21 February 2012

Partner Circle: Coming Out, Part I

We all have things going into new relationships we might consider ‘deal breakers’, something about a person that might make us shy away. Maybe you do not date smokers; maybe kids are a no-no in your book. Whatever it may be, we all know we have them. What happens when these things come into play a little (or even a lot) further into a relationship, when there are already some feelings developed or threatening to develop – when there is much more on the line. What if one day this person you love comes to you with the realization that they may have been born into the wrong body, assigned the wrong gender at birth? What if, suddenly, life throws a new ‘deal breaker’ your way, one you never thought you would ever have to consider. Even worse…what if you realize it might actually be a deal breaker for you?

The topic of coming out while in the confines of a relationship (whether that be romantic or otherwise) is a huge one, far too big for me to attempt to tackle in just one blog. So let us consider this part one of part who-knows-how-many-entries-I-will-write. Coming out, in and of itself, is a terrifying experience for some, and we all come to the realization of who we are at our own pace. Some of us have to wait until our twenties before we are ready to have the conversation with ourselves while some wake up before our tenth birthdays out and proud. There is nothing wrong with either of these situations, which is why if your partner does come out to you, I am begging you – on my knees, pleading, the whole deal – to please, please be patient with them. Most of us are ‘fortunate’ enough to only have to come out once in our lives, those struggling with gender identity might need to come out (to themselves, at least) more than that. If you have ever come out to anyone, be it a parent or a friend, then you know what they are going through. You know that if your partner is coming out to you, they trust you enough to listen to them, be open with them, and support them. Cherish this fact for the gift that it is; that your partner trusts you deeply enough to put themselves out there and risk the consequences.

An automatic reaction some of us may initially want to jump to is to feel betrayed. Someone you thought you knew every little thing about is revealing something new to you. Please, try to focus on how your partner is feeling first before you lash out at them or feel as if they kept something from you. More likely than not, their reluctance to come out was based on fear – of how you would react, if you would look at them differently, if you would still want to be with them. The same fears apply to those of you who have friends coming out to your about their transition, and the same plea applies to you. Unfortunately, the trans* community faces discrimination within the LGTQ community itself, so their fear is not unfounded. Simple things, things you might not think about as significant, such as speaking out against transphobic comments will mean a world of difference to your friend or your partner in showing them how supportive you are of them.

As I said, we are going to approach this topic step by step, but for now, my biggest advice to you if your partner is questioning (or even fully coming out) their gender identity is this: you have to be patient, you have to be open, and you have to hold onto the love you have for this person. Nothing inside them has changed, except now they can finally be their entire selves with you. They are still the loving, caring partner they always were; the only things that needs to be adjusted are the pronouns.

Xx Emily

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