Whether you started dating him knowing he was trans*, or he recently came out to you, you may still have questions on whether you're navigating everything correctly — saying or doing the right things at the right times and being the best ally and partner you can be.
I've been dating my boyfriend for over three years, and in that time I've made all the mistakes so you don't have to. If you're feeling confused or helpless, look to these tips to strengthen your relationship with your trans* boyfriend.
1. Let him vent.
Someone who has faced dysphoria, social ostracism, or even backlash from family and friends is going to have a lot of pent up emotions. As his significant other, he'll often turn to you to vent these frustrations, especially if he feels he has nobody else to turn to.
The best thing to do is listen, be attentive, and be as sympathetic as possible. You may not know what it's like, but you can be there for him. It's a terrifying and difficult world out there for trans* people, and the last thing your partner wants is to feel alone.
2. Don't try to overcompensate.
Most likely, your trans* boyfriend is going to feel highly uncomfortable with you saying "You're so handsome and manly" all the time and he'll especially dislike you saying things like, "You look like a cis man." Chances are saying things like this is only going to make him feel even more othered than he already does. If you want to validate him, try doing it more subtly and naturally, not like you're trying to prove to him or yourself that he's "manly" enough.
3. Ask questions if you're feeling confused.
There can be a lot of questions swirling around your head that you're afraid to ask about either because you don't want to offend him or you don't want to sound uneducated. Obviously, not all trans* men are the same, so different guys are going to like and/or be comfortable with different things.
For example, you may want to ask if he's comfortable with you correcting someone who misgenders him. Some would rather you did it than them, and others feel it creates an awkward situation. Everyone is going to feel differently, which is why communication is key.
Chances are, he's not going to see the questions you ask as offensive, but rather see you're trying to learn and be a better partner and ally to him, which will end up strengthening your relationship.
4. Don't always try to give advice.
If you're a natural empath or caregiver, your first instinct might be to find solutions to his problems or offer advice. The truth is, unless he specifically asks for advice, he's probably not seeking it. You don't understand what he goes through as a trans* person, and he knows that — he just needs someone to lean on.
Jumping to give advice can seem like you're trying to prove you know more about trans* issues than he does, and you may come off as condescending. Offer sympathetic and loving words above all else.
5. Do your research.
If you're dating a trans* person, it's important to stay current with inclusive and politically correct lingo, trans* news, etc. You want to not only be a good partner but a good ally as well. Though asking questions and communicating with your partner is crucial, you don't always want to bombard him with your mountain of questions. That's where the internet comes in handy! If you're feeling uneducated, don't be afraid to turn to Google — there are plenty of other people in your shoes.
6. Above all, be supportive.
The best advice I can give is to love your trans* boyfriend as you would any other partner. Support him, lift him up, and be there for him. Communicate with him and don't treat the topic of being trans* as taboo.
Dating a trans* person is really not that different from dating a cis person, but you may still have your questions and uncertainties.
What's most important is that you talk to your boyfriend about what he's comfortable and uncomfortable with, what makes him feel validated or invalidated, etc. The six pieces of advice above (that yes, my boyfriend did approve of) should put you on the right track of being the best partner you can be.
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