardian in 2012. I bet the newspaper would not publish something like this today; it challenges the Narrative too strongly. What is most striking about this piece is the way her husband Tom’s entire personality changed once he decided that he had to transition. Excerpts:

Even before the obvious signs of maleness, Tom’s laughter disappeared from our lives. Overnight, it seemed, he stopped smiling. He no longer took pleasure in anything. He looked ill. He complained of fatigue, stomach ailments and dizziness. He lost his appetite and began to lose weight. But my sincere attempts to sympathise with him alternated with bewilderment and rage over the close, secret relationships he’d apparently formed with women confidantes, over his insistence that his urgent need to express his femininity outweighed every other concern.

“I have a medical condition,” he insisted. “A fatal condition that’s going to kill me unless I get treatment.”

Ah yes, if you don’t give me what I want, I’m going to die, and blood will be on your hands! More:

“Who decides the treatment?” I asked.

“I do!”

It was hard to understand the sudden dramatic change in a state of being he now claimed was lifelong. I tried to convince Tom that he was not a woman. When that failed, I tried to convince him that, for our children’s sake, he could believe he was a woman and still choose to live as a man.

For his part, Tom’s perspective was that if I loved him, I would accept that a transsexual has to do what a transsexual has to do – and sacrifice my own identity accordingly. When he wasn’t telling me that the person I thought I had known had never existed at all, he’d say it was a sign of my limitations that I couldn’t grasp the idea of same person, different package.

“After all,” he said blithely, “the changes I’m making are pretty superficial.”

“If they’re so superficial, why do you have to turn all our lives upside down for them?”

He didn’t seem the same. He didn’t act the same. His values seemed to change along with his personality.

“What if you knew that doing this would destroy one or all of the children?” I asked him. Ice cold, the man I had once thought a wonderful father replied, “I would do it anyway.”

Stone cold narcissist, right there. And he did this within a left-liberal culture that validated him, and cast his wife and children to the side as mere obstacles to his liberation:

Such moments packed a breathtaking array of meaning and emotion. All at once there was the pathos of witnessing a middle-aged man – the husband I loved and had admired – taking pleasure in gazing at the woman he evidently saw when he looked at himself in the mirror. His satisfaction with himself. His in-my-face “I’m going to do this and you have no choice but to accept it” attitude towards me. The painful fact that such moments represented his departure from our marriage and from the person he had been, and that I was forced to watch that departure not once but over and over again. The terrible feeling of intrusion into my space, my privacy. Like a rebellious teenager, he wanted me to know: you aren’t the only woman around here any more. He wanted me to know: absolutely nothing will be left to you. My basket had become a public receptacle marked All Women’s Things Go Here. Like womanhood itself, it was no longer my domain.

Tom found a circle of women to sympathise with, encourage and dress him. Once, he left his laptop open to a message from one of them that read, “Your wife has to accept losing you.” He reported that another had urged him to “Do it all quickly!”

From his cheerleaders I learned that in the new political correctness, female solidarity is out. A man in a dress is in. Among women who consider themselves feminists, a man who declares himself a transsexual trumps another woman any day. One of Tom’s supporters would eventually sum up this perspective most explicitly: “He’s a transsexual. Anything he does is what he needs to do.”

Read the whole thing. It’s very powerful.

The wife is Christine Benvenuto; here is a link to the memoir she wrote about this experience, from which the above essay was taken. Her ex-husband Jay now lives as Joy Ladin, and is celebrated as a brave pioneer.

This Pride Month, our media never tell us the stories of people like Christine Benvenuto and her children — those whose lives were shattered by men like Jay Ladin, following their dream. They are the collateral damage on the way to Utopia. Jay Ladin ought to be ashamed of himself for what he did to his wife and children, but of course he — a professor at Yeshiva — moves from strength to strength in this family-hating culture of ours.

What is so interesting to me about this story is the way Ladin changed almost overnight from being a normal person to being a selfish monster after he came out as trans. I saw a similar (though not remotely as consequential) change in a guy I had been good friends with in college — until he came out as gay.

When N. came out just after we all graduated in 1989, none of us, his circle of college friends, were surprised, and none of us abandoned or criticized him. In 1992, he had finished grad school, and was looking to get out of Baton Rouge. I had taken a job in Washington, and was preparing to move. He thought moving to Washington sounded like a good idea. I told him that I couldn’t afford on my salary to live by myself, and needed a roommate. We agreed that we would share a two-bedroom flat together. I would make the security deposit and pay the first month’s rent, and he would reimburse me after he got a job.

After we got to DC, he needed a computer to make his resume. I let him use mine. He got a job, finally, but always evaded me when I asked for his half of the security deposit.

Six months later, I came home from work to find the apartment emptied of N.’s things. He was gone, just like that. Turns out he had decided DC wasn’t working out, and had quietly arranged with some friends in Baton Rouge to come fetch him. He walked out owing me a fair amount of money. I still had six months on the lease, and was responsible for the rent. I went to the landlord, told her what happened, and asked to be released. She refused. Thankfully, I was able to find a new roommate after only a couple of months.

I found out shortly after N. flew the coop that he had taken advantage of my offer to let him use my computer to search through my e-mails and spread personal information he found there in his social circles. He justified it, I learned, because I was a Republican, and was becoming a Catholic. Therefore, the man who had been his friend for six years, and whose generosity made it possible for him to move to DC, was nothing more than a figure of fun and an enemy, because he was Republican and Christian.

He never apologized, much less offered to pay back what he stole from me. Sadly, N. died suddenly a few years after returning to Baton Rouge, from a freak medical condition.

I wish I could account for why N. flipped like that. He went from being a sweet guy, kind to everyone, and beloved by all, to being a bitchy, self-centered queen who construed his selfishness as virtue within the context of liberation. His new, gay self turned me, his friend, into an object of loathing — this, even though his homosexuality was not news to me, nor did it affect the way I cared about him, much less my willingness to help him get established in Washington. This new identity he took on was not simply a matter of the same N. we all knew and loved, except now he’s more honest about himself in public; it was a new person, one who valorized a kind of politicized vindictiveness. And — this is crucial — he surrounded himself with gay people and allies who reinforced his meanness. To them — some of whom knew me, and had been friendly with me — the fact that I was a political and religious conservative were the only facts that mattered, and they justified treating me like garbage.

Mind you, what N. did to me was not remotely on the same level as what Jay/Joy Ladin did to his wife and children. But it is at the far end of a spectrum.

To be clear, I am not claiming that this is how all LGBT people behave! In fact, one of the friends during that time who comforted me in my shock and anger at N.’s betrayals was (is) a lesbian who was just as appalled as I was by what N. had done. My point is simply that some people, when they switch sexual or gender identities, stop seeing and feeling responsible to other people, except to regard them as obstacles to giving them what they want. It’s as if they become possessed by a malicious spirit. I don’t understand it. But I recognize it, and I recognize that we live in a culture now that celebrates and rewards this malicious narcissism, and that regards the tragedy suffered by people like Christine Benvenuto and the Ladin children as politically inconvenient, therefore disposable. This culture throws the ex-wife and children right into the same trash bin as the so-called TERFs, whose concerns are not to be respected or considered, only denied, with as much hysteria and malice as possible.

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. A veteran of three decades of magazine and newspaper journalism, he has also written three New York Times bestsellers—Live Not By Lies, The Benedict Option, and The Little Way of Ruthie Lemingas well as Crunchy Cons and How Dante Can Save Your Life. Dreher lives in Baton Rouge, La.

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