When Emma’s partner began transitioning, she scoured the internet for resources. However, all the articles about partners failed to mention the teamwork that goes into a relationship. This lack of support inspired Emma to take matters into her own hands.
My story of inspiration is a little backwards. It doesn’t stem from finding a person, or group of people, who inspired me to move forwards through this situation and get to the comfortable and confident place I am in now – it came from a lack thereof.
My partner Dylan came out to me gradually across a multitude of confusing conversations that occurred over the space of about a year, and eventually culminated in ‘I am gender non-binary’. I was thinking like crazy about what this actually meant and what changes would occur to them and what changes would affect me and how our relationship would change and how could I describe our relationship now and then what was their sexuality, and oh… who even am I?! So, in short, my mind worked in overtime and I was confounded by the multitude of identity and gender related issues that had suddenly popped into my head.
Whilst I can honestly say that I never considered leaving Dylan when they came out, I certainly thought about how I would manage to cope with the way my identity would seemingly change in Dylan’s reflection. These thoughts were big – so big that on some days they consumed me and I couldn’t think of anything else. And yet I couldn’t quite get a handle on them. I had never truly thought about my identity before, and I suddenly found myself thrust into an existential crisis about who I was as a result of something entirely unrelated to my own authentic self. I was losing large parts of myself as I grappled with the idea that I was a lesbian in a relationship that wasn’t lesbian. I felt like I lost the right to label myself. I mourned the future use of words like ‘wife’ and ‘mother’ for my partner. I no longer knew how to categorise myself, or Dylan, and felt like I was suddenly community-less: no longer a true ‘lesbian’, yet I didn’t feel ‘queer’ and certainly not straight.
So I did what everyone does in their time of need – set off on a journey through Google. I googled everything I could about the identity changes that partners of gender neutral people go through hoping to find some validation of my feelings. I found nothing. Eventually I broadened my search further to include partners of all transgender people, hoping to come up with some answers for my identity. Instead, I stumbled across at least 4 articles entitled something along the lines of ‘How To Be A Good Cis Lover To Your Transgender Partner’ or ‘The 7 / 15 / 12 Ways To Be A Loving Support To Your Transgender Partner.’
These articles infuriated me. Obviously there are things that I, as a partner, could do to be supportive of my transgender partner. But isn’t a relationship also about how we work together? To me, they implied that my partner’s happiness was more important than mine, and that it was my job to ensure that I catered to them at all times, despite what was going on for me.
Now, to be fair, this isn’t what the articles said, but I still felt my own experiences as a partner were being ignored and invalidated. The journey of the trans person can be epic in its proportions and changes – and that deserves its own acknowledgement – but so too can the journey of the partner. If you do it together it will be so much easier for both of you.
So, once again, I set out into the wide world of Google this time hoping to find counter articles. I hoped that both sides of this story would be told. They weren’t. Not once did I ever stumble across an article about how I could look after my own emotions through this journey, how my partner could support me, nor how we could do this as a team. And this, in my opinion, presents a huge gap in the minefield of information out there about transitioning.
My existential identity crisis was momentarily forgotten as I was suddenly extremely inspired. And this time, I mean inspired to make a change.
So I wrote my story.
In July 2016 I started a blog that focuses on my experiences as a partner of someone transitioning, and the first article that I wrote is all about how to support each other through a transition. It details my identity crises and my fears about pronoun changes, among other thoughts. And it has honestly changed my life.
In writing this blog and sharing it with both my immediate community and the wider world, I have put myself out there and gained a new sense of confidence. Where previously I was uncertain about how to gently ‘out’ us and explain Dylan’s pronouns and what that meant in the context of our relationship, I now feel strong and fearless. Finding the words to explain how my world had been changing, even if it was predominantly internal changes, has also resulted in an increased sense of closeness and understanding between Dylan and me, which has cemented our relationship even more. I am so proud to be the partner of an intelligent, funny, kind and beautiful human, and I am proud that we, together, can educate those around us about gender.
At the start of the process, I was mildly resentful and extremely confused about the new relationship context that I had found myself in. Looking back, I am now extremely amused to see that the failure to find any support for myself provided the inspiration that I needed to find my voice and share my story as a partner with the world. It was a clear and definite turning point for me in terms of my acceptance of my new identity, and one that I will never look back from.
Emma is a Sydney based musician and teacher, an avid traveller and a happy human! When she is not making music she loves contemplating the world and her place in it whilst trekking through snow capped mountains or her local beaches. You can read more about her identity crisis at her blog SheThey.
Micah’s End of Post Special Announcement
Instead of my usual Patreon plug (oh wait, oops!), I want to let you know about another special project.
Charlie is writing a reference book on nonbinary gender identities. Essentially, an expanded version of this annotated bibliography. One of the chapters deals with nonbinary gender identities in media and popular culture, and Charlie would appreciate your help. If you know of a website (blogs, magazines, resources, social media) for / by / about nonbinary identities, send an email and a hug to email@example.com.