Coming out as transgender is a life-changing moment, and it’s a milestone that deserves to be celebrated. If your partner comes out as transgender, how you react can make all the difference. Your partner’s gender identity is not a choice, but you can choose how you respond to your SO’s news. Yes, you may potentially feel confusion or fear about how your relationship will change, and your questions and feelings are valid. However, your SO should be prioritized in the moment, and the best way to support your trans partner is with respect, tact, and lots of love.
I spoke to Renée H. Reopell, LCSW, and they gave me insight into how you should respond to, comfort, and celebrate your trans partner after they come out. "When someone shares their authenticity with you, this is a privilege," they explain. "It is a privilege to sit with someone’s true self and honor that fully." As well as working to understand and support your partner’s gender identity, it is your responsibility as a trans person’s SO to self-educate about the trans experience and the discrimination trans individuals oftentimes face. If you’re not sure how you can effectively support your trans partner, here are some tips.
You should feel honored when someone shares their authentic self with you, Reopell says. Oftentimes, transgender individuals are made to feel like their gender identity is something shameful, which is why it’s so important to appreciate your partner’s trust in you rather than see it as a burden. "As a partner, this is your opportunity to celebrate and support this genuine trust your partner has with you by prioritizing your partner, their needs, and their voice," Reopell says.
When your partner comes out as trans, you’ll likely have questions, but at least initially, try to spend more time listening than expressing your own thoughts. "You may have a lot of feelings of your own to work through, but right now your partner needs you to show up for them, centering their vulnerability," says Reopell. "Simply, this is about your partner’s feelings right now. Showing up for them is an honor."
Sharing one’s authenticity takes bravery and strength, so you should respond to your partner’s admission with the utmost care. The best way to make your partner feel seen, heard, and respected is to say, "Thank you so much for trusting me and telling me that." Reiterate how much you love them and care for them, and then ask what you can do to provide support.
Before asking anything of your newly-out partner, consider your questions carefully, and accept that your SO may not be able to offer the explanation you need. "It is OK and healthy for your partner to not have answers to questions you may ask," Reopell says, "and it’s important you allow space for ambiguity and exploration." You should also keep in mind that your partner is just one person with unique experiences, so they can’t speak on behalf of the entire trans community. Questions you might ask include:
- When did you first know you were trans?
- How do you describe your gender identity?
- What gender pronouns would you like for me to use when we’re together? What about when we’re with family, friends, or in public?
- How can I best support you right now?
The questions you pose to your trans partner should be more about understanding their experiences and feelings and less about sating your own curiosity. As Reopell points out, it can be emotionally taxing for the trans community to educate cisgender people. Consider using Google or other means of self-education to find answers rather than expecting them to come from your SO. The National Center for Transgender Equality and the Human Resources Campaign have plenty of info that can help you better understand transgender issues, gender identity, and transitioning. You may also find the titles on PFLAG’s transgender reading list to be useful.
Like any other private information, your SO’s gender identity belongs to them and requires their consent to share. Ask your partner who they feel comfortable, safe, and secure sharing this information with before you open up to anyone else. "Get to know what your partner wants," Reopell suggests. "Everyone is different. Remember your partner is the expert in their own gender and what their gender needs." Let them decide when they’re ready to share their identity with others rather than making that decision for them.
As close as you may be to your SO’s family and friends, your partner understands their relationships with those people best, so trust their judgment and respect their wishes. The last thing you want to do is out your trans partner to someone else before they’re ready to do so themselves. As Reopell says, "When in doubt, ask. It’s better to ask than make a hurtful assumption." And when your partner is ready to come out to others, ask how you can best help them navigate those conversations.
Supporting your trans partner means supporting the trans community as well, but dating a trans person does not make you an ally by default. According to Reopell, being an ally involves taking action. "Allyship is a constant work in progress, seeking education, resources, and identifying the interpersonal and institutional ways gender (and cisgender-normativity) is weaponized against trans people," they explain. Educate yourself about the ways in which people in the trans community face systemic inequality in everyday life, including barriers to healthcare, inaccurate identity documents, and lack of legal protection, among other injustices.
In addition to educating yourself on the trans experience, try examining your own experiences with and understanding of gender. "Take some time to sit with your gender narrative (I’d recommend Kate Bornstein’s My New Gender Workbook), and pay attention to the number of ways you’ve created your gender identity," Reopell suggests. If you better understand your own gender identity, it will likely be easier to understand your partner’s.
While conversations with your newly-out SO should revolve around their needs, it’s necessary to spend time reflecting on your own feelings as well. Learning about your partner’s gender identity may change your relationship, so you’ll want to make sure you’re emotionally equipped to handle the challenges that may arise. Coming out as trans can be tough, but if you show your partner love and encouragement, you can better navigate what comes next together.
When someone comes out as transgender, the response from loved ones is incredibly valuable. These responses will have a deep emotional impact whether or not the person feels supported and loved by their friends, family, partner(s), and community.
All relationships go through changes and transitions. This opportunity to provide support and love to your newly out partner is no different. It will have growth edges, a learning curve, and new discoveries along the way. There are many different ways in which you can support your partner. We’ve laid out a few below:
This is an exciting time in your partner’s life! They are coming home to themselves and sharing their vulnerable truths with the world around them. Celebrate this news by thanking them for trusting you enough to tell you. Coming out is often represented as a negative experience filled with pain, broken trust, or relationships ending as a result. Flipping that narrative all the way around and deciding to honor your partner is affirming in and of itself.
Find external support to process your feelings.
It’s okay to have your own emotions and processing around your partner’s transition. However, remember that this isn’t about you. Try to find external support through a therapist or LGBTQ center where you can process your emotions, ask questions, and expand your knowledge on trans identity, without putting this emotional work onto your partner. You may have fears that would not be helpful to bring to your partner which can be talked through with an external support person. Having this process is important so that you are able to ensure your conversations with your partner about their gender identity focus solely on their needs right now.
Allow for it to become a part of everyday conversation.
It can sometimes feel overwhelming to talk about vulnerable topics like gender identity and body dysphoria. However, when these topics become normalized as something that can be discussed over morning coffee or an after-work conversation, it can ease the tension. It can also be challenging to always feel like it’s up to the person who is trans to bring up the topic. Remember to stay curious about the fluidity of gender, instead of viewing it as a stagnant identity. Check in regularly with your partner about the language they would like to be used for their body.. These small shifts can make a big difference in someone having an affirming sexual experience. If your partner is starting hormone replacement therapy (HRT), they may experience shifts in sexual arousal or how they like to be touched sexually. Continuing to keep the dialogue open will allow your partner to share these vulnerable truths with you along the way, and feel loved and valued as they share this with you.
Ask your partner what they need.
It’s important to prioritize your partner’s autonomy right now and to ask specifically what they need. While offering advice or advocating for them when out together may feel like support, it could be the opposite of what they want. Instead of making assumptions, ask your partner specific questions like:
Do you want me to come to doctor appointments with you and ask questions if you get nervous?
Do you notice any gender dysphoria triggers, especially during sex, that I can avoid?
What does care look like for you when experiencing a trigger around gender?
How do you want me to advocate for you when we’re out? (I.e. a waiter at a restaurant misgendering them.)
Are there certain people who don’t know and you’d prefer I use your dead name and previous pronouns with? How can we handle those situations to mitigate triggers?
These in-depth conversations allow your partner to know you are curious about their process and want to provide support in a way that feels affirming for them.
Asking for help can be difficult, especially when we most need it. Let your partner know what your capacity is for supporting them. This could come in the form of researching trans affirming doctors near you, looking up legal name change protocol for your state, insurance options for covering HRT or gender affirming surgery, calling the local LGBTQ center for trans supportive services, or holding space for them as they continue to come out to family and friends.
If they know you want to offer support, it may reduce the pressure of some of these daunting tasks. While calling a new doctor about starting HRT could feel anxiety provoking for them, it could be a task you take on along the way. Keeping open communication about your capacity and their needs is vital. Like any transition or big change in a relationship, having patience and keeping the conversation going is vital.
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A lot of people only come to realizations about their gender identity after years of searching for answers to unspoken questions. By that time, some have married, and their spouses also have to deal with their transitions if they come out as transgender.
If your spouse is transitioning from one gender to another, what does that mean for your marriage? What is your role in his or her life now? This issue is increasingly common, and you will need to carefully consider how you move forward.
Legally, your marriage is still sound
Since the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriages in 2015, marriage is no longer restricted by gender. Your marriage will remain valid regardless of your spouse’s gender. In other words, transitioning doesn’t invalidate your legal relationship to each other.
Your romantic relationship may or may not be over
Having a transgender spouse doesn’t automatically mean the end of your marriage. It does, however, mean that you have to re-evaluate the entire relationship. So does your spouse.
The odds are good that your spouse is still attracted to someone of your gender, since he or she married you in the first place. However, you may or may not be able to feel romantically attracted to your spouse’s once he or she transitions.
Generally speaking, it isn’t wise to make the decision immediately after you learn that your spouse is transgender and wants to transition. Counseling, both individually and as a couple, can help you both determine your wants and needs in regard to each other.
Your spouse’s gender will not change his or her support obligations
If you decide to divorce, a change in gender won’t affect your spouse’s obligations to pay spousal support (if warranted) or child support. Your spouse will still have the same legal obligations no matter what.
Gender identity does not affect child custody decisions
The only way that your spouse’s gender identity should affect a custody case is if his or her ability to care for the children is impaired. If your spouse is going through extensive surgeries, for example, it might be appropriate to have the children in your primary physical custody during that time. Otherwise, it isn’t an issue.
Going through this time with your spouse may be difficult for now. Brighter days will come, however, no matter what path your relationship takes.
Coming out as transgender to friends and family can range from scary and difficult to exciting and liberating. It’s different for everyone. There’s no one right way to come out.
What does it mean to “come out”?
Coming out as transgender may mean that you tell people about your preferred pronouns (if you wish to be referred to as he/him, she/her, they/them, etc.). It may also mean that you ask people to call you by a new name and to think of you by the gender identity that you’re comfortable with.
Coming out as trans is a very personal decision and different for everyone. Some people choose to come out before they medically or socially transition, and some choose to come out after or during the process. You may choose to come out to different people at different times, or to not come out to some people at all. All of this is okay — only you can decide what’s right for you.
Although both involve telling friends and family about your identity, there are differences between coming out as lesbian , gay , or bisexual and coming out as transgender. A lot of people know what it means for a person to be gay, but there’s still a lot of confusion and misinformation out there about what it means to be trans.
And sometimes coming out or being outed as transgender can mean your identity is misunderstood, disrespected, or disbelieved.
If you choose to come out as transgender, make sure it’s to people you trust and that you have a support system in place. This can include friends, family, or a support group. It’s important to feel as confident as possible that coming out won’t jeopardize your safety, health, or living situation.
How do I come out to my parents and friends?
There’s no one correct way to come out to your family and friends. You’re the expert in what feels right to you, and who it feels safest to tell.
Here are some general tips for coming out:
When you decide that you’re ready to come out, give yourself time to think through how you’ll do it and what you’ll say.
Figure out the people or person in your life that you think will be the most supportive, and come out to them first. You can often get a sense of how friendly someone is to transgender people by watching how they react when the topic comes up in conversation.
Do some research so that you have information about being trans, in case they have questions or don’t know all the facts.
Some people are more comfortable writing a letter or e-mail rather than coming out in person.
After you decide who you’ll come out to, what you’ll say to them, and how you’ll say it, be prepared to wait as they digest and accept the new information. Give them the time they need to think about and try to understand what you’re going through.
Sometimes it takes people awhile to get comfortable with your new pronouns or name, and they may make mistakes when referring to you, even if they don’t mean to.
Don’t assume that everyone will react negatively. Some people may surprise you with their openness and acceptance.
The Human Rights Campaign’s Transgender Visibility Guide is a good, step-by-step resource for helping you come out as trans and also includes information to help the people in your life understand your identity.
Where can I find support if I’m transgender?
You can find support in a lot of places, including:
Other transgender people who may share their experience of coming out or transitioning
Online communities of trans folks
Transgender support groups at your local LGBTQ community center
Cisgender people who are allies to trans people
Not everyone lives in a place that has lots of trans people or an LGBTQ community center. If this is your situation, check the Internet for communities and support.
Former Olympian Bruce Jenner, now Caitlyn Jenner, is the most famous example of a father and husband making the transition from male to female.
Every time Caitlyn Jenner makes headlines, I can’t help but think of Kris, her ex-wife. Kris may put on a smile and say how lovely Caitlyn looks, how brave she is, how well things are going for her, but Kris has revealed some less charitable thoughts too. I’d bet she is actually raw and angry and sad. I’d put money on it because I too am the ex-wife of a trans woman.
“I feel like it didn’t exist,” Kris says in a video you can find online. Her mascara runs. She’s crying about the life she lived with Caitlyn nee Bruce. I said much the same thing, but the words I used were “negated” and “erased.” If my husband was really always a she, then were we ever really an us?
Maura — I call her my wasband — still doesn’t understand how I can question the reality of the 13 years we were married before her big reveal, any more than I understand how she subjugated her feelings of gender dysphoria all that time. In 2008, when I found out that, all in all, he’d rather be a she, I would have killed to know there were others out there like me, who had gone through this experience and survived. I went looking. I asked contacts from my ever-widening circle in the trans community. Did they know anyone who might talk to me? Nothing. No one.
That was eight years ago, when trans issues were not often discussed except in purely salacious terms. People gawked at our situation like it was an accident on the side of the road. The spotlight wasn’t on the wife or family but the trans person him or herself: the pregnant man or Chaz Bono. I looked for peer-reviewed academic articles on how healthcare professionals could help the families of trans people through their own transitions. I couldn’t find any; I still can’t.
I started out confused, and so did my son. Were the things he thought he knew about his dad true? Yes, mostly. M, as he calls her, is the same parent as Dad was, with the same expectations. Were the things his dad had told him over the years valid? Yes to that too, because gender identity was nothing they had ever discussed. What would happen at school? He and I brainstormed responses, just in case. “Yes my dad’s a girl, and so…?” “What’s it matter to you?” We practiced saying them. The taunts didn’t come, but it helped to have a ready comeback. It still does.
The other day I looked at my son’s hands, which are nothing like mine. He has her hands: long delicate fingers that gesture like the man I married. When he was a toddler, my boy sat up in bed and scratched his chest just like his father. I laughed at the idea that my husband, when he was old, would share this gesture with his middle-aged son, and maybe with his son. Only now there will be no old husband, and here I am again with a lump in my throat.
The weirdness of my situation doesn’t dissipate, and it seems to give people permission to ask questions they would never dare ask a more prosaic divorcee. Getting a new phone on our still-to-be-sorted family plan a few weeks ago, the salesman called me Maura. “Oh no, that’s the wasband,” I said, giving a bare rundown of the story. “Did you have any idea before he told you?” he asked. A stranger behind a counter felt entitled to details.
To me the questions feel like blame — for marrying someone I shouldn’t have, for not seeing something I should have noticed, for pushing him to a point that he needed to leave his masculinity behind. The last may seem ridiculous, but my ex has a relative who puts the transformation firmly on me.
One of my trans friends once said it takes about two years post-surgery for the new person to truly settle into herself. It’s proved true in my experience. But it was an arduous journey. While I was grieving, Maura was celebrating.
She joyfully shared every increase in bra cup size, every time the electrolysis lady reached another milestone and every time there was another step toward legal or physical womanhood. And while that happy dance happened to the right of me, on the left side, my heart ached, and she was oblivious to the pain. I found out on a summer night, a Thursday, that my husband was gone, but he actually disappeared over and over in painful little moments for months.
Now Kris Jenner and her children have joined the club: those who have lost husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, sisters and brothers in a way that can only compare to death but isn’t. All we can do is manage the pain, ignore the wide-eyed stares and inconsiderate comments, and hope for grace and serenity. We are forced to applaud with so many others what it takes to come out as trans, to live an authentic life. But only we know the courage it takes to redraw what gets erased.
Seattle writer Lisa Jaffe Hubbell specializes in covering health and healthcare.
Follow the Opinion section on Twitter @latimesopinion and Facebook
I've actually attempted several times to post here only to delete it, because I just feel so much that I have a hard time figuring out what I actually want to say.
I think my anxiety and depression are playing a big role in this. It's making a tough, complicated situation even more complicated and tough.
A bit about me and my husband. I'm a 26 y/o cis female, my mtf husband is 25, and we've been together for 7 years. Can I take a moment and say I don't like saying I'm a cis female? I know that it's an important identifier here, but I'm just annoyed that I have to clarify this is conversations now. Such a small stupid thing in the bigger picture, I know.
Anyway, on to my husband coming out as feeling like a woman. My first thoughts were, "Holy shit. How the hell do I process this? I need to make sure that he knows I support him and love him. I don't want him to think I'm disgusted by this." Second thoughts were full of fear. "What does this mean for our relationship? Am I going to lose the man I've loved? I no longer know who this person really is. F*ck, I know he's going through some things, but jeezus I feel like our relationship has just fundamentally changed, and all of a sudden I'm not quite sure where I fit in anymore."
I think I'm angry at him. Seven years ago, I was stupid and let myself fall in love with a person and now he's become my ENTIRE world, and now my entire world has changed. You know, seven years ago, I was dead set on not getting in a relationship, but then certain events happened, and the way they happened made me feel like we were truly meant to be. Gah, everything seemed so right. Even now there are times where I feel like we are still meant to be, but god damn I'm terrified and angry.
I don't exactly fall into a strictly straight category. If I were to fall in love with a woman, then that's just who I fell in love with. I can imagine many people telling me, "Well, the person you fell in love with is still there, he is just a she." No. That's not how this works. This is literally not how it works. I fell in love with someone who I thought I knew. I fell in love with a man. If someone comes up to me and says gender doesn't matter, then the very first thought I think of is, "If it doesn't matter, then why is being trans a thing?"
I'm probably being so incredibly insensitive and sound closed minded, but I'm so angry and terrified. Just please believe me when I say I'm a big supporter of LGBT+ rights. I have never thought ill thoughts toward the community. Especially since I probably fall into the B of LGBT. I'm just so scared. His reassurances that he still loves me and will always love me, mean practically nothing at this point. He wants to undergo hormone treatment in about a year. Let's see how you feel then, okay? It probably won't even take a year before he realizes that maybe he isn't attracted to me in the same way anymore. There is just too many unknown factors.
I don't know who this person is anymore. This is "Sara". I don't know who Sara is. Sara might as well be some girl I pass on the street. Sara holds none of my affections, but Sara knows more about me than anyone else in the entire world. Sara knows me better than I even know myself sometimes. This person has my heart in their hands, but I never willingly gave it to them. My heart was given to someone else.
God. What do I do? I suppose I'm grateful for the fact that my husband has allowed me to continue calling him by male pronouns. I mean, it would be quite hard for me to start calling him "her" right out off the bat.
I was supposed to be looking for a counselor to help with my anxiety and depression (actually I had found someone that I thought I would like), because I don't want to be a hermit anymore. I want to integrate myself back into the world and start to feel like a normal person again, but now it seems I'm going to have to find a counselor that deals with transgender issues/couples.
I thought about spending a couple of nights at my mom and grandma's place, because I'm really just feeling so lost. This has really thrown me off, and I've been having incredible mood swings the past couple of days as a result. These are quite hard to keep under control. If it weren't for my mood stabilizers I'm sure things would be 5x as worse. It's not fair for my husband for me to be like this. I know this is confusing and worrying for him in his own way. I'm not oblivious to that fact. Plus, he's gotten so much support from the few people who is has told. Like, his cousin, who is super ecstatic. She's already been telling him that she plans to get him obsessed with make up and so on. He should be enjoying himself with finally being able to be who he has felt like for so long (he's known since he was around 12). Probably best if I just stay somewhere since I'm so overwhelmed and can't really be happy for him at this point in time. It's worse, because I know he knows that I'm feeling overwhelmed, but he hasn't commented on it. I hate that. That's not what I want. He's going to be unhappy that I'm going to be away from him for a couple of days. Hell, so am I. We've never spent more than day apart. I mean. we moved in together after only four months of dating. Being apart is a big deal for us.
If you read all this, then bless you. I honestly don't know what I want from this post. I'm sure someone is bound to tell me that I'm wrong for feeling this way. They'll be people who are annoyed with me and find me repulsive/selfish/whiny. I know how this works. I guess. at least my feelings are out there?
Edit: September 10, 2021 I've gotten some questions about this a few times now, apparently this pops up on Google. So nice to see my melt down so easily accessible. Lol! I think this post is 5 or 6 years old (I'm 32 now), and to answer the biggest question, my wife and I are, happily, still together! 12 years total!
Also, this post might as well be 10 years old, bc so much has happened in my life and in the world, it's hard to remember everything
Alright, let's do this. So much has changed in 5 years. For one, I can't imagine saying a lot of these things now, but we learn and we grow. This sub and other trans related subs were extremely helpful in normalizing this for me. I may have been very loud about LGBTQ+ rights since high school, but my interaction with anyone in the community before my wife was very small. I grew up in a more "traditional" environment.
The process of accepting my wife and understanding what her being trans meant, was a day by day progress. One obstacle at a time. My wife was extremely understanding and patient. We saw her gender therapist a few times together, I think that was helpful, too. COMMUNICATION IS KEY!
Also, I realized somewhere along the way that I should give myself some slack at times, because my life was very heteronormative up until my wife came out. I never saw myself married to a woman (despite thinking I might be bi).
I hope this satisfies anyone wondering how this turned out! I'd be curious, too.
What would you do if you had to remake yourself after your husband became your wife?
Kristin K. Collier’s life changed forever when her husband told her he wanted to live the rest of his life as a woman. Her roles as a wife and mother were turned upside down, and even her understanding of what it was to be a woman needed rethinking.
While high-profile celebrities like Kaitlyn Jenner have definitely helped increase the overall visibility of transgender people, having a spouse come out as transgender is still an experience that’s shrouded in mystery and something most of us (myself included) wouldn’t have the first clue on how to begin to process.
Collier chronicles her experiences in the new memoir, Housewife: Home-remaking in a Transgender Marriage. As she explains: “I felt very alone living through my husband’s transition, but I knew that there were many other families out there grappling with the same challenge. About six per cent of the population is trans, actually. I wanted to connect with those families so none of us would have to feel so alone.”
Fast forward to the present: Collier’s family now consists of her legally married parenting partner (a transwoman), romantic partner, and two teenage boys living together — harmoniously — under one roof and she’s chock-full of advice for families that are undergoing a similar transition.
If your spouse or someone you care about comes out to you as trans, here are some ways you can be supportive:
1. Understand that being transgender isn’t a choice or a mental illness
There are so many myths and misunderstandings when it comes to transgenderism. Helping a loved one transition starts with understanding them.
As Collier explains: “There is evidence across 22 scientific disciplines that there is a biological basis for being transgender. Gender dysphoria (the intense discomfort some transgender people feel about being in the wrong body) can be treated, making way for a happy, productive life.”
2. It’s also not about sexual orientation
It’s also important for people to understand that gender and sexual orientation are not the same thing. “Gender is a deep-seated sense of who we are that emerges when we are quite young, typically well before we are clear about our sexual orientation,” says Collier.
In other words, gender identity has nothing to do with sexual orientation. As Collier shares, “people may experience gender on a spectrum (male, female, both, or neither) just like people experience their sexual orientation on a spectrum (homosexual to heterosexual and everything in between, above, and beyond).”
3. Take a deep breath and listen
As Collier advises: “if it’s your spouse, someone you depend on in many ways, the first bit of advice I have is to keep breathing.” If someone comes out to you as trans, listen to them.
“Take a break and get some space and/or empathy if you are overwhelmed with your own feelings about it. Return when you are ready to listen,” she says. It’s also important that you look after yourself and determine what your needs and concerns are.
“I encourage you not express yourself unless you are also willing to listen deeply and allow yourself to be moved by your partner’s words. This means letting go of judgment and instead believing the best in one another,” says Collier.
4. It’s not your fault, talk to someone
When your spouse reveals a difficult truth, it can be hard to process at first. As Collier shares, her first reaction when her spouse told her the news was, “You should have known!” She says, “I felt disappointed and shocked that I hadn’t understood myself and my husband better. I feared I had not seen other important things that would impact us as well. I didn’t trust myself to keep my eyes open and deal effectively with what came up in my world.”
However, once she was able to let go of the feelings of self-blame and judgement, things got easier. “This is why she says it’s important to find someone to talk to about all of the complicated feelings that are undoubtedly going to come up,” says Collier.
5. Work through your feelings first
Whether you’re grappling with a partner who has come out as transgender, a divorce or another kind of transition, it’s “it’s critical that parents work through their feelings and needs as much as possible away from their children so that the kids aren’t burdened with the temptation to take care of a parent or take sides in a conflict,” says Collier.
As she explains, “working through a major relationship transition is a process, and it does get easier if we meet ourselves and our partners with compassion.”
When Emily Prince was considering coming out as transgender, the first person she told was her girlfriend. It did not go well.
“She basically shoved me back in the closet,” said Prince, who is now 31 and living in Alexandria, Virginia. “It left some lasting emotional damage that still manifests itself to this day — and that relationship ended back in 2008.”
For others, coming out to a partner is much more positive. Ramona P., a 40-year-old trans woman in Columbus, Ohio, said her girlfriend was one of the major forces in pushing her to present herself as a woman. “In July 2012, I started hormones again,” she said. “One of the big catalysts for that was my girlfriend at the time, whom I’m still with, was incredibly supportive and incredibly good at expressing the idea and making me feel comfortable about it.”
For transgender people, whose gender identity doesn’t match the sex assigned to them at birth, the first test of whether they’ll be accepted in the world is often coming out to a romantic partner — and the experience is different for everyone. In talking with trans people for a recent series of interviews, I heard about reactions from partners that ranged from full support to hesitation to outright abuse.
Romantic partners gave a range of reactions
Prince’s story was one of the more dire stories I heard. As Prince described it, her ex-girlfriend insisted that she was a cross-dresser, not trans — and tried to convince Prince of this through “a pattern of emotional abuse” that left long-term emotional scars.
“[My ex-girlfriend] did everything she could to convince me I wasn’t [trans], that being trans would be impossible and I would be miserable,” Prince said.
Other times, partners weren’t outwardly rejecting, but they were hesitant. This hesitation was sometimes enough to keep someone — like Katherine, a 34-year-old trans woman from Charlotte, North Carolina — from going forward with a transition.
“My ex-wife knew about me being trans before we got married. But she just didn’t want me to transition,” Katherine said. “I thought I could cope with it.”
“[My ex-girlfriend] did everything she could to convince me I would be miserable”
But Katherine couldn’t handle it. She eventually decided that she would transition, which she characterized as a decision to be “done being miserable.” “It was more than depression,” Katherine said. “It was more about having to fake who I was for so long. But once I started transitioning in 2012, I haven’t had any depression of any kind.” She would, however, later divorce her wife.
Others said the fear of rejection kept them from transitioning. Ramona said she kept her identity secret in part out of fear that her wife and family would reject her, even though her wife ended up showing no signs of disapproval. Ramona described herself as “deeply, deeply unhappy” prior to transitioning, and it led her to act out in ways that hurt both her wife and herself.
“It led to other problems in my life,” Ramona said. “I had a period in which I was absolutely lost in internet porn. It’s not something that’s fun to talk about, but it’s one of the ways my feelings presented themselves. That led to problems in my marriage, and I was unfaithful in my marriage. All of these things came from this problem of having this hole really deep within myself that I didn’t know how to fill.”
Ramona would eventually begin living full-time as a woman in December 2013, but only after the end of her marriage — for which she blames herself — and support from a new girlfriend.
Rejection leads to much worse outcomes for trans people
The 2011 National Transgender Discrimination Survey (NTDS), the most comprehensive look at trans Americans to date, found that 45 percent of trans and gender nonconforming people who came out to partners had their relationships end. About 29 percent of those with children experienced an ex-partner limiting their contact with their children. Trans women reported generally worse outcomes, with 57 percent seeing their relationships end and 34 percent having their relationships with their children limited or stopped.
Many of the respondents to the survey — and some people I talked to for this story — reported loving, caring family relationships that continued after their transitions. But it was also the case that partners could act as obstacles instead of the support people needed at defining moments in their lives.
Family rejection can lead to deeply disturbing outcomes among trans people. About 57 percent of trans and gender nonconforming people told the NTDS that they experienced significant family rejection. This rejection had precipitous effects: trans and gender nonconforming people who are rejected by their families are nearly three times as likely to experience homelessness, 73 percent more likely to be incarcerated, and 59 percent more likely to attempt suicide, according to the survey.
“Don’t be afraid of wanting to be yourself. That was a fear that was shoved on me when I was younger.”
Still, as awful as it sounds, trans people said family rejection and the fear of it shouldn’t deter people from coming out and leading the lives they want to lead.
Not transitioning can harm a trans person’s health. Some — but not all — trans people experience gender dysphoria, a state of emotional distress caused by the gender someone was designated at birth and how it conflicts with their gender identity. Dysphoria can lead to severe depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts. This can be treated if a person transitions, whether by coming out to others or by going through medical procedures. But trans people can’t go through the transition if they feel forced to stay in hiding.
Once the trans people I spoke with decided to transition, they said their lives, moods, and relationships drastically improved. “Over the past four months, I’ve been dating this woman who’s been very open and great,” Katherine said. “It’s been a totally different relationship than I had with anyone before — on a very positive level.”
This better post-transition life convinced Katherine to encourage people to come out despite opposition or rejection along the way.
“Don’t be afraid of wanting to be yourself. That was a fear that was shoved on me when I was younger whenever I showed any sign of being feminine,” Katherine said. “Even if you have friends or family that push you away, there are always going to be people who love and care about you in more ways than you can realize.”
Watch: Life as a transgender woman
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You’ve learned something important about yourself and now you want to share this with your family, friends, or other people. Or you might not feel like sharing right now.
It’s normal to wonder about coming out (telling people that you are a member of the LGBTQ+ communities).
You might feel relief that you finally get to be your true, authentic self. But you probably also think about how your world could change if you do share: How will people react? Will the people you tell spread the word to someone you’d prefer didn’t know? Is it safe to come out?
There are lots of reasons why people choose to come out. Here are a few:
- They’re ready to start dating and want close friends and family members to know.
- They don’t want people making assumptions about them or gossiping.
- They’re tired of hearing other people use stereotypes or negative labels.
- They feel like they’re living a lie or not acting true to themselves and want to feel accepted for who they really are.
There are also plenty of reasons why people decide not to come out, such as:
- They’re not yet sure about who they are or how they feel. They’re still trying to figure things out for themselves.
- They’re afraid they’ll face bullying, harassment, discrimination, or even violence.
- Their families, friends, or community don’t know, and they worry about what might happen if people found out.
- They live in a community that has not being very accepting of LGBTQ+ people.
Coming out can be more complicated for teens who depend on parents or other adults for care and well-being. Some people who come out live in places where being LGBTQ+ is accepted. They’re more likely to get support from family and friends. Each person should consider their own situation. It’s different for everyone.
Most people come out gradually. They start by telling a counselor or a few close friends or family. A lot of people tell a counselor or therapist because they want to be sure their information stays private. Some call an LGBTQ+ support group so they can have help working through their feelings about identity or coming out.
Things to Keep in Mind
Coming out is a big and personal decision. You won’t know how people will react until the time comes.
Sometimes you can get clues about how people think from the way they talk about LGBTQ+ people: Are they open-minded and accepting, or negative and disapproving?
You can get an idea of how people think by bringing up LGBTQ+ issues. Listen to how people respond when you ask questions like these: “I’ve been reading about gay marriage. What are your thoughts on it?” Or, “My cousin’s school is raising money to help a transgender student who is homeless. Is that something you’d donate to?”
Even when you think someone might react positively to your news, there’s still no guarantee. Everyone responds based on their own situations: Parents who accept an LGBTQ+ friend may be upset when their own child comes out. It could be because they worry their child might face discrimination. Or it could be they struggle with beliefs that being LGBTQ+ is wrong.
Here are things to keep in mind when you’re thinking of coming out:
Trust Your Gut
Don’t feel forced to come out by friends or situations. Coming out is a process. Different people are ready for it at different times in their lives. You might want to be open about who you are, but you also need to think about your own safety. If there’s a risk you could be physically harmed or thrown out of the house, it’s probably safer not to share. Instead, call a helpline like the LGBT National Youth Talkline to get advice and support based on your situation.
Weigh all the Possibilities
Ask yourself these questions: “How might coming out make my life more difficult? How could it make things easier? Is it worth it?” The Trevor Project’s Coming Out Handbook has lots of tips and things to think about. If you’re thinking about coming out to anyone at your school, consider reading GLSEN’s Coming Out at School guide first.
Have a Support System
If you can’t talk openly about your identity, or if you’re trying to figure out if you should come out, it can help to speak to a counselor or call an anonymous helpline, like the LGBT National Youth Talkline.
Having support systems in place can help you plan how to come out (or not). Support systems can also help you cope if any reactions to your coming out aren’t what you expected, or if you need emergency shelter.
Let Go of Expectations
People you come out to might not react the way you expect. You will probably find that some relationships take time to settle back to what they were. Some might change permanently. Friends and family members — even the most supportive parents — may need time to get used to your news.
Identify Peer Pressure
Coming out is your decision and your decision alone. Even if other people you know have come out or if you’ve come out to some but not others, no one has a say in when, how, or who you come out to.
Think About Privacy
You might have friends who are mature enough to respect personal, private information and keep it to themselves. But whenever you share information, there’s a risk it could leak to people you might not want to know.
Therapists and counselors are required to keep information you share private — but only if they think you won’t hurt yourself or others. If a counselor thinks you might harm yourself or someone else, they are required to report it.
It’s a Lifelong Process
Coming out is a lifelong process. If you choose to come out, that’s important to remember — and not be discouraged by. You will make new friends, family, meet new partners, and join new companies throughout your life. If you choose to come out, then you will have to do it countless times.
It may get easier as you become more confident and social attitudes progress, but sometimes it may be as scary as the first time. Always put your safety and well-being first.
Coming out is a personal choice. Take time to think about what’s right for you.
The controversial ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill in Florida, which was signed last month, has drawn intense scrutiny from critics who argue that it marginalises LGBTQ people.
Monday 11 April 2022 11:12, UK
A Disney heir has publicly come out as transgender and said they should have done more to speak out against Florida’s controversial ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill.
Roy P Disney, the great-nephew of Walt Disney and the co-founder of Walt Disney Co, revealed his son, Charlee, was trans while pledging $500,000 along with his family to the Human Rights Campaign (HRC).
In an appeal to America’s largest LGBT+ advocacy group, Mr Disney said: “Equality matters deeply to us especially because our child, Charlee, is transgender and a proud member of the LGBTQ+ community.”
The Los Angeles Times reports that 30-year-old Charlee Disney, a science teacher, came out as trans four years ago.
They use the pronouns they and them, but this is the first time the family has addressed their gender orientation in public.
‘I feel like I don’t do very much to help’
The ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill, bans teachers from discussing sexual orientation and gender issues with students in classrooms and was signed into law last month by Florida’s Governor, Ron DeSantis.
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It has drawn intense national scrutiny from critics who argue that it marginalises LGBTQ people.
In an interview with the paper, Charlee said: “I feel like I don’t do very much to help.
“I don’t call senators or take action. I felt like I could be doing more.”
They said they had “very few openly gay role models”, adding: “And I certainly didn’t have any trans or nonbinary role models. I didn’t see myself reflected in anyone, and that made me feel like there was something wrong with me.”
Disney response prompted staff walkouts
The family’s appeal comes after Walt Disney’s chief executive, Bob Chapek, initially refused to publicly condemn Florida’s ‘Don’t Say Gay’ law.
Mr Chapek’s response sparked backlash within the company, which led to organised walkouts by staff.
He later apologised for not taking a stronger stand and said the company would pause all political donations in the state.
Charlee’s mother, Sheri, told The Los Angeles Times that her family was disappointed by the Disney Co’s initial refusal to take a stand against the law but had no doubt the company would make it right.
She said: “I have a trans kid, and I love my kid no matter what”.
The controversial Florida bill forbids teaching children from nursery to the third grade about sexual orientation and gender identity.
The White House criticised its passage as “hateful legislation targeting vulnerable students”.