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This article focuses on giving advice for cis-gendered people whose romantic partner has decided to transition, the advice in this article is subjective and everyone's experiences may differ.
* Used to refer to all trans people including but not limited to transmen and transwomen.
This is part 3 of 3 chronicling advice when approaching this situation. It is important to note that this advice is subjective, and everyone’s experience is unique. For part 1 click here – part 2 click here
Welcome back for the final part of `What to do When Dating Trans*`. For the conclusion we are going to focus on what to do if your partner decides/starts to transition.
It’s Okay to Feel
Everyone in this situation is a person with feelings, and just like any other situation it’s important to process our emotions and express any concerns. Give yourself the time to feel whatever you may be feeling and sit down with yourself to identify where each emotion is coming from.
`I feel angry and I don’t know why`
It’s incredibly important to catch anger before it takes over. Take a moment to think target what exactly is causing you to feel angry. Are you annoyed that parts of your relationship may change now? or could the anger be coming from a place of concern?
Regardless of where the anger is stemming from, be careful not to vent this anger/frustration onto your partner. Try and work through all of your concerns that could be causing the anger, process them on your own, and then communicate with your partner. In this situation everyone should be calm, if either of you cannot manage that then postpone this conversation until you both feel comfortable. Communication works best when everyone involved is in the right state of mind, and to force a conversation like this could lead to saying something you don’t really mean.
`I’m worried about what might happen`
Ask your partner if they would be okay sharing some details of the transition with you so that you can try to learn more about it. Let them know that you don’t expect them to educate you but that you want to educate yourself, this will show them that you care and can be a big relief for your partner.
If they are okay sharing this information with you, then take that and start doing a little research, ask on forums, if need be, just learn what you can and make yourself a bit more aware of what may happen so that you can support your partner. Ease your own worry without adding it onto your partner.
Should they say no to sharing any details at all, try to be understanding. This is likely a stressful time for them with lots of different emotions and they might not want someone contributing to that – even if that isn’t your intention. In this situation, learn what you can about the different hormones your partner may need to take, and the surgeries available. Learn for your own benefit and do your best to quell your concerns not heighten them. Remember, the internet isn’t the best place to search for medical related things so go into your research understanding that you are likely to get the worst-case scenarios immediately, it’s up to you to push past those and look for more human answers.
`It feels like I’ve lost something`
Grief is a normal feeling in this situation, the person you know and love is changing, but that’s okay! Give yourself some time to appreciate the person you knew, and then prepare yourself to fully embrace the person they will become. Remember, this is going to be a great thing for them, and you’re going to see your partner really start to shine and feel more comfortable and confident in their body. Grieve if necessary, and then shift your focus to the positives.
You are going to see your partner smiling the biggest and most genuine smile when they look at themselves. You are going to see them hold themselves high with confidence whilst they glow. You are going to seem them really start to thrive and feel comfortable, and that in itself is something to celebrate.
Adjust how you view the situation after giving yourself the time to process it, refocus what this means and try to focus on how you’re about to meet a truer version of your partner, a more authentic version of themselves, whilst ultimately, they remain the same person you already know.
Reassurance is Key
As your partner starts their transition, it’s good to up the reassurance you provide them. They’re going to be feeling a whirlwind of emotions and not all of them will be positive. Look for any small changes that show they’re making their way to looking more like themselves, remind them that this is going to take time but it will be worth it.
Essentially your partner is going through a lot of internal changes throughout this period, and reassuring them is the best thing you can do to help. Only focus on the positive things and be there to support them during any possible mood swings or down periods. This is the time when they need you the most to build them up and show them what you see.
Keep an eye on how your partner seems to be acting, don’t monitor them, but just check in case they seem to not be doing so well. People often hide their emotions or bottle things up – especially during hard times. Check in with them and ask what you can do to help. Sometimes just listening can be a massive help, or even just going out and getting their favorite snack for them. You’d be surprised at how much the little things can mean to someone.
Re-affirm & Communicate
Chances are you have already discussed pronouns, how to disclose that your partner is trans*, and other aspects of your relationship. However, when your partner starts to transition it’s worth having this conversation again. You may find some of the things you discussed before don’t apply anymore, show your partner that you want to make sure you’re referring to them correctly and giving information they are comfortable with.
Communicate with each other on how your feeling, and remember it’s okay to express your thoughts as well. Let them express themselves with peace of mind that there will be no judgement, make it clear to them that they can talk to you about anything and you will listen and offer advice when needed.
A good way to assess what your partner needs from you, when they start talking about concerns or issues they’re having, is to just ask “do you need me to listen or do you need advice?” sometimes when we just want to vent, people’s advice can cause frustration or make us upset. Clarify what’s best suited for the situation and proceed from there.
Communication has to be a two-way street with room for change. Often, things we say are okay at one point in time end up grating on us more than we expected – leaving room and comfortability for each of you to express when things are no longer the same as before. Help your partner understand that they can fully trust you, and that you are happy to adapt to whatever they need. If, to you, they suddenly don’t want you to continue using the pronouns you initially discussed, change the ones you use without argument or questioning.
As with any relationship, allow room for yourself as well. It’s important to talk through your feelings just as much as it is for them to talk through theirs. Express yourself freely and make sure your voice is listened to. A relationship cannot last if one person is ignored or keeps their emotions and thoughts bottled up.
This concludes part 3 of `What to do When Dating Trans*`. We hope this 3-part series has proven helpful or at least a little enlightening. Overall, we hope the main take-away from this is that trans* people are just regular people, and the relationship needs to flow mostly the same way any other relationship would. Take care of yourself and take care of your partner, issue reassurance when necessary, and always maintain healthy communication.