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.
I’m a 35-year-old man and I’ve always identified as straight. I’ve been married twice and been in many relationships with genetic women but it never worked out. Recently, I’ve discovered my attraction to trans women. I’m not ashamed, but I am nervous for my friends and family to meet my amazing and beautiful transgender partner. How should I break it to them?
I want to commend you for expressing your truth because it takes tremendous courage, particularly while living in a society that has very rigid notions of what masculinity looks and behaves like. In the trans community, we sometimes overlook that the men who are attracted to us must endure a coming out process as well. You’ll be happy to know that you’ve already taken the most challenging step, which is to come to an understanding of your sexuality and embrace it. It sounds like you’re ready to move forward.
Before I continue, I want to note that while you’re probably feeling anxious, your trans partner is likely experiencing some herself. She may be dealing with the usual nerves that come with meeting a partner’s loved ones, coupled with some insecurities regarding how her femininity and womanhood will be perceived. For this reason, I think it’s best to tell your friends and family that she is transgender before you introduce your partner to them. You wouldn’t want to put her in a potentially uncomfortable or dangerous situation that could heighten her gender dysphoria.
When considering your query, I decided to reach out to writer, public speaker and trans activist Tiq Milan for more insight.
“You have to be her first line of defense,” he said in an email. “She is the one that has to be outed to them, so you have an obligation to protect her in awkward situations and intervene if people are disrespectful.”
When you ultimately decide to tell your friends and family, I recommend framing each conversation in a positive light. There’s no need to express your partner’s transness as something that is strange or abnormal. Tell your loved ones you’ve met a wonderful girl who you are very fond of and that she happens to have a different past than most girls because she was assigned male at birth. Let them know that she now identifies as a woman and lives her life accordingly.
Be sure to also sprinkle in some distinctive details about who she is, like her hobbies and aspirations. Paint an accurate and well-rounded picture beyond her trans identity. After all, trans people are multifaceted human beings, full of nuance and depth. We are more than our trans identity.
There is always a chance that certain individuals will not react well to finding out your partner is trans. But in my personal experience, people tend to be much more open and receptive than you may initially think. (It is 2018 after all.) My suggestion is to be open-minded, just like you are hoping your loved ones will be to you. Allow people to surprise you and give them the benefit of the doubt. I think that most of the people who genuinely care about you will just want to see you happy and fulfilled.