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  • Writer's pictureEva Kurilova

From Abusive Husband to Trans Community Darling: A Trans Widow Speaks Out

By Eva Kurilova


A trans widow shares the story of what she went through when her abusive husband decided he was a “woman.”

I recently had the opportunity to speak to a trans widow—a term used to refer to women whose husbands decided to transition. Sally (a pseudonym I am using for safety reasons), is a lovely Canadian woman and I am honoured that she would share her story with me. While her ex-husband, Dave (also a pseudonym) is enjoying life as his “new self,” Sally has become the sole caretaker of their child and has had to deal with the fallout from the abusive relationship.

When Sally met Dave, she was attracted to the fact that he was a man’s man. He was employed in a masculine field, he wore work boots, and he was willing to get into physical fights with other men. After remaining friends for a while, the two began a relationship that eventually ended in separation. Not long after they separated, Dave declared that he was a woman. On one Mothers’ Day years later, he even demanded to be recognized as a mother of their child.

Sally describes red flags from the very beginning of the relationship. In the bedroom, Dave always wanted her to wear latex, which she chalked up to just a weird fetish. Eventually, he wanted to start dressing up himself and Sally indulged him, admitting to being a people-pleaser. Dave was also an alcoholic when they met, but he was in recovery and not drinking at the time.

Eventually, the two had a daughter. Sally recalled that, while she was pregnant, Dave pressured her to test for disabilities and said he would drown their child if they were born with any. Sally refused, as she knew he would pressure her to abort. When their daughter was indeed born with disabilities, Dave had such a strong negative reaction in the hospital that a doctor even had a discussion with Sally about it. By this time, he had also started drinking again, and Sally was very protective of her daughter, fearing that he might harm her.

A few years later, Sally had to fly out of the country for a family emergency. When she returned, she had a strong feeling that Dave was cheating on her. This prompted her to look through his phone and find that he was trying to solicit hookups with other men, including trans-identified men, despite the fact that he always was and continues to be heterosexual. Sally lost all feelings of intimacy and attraction to Dave for the rest of their relationship after that.

(Note: Dave’s behavior is a classic example of a man with autogynephilia engaging in pseudobisexuality. Both of these terms were coined by sexologist Ray Blanchard. Autogynephilia refers to a man’s attraction to himself as a woman, and pseudobisexuality describes how such men seek out sexual encounters with other men in order to validate the view of themselves as women.)

The drinking and abuse continued, and Sally spent many nights hiding with her daughter in her room. Dave was often at the bar spending all of their money on alcohol but, when he was home, he was highly verbally abusive. One night, Sally had enough and told him that he needed to go to rehab and said she would call his father. Dave responded by saying he would smash the phone over her head and break her skull if she did.

Fearing for her and her daughter’s safety, Sally called the police. Because he had not been physical with her, there was not much the police could do. However, due to Dave’s demeanor, one officer told Sally that, even if he hadn’t laid a hand on her yet, the first time he ever did, he would kill her.

What the police were able to do was take Dave away overnight so that Sally could get some sleep, pack up some belongings, and leave the house. She went to stay with family for a few weeks, and Dave ended up keeping the house. Sally ended up living for several years in a one-bedroom place where all she had to cook with was a cooktop and a toaster.

Just a few months after their separation Dave, in an apparent state of inebriation, called Sally and declared that he wanted to be a woman. He sent her some pictures of himself wearing women’s nightgowns as well as some of the clothing Sally had left at the house, claiming that he looked better in them than she did.

Sally, thankfully, received sole custody of their daughter after her counsellor told the judge what Dave had put her through. In the only favor he ever did her, Dave also decided to move out of the province the day before they were meant to appear in court, making it even easier for Sally to gain sole custody.

Though he was out of province, Dave continued to make Sally and her daughter’s lives difficult. He was ordered to pay child support and alimony but was only paying about half of what he owed. Eventually, he stopped paying altogether, leaving Sally $60,000 in debt and with no choice but to declare bankruptcy. When her landlord raised the rent, Sally had to move again.

Still, Dave wouldn’t leave them alone. He claimed to a judge that Sally would not let him speak to his daughter, even though he had a standing call and Sally let him talk to her every time he phoned. This is despite the fact that, on one video call further into his transition, Dave tried to show his daughter his chest, claiming that she needed to learn about transgender people. Sally, of course, promptly took the phone away.

On another occasion, about a year after they had separated, Dave claimed to police that Sally was about to take off with their daughter to another country and called in a wellness check at 9:30 at night. When the police asked why he could have called, Sally showed them how he had been harassing her through instant messages. She proceeded to block him, only to have him harass her via phone and text message the next day.

“He knows my daughter is my life,” Sally told me. “The only way he can get to me is through her.”

Despite such cruel behaviour, Dave would also frequently suggest getting back together. In Sally’s opinion, it was so that he could be off the hook for what he owed in child support and alimony.

Eventually, Dave came out publicly and began taking part in trans activism. Friends have told Sally that he is an active member of numerous Facebook groups where he defends gender ideology and receives praise for his choice to transition and find his “true self.”

Sally has also heard that he is part of an organization that speaks to kids in schools, though she is not sure if he personally goes in and speaks himself. I looked into the organization in question and discovered that its projects do indeed centre around youth through workshops and resources for schools.

Furthermore, after changing the sex marker on his identity documents to female, Dave now enjoys paying lower car insurance premiums. He even told Sally that he amended his sex marker on their daughter’s birth certificate to female, so that it now reads as if she has two moms. Sally has not seen the updated version of the birth certificate to confirm this change for herself.

While Dave is enjoying his new life as a self-styled reborn champion of trans rights, Sally says that he is around $70,000 behind on child support payments and alimony. She also noted that, while Dave was mentioned sympathetically in a mainstream publication that discussed trans-identified people and the importance of their “chosen families” over the holidays, he hasn’t given his own daughter a Christmas gift or a gift of any kind for the past five years.

But it’s not the money that worries Sally most. She told me that if she won the lottery, she would never ask for another penny from Dave in exchange for him getting out of her and her daughter’s lives for good.

Sally retains sole custody of their daughter, and Dave does not know where they live. She is scared for her life if he was ever to find them. Her greatest fear revolves around what will happen to her special needs daughter when she dies, though she does have family she hopes will be able to care for her. She does not believe Dave would ever be capable of doing so.

Sally’s story is an all-too common one. So many men who decide to pursue “the woman within” cause great harm to their families along the way, including spending money in the pursuit of their transition rather than to take care of their families. Emotional and psychological abuse like in Sally’s case is the frequent experience of trans widows as well.

But many of the women who go through this and are willing to share their stories are also incredibly strong and resilient. Sally herself has a fantastic attitude and was a wonderful person to speak to. Despite everything she has been through, she maintains a sense of humour and knows what is truly important: her daughter. It was an honour to be able to speak to her and share her story.

You can listen to Sally’s story in her own words on the Feminist Current podcast with Meghan Murphy. If you would like to donate to her, please use the donate button to me, Eva Kurilova, below and specify whether some or all of your donation is meant for Sally. I will ensure that she receives it.

Eva Kurilova is a writer based in Calgary, Alberta. Please consider a donation to help fund her continued writing and research!

Gender Dissent is made possible with the generous support of our readers.

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