Recognize that coming out to you wasn’t easy.
It takes a lot of courage to come out, and they’ve probably been working up the nerve to talk to you for a long, long time. Listen respectfully, hear everything they have to say, and keep their feelings in mind while you process.
Hear them out.
Suppress your knee-jerk reactions. Let your partner finish speaking, take a moment to breathe, and then respond.
Don’t assume. Ask questions.
Maybe you’ve seen Transparent. Maybe you love LaVerne Cox on Orange is the New Black. Maybe your best friend in transgender. But that doesn’t mean you know everything about being transgender, and you definitely don’t know what your partner is going through, so ask questions.
Don’t say it’s a phase.
Validate what your partner is experiencing. Even if they’ve changed their pronouns several times in the past year, that doesn’t mean they’re being wishy-washy or going through a phase. It means they’re taking the time to figure out who they really are.
Ask what they need from you.
What pronouns do they want you to use? Do they want help picking out new clothing? Do they want help finding a gender therapist? Do they want things to stay the same?
Recognize that your partner is still your partner.
Maybe you’ve always identified as a lesbian, and your partner comes out to you as a trans* man. That doesn’t mean your partner is suddenly becoming a man – it means he’s always been a man, he just hasn’t been able to tell you. Your partner is still your partner.
… But recognize that your partner might change.
Your partner’s personality may change, especially if they decide to pursue hormone-altering therapies. For example, testosterone injections can result in increased sex drive and irritability – not to mention facial hair. If your partner expresses interest in hormone treatments, make sure to do your research so that you’re prepared for changes.
Talk to your partner. Read articles. Order books. Watch documentaries. Learn as much as you can about being transgender and about being the partner to a transgender person. If you’re not sure where to start, ask your partner for resources.
Consider your own feelings too.
Your partner’s gender journey isn’t about you, it’s about becoming true to their identity. Whether you support them or not, they will go through with it, and asking them not to transition will just erode your relationship. That said, keep your own feelings in mind because a transition is hard on both partners. Consider talking to a counselor or therapist. And keep track of your own self care.
At the end of the day, your partner is just becoming who they were meant to be. If you support each other through the process, it may strengthen your relationship.
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