20 things no one told you about being the partner of a trans person
After reading articles on what it means to be the partner of a Trans person and finding they sugar-coated certain issues, Ailish Forbes decided to share 20 things about her life with her Trans partner.
1. You will question your identity.
Did you identify as straight? And now you’re in an outward appearing lesbian or gay relationship? Or perhaps you were in a lesbian or gay relationship and now to the world you look like a heterosexual couple? That was me, and the only thing that changed was I wasn’t in as much fear walking down the street holding the hand of my love. I still have no rights or equality and no true sense of community.
2. Community will let you down.
I’m yet to meet a person that has had their community rally around them and support them while their partner transitioned. I’m not a straight woman and so the straight girl conversations, while humorous at times, are nothing I’ve experienced. And I’m not a “true lesbian” because I have a male partner (never mind the fact I actually identify as Queer Femme – we don’t even exist in our own Rainbow Community on a good day!). I feel that ignorance doesn’t excuse the sense of isolation you’ll experience as the partner of a Trans person.
3. You will become an Ally.
When you love someone and support someone through their transition, you see and feel the injustice they experience every single day. You will, without meaning to, become an Ally. You will stand up for the rights of the people you care about and sometimes you may do it completely inappropriately because you’ve had enough of seeing their hearts and soul broken. For example: screaming at a barber that your partner is a Transman when she is insistent on the fact they only cut men’s hair. We aren’t always diplomatic, but often our hearts hurt as much as the people we care about.
4. Your mental health counts.
You’ll learn from the moment your partner announces to the medical world they are Transgender that they will have GP and specialists appointments. At those appointments you might get to sit in, you are more often than not in the “seen but not heard” category. The medical professionals will ask how the Trans person is doing, how they are coping, if they are worried or concerned about anything. They will potentially have psychologist’s and psychiatrist’s appointments to talk about things in great detail. No one will ask you how you are, how you are coping, if you are ok. Your mental health is important, you need to be able to talk openly and freely and sometimes your Trans partner isn’t the best sounding board because even though you are supportive you may have genuine concerns and they (the Trans partner) are so used to people not being ok with their current situation they often get defensive and a situation you never dreamed of occurring takes place.
5. You will mourn.
You met and fell in love with someone pretty damn amazing. Even after months of knowing that person will soon no longer exist; even though you prepare and happily buy new clothes and underwear – I think that is still my favourite bit – one day someone new will wake up beside you. You know it’s coming, but that doesn’t stop it from hurting somewhere deep inside of you. Remember that person, that love you celebrated together, was a wonderful thing. You are now fortunate enough to celebrate the person they always hoped to be, but for whatever reason didn’t feel they could live authentically. You are now a part of something new and exciting.
6. Trigger Warnings.
I always hated the term ‘Trigger Warning’. It was always a bit too touchy-feely. However, what I didn’t realise was that for months and even years to come I’d have emotional outbursts. That clothing’s longer clothing, its memories. A memory is no longer just a memory, it triggers that part in your brain that recalls all the things you did that day, the plans you made for the future. Just realise you won’t get a trigger warning: anything and everything will potentially and surprisingly cause an emotional reaction and you know what? It’s ok! You are allowed to cry and think about those moments and selfishly relive them with joy, because they are yours to treasure.
7. Your partner is selfish.
And so they should be! They were robbed of the simple things we took for granted while growing up. They were taught to be one thing when their heart and soul screamed to be another. So, once they begin their transition, every. single. thing. is HUGE. Be patient. Be understanding. Also realise that for a time you will feel alone and isolated, even by your partner. It isn’t their intention. They truly don’t realise often that they are doing it. Be excited, even if it is the millionth time they’ve mentioned something. Because in that moment, they are asking you to be a part of it.
8. It isn’t what you signed up for.
When I went on a picnic one day and saw a hungover person no one told me that person was in fact my soul mate. No one told me that the things I found desirable in that person, things that helped us fall in love, would one day disappear. I didn’t sign up for chest hair and a penis that day – but here we are! There is at times something overwhelming about looking at pictures of surgeries, binders and prosthetics. It’s ok to say you need a breather from the images and the documentaries and the articles.
9. You’re going to get ‘Transed Out’.
It’s a term I coined a while back. I’m active in the Trans community in my home life, my work life and my activism. Sometimes I don’t want to go to the rally or watch the documentary or attend the forum. I’m just “Transed Out” and need a break. I don’t want to be the Ally, I just want to be the partner. Take me on a date where no one knows us so we can just be in each other’s company. It’s a beautiful thing to just pause and take time for the relationship to continue to flourish.
10. Communicate clearly.
Do not try and drop subtle hints about anything. Just don’t do it. It’s frustrating and hurtful for both of you. It’s like that old lady joke, “It’s windy today” No it’s Thursday” “I’m thirsty too”. Be clear. If you are unhappy or uncomfortable, talk it out. Why are you feeling that way? What is it that made you feel that? Sometimes you are going to just be sad. You don’t want your partner to fix it, just witness in that moment your pain or sadness, just as you have sat and witnessed their excitement and joy. Sometimes they have to sit in the awkwardness for a moment to ensure you are going to be ok.
11. You are going to stuff up.
I still to this day remember the only time I ever misgendered my partner. I remember seeing the heartbreak on his face and the moment we shared was ruined. After my stuff up, I realised the importance of being vigilant. Use the correct pronouns, use their name. Don’t question it, don’t make excuses about how you are used to saying one thing or another. Stuff up, but move on; and the only way to move on is to make sure you don’t do it again. Correct others. The biggest thing is: don’t draw attention to your mistake. Move on and don’t make a stuff up even more uncomfortable.
12. You will rage out.
Be it someone outing your partner, outing your relationship or using the casual greeting “ladies” or “guys”, you’ll find you will likely be the one to jump to rage first. Why? Your partner has been misgendered and outed their entire lives up until now. While you will see their shoulders slump and they may even get to the stage of refusing to go out until they “pass” it’s not going to help anyone by getting angry. Trust me – I rage so hard and ultimately it made my partner less inclined to go out because of my possible reaction. Take your partners lead on this one. If they don’t enter the rage zone, just stand strong beside them.
The best thing about being adult is not sex, but it is pretty great, or at least it can be. Like all sexual situations, you have the right to say yes and no. What might have worked for you and your partner before, might not any more. The best thing about consent, sex and negotiation is it gives you room to discuss and try new things, or even go back and revisit old things. Also NO ONE NEEDS TO KNOW WHAT YOU DO IN THE SACK EVER. That said, you’re likely to be asked – I have been many, many times. My best response so far to the question, “How do you have sex?” is “Fantastically.”
14. Family isn’t always blood.
I know we say that family is who we choose, but sometimes we hope blood relatives are going to love us unconditionally. During the course of your partner’s transition you are going to likely have a crap time. If you don’t, I am super envious and take my hat off to your awesome and understanding families. You are likely to be asked a million questions, so if you don’t like the idea of repeating yourself, find links and share articles for people to read. The hardest thing I ever watched was my partner read a response from a member of his family. I saw his heart shatter and there wasn’t a single thing I could do. On the upside, some of the people he feared most to tell have been his strongest supporters and are Team Happiness all the way! We have been blessed with amazing friends and that love is something I can never ever find a way to express with words.
15. You can’t fix everything.
You will make things worse… unintentionally. Your partner isn’t a piece of broken china, you can’t glue them back together and sit them somewhere gently out of harm’s way. Ask them if you can help, if they say no – accept that in that moment there is nothing you can do and just being near them is enough. When they cry, pass a tissue, hug them, binge watch something horrendous on Netflix. When they laugh, embrace it. Just remember that actions will always speak louder than words and in the quiet moments your love for your partner shouts volumes.
16. You know those eyes.
Although everything changes, we say it’s the same person – and fundamentally it is. Except that nothing about them is the same any more. When you are overwhelmed, stop and look them in the eyes. You know those eyes, and when they smile you’ll remember that you know that smile. When they laugh for the first time, you’ll realise it’s not the same laugh any more – it’s finally real. Don’t get wrapped up in the changes. Focus on what you know. And you know that for once in their life, your partner is finally living.
17. Your partner is a douchecano.
They don’t mean to, but they say things that hurt. Like: “My whole life up until now was a lie.” While their gender identity and aspects of their life has been a lie, your relationship and the lifetime of memories you created weren’t. We are all great at making sweeping, dramatic statements. The important thing to remember is they don’t mean to hurt you when they do it, because now they feel liberated and understood.
18. Patience is a virtue.
And I realised a long time ago Trans people aren’t very virtuous. Things take time and since your partner has already waited so long to get to this point it all seems very frustrating. Also paperwork – so much paperwork for EVERY LITTLE THING. Don’t be a hero, don’t try to be the voice of reason, just admit the system sucks and feed your partner fairy floss or whatever makes them happier in that moment.
19. You can talk about your life before transition.
It might be hard to begin with trying to focus on now and not then. But in time you’ll find you still talk about the moment you met and that one time you played giant chess on your honeymoon. For me, I use a nickname I had for her, it helps for me to still enjoy my memories without the pain I once experienced. Just be mindful when sharing those memories especially with people that your partner might not be “out” to use their name and pronouns as you do now.
20. They are as scared and worried as you are!
You might be scared of the things that could happen during surgery; or the emotional change that hormones might enhance; or all the small changes that make way for bigger changes… But they are scared too, because what if you don’t like those changes? What if you aren’t attracted to them any more? For everything you are worried about, they are worried for themselves and for you. Make sure you keep talking, keep supporting each other!
Supporting Partners of Trans People Qld https://www.facebook.com/groups/SPOTQld