Reducing Relationship Strain as Your Partner Embraces a New Gender Identity
A trans masculine person can be someone who is non-binary that presents more masculine. It can also be an inclusive term that refers to both masculine non-binary people and transgender men. In both cases, the term tends to be used more often for those who were assigned female at birth and raised as women.
If your partner has recently come out to you as trans masculine, know that this will be an adjustment period for all parties involved. Mistakes will be made. You may even wonder what this alters as far as sexuality labels and activities. All of this is perfectly natural, and frankly, to be expected.
After coming out as a trans man, my former partner’s initial response was confusion. As I wore a lot of dresses, it just didn’t make sense to him. It took awhile to grasp how gender is a social construct and clothing isn’t gendered. Ultimately, he decided that my masculinity was a dealbreaker that would lead to the end of our relationship. We’re still friends, although now, he’s way more supportive now than he was when we were together.
But not every pair goes down the same path. With time, effort, and plenty of open conversations, there’s a way for your relationship to thrive with continued support of your trans masc partner. Below, you’ll find a handful of helpful tips and experiences that’ll show you how to do just that.
Steps to Supporting Your Trans Masc Partner
One of the most difficult things your partner may face is gender dysphoria, or the difficulty of not feeling like their gender matches their body or appearance. While not something that every transgender person feels, dysphoria is quite a common occurrence. This can be read as frustration if they’re not able to take gender affirming steps like using different pronouns, reducing the size of their chest, or dressing more masculine. Dysphoria can also make having something like a period more upsetting than it already is. Levels of distress this severe and intense can even involve thoughts of self-harm or suicidal ideation.
Each person has steps to help alleviate dysphoria, from grounding techniques to watching their favorite shows. It can be important to talk with your partner about what they need during dysphoric moments in order to aid in their self-care.
Another incredibly important thing to note? Remembering not to ‘out’ your partner to others. That’s their truth and story to share, not yours. Outing them not only violates their trust and consent, but it can both increase their dysphoria and put their life, relationships, and livelihood in danger.
Seeing Your Trans Masc Partner as Nothing But Your Partner
Andy Duran, a trans sex educator in Oakland, says that you must “see and respect your partner as they see themselves versus holding on to your own personal narrative.” This means trying your hardest to not only use pronouns and names your partner has asked for, but to approach them as trans masculine and nothing less. The process of learning to use different pronouns takes time, and it’s OK if your brain’s initial reaction has you making errors early on.
“Often, the missing piece to this is learning to see your partner as male or masculine and not as female using different pronouns,” says sex educator Ian Pinsker, noting that one way of looking at the brain’s automatic response is like an answering machine. “If you don’t let the machine take over,” he continues, “you can pick up the line to talk. Then it becomes way easier to say what you mean.”
For someone like Mat, a trans man from Oregon, he just wants his partner to see him for who he is.
“Any time that there is a doubt of that, my trust level drops, and things begin to not work out,” he says. Similarly, Angel, a disabled trans man, explains that he can tell “when guys are trying to kiss me like I’m a girl versus a guy or a neutral person. It’s in the intent. That’s the kind of thing you find out in the moment.”
The biggest takeaway here for a partner educating themselves is that each trans masculine experience is unique. If you know one trans man, you don’t know all of them. You might better understand things like dysphoria, but even that isn’t a universal experience.
“Gender is incredibly personal and unique to each individual so don’t make assumptions based on one person’s experiences,” says Duran. “Surgery and hormones may be an option for [your partner], but not the goal for all trans people.”
There are a variety of things people can do to transition, including using different pronouns, a new name, changing their clothing or hairstyle, going on testosterone, binding (or compressing their chest for a flatter look), packing (creating a bulge in their pants), and going through gender-affirming surgeries. Not all trans masculine people want to or can utilize all of these methods. Some feel at home without changing anything while others want to go through all of these steps.
Mat takes a lot of time to contemplate the transition steps before going through them, aware that “my body is something I have to live in.” Luckily, he notes how amazing his partner has been through this period of his life. “They know the goals that I have for myself, and cheer me on with every step forward I take, even if it is something as small as scheduling an appointment,” he says. And this level of support can mean the world.
Affirming Your Trans Masc Partner’s Gender Through Language
What it really comes down to is effective and open communication.
Elliot, a gay trans man in his mid-30s, shared how important language is for him. “Language is a huge way partners can support me,” he explains. “Not just pronouns, but the words they use for my body, or the adjectives or pet names they assign me.”
Echoing Duran’s comments about individuality, Elliot notes that “not all trans guys refer to their body parts in the same way, or react the same way to ‘pretty’ as opposed to ‘handsome.’”
Many trans masculine people use very different language for compliments, descriptors, and anatomy. One person may use more masculine terms while someone else may not really care what language is used. The key here? Being able to talk freely about these issues.
“Open communication about this — both at the beginning of a relationship and when conflicts accidentally arise later — is so important to me,” adds Elliot.
Bringing Up Sex as a Trans Masc Person
In today’s world, there are plenty of easily accessible guides written by trans masculine folks that cover how to have conversations about sex with a trans partner. While these are by no means one-size-fits-all, they can help start a conversation.
When asked about sex, Duran suggests “asking your partner what they like their parts to be called and which parts they like touched.”
Elliot shared that, as someone who has engaged in kink, the practice of negotiating a scene has stayed important during his transition. This gives him the opportunity to talk through “the words to refer to my anatomy, adjectives, and pet names I like.”
“At the end of the day, a supportive partner recognizes that I’m just another man,” he adds. “Our bodies are both male, we’ve both got penises; the only difference is that mine’s detachable.”
Sex with trans masculine people or trans men isn’t just about a factory-installed penis, as Elliot notes, but about an affirmation of identity, too.
Growing as a Partner to a Trans Masc Person
Mistakes are inevitable. It’s important to handle all of those moments with “open and honest communication,” says Elliot. “If it’s a genuine accident or something they might not have known, guilt or blame isn’t helpful on either side.” He notes that it can be awkward, especially depending on someone’s basic understanding of transgender people, but that it’s also important work to do.
When in doubt about anything, just ask. It might be awkward, but it shows that you want to do the best by your partner.
Original Author: Kirsten Shultz
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