Healthy lives for young people
Gender

Supporting a trans partner: Emma’s story

Emma, 22, shares her experience and tips about what to do if your partner comes out as trans.

So about 3 years ago I didn’t think I knew any trans people, I didn’t know anything about trans issues and I had never really considered that I might identify as anything other than straight – then my partner came out to me as trans. Since then so much has changed: I realised I was bisexual and my partner came out to everyone, changed her name and is now living happily as a woman. We’re still together and I can honestly say this is the happiest and most close our relationship has ever been, but that doesn’t mean I’ve forgotten how worried, isolated and confused I felt in those early days. With the benefit of hindsight, I’ve put together some of my top tips for navigating a similar situation:

Be understanding

Having someone come out to you as trans might be initially confusing or surprising – you might even feel threatened, betrayed or angry but please remember: this person has chosen to confide in you something which they have probably been thinking and worrying about in private for a very long time.

TREAT THEM LIKE A FRIEND

The first thing you have got to do is treat your partner like any other friend who is going through something difficult – listen to them and be respectful, understanding and supportive.

Decide together what happens next

Learning that your partner is trans is likely to have an effect on the way you (and your partner) perceive your relationship. You might feel unsure or uncomfortable about the idea of being in a relationship with your partner if they are a different gender to the one you thought – and that’s okay! If you can, it’s always good to take some time to think about what you feel comfortable with, and to try to understand what your partner is going through by doing some research or following some trans personalities on social media. Communicate with your partner and decide with them how you are going to move forwards: you might choose to stay in a sexual/romantic relationship, choose to just be friends, or you might just decide to see how it goes and check with each other again in the future – there’s no need to make a decision straight away!

DON’T TRY TO CHANGE THEIR MIND

Whatever you do, do not try to change your partner’s mind or make them decide between maintaining a relationship with you and being out as trans. This will only hurt them in the long term or force them to hide from you, neither of which are good foundations for a healthy relationship.

Look after yourself as well as them

Being the partner of someone who has just come out as trans can have some unique challenges – you’ve got to remember to spend some time and energy looking after yourself as well as your partner! If you can, try and talk to an understanding friend or a trusted adult about what you’re going through. If your partner is still not ‘out’ to their friends or family, or they feel unsafe being out, you can always confide in someone who does not know your partner such as your GP, a counsellor or an LGBT helpline.

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