I haven’t written much about Thea’s transition on the blog, beyond my original “coming out” post, and a link to the few podcast episodes we managed to record. But then I saw this Guardian article, which was so ridiculously “woe is me” about a partner coming out as trans, that I felt I had to write something.
The media is so full of transphobic voices, and it is hurtful to see because my experience as the wife of a non binary transfeminine person is so immensely positive. My wife is so much happier since coming out and living as the person she has always been inside, and our relationship is stronger than ever. So I felt it was time to share some of that with the world.
A quick note about different experiences
Before I get into the main part of this blog post, I want to make one thing clear – whatever emotions you experience when someone in your life comes out as trans are of course valid. I’m not here to say that you cannot feel sad or confused or conflicted when it happens. Nor am I saying that all relationships can and should continue when someone comes out as trans. It’s a complicated time, and you have to work out what changes and what doesn’t, and whether you are both able to adapt to a different future to which you envisioned.
What I am saying, however, is that if your immediate reaction is, “there is no future for us,” without even considering an alternative, then maybe you need to do some self reflecting on why that may be. Is your response because the person you love is changing, or is it based on transphobic ignorance. Why does someone coming out as transgender automatically lead to the assumption you are no longer compatible?
As I said before, a partner coming out as trans is a complicated time. You may well feel that you’d both be better off by ending the relationship. And that is completely and utterly valid. It’s the kneejerk reactions and simple assumptions that I question. And I cannot help but wonder whether this is because all we ever seem to see in the media is negative framing of it. Which is why I wanted to write this post.
A little bit of background on us
The title and intro to this post show pretty clearly that the experience of Thea coming out as trans has been a highly positive one for us, both as individuals and as a couple. But before I get into the actual experience I thought it might be helpful to give you a little bit of background on us.
Thea and I met, via online dating, back in the Spring of 2007 when she was 26 and I was 23. We hit it off immediately, and spent several months just getting to know each other before officially starting to date in the Autumn. It was the first real relationship for either of us, and we were so happy together that by the Spring of 2008 I had relocated to live with her.
During the first few years of our relationship we went through quite a few challenges with our health. I had hormonal treatments and surgery for my Endometriosis. Thea lost her job and had to retrain in another career due to her developing Neuropathy. By the time we got married in the autumn of 2010, we had both changed jobs and moved house several times. We were each other’s constant through it all, and felt like if we could survive so much in our first few years together, we could survive anything.
I laugh at our innocence now. The following years brought a deeply traumatic pregnancy, severe depression, more health issues, several different jobs, a few more house moves, and falling into poverty when we both became too ill to work any more. Oh, and all the shit that happened in the world at large, of course!
And yet, what we felt all those years back was true. We could survive anything, as long as we were together. We were, as a friend once described us, passionately in love with each other, and we held each other up through everything that came our way. There didn’t seem to be anything that could tear us apart.
Thea came out as trans just before our 10th wedding anniversary
And now we find ourselves in 2020. The year that the whole world changed. It was also the year in which I suffered from the most severe health relapse, finding myself stuck in a darkened room, unable to cope with any kind of stimulation, for months. And it was the year in which I began to suspect that Thea may be trans.
In some ways I wish I had realised this earlier. I could have saved her years of feeling trapped and miserable, trying to live as someone she wasn’t. But, like many cis people, I just didn’t know enough about gender identity. I couldn’t see that when we joked about how Thea has always been more like the woman in our relationship than I am, there was a reason for that. And that her choice of clothing was an attempt to disappear.
But having followed a few transgender bloggers and social media accounts, I began to notice things that made me realise how unaware I had been. And so, in the middle of a Queer Eye episode, I suddenly felt the need to ask, “are you happy being a man?”
Thea didn’t feel like she could answer me freely at that point. Perhaps because it seemingly came out of nowhere. And so I let it lie, wondering if she might say something in the weeks following. She didn’t. But she did express a desire to try some of my nail polish, which in and of itself could mean nothing. But with everything else I knew about her I felt like it was a tiny step forwards. And a brave one at that.
So again I asked her, a few months later. In typical Amanda style I asked while I was on the loo and she was brushing her teeth ready for bed, because I know how to choose my moments! But that was when she finally felt able to express for the very first time that she felt she wasn’t quite male or female, but feels more feminine than masculine. And I couldn’t have been more proud of her. Or loved her more.
The early days of Thea’s transition
At this point Thea was only out to me. And as the world was still very closed off during the first year of the pandemic, we felt like we were living in a safe little bubble. We started small, with me painting Thea’s fingernails. And I have to admit, I found it a little weird. Which confused me, because I knew deep down that Thea transitioning changed nothing for me. She was my wife, the person I loved most in this world, and was still exactly the same person I had married, just more like herself than she had ever been before.
After talking about it with Thea, because we talk about everything, we came to the conclusion that the reason this made me feel somewhat conflicted was because make-up and pretty nails has been something I have always struggled with. It is a side of femininity that I didn’t personally relate to. And so Thea’s transition was bringing up aspects of my own gender expression.
And this is what I mean about a partner transitioning being complicated. As much as I loved and cherished Thea and was so very happy she felt able to finally be who she always was inside, it brought up a lot of questions that I had to ask myself about how I viewed gender, both in relation to myself and the world in general. It isn’t as straightforward as saying, “I accept you as you are,” because who they are may be very different to what you view gender to be.
This is where finding books and resources that explore these themes can be so helpful. At the very beginning of 2021 I stumbled upon Queer Lit and began filling my bookshelves with both fiction and non-fiction by LGBTQ+ authors. I couldn’t get enough. And neither could Thea. She was able to read books that validated her experience, and I was able to read books that introduced me to ideas I’d never even considered before.
And it was through this, and talking to Thea, that I eventually realised that I am asexual and panromantic. Which explains why it made absolutely no difference to me that Thea’s gender identity was changing, because I had fallen in love with who she was, and that wasn’t changing. It also explained so much about me and the way I had always seen the world, which brought a whole new level of gratitude with it. Not only was I grateful that Thea got to be who she is, I also got to better understand who I am.
Coming out to other people
I can’t remember exactly when Thea came out to my parents. I know my dad had been round to our house whilst Thea was experimenting with make up, and that led to a conversation. I do know she came out to them before coming out publicly. And then, at Easter 2021, she made the massive step of coming out to both our church, and then to our friends and extended family online.
We have been incredibly lucky in that our church is very affirming. And when I say affirming, I don’t just mean that people have accepted Thea’s transition, I mean they have actively supported it. Multiple members of the church have brought Thea bags, and make up, and jewellery, and things they thought she might like to try. It has filled my heart with joy. I know that this is far from the experience a lot of trans people have within the church, and so we feel immensely grateful for this.
And the vast majority of people who saw her post online about being transgender were simply delighted for her. Even strangers we have never met helped us out when I posted in a local freebie group asking for clothes and shoes that might fit her to help build up her wardrobe. We were inundated with offers, and people were incredibly generous.
That being said, there have been several people who have asked me in hushed tones whether I’m okay, and who don’t seem to be able (or willing) to grasp the fact that I am not only okay with all of this, I am so grateful for it. I am grateful that Thea gets to be her true self. I am grateful that her doing so makes her happier, healthier, and more confident. And I am grateful for all that it has taught me. I cannot imagine a world in which Thea wasn’t trans anymore, and when an old photo or status comes up on Facebook Memories, I am always hit with a sense of how wrong it feels. Thea spent all those years denying and hiding who she was, and it makes my heart hurt to think about it.
Of course there are challenges
I feel the need to make it clear that I’m not saying it was all super easy. Getting used to calling Thea her new name, after so many years of knowing her by another took some time. I had to really, consciously think about it for quite some time. But now I can’t think of her as anything else. The same with pronouns – when I’m tired and thinking back to an old event, I sometimes accidentally misgender her. It happens. I apologise, and we move on. And I keep forgetting to use “they” as well as “she”. But I know I’ll get used to it in time. It’s all a journey.
We have also become acutely aware of the rising transphobia within society and the media. And it is exhausting to come across it so often. I am constantly blocking transphobic accounts on Twitter, to try and keep them from finding my account and piling on. And both Little Man and I have had to get used to calling her “Thea” instead of “dad” when out and about, because as Thea says, “we do not want to become victims of a hate crime”.
But the overall experience of Thea’s transition has been one of joy and growth, and I am incredibly grateful that I get to go through life with someone I love beyond words, seeing them blossom and grow before my eyes.
If you want to find out more, or are looking for transgender resources to support you, here are some to get you started. Please note, this list is far from exhaustive!
Gender Identity Research & Education Society
There’s also a list of transgender resources in the US at GLAAD and in the UK at Gendered Intelligence
The Autistic Trans Guide to Life
The Beginners Guide to Being a Trans Ally
Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Trans
The Reflective Workbook for Partners of Transgender People
Supporting Trans People of Colour
Sylvia and Marsha Start a Revolution
If you’ve found this post helpful, here are some ways you can say thanks and support A Spiral Dance.
- Buy Me A Coffee – this is an easy way to support me financially, to help keep the blog going and cover my bills.
- Follow me on social media – I’m on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
- Share this post with others, either on social media or by using the image below to pin on Pinterest.
Sometimes I Wish I Could Care Less... | A Spiral DanceJanuary 17, 2023 at 1:34 pm
[…] and hate crimes against those within the LGBTQ+ community. I had so much to learn, (including that my own partner is transgender and I’m not actually as straight as I always thought I was) and it was painful to realise […]