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Navigating Your Transition While in a Relationship

Robyn Exton

Jan 07, 2022

Navigating Your Transition While in a Relationship
  • It’s no secret transitioning can be a difficult journey. Although this process of becoming one’s most authentic self is also rewarding and beautiful in so many ways, it is not an easy road, and often comes with a lot of valid fears and struggles.

    The world has come a long way in accepting and acknowledging the trans community, but of course, has unfortunately still not progressed enough. On top of these struggles, transitioning during a relationship brings about a whole new set of unknowns. Heck, even simply dating as a trans person brings on a huge swath of unknowns! Going through a gender transition is a big change, and many fear the reaction their partner may have when coming out.

    Transitioning through one’s new sexual chemistry and societal gender identity while in a committed, romantic relationship can make transitioning even more difficult to navigate. However, many have gone through this situation, and you are not alone.

    Just as in any relationship, when people change, relationships can change too. Still, many couples have successfully navigated a transitioning relationship, and some even say it brought them closer together than ever. Transitioning during a relationship can be difficult, but it’s certainly not impossible. What’s most important is living as one’s true self, and allowing the rest to fall into place.

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    Be Honest and Open with Your Communication

    Communication is key! In all relationships, clear communication between two parties is necessary to be successful. When transitioning while in a relationship, having productive conversations about each others’ feelings, fears, anxieties, and questions is vital.

    Every relationship is different. Some may be completely surprised by coming out, some may have expected it all along. Regardless, your partner is likely to have questions about what transitioning means to you, such as changing pronouns, names, surgeries, hormone therapy, sexual orientation, intimacy, etc.

    Oftentimes, partners of transitioning folks may mourn the person who they thought their partner was. Although you are not necessarily changing on the inside, and rather evolving into your rightful self, from an outside perspective, it may appear that the person they know and love is fading away. Remember that mourning is a difficult process. They are also going through a lot of change, and change can be hard for anyone. They may also be afraid of losing their own identity previously solidified by your gender in your relationship. Honor and respect their feelings– they are valid too.

    If your partner is having these feelings, this is a great opportunity to communicate more on the matter. Explain to them what transitioning means to you. If you feel the real you is not going anywhere, and only your physical appearance is changing, tell them this! Many partners in transitioning relationships have and can certainly grow to understand this.

    In addition, although the majority of transitioning manifests as how you are seen on the outside, you may change on the inside too. When being perceived and treated differently as your true gender, and as you begin to live more authentically, who you are as a person may grow and evolve as well. This is a beautiful thing to experience, and you deserve to be celebrated for who you are! However, it’s important to keep communication open and honest in your relationship as you both navigate these many physical and internal changes.

    Reach Out to Your Trusted Support System

    Having a support system of family and/or friends during this often difficult journey is so important. Transitioning is a major physical, emotional, and mental change that no one should have to face alone. In addition, the added anxiety of being vulnerable as a part of a marginalized community brings many valid fears. This is important for your support system to keep in mind, so they can do their best to help you feel safe and secure.

    Although it may seem within the bubble of people surrounding us that we are alone in our situations, there are so many people out there who have and are going through exactly what you are. There are amazing communities of trans support groups on and off-line waiting to connect with you. Find a support group near you to surround yourself with people that will understand exactly what you’re going through.

    On another note, queer people oftentimes unknowingly attract and surround themselves with other queer people. We sense something in fellow queer people that goes against the grain of society. You may be surprised to find out who else in your life realizes they fall within the LGBTQ+ spectrum as we grow and discover our authentic selves (and you never know who you might inspire to also come out!).

    Speak to Others Who Have a Similar Experience

    Finding other trans folks who share the same experience of transitioning during a relationship can give a lot of insight into this process– and help you feel less alone. Trans comedian Ashley J. Cooper shares her story in her self-published article Powering Through a Relationship in Transition about her experience transitioning while in a long-term relationship with her girlfriend. She states,

    “Transitioning is inherently selfish: We do it for ourselves. For our health. For our mental stability. For our happiness. We have to proceed through our transition for the reasons we need, in the ways we need, at the speed we need. We have to. While transitioning is selfish, relationships are usually built on common ground and compromise. Add in other factors like forcing your partner to re-evaluate their identity and sexuality, and it’s easy to see how this can cause stress on a relationship.”

    Although this journey was difficult for Ashley and her girlfriend, it was necessary for Ashley to live authentically– for both of them to thrive! In this beautiful story, Ashley’s partner ends with,

    “If your partner is transitioning and you love them and you’re desperately looking for resources, I urge you to stay. Stay with them and process your feelings together and hold their hand through every moment. If you can weather this, your relationship can weather anything. I went to a dark place and I came out stronger, with Ashley by my side, and it deepened my love for her in a way I didn’t know was possible.”

    It is more than possible to successfully transition through a relationship, and as you become your most genuine ‘you’, two people’s love for each other can even deepen.

    Consider Couples Therapy

    Transitioning during a relationship is a unique challenge to face. You should never feel ashamed to reach out for help when going through this journey. Couples therapy is an amazing tool to work through any relationship issues, and starting it doesn’t mean your relationship isn’t a healthy one. In fact, it often means quite the opposite– that two people are searching to communicate their feelings in a healthier way in order to grow together. 

    Schedule a session with a couple’s therapist to create a safe space for you and your partner to cultivate healthy discussion. In addition, starting therapy for your personal struggles during the transition process and beyond is so important. You deserve to be supported and learn how to fill up your own cup. Plus, only when one’s own cup is full can they truly fill up others’ too.

    Remember That it Takes Two to Make a Relationship Work

    Remember that at the end of the day, a relationship should never be one-sided. If your partner is not willing to communicate or be supportive, know you deserve so much more. The worst-case scenario while transitioning in a healthy relationship is that the relationship will end. However, when you are now able to go out into the world as your real self, you are sure to attract the right people who will celebrate you for you. There are so many people out there waiting to meet you who will accept and love you. If you are looking to connect with fellow LGBTQ+ women, queer, nonbinary, and trans folks, HER is the app where you can do just that!

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    Robyn Exton

    Robyn is the CEO & Founder of HER. Find her on Twitter.

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