You’re trans. You intend to transition from your current assigned-at-birth presentation to live your life in a way that feels right. What next?
Where to start?
Most of us have family, maybe a partner, maybe children. The people who are closest to us, the ones who believe they know us. One way or another they’re going to find out at some point that we’re not the person they thought they knew.
The first step is the hardest. Telling the first person involves a whole lot of trust. You hope with all your heart that they will accept you but you fear deeply that they will reject you.
I started by dropping increasingly broad hints to friends I felt I could trust, gauging their reactions. If it had gone badly I think I’d have been reluctant to move forward and I’d have maybe given in to the stirrings of suicidal thoughts: I felt so strongly that I couldn’t go on pretending to be someone I’m not.
A couple of weeks later I told a close online friend how I felt, who I really was, and they were wonderfully supportive. At this point my depression was putting such a strain on my marriage that we were at breaking point: we were practically separated. I came out to my wife: at that point I figured things couldn’t get worse whatever her reaction.
I didn’t have a plan beyond that moment. I didn’t know if I’d lose everything, be on my own. That was no longer as important to me as living the rest of my life as a woman. Some people called me brave but I don’t accept that. I did what I had to do to survive the crisis in my life. If I’d been brave I’d have come out earlier instead of hiding it for decades because of my fear of rejection.
For may trans people in relationships coming out breaks that bond. It’s not easy to accept but it’s the truth that most marriages will not last long after one of the partners comes out as trans.
Being open and coming out might be “the right thing” but telling your partner that the person they are with, that they thought they knew so well, is not who they believed them to be will be a huge shock. People react differently but it’s not uncommon for there to be anger, grief, denial and other emotions that are very similar to losing a loved one.
The trouble is that not being honest about who you are can be equally destructive. If it is revealed by somebody else it undermines trust on top of their other reactions to finding out the truth. If you continue to hide it it will damage your mental health and the effects of that can also destroy a marriage, even lead to your death.
It’s such a hard call to make and I can’t tell anybody else what to do for the best. My personal feeling is that it is best to be honest and to tell your partner sooner rather than later. Yes, there is a significant risk that they will reject you and that can be devastating. But the alternatives are equally bleak.
If they find out from someone else then you are guilty of keeping a huge secret from them, destroying feelings of trust. If you continue to deny the truth of your gender identity you will probably harm yourself mentally.
Even if they accept you as trans that does not mean that your relationship is secure. Gender is a factor in sexual attraction for many people and a partner who is strictly hetero- or homosexual may find it difficult if not impossible to remain attracted to you.
If this all sounds very negative and hopeless then I’m sorry, but for the majority of trans people in relationships when they come out, the relationship does not survive. Some do: mine did, and indeed is stronger than before. But mine is the exception. The uncomfortable, brutal truth is that you cannot expect your relationship to continue after coming out. Even if it does then it will almost certainly be in a different form.