I can only speak from the point of view of a female who has a male partner who is transitioning to female. For a partner who is FtM I don’t know if I can really be of help but there are some great blogs out there so keep looking….
Ok, so you’ve just found out that your partner is transgender. You’ve got a lot to consider and don’t really know what to think. Maybe you’ve never heard of transgenderism, maybe you feel confused, or cheated, lied to, betrayed, hurt, repulsed and afraid. Maybe you feel ok with it, unsure, comfortable but don’t really know what to do? Worried about your partner, the kids, your neighbours, work, money…… and the list goes on.
Let’s assume that you know what ‘being transgender is’. Your partner has somehow told you they are transgender. You may or may not have talked about it further but you want to know more. You may be wondering what to do.
Excellent resources (more eloquently written than I will ever be able to provide) can be found here: http://www.transequality.org/issues/resources/supporting-the-transgender-people-in-your-life-a-guide-to-being-a-good-ally
One of the first questions you will ask yourself is: “do I stay or do I leave?”
One starting point is to try to talk to your partner about it and to find a good counsellor to talk to. A counsellor/ psychologist/ other professional help can talk you through your relationship with or without your partner. It will help clarify your feelings and give you an outlet. Eventually you will need to decide if you are going to stay in the relationship. This may take a lot of time and there is no rush. Ask yourself honestly “do you want to stay in the relationship? Why? What are your relationship expectations? Do you want to be just friends? Why?” Some people choose to move on completely and that, although it can be very painful, is ok too.
(For how to talk to your partner see: https://thetransgenderpartner.wordpress.com/2013/07/03/thinking/
If you can not accept the fact that your partner is transgender then do not stay in the relationship. If you think your partner will change his/her mind and that it is just “a phase” it isn’t. If you think that being transgender is a sin against god and that your partner will soon see the error in their ways, they won’t. They will always be transgender. It can’t be cured and there isn’t a cure so don’t look for one. Your partner may choose to hide being transgender from you if you give them an ultimatum: I’ll stay if you don’t transition. If this is the case think about how this will impact on your relationship (mentally and emotionally) long term. Do you want your partner to live a lie for you?
If you are very attached to your heterosexual identity and don’t want to be a lesbian then that is okay. Not all trans people choose to have SRS/ GRS and that may be something to consider.
If you can not get over how betrayed you may feel, or how angry you are and nothing will ever make up for the hurt your partner has caused, take a break. Think about how you could stay in the relationship, maybe you won’t be able to. If you think you can work through it, the go for it! There is nothing wrong with feeling things (anger, sadness, confusion etc) but holding onto them forever is not helpful.
If your partner is very suicidal and/ or depressed you know that you will never be able to cope with it, don’t stay in the relationship. Or should I say, don’t stay in the relationship if your partner has big ongoing mental health issues that you can not deal with and it will compromise your inner being. If you can stay with them and get help for them and manage it that way, awesome. Transgender people have a 30% successful suicide rate. If your partner is suffering from crippling depression that is dragging you down and making you depressed too, either work out a way to change it or leave. Depression and suicidal thoughts can be alleviated through a transition. If you are willing to put effective support networks in place for you and your partner then power to you and I hope it goes well!
If you are not prepared for the fact that it never ever ends and is part of life then leave. I don’t meant this to scare you either. The reality is that being transgender has, unfortunately, many issues attached to it. Issues surrounding being transgender will/ may go on for the rest of your partners life and implicity in yours too. Repeated: This is not meant to scare you. For a number of years, transition will take up your life in various ways. Eventually this may subside and life will go on. For many it does. For some it takes a decade. Simple things like going to beach without SRS can be a stressful event. Things from the past can be brought up years later. But be prepared for at least a minimum amount of 1-2 years of “issues”. Also see : https://thetransgenderpartner.wordpress.com/passing-and-being-accepted/
If your partner is still unsure about transitioning talk to them about it but don’t try to sway them. Some trans people take a gently gently approach. They are unsure and so will try a small dose of oestrogen to start off with, or cross dress and see how it goes. Others will want to go out as soon as possible. Transition doesn’t happen overnight. It is a long process.
It is NEVER okay for a partner to lie, cheat, abuse (emotionally, physically or mentally) you. That is NOTHING to do with being transgender. That is just your partner being an A**hole. Being transgender is not an excuse to be horrible (and likewise it is not an excuse for you to be horrible either). If your partner wasn’t transgender would accept such poor behaviour???? I don’t think so.
Transgender people are NOT horrible and nasty by nature (some people say selfish in general). If you have a bad experience that does not make ALL transgender people bad.
My partner and I don’t have children. I have talked to a few transgender people who’ve had children and mostly children under about 10 don’t care too much. I don’t know about teenagers… I can’t really comment.
I can however speak as a child of divorce. Please don’t think that staying together “for the sake of the kids” is the best idea. It isn’t. I was so relieved when my parents finally divorced. I was a teenager and they always argued.
If you leave your partner remember your kids still have a relationship with that parent even if you don’t want that relationship and even if you don’t want them to either. Don’t use your children to punish your partner and don’t let your partner punish you for leaving.
I want to stay
Then be prepared for it to be difficult but rewarding and awesome! You may face prejudice, discrimination, lose some family and friends either because they can’t accept it or it is too messy. Unless you have a lot of money accept the fact you will be not be flush for quite some time. Your partner may go through bouts of depression, start having teenage temper tantrums due to hormones, may loose their job and financial security. You will have to make yourself both physically and emotionally available to help your partner as much as possible. It is not a picnic and it will be very stressfull at times. And ultimately….. your relationship might fail in the end.
It isn’t all bad. If you have an accepting group of friends, are comfortable and secure enough within yourself, love your partner and can easily talk to them then you have a good chance. Not all work places are discriminatory and some may even pay for transition. Not every section of society will make a deal of it. My partner hasn’t lost any friends and I certainly haven’t either. I love some aspects of my partner being transgender. For example shopping and exploring new and exciting things together. Some couples can make it through and have it be positive and rewarding.
Will my partner be ok?
This is a really difficult question to answer. Your partner will need all the help that they can get. Every person is different and will need different things. I constantly ask myself this question as my partner gets very depressed. My only answer to this is: do the best you can and “you never know if you never go”.
What do I tell my family, friends and work?
In an ideal world you would never need to worry about this. Unfortunately it is not the case. Most people will be (outwardly) fairly accepting. You will have some negative reactions. Some transgender people move to larger cities with bigger, more accepting and supportive communities- both trans and non trans.
It is worthwhile trying to gauge how the people around you feel about transgender people before telling someone outright. Do it surreptitiously by talking about a “friend of a friend” whose child/parent/partner is transgender or talking about an article in the newspaper. Of course they may feel differently upon knowing someone who is transgender so be carefull.
My partner has a friend whose reactions to transgender people had not always been very positive. But when my when my partner came out to her, she was really supportive. I discussed transgenderism with people before telling them and for me it has been really useful.
How will I cope?
With support from people around you it is easier to cope but I realise that not everyone has close friends and family to lean on who would be supportive in this situation. Seeking out a good counsellor, joining a support group (online or in real life) or starting up a brand new activity away from your partner (so there is space for you) can all be helpful. Not everyone can cope with this situation but it is helped by building a network of people to talk to. And really… there are lots of online support groups out there for partners.
for more info go to- http://www.gendercentre.org.au/trans_person.htm