How can I help my partner?

If you have decided to stay with your partner then most likely you will want to be able to help then with transition. Being supportive is extremely important. Listen to what your partner is saying to you even if you don’t like what you are hearing. Just being there and being supportive is one the best things you can do.

Don’t let your wants override your partners’. Don’t stop your partner from getting ffs or srs because you can’t deal with it and don’t want your partner to change. It is extremely damaging and unhelpful.

Here are some practical ways to help your partner:

Clothes

Whatever shape, size or height your partner is, well fitting, age and situation appropriate clothing will go a long way. It can make or break a successful transition. I can not press the importance of style and taste. If you have no interest in clothes, don’t like to shop and don’t understand dressing for age and body type then you will have very little chance at being able to help. If you are female it does not mean that you will automatically know what looks good. This does not come “inbuilt”, it is learned. Don’t fall into the trap of “I look good in this so I am sure my partner will”. Chances are it will look like shit if you have a different body shape or are a different size.

Your partner may already have an idea of what they want to wear but make sure they choose wisely.Very few people who are over the age of 25-30 can successfully wear see through, tight, pink, fluffy, lacy or full blocks of bright colour. But dull or boring clothes won’t cut it either. Most transgender people need to wear clothes that accenuate the hips and bum and minimise the shoulders. Find clothes that do this. Flared skirts and dresses, waist pinching skirts, scooped neck tops are a good place to start. Avoid: Big baggy clothes, straight legged jeans: most jeans/pants will look pretty bad as they have no shape and will not give your partner the hips and bum they need; tight midriff tops, high necked tops and sleeveless tops. For shape and style advice use resources such as “Trinny and Sussannah”.

Work out your partners size. Go to op-shops and seconds shops and buy buy buy. Experiment with what looks good. I have read a lot of websites that extoll the virtues of dull clothes for transgender people. Ignore them. Just have taste and style (i.e. don’t hang out in the teens section trying to capture a faded youth). Ask friends for help if you think you fail in this department. If your oh-so styleish friend/s don’t know about your partner pretend it’s for you. If you don’t feel comfortable asking friends go into a department store and speak to a stylist about clothing.

My partner is really lucky. After loosing 15kg (30pounds) they are the same size as me. My partner is 6ft and I am 5’10” but we fit into all the same clothes. On my partners first outing she wore smallish heels, a dress, nice long socks and passed so well that her own mother didn’t recognise her- quite literally. She sat down next to us without realising. She thought my partner was one of my friends not her “son”!

Choosing a name

Go for a name that is somewhat un-assuming like Emma, Sarah, Chloe, Elizabeth, Katie. In general do not let your partner choose any name that is a flower or a 6 year old girly name like Candy. No hillbilly, white trash, chav, bogan, stripper, celebrity or rock names like Charlene, Brittany, Briony, Jade, Pearl, Marlene, Cheryl etc.  I understand that sometimes these names work really really well and some people can pull them off. Good on them- but chances are for your partner, it won’t work.

Pro-nouns

This is topic I would like to avoid but I feel that it is really important to mention. Pro-nouns seem to vary greatly between people. If you have read other websites/forums they will most likely insist that you refer to your partner with female pronouns even if he is a 6’4” tall truck driver and identifies as male. Some transgender people really care about pronouns and insist on “she” even if they are still, for all intents and purposes, presenting as male and that’s ok! If that is what your partner wants you to do then support them in it. It will help you and your partner overcome difficulties with this later on and also help you think of your partner as female. Some transgender people won’t care and will say “call me what ever makes you feel comfortable”.

I think you should call your partner what they want to be called. Ask them.

Make-Up/ Hair removal

Make-up is an individual choice. My partner hates it but found it usefull to help cover up redness after electrolysis. Some people love make-up. It’s a personal thing and is not necessary. So long as it is tasteful it shouldn’t matter.

Teach your partner about hair removal- eyebrows, legs etc. Hair removal is an individual choice. Again, let your partner decide. Western society dictates women remove all hair but really we all know about that winter fuzz!!!

Sometimes less is more… the more make-up the worse it looks and sometimes more likely to “out”.

Emotional Welfare

In addition to this blurb there is also a page on depression.

It is really important to remember that emotional welfare is not all about your partner. You also need emotional support. Find a good counsellor, join an online transgender forum and/ or talk to supportive friends (if any of them know). Don’t give up your life looking after things for your partner. Do all the things that make you happy: see friends, exercise, shop, read, garden, fix the car, take a holiday etc etc. Take time out for you. You will need help along the way so make so you get it. Make sure your whole relationship does not become about transitioning. Do fun things together outside of transition.

Your partner will have ups and downs. Learn how to cope with the downs. There are a couple of ways to do this. See a counsellor together or separately. Talk to your partner about how you can help them. Talk to your counsellor about devising strategies to cope with this.  Make sure your partner doesn’t become socially isolated and keep up with regular things that they enjoy. Visit friends, go bowling, make sure they have time for family including kids. Be supportive but don’t loose yourself in your partner. You have your own life.

Telling People

This is a tricky one. I have told people in dribs and drabs. I’ve only told people who are closely involved with my life, know my partner and don’t really care one way or the other. I am sure that there are bigots out there but I live in a very accepting community. I have it easy in that respect. Everyone I have told has been very accepting and basically said “Wow that must be really tough”. Most people don’t really know what the process behind transitioning is or how transgender people feel. I haven’t told my extended family and I don’t really care what they think. Some of them have met my partner and I don’t know how they would feel about.

I have told people for me and not for my partner. I have told people with my partners blessing- my partner never wants to tell people as it is too confronting. I have told people so I can get support. I get really nervous before I tell people and worried about they think. But it seems to be ok. I always pick an appropriate time to tell someone. A place without interuptions and with a long time frame in case we want to talk about it. It is really difficult to talk

I’ve never had a negative reaction so I don’t know how to deal with it. If you think you will have a negative reaction from someone talk to your consellor about dealing with it.

Remember though…. never “out” your partner without their consent!!!!!

Research/ Bookings/ appointments

My partner is really really really bad at researching, booking and keeping appointments. Depression and fear can be crippling. Helping your partner research information, find doctors and take them to appointments can be immensely valuable.

6 Responses to How can I help my partner?

  1. Mama Shark says:

    Thank you for this. My partner recently came out as genderfluid, but they are beginning to feel that they may actually be trans. I plan on sticking with them through this and being as supportive and loving as possible, but sometimes there are just things I’m not very good at helping with. But your blog is filling in those gaps nicely!

  2. Sally Lyall says:

    Thank you so much, this is a really great resource, down to earth and realistic, but also positive. I’m looking for help to understand what my wife is going through and how to support her as I come to grips with the real me. Great help

  3. Helen says:

    This blog has been really helpful so far. I’ve known for a long time that my partner has had sexual fantasies about being a woman but has now only just come out and said he might want to go through the change. He has just started seeing a specialised psychiatrist.
    The hardest thing for me is losing him. I don’t care so much about the gender, I’m pretty open minded and sexually curious. I just want to be there with him through this and see if I still feel the same at the end. But I don’t think he wants that. He wants me to move on and be with someone “normal”. He also said he might want to explore things, like maybe he would be a straight female. He also said he would probably feel embarrassed to try things like cross dressing in front of me, and that he thinks he would have to live somewhere else for a while.
    But I don’t want that. Is this what you went through at any point? Do you have any advice on this?

    • Hi Helen,
      I am glad you find this blog helpful. I sometimes look at it and all I see is unhelpful, uninformative drivel.
      I did go through a similar situation but it was coupled with crippling suicidal depression. I think the desire to protect me was the reason my partner pushed me away. Either being very protective or defensive are usually the reasons for pushing someone away and saying things like “maybe I should move etc”. It can be very hard, especially when all you want to do is help the person you love. In regards to the clothing, start small with stockings, underpants, girls socks, lingerie etc. No one will know except you two and it is less confronting. You can slowly introduce gender neutral items like tops and shoes later on. Even if your partner only wears them a little bit it will help break down these feelings of embarrassment. Complete dressing can be saved for special occasions. You can also help with hair and make-up if she wants as well.
      No one really knows what their sexual orientation will be when starting transition. It can be a fluid thing and it is also fueled by hormones and social situations and perceived identities and social up-bringing. Only time will tell. I have a friend who was convinced she was straight when she started transitioning. After SRS she realised she was bi-sexual and was also still interested in women. So… who knows. Talk about all of this stuff in length and detail. It will really help!
      x

  4. Supportive But Distant says:

    Hey,
    Love this site as it helps out immensely. My partner came out to me a couple years ago but they haven’t really done anything. They tell me the reason for this is because they want me behind them. Iam behind them, and I have told them that, but they want me to see it as a “my thing” as well. They want me to show my supportiveness. But how do you be supportive in a state where they have not done anything yet….any thoughts?

  5. Sue says:

    I love this blog! I’ve been reading most of the night. I keep trying to comment however I cannot see my comments appear

    I just wanted to add a positive experience.

    I married my husband 6 months ago and 1 month ago he told me he was transgender and wants to fully transition.

    We have argued for weeks, I’ve had feelings of no longer trusting him. I’ve wondered what our future will be now. I know the chance of our marriage working has decreased. We were moving to the country with his parents – it’s been our dream for years – that can no longer happen.

    BUT I have decided if I’m staying I’m going to embrace it. I am already referring to Danni (previously Danny) as she. We have bought underwear, leggings, a lovely long, long sleeved black top and some amazing boots!! He is a size 8 he tried them on and they looked great! We also have bought a long dark wig with a fringe.

    So this weekend I’m going to do her makeup and she is going to dress up. I’m going to meet Danni properly for the first time. Already in the bedroom things have changed. Its slightly easier for me as I have been with women before.

    I’m scared and excited. I’ll let you know how it goes!! 😀

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