Partnering through transition: the reality of irritation
The passage below is excerpted from the Your Emotions are Valid section of Reaching for Hope: Strategies and support for the partners of transgender people.
There’s a good chance you’ll find yourself irritated as the transition process unfolds, even if you’ve been 100% behind it from the beginning. Your loved one may debate about an action for what feels like eternity, and then suddenly make a move. They may change their mind a lot. They might shift back and forth between joy and fear. They might exclude you.
And then there are small things. Your partner may try out new ways of speaking or behaving that you find confusing or alarming. Trans men may test new ways of expressing sexual desire, anger, protectiveness, or other emotions to match a particular style of masculinity. Trans women may experiment with the use of voice, body movement, and dress associated with a particular style of femininity. Your partner might borrow something that has been exclusive to your use until now; a razor or a piece of clothing.
You’ll be experimenting too as you try to figure out how to engage with this person you knew and yet did not know. You’ll be irritating in your attempts at humor, or your use of new endearments, or your reaction when they try on your favorite pants.
There isn’t much you can do to avoid irritation with uncertainty. But you can and should set boundaries around object use. Discussing rules for razors can save a lot of arguments.
Annoyances are bound to happen. Both of you will need to extend grace as you navigate the new, evolving normal.
After all, if all gender is on some level a performance (and it is), then it can be co-opted and perverted by the state. But if it’s also innate on some level (and it is), then we’re powerless against whatever it is that enough people decide gender performance should look like. We’re constantly trapped by gender, even when we know we’re trapped by it. You can’t truly escape something so all-pervasive; you can only negotiate your own terms with it, and everybody’s terms are different.
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