Ask Professor Foxy: How Do I Handle A Partner’s Possible Transition?

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Dear Professor Foxy,
I’m a cis woman in an amazing relationship with a man who has gender dissonance. Question 1: How can I best support him? I’ve tried to educate myself on trans issues and cis privilege as best I can, and learn from him. I listen if he wants to talk about things, and gently try to tell him he’s not a freak etc. I’m also trying to avoid pressuring him, e.g. sexually and about transitioning (which he’s nowhere near making a decision about yet). Otherwise I try to support him by being a nice person. Is there anything I’m missing?
Complicating factor: I’m straight. I assumed otherwise as a teenager, for the dubious reason that I didn’t fancy boys (I was on medicine which I later realised killed my sex-drive utterly). I had one brief and unsuccessful fling with a girl, but since coming off the meds I’ve dated only men, and never examined my sexuality.
Since my boyfriend told me, I’ve tried to be honest and careful with my own feelings, trying to check that I’m comfortable with the idea that he might be a transwoman (which he hasn’t figured out yet, hence the male pronouns). I do this by thinking of him as a woman occasionally (using female pronouns in my head) and by sometimes thinking of him as female-bodied while we’re making out. All fine so far.
I’m still worried about potential incompatibility if he transitions, so I want to explore my sexuality. So far all I’ve done is see if sexy bits of The L Word turn me on like straight TV sex-scenes sometimes do. Conclusion: maybe – trying to work out if you’re getting turned on kinda hinders the whole getting-turned-on thing. Question 2: Any tips on exploring my sexuality? (N.B. We’re exclusive.)
The flip side is that I’m worried that my liking his male body will prevent/delay transitioning. Question 3: how can we avoid this? We also worry that, having transitioned, he’ll fancy men instead of women (I heard it’s possible), but I guess there’s no way to predict that.
Transitioning aside, PIV sex (which I really like) probably isn’t going to happen, which for the moment I’m totally fine with. Question 4: how do I make sure I’m still ok with that, as things continue? Am I allowed to think like that? I love him dearly, and our relationship has so far been amazing. I talk about all of this with him. But I stayed in my last relationship too long out of *duty*, and though I don’t feel at all like that now, I’m afraid of repeating the pattern. I don’t want to become like the stereotypically oppressed wife of the ex-gay, sacrificing her sexual needs to her partner’s issues ( Some people in this situation categorise themselves as wholly straight/gay but are ok with making an exception for the person they love – does that work? Am I doing the right thing? How do I balance supporting him with being true to myself?
Bonus question: We’re going to explain the situation to my (generally lefty) parents once I’ve graduated. Any tips?
Thank you!
Hopefully Bi

Dear Hopefully Bi –
I want you to breathe. Your partner is just starting a journey. He may end up fully transitioning, he may end up occasionally wearing women’s clothing, or he may do none of the above. Regardless of what his journey will be, you want to be supportive (which is great). However, you are already going into full-fledged end result mode. That’s not helpful, either for you or for him.
I think your supporting of him is wonderful. You self-educated, which is great, as too often non-trans folks expect trans people to educate them. You are showing him love and support – also great. Have you asked him what he needs? Does he have other people that he talks about this with? You can support each other, but you cannot be each other’s only support.
I can’t tell you what your sexual orientation/attraction looks like. I don’t think you can at this point either. Instead of trying too hard to anticipate the future, keep going with the flow. As he takes steps, see how that feels in terms of your emotions, your desires, and your relationship. You are trying to predict his desires and your reactions, his body and your reactions, his sexuality and gender and your reactions. If he transitions, he may fancy men. You may find the need to sleep with men. You may become polyamorous in your relationship or just your sex life. You can’t know all of that at this point: just keep talking.
You know what the potential concerns are not only around his possible transition but also around your own habits, so keep an eye out for your unhealthy patterns. Think about how you’re supporting yourself. Do you have friends you can discuss this with? Have you found any on-line communities of people going through similar situations? How is he supporting you? Make sure that you have built-in structures for taking care of yourself. For example, a set dinner or coffee date with a friend to discuss what is going on with you, your partner, and your relationship.
Put telling the parents to the side for now, as you don’t know what the situation is and you can’t explain until you know where you stand with it.
Breathe, honey. You have a great partner, good communication, and a journey in front of you. Keep taking care of yourself and him, and make sure he is doing the same. You have no idea where this journey ends, but you have a great basis for a relationship, be it romantic or friendship, and either one is a blessing.
Professor Foxy
If you have a question for Professor Foxy, send it to ProfessorFoxyATfeministingDOTcom.

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