Welcome to Transplaining, Mic correspondent Serena Daniari’s weekly advice column on gender identity. No topic — from dating to sex to the process of transitioning itself — is off-limits. Submit your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org, and subscribe to Transplaining to receive weekly email alerts here.
My husband and I have been married for seven years, and he just told me that he wants to transition into a woman. I had no idea that he was questioning his gender. I know I should be supportive, but I feel betrayed. I’m not a lesbian so I don’t see how I could stay in a marriage with a woman. What should I do?
It’s very normal to be shocked and confused when someone you are intimate with wants to change something as fundamental as their gender. You have known your partner as a man and that has probably become a central part of the dynamic between the two of you. Don’t worry about being the perfect ally in the early stages of this process. You are experiencing a major life change that probably feels, to some extent, like a slap in the face. It’s expected that you would be grieving the loss of your partner and questioning your memories together. Hell, you might even be mad, and that’s okay, too. But once you go through the initial flurry of emotions, you may realize that while your partner lied to you, he has most likely been lying to themselves for a large chunk of their life.
I spoke to Laura A. Jacobs, a gender therapist, who said, “The road to transition is long. It will involve conversation and countless decisions. The most important intervention is to find therapists, one for your spouse, possibly an independent therapist for yourself, and do a lot of talking.”
Should your partner have been honest with you from the start? In a perfect world, yes. But we don’t live in an ideal world — or at least not one that is ideal for trans people. Transphobia is etched into our minds from early ages, so it should come as no surprise that, oftentimes, trans people avoid coming to terms with our gender identities until we get so tired of pretending that we have no choice but to come clean. Sometimes this happens much later than is fair for those around us.
The silver lining in this moment is that you have many options, and really, there is no right or wrong answer. You get to decide how to proceed and you are in control of your destiny. Given that you are not attracted to women, you certainly don’t have to stay married to them. If you still want them in your life, you could try working toward a friendship in which you are supportive of their transition, but are no longer their romantic partner. The beauty of any situation in which transitioning is involved is that to change genders is a lengthy, gradual process. You are allowed to take as much time as you need to come to the best decision for you.