My cis partner (I am a trans woman) has been spending time on “My Partner Is Trans” subreddit. For the record I am gay so my advice applies directly to girl/girl relationships and oh course, this is only based on my own meandering experiences. Though I am sure it can apply broadly to other trans spectrum people.
- Am I a different person now?: One of the first issues I think that I have experienced, perhaps not with my partner, but other people, is the perception that I am a fundamentally different person (I wrote about this here). There are several facets related to this issue. The first is how we perceive gender and organise our relationships around it. And though I may not see myself as different, many people will simply because of how they gender relationships. And that’s totally normal. The other side of it depends on the trans person. Many of my friends have told me I am not different, other than how I look and that I am more explicitly feminine in my gesticulations, but I was already halfway there. I am sure some people are completely guarded against people knowing they are gender nonconforming and they hide it better than I did (to be clear I always read as male, just not a bro-dude). This could create problems in relationships when the transitioning partner becomes seemingly more feminine or masculine. I would say that said hypothetical person is probably not really different as their fundamental characteristics will be the same. I still like mountain climbing, space, and Zelda. I still have the same interests and values. But at the same time, I know that this is a complicated issue and there is no straightforward way to deal with it. Also, give your partner or friend time. It is likely that they are swinging far to the side of the gender binary they identify with and will probably tone it down. We can overcompensate in order to deal with a lifetime of being forced to appear as something we were not. I’ve been crossdressing since 10, so I’ve had lots of time to think about my female side. Many don’t.
- Emotions: I don’t know if I have anything to say here save some wandering impressions. Sometimes friends who are completely supportive ask me why I am being so emotional–usually girls. I suppose they’ve been dealing with it for awhile, right? But I am going through an accelerated version of puberty and it is not always easy to deal with. It’s great, it is what I want, but I am sure it is hard to deal with from my partner’s perspective–I get super emotional. From my point of view, the emotional changes are what I want. It feels great, even if it’s total chaos at times. I’m paraphrasing here, but someone once said this, “FTM partners go from having complex nuanced emotional reactions to four: horny, happy, angry, and sad.” This works the other way around for MTFs. But if you don’t expect those types of ranges from your partner I suspect it can be difficult. I guess dating a trans person takes patience as we can be self-involved and narcissistic, but also insecure. So insecure in our identity.
- Sex: Know that figuring this out for both parties is going to take time, even if you are open to whatever. This is a major issue and it takes a long time to figure out how this works for us. It is a lot like the process we all go through the first time, only us trans people have some pretty heavy baggage in this department, even if we didn’t know it until transitioning. The first few months of HRT are all over the place. And then when we start to figure out how our bodies work it can be very affirmational, but then there are massive waves of dysphoria; sometimes I am okay with my anatomy and then other times I need them to be gone. That’s not easy to navigate and still feel you know, switched on. Finally, I’ll say that I don’t even fully understand what gets me going anymore as it works much more as my preferred gender ie, I don’t get turned on by just physical touch and that is a whole new language to learn.
- Space: Give us space. My gf and I got together based on my coming out. And though I am happy we stayed together, it is hard to focus on two people at once, especially when you are starting to transition and everything is changing so quickly. It takes time, like all of these issues, to figure out. Also, for me, I felt that I had to be someone my whole life that I didn’t want to be. It can be difficult to want to give space to others.
- Communicate: This is hard but necessary. There are a lot of misunderstandings that can fly around in these types of relationships. You have to talk. It can be hard for us at the beginning because, if you’re like me, you feel embarrassed. You are trying to express yourself against forces that have kept you contained and in hiding for a long time. Coming out is hard and confusing, but talking about what you need, want, and feel can be even more daunting. My gf and I would have never made it if we didn’t have many awkward conversations. And these were prompted from both of us.