You Need Help: How Do I Be a Good Partner to My Trans Girlfriend?

Q:

Reading the Autostraddle help columns have helped me navigate many of my queer life dilemmas, so I’m finally submitting a question. My girlfriend, the love of my life, the queen of my soul, etc started transfemme HRT about a month ago. I’m crazy in love with them and I’m really honored and excited to be loving them through this life changing moment. The thing is, neither of us really know how to navigate this weird time. I am cis-ish AFAB and usually ID as lesbian, when I google trans lesbian relationships usually I get a bunch of TERF garbage invalidating me and/or invalidating my babe.

My question is amorphous but– transfemmes and transfemme lesbians of the straddleverse, any tips on how I can be the best gal pal possible through this moment that we are both excited/nervous/unsure about? Or just anything you wish you’d known when you were younger and in perhaps similar situations? Any content you’d recommend?


A:

To be honest, I’ve been sitting on this question for months. I hope in the time that’s passed your girlfriend has enjoyed the excitement and relief of early medical transition and I hope you’ve been alongside them in the ways they needed.

I’ve struggled with this question, because my initial instinct was to say: Just be normal?? I don’t know your girlfriend?? All trans people are individuals??

And while that is still what my gut wants to shout, I think there’s a deeper truth beneath my snark that’s worth expanding upon. (Also I’m not sure Autostraddle would let me publish a three sentence response.)

When I say “be normal,” I do not mean there aren’t unique experiences to being trans and therefore unique experiences when dating someone trans. That’s obviously not the case, especially when your girlfriend is so new in their transition. I just want to emphasize that what your girlfriend needs will have to be communicated by your girlfriend.

What your girlfriend needs and what I needed from my partner a month into taking hormones are likely not the same. We probably have different relationships to our bodies, to our genders, to our respective partners, to society. Like so many things in so many different relationships, the boring but honest answer is communication. Listen to your girlfriend’s desires and be there for them however they need.

For example, your girlfriend may want you to correct people who get their pronouns wrong. Or maybe that’s mortifying to them and they’d rather you not. Or maybe they only want you to do it if they aren’t around. All valid! All reasonable reactions! You won’t know what they want without talking to them.

Or maybe as their body changes on the hormones they’re going to want different things sexually. In fact, that’s very likely. Maybe their relationship to their genitalia will change. Maybe it won’t that much! Maybe they’ll want more nipple play as sensitivity increases and their boobs get bigger. Or maybe they won’t! Maybe the hormones will lower their sex drive and you’ll have to adjust and work through that. Or maybe, like me, they’ll be hornier than ever, and you’ll have to adjust to that and work through that. I cannot say. But your girlfriend can! Or maybe they can’t. That’s okay too. Maybe they won’t always know what they want. But, still, it will be better for them to express that to you so you can talk it out.

In order for this communication to take place, your girlfriend needs to trust you. And it’s clear that you love them and want to create or continue that trust. And so I’ll return to my initial point: be normal. Because being too eager or too worried about saying the right thing can be just as alienating as disapproval. In order for your girlfriend to trust you, you need to trust yourself. Trust that you love them and will be there for them. Trust that you won’t always do or say the right thing but that mostly you will. Trust that when you falter it’ll be okay and you will learn.

Express your love however your girlfriend needs that love expressed. I hope they do the same for you.

Drew is an LA-based writer, filmmaker, and theatremaker. Her writing can be found at Bright Wall/Dark Room, Cosmopolitan UK, Thrillist, I Heart Female Directors, and, of course, Autostraddle. She is currently working on a million film and TV projects mostly about trans lesbians. Find her on Twitter and Instagram @draw_gregory.

Drew has written 163 articles for us.

1 Comment

  1. Remember to take care of your own boundaries! Transition can be huge and exhausting and all-encompassing and difficult in myriad respects (and, following the spirit of Drew’s subjectivity, it can also be none of these things); it can be easy to slip into the multifaceted role of guardian-cum-guide, fighting your partner’s battles and helping them forge into a kind of new role that, depending on whether your partner identifies as a woman or not, you have been socialised into and thus are a kind of model of. Taking care of oneself always allows one to be one’s best (and most helpful and loving) self for others – do always check in with your own feelings, when ‘trans stuff’ might be getting too much.

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