The early days of transition can be difficult for everyone. Some women whose partners are transitioning will choose to stay, while a greater number will decide to call time on their relationship. If however, you have children together, you have a responsibility to maintain a civil relationship with your partner for their sake. Some women may decide that while they cannot be in a relationship, they are willing to give support to their former partner. Taking all these aspects into consideration you will, to some degree or other, have to find a way of living with 'her'.
For the transsexual woman herself, the early days of transition, whilst exciting and liberating, can also be a time of fear, uncertainty, self doubt and anxiety. Whist she may have no uncertainty about knowing that she is female, she will worry about passing sucessfully in everyday life, about being accepted and not ridiculed or abused. She will worry about those she cares for, her family, her children and the effect her actions will have on them. Whilst she knows that at this stage, going forward is her best course of action, she will, to some degree or other, be prone to question herself and her actions. This is perfectly natural and to be expected.
Every new day presents challenges that we, as women from birth, do not necessarily see. No place that we go to in life, other than perhaps our home, remains constant. In the workplace, people may leave or join, visitors may come in and out, there may be meetings with people we don't know. When we are out, we may visit a pub or restaurant, and it is highly improbable that the same people will be frequenting these places each time we go. Buses, trains, taxis, all public transport, in fact nearly every situation you find yourself in in everyday life, is constantly changing. Coping with a small group of people who know about your personal situation is very 'safe' when compared to dealing with the world at large in everyday situations. Now imagine you are worried about your appearance - as women, we have the luxury of just throwing on some clothes and when we do, people still recognise us as female. For a transsexual woman in the early days of transition there may be many things she is unhappy with, such as facial hair, body shape, hair style/length and many other aspects of her appearance.
What she doesn't need at this time is falsehoods. If something doesn't look right, don't brush over it; instead try to mention things tactfully and in an understanding manner. Instead of concentrating on the negatives, look to the positives. Similarly if you are uncomfortable when out with her, remember you make it worse for her as not only does she have all her own stuff to worry about, she will be worrying about you too.
To be with a transitioning transsexual woman as either a partner or a friend takes a high level of commitment and often patience as well as understanding. As with all things, communication is the key. It is always better to encourage positive discussion and to learn to listen. It is important not to trivialise things that to you may seem to be nothing, but which to her may seem huge.
This brings us to the question of what to do if you have children? Obviously the age of your children has a lot to do with how you tell them. It is never recommended that you tell a child who is at the onset of puberty, as this is a difficult enough time when a young person has hormones raging and their own issues to deal with. Younger children seem to cope quite well and be very resilient. Remember, a child has no prejudice other than that which is taught them. The more accepting and unconcerned about the situation you appaer, the better they will cope. No matter what difficulties you may be having, it is important not to let your concerns affect your children. If they have questions that you cannot personally answer, make sure that you have discussed a strategy with your partner, so that your children can obtain the answers they need from her.
If your children are uncomfortable, try as parents to find a way to minimise their distress. The only reasonable way of doing this is to communicate with your partner/former partner as parents first and foremost. No transsexual in the world transitions to hurt those they love.
Having said all that, which sounds quite negative, the actual truth is, that most children cope brilliantly and, if allowed to, will have a good relationship with a transsexual parent. While your children's father was living uncomfortably in the wrong gender role, he may have been very unhappy and uncomfortable. By taking the huge step towards personal recognition, the old things that caused this deep unhappiness and upset will finally be addressed and a transsexual parent who has committed to transition will be a much happier and contented person, which can only benefit your children.
Finally, there is no shame in asking for help if you are having problems or feel you cannot cope. There are various people and organisations who can help. Remember that it is not your fault, that you are in this situation, nor is it your partners fault in any way. If you can find ways of communicating honestly and openly, no matter what your personal situation, you will both come through this difficult time.
© Transpartners 2008