I took a vacation with my girlfriend, Rachel, to her hometown of Cleveland, Ohio right at the time I started hormone replacement therapy (HRT). Rachel has been a wonderful place of support during all this. She and I communicate a lot and it’s what makes our partnership so strong.
We met last summer, and it was only a couple weeks in that I told her about what I was planning to do with my life and what it would mean for us to be a couple, that she would be dating a man actively transitioning into a woman. By then I’d figured out how to make a difficult conversation routine. Until beginning transitioning, I never shared this aspect of myself with anyone except relationship partners. Out of respect for the person I’m attracted to, it’s only fair for them to know the direction my life is headed.
I used to start with sharing that I’m “a person living with dysphoria and still figuring out what that means.” I chose not to adopt labels until recently, having started transitioning. I tried to be detailed about my side, but also give the other person every chance to express their feelings, and always heard them out. I’d give the opportunity to ask any questions they have, and respond as openly as possible. If I don’t know something, I’d answer, “I don’t know, but I’ll let you know if that changes.”
Rachel was inquisitive and got to know me better through this. Because we shared this early, our relationship had a stronger foundation. She was supportive in helping me find a great insurance plan, which was a huge quality-of-life improvement. The best plan we came up with was that she would go as quickly as she could, if I could go as slowly as I could.
As we explored Rachel’s city of origin, I couldn’t help but think on the relationships I’ve built, and how I would approach telling people about changing my reflection. It was a new experience, sharing this side of myself with strangers.
I start with sharing my name, that I’m a trans woman, that people are free to ask questions, and that if there are no questions then there’s no need to discuss it further. This seems to make people more comfortable as they get the bare details necessary to interact, the conversation isn’t really forced on anyone, and the door is open should people want to know more.
Relationships between myself and some family members have been toxic throughout my life. My family is pretty scattered for various reasons. I recognize that it’s healthy for me to sever toxic relationships rather than nurture something that would impact my life negatively.
In telling family about transitioning, I do so out of obligation. I feel a sense of neutrality about how they react. I told my older brother and sister-in-law, whom I hadn’t seen in years. We were at a park, with plans to go to dinner together. I said I had big news (a terrible thing to say to family when standing next to your partner).
The revelation went smoothly. By the time we got to the restaurant, they had told their children, my nephews and niece. My sister-in-law reacted with excitement in a doting, cute kind of way, while my brother reacted with neutral indifference. To him, our relationship overcomes the skin I live in, and that realization has made it easier to reconnect.
I’ve had to tell friends I hadn’t seen in a long time, and sometimes they’ve understandably been a little weirded out. I get as a member of less than half a percent of the population, that being trans isn’t the norm. I see a propensity in the world to lash out in offense when people trip up, make mistakes, or don’t know how to act.
In my view, it’s not fair that the conversation should be treated like minefield, with the smallest misstep unleashing an explosion of words on how wrong they are. As I share this with the world, my goal is to build a bridge of neutrality between those who aren’t familiar with what I’m going through, and those who are. As I interact and share this experience with my partner, with friends, with family, and in day-to-day life, I do my best to educate and to remain neutral.
Being yourself doesn’t need validation or approval :)