As I felt my identity seemingly slipping away from me during Dylan’s transition I asked a wise friend for advice. I wanted to hear of a magic solution, something that would allow both of our identities to flourish and for nothing to change in my life. What I heard instead was ‘Emma, perhaps you need to just embrace this- the more proud partners that stand out and proud the less stigma there will be’. In a way this was magic advice, just not the kind I expected. These words, so simple and obvious made me remember that I am the one in charge of my own destiny and my own emotions. I can choose to be miserable and pine for the seemingly simple lesbian life I had or I can choose to move forward and embrace this change.
I have always been of the opinion that for the most part we are in control of our emotional responses. Obviously there are elements beyond our control, such as hormones and mental health issues, but in general, we have a say in how we choose to deal with grief and difficult situations. Remembering this actually helps me when I am feeling negative emotions as it makes me feel a sense of control over my world, regardless of my lack of control in terms of the actual situation unfolding. I can choose to sit with my grief, or to do something about it. I can choose to act in ways that will either help or hinder my emotions. It doesn’t really matter what I do, it matters that I own it.
With these thoughts in my head I have recently chosen to embrace the changes that are happening in mine and Dylan’s lives. This does not mean that I won’t still have hard times or find certain situations difficult, but it gives me ownership over my position in terms of this new reality.
Whilst I feel that embracing change is a journey, not a destination (at what point can you say ‘yes, it is done’!!?), I know I am now on the way to this. With that in mind I have sat down to think about what advice I would give to someone else in a situation similar to mine, and I have come up with 3 foundational ideas.
1- Own it. Whilst you didn’t initiate this journey you have made a decision to come on it and you now need to actively accept that this was YOUR decision.
There were times that I resented Dylan for this journey, and because of this I was not the kind and loving partner that I would usually be. To really embrace the changes you need to make an active decision to be a part of them. This means you need to take responsibility for your own happiness as well and start taking action to reflect this. For example, reaching out to a psychologist or your support network, taking time out for yourself and treating your mind and body well. This ownership does not negate the grief and frustration you may feel throughout the process, but will make it easier to take action and manage.
2- Express. Find an outlet for your emotions that will help you to feel strong and positive. For me, this blog was my outlet as it has helped me centre my thoughts and take ownership of my situation. Yoga and Taiko (Japanese drumming) also helped because these classes were times that were just for me and where I could reflect (yoga) and hit things really hard (taiko). For others it may be journaling, exercise, something creative, a hobby, learning something new, sitting in nature.. Anything. Just something that is for you alone and nourishes your sense of self during a time where this feels compromised.
3- Talk. Whilst talking to people around you can be mildly terrifying it gets less so every time as you normalise your situation, both in your own mind and the minds of those around you. Every time you talk and explain you are also embracing your partner’s identity, which will be greatly appreciated, and subtly reaffirming your own new position. Through doing this I felt myself becoming stronger as I have had my own fears of rejection squashed with each casual show of acceptance and gentle curiosity. Unfortunately you may need to pick and choose the times that you share your transgender journey, but when shared with open minded people it can be a very positive and affirming experience.
These 3 things have helped me immensely to move forward and to embrace my new reality with Dylan, and have subsequently strengthened our relationship as a result. In addition to this they have helped me to feel strong and proud in my position as partner of a gender neutral human.