So I talk a lot about personal experiences I've gathered from many of my trans and nonbinary clients who step into my office. Many of my former blogs have discussed what it's like from their individual perspective. But what if you happen to be a partner to someone transitioning? What does that look like for you, what can you expect, and what is ok to feel? Let's review three common topics:
Some first initial reactions upon coming out: Immediate acceptance!
If your first instinct was to immediately embrace your partner after they came out, then you're likely not alone! Many partners of trans and non-binary individuals I've spoken with have reported no questions about their commitment or love to their partner following the gender reveal. For many cis partners there is also typically an identification within the LGBTQ community. My personal theory behind immediate acceptance of their trans and non-binary partners might stem from the fact that many LGBTQ individuals have experienced discrimination of some sort in their lives.
If you identify as LGBTQ you may already know what it's like to feel rejected by friends, family, or society, and because of this you don't want to cause more emotional hurt to your romantic partner who might also identify as LGBTQ. Thus, immediate acceptance! Now, on the flip side of the coin, acceptance of your partner isn't always an immediate reaction.
If you are one of the many who didn't immediately feel acceptance upon your partner's gender reveal that's ok too! It can be a shock to the system if your partner comes out as trans or nonbinary later in the relationship versus the beginning, creating many questions in your mind, particularly about your sexual orientation-which leads us into the next section!
Do I still identify as the same sexual orientation I came into the relationship with?
The short answer to this questions is-it's complicated and completely individual. The beauty of sexual orientation and gender is that we are all oscillating on a spectrum, and no one is 100% gay, straight, bi, or anywhere in between. According to the Kinsey scale developed in 1948 and the more modern Klein Sexual Grid, sexuality lies on a continuum. If you do indeed find that your sexual orientation changes because your partner has identified as trans or non-binary, this does not mean that your sexual orientation is a "choice" or "preference." Sexuality in itself is non-binary, and the beauty of it is that you can identify however you choose throughout your entire life or change at different points based on learned experiences about yourself.
I'm missing aspects of my partner's former identity. Is this normal?
To be human and in a relationship is to form a connection with the person you know. During the formation of our relationship we begin identifying qualities we can see, interpret, and feel (physically and emotionally) from our partners. This includes the way they dress, their personal habits, how they talk to us, and how they view the world. Coming out as transgender doesn't mean a drastic shift in who your partner is as an individual, but it can mean some changes in their social expression and habits.
As an individual transitions this can mean a change in the type of clothes they wear, mannerisms, and body if they are on a hormonal or surgical transitional path. So if you find yourself feeling a little sad, confused, or even frustrated by good ole Facebook memories of you and your beau before their transition, it's ok. This feeling doesn't make you a bad partner, it means you're potentially grieving.
We don't just grieve the loss of life, we grieve relationships ending, losing jobs, ending friendships, etc. It takes time to accept and move past aspects of our partners we may have lost, such as former favorite clothing and even former or new body parts! Talk with your partner about what it is your going through to work through the grief or emotional challenge surrounding the issue because transitioning isn't only for your partner. A transition includes everyone in the inner circle!
If you are a partner to someone transitioning and are having difficulty in finding acceptance, offering support, or going through your own emotional challenges in Colorado, don't hesitate to reach out to me below!
Devin Pinkston is a local mental health counselor and Gender Therapist in Grand Junction Colorado. Call to schedule a free consultation today at 970-644-2392.