My soon-to-be ex spouse of 15 years came out to me as gender-fluid. For 6 months after, I agonized over trying to make that work for our marriage and just could not. I am straight, and I can’t help that any more than a person who is gay. I couldn’t sacrifice my own identity to support someone else’s.

He originally came out to me by saying, “if it weren’t for you, I’d transition to female.” That was such a heavy way for him to come out, to place blame on me. He since explained that his feelings change day to day, and that he sometimes feels masculine and other days he feels feminine. He dresses in women’s clothing but doesn’t really try to fully present as a female. In other words, he knows it’s easy to tell he’s a biological man wearing women’s clothing and doesn’t seem to be trying to choose one gender to present as. He told me it has nothing to do with who he is attracted to and sees himself basically as a lesbian.

He (and no, he has not asked anyone to change his pronouns, I’m not just willfully being insensitive), he got engaged to someone he only knew for a few months before I even moved out of our shared home. They had classes together back in high school, nearly 20 years ago now. They started talking, and within three months they were engaged.

She moved in from across the country the day after I moved out, and he didn’t tell me until two weeks later right before a hearing. I’ve never met her and yet she lives with and is trying to be a parent figure to my kids. He has since tried to remove me from my children’s school records as a guardian and tried to get her a power of attorney to act as a legal guardian at their school. The school called to inform me because it’s considered illegal to remove a parent without a court order.

My kids are both boys, ages 10 and 13. We raised them to be open-minded, but I think that they feel unable to share how they truly feel because there is this narrative that if you don’t support trans people in every way, you’re transphobic and a bad person.

[My ex] has told the kids terrible things, trying to turn them against me. He is forcing them to refer to her as “mom.” Her dog bit one of my kids hard enough to break the skin. They didn’t tell me about that, nor does my ex allow me any input into medical care. My life has been a nightmare, and we haven’t had a custody hearing yet, so our lives hang in the balance.

My ex is actively seeking full custody. He wants me out of the picture so that he can have a seamless transition into his new life. I’m so scared — he is using my struggles with depression during the time we were still living together as a way to try and say that I’m not fit to be a mom. I’ve never, ever been neglectful and my sadness was mostly triggered by his behavior. The idea of losing my kids because he caused severe depression for me is beyond devastating. Thinking about it makes me feel sick. I love my children so very much.

I’m terrified [the court] will just go with his demands so as not to seem transphobic. I’m worried he’ll lean on his trans identity to justify his poor decisions. The current climate scares me because I feel like court decisions are actually extremely biased. I’m terrified I’ll lose my kids because I’m seen as the “other side” of the trans debate and because I couldn’t stay married to someone who doesn’t align with my own identity and attraction.

*A pseudonym has been used to protect the integrity of the upcoming custody battle.