Would You Leave Your Partner If They Were Transgender?
Does your partner’s gender really matter?
It was during the Human Puppy programme on Channel 4 recently that my partner and I came to discuss other ways in which relationships might break down over personal preferences or just what a person is like. The main question discussed for some time between us was very interesting: would you leave your partner if they were transgender?
Now there’s quite a few ways in which that question could be read. Does it refer to a partner who comes to realise that they are in fact transgender after being in a relationship as their ‘wrong’ gender for quite some time, or does it mean someone who has been trying to disguise the fact they are transgender, living life as their ‘correct’ gender identity but with either pre or post gender alignment surgery anatomy? In my partner is fond of quipping, no need to put an ‘or’ where an ‘and’ would fit nicely, so let’s discuss both angles.
If my partner only realised they’re transgender after we got together
Or as I see it, the more honest situation. A person might have felt more ‘in touch’ with another gender that their own, or felt ‘not quite right’ for years but didn’t understand that they were in fact transgender. It’s only in relatively recent years that a greater understanding of being transgender has occurred – in more developed countries with wide-reaching communication of sex education, in any case. When I was in my teenage years there was still a lot of confusion in the public eye as to the differences between being transgender (which was more commonly and wrongly known as transsexual) and being a transvestite or cross-dresser.
In this situation I wouldn’t feel like it would greatly affect my relationship – the relationship I have with my partner now, I mean. We’ve been together 6 years and have a child together, and as I’m bisexual I feel it may matter less to me than if I were a heterosexual woman. It would definitely affect me for a short time as I adjusted to the news and took in any perceived changes to my relationship – but it wouldn’t *bother* me at all.
I also feel my partner’s gender would matter a lot more to me if we didn’t already have a child together – and if I was planning to have more children at some point. Sure, gender is a mental and psychological aspect rather than purely anatomical or physical, but having a child by the traditional method of penis in vagina sex by two cis people is quite enough of an epic life experience without throwing anatomical-to-gender differences into the mix. Would my partner have felt as able or willing to have a child with me via penis-in-vagina sex if he were in fact a woman with traditional male anatomy? Or would it have been too difficult mentally, too traumatic, too uncomfortable psychologically? If so, there’s the whole question of if children were ever to be an option and if they were, how we would go about achieving children.
The other potential difference in our relationship is a physical change – perhaps a difference in the way we have sex. I don’t see that sex needs to be penis-in-vagina, or that a penis even needs to be in the room for sex to take place *gasp*. There’s a lot of sexual satisfaction to be enjoyed through other variations on sex, from partial or full body frottage – clothed or naked- to fingers and tongue foreplay, oral sex and using sex toys together. Although physical anatomical differences don’t matter too much to *me* during sex with my partner (as it’s more about physically connecting with him as a person rather than making him the sum of his parts) I feel that sex as a transgender person might affect him differently. It’s all very well for me not to be bothered whether their gender matches up with their genitalia, but for the trans person themselves this difference might be/probably would be very awkward/difficult/upsetting to deal with. Especially in such an exposed and intimate situation like having sex.
So no, it wouldn’t make me want to leave my partner if they were transgender – but saying that, there are a lot of other issues to take on board and work through together to carry on with a relationship which is happy from both partners’ points of view.
If my partner had been trying to hide the fact they’re transgender the whole time
I see this situation as being quite dishonest or deceptive. Rather than a realisation that only happens after you get together, the person has known all along they’re trans but has hidden the truth. I’m not saying it’s never understandable or that there’s no good reasons to hide it – such as a person fearing negative reactions and/or rejection from family and friends – but the fact of the matter is that they hid the facts from you when you got together and therefore you entered into a relationship with them under false impressions.
I’d find this less easy to deal with and it might even break the relationship. To mislead a person so as to get into a relationship with them isn’t just a breach of trust but it also calls into question the person’s integrity as a whole. If they’re willing to lie and deceive about such a fundamental issue, then what else could they be dishonest about?
Depending on the amount of time and emotional investment I’d given to the relationship I might try to stretch my understanding so I could forgive the deception and carry on in the relationship. Would I stay despite the deception if I loved the person, as I love my partner now after being with him for 6 years and raising our child together? How am I imagining that the truth would come to light?
After many years together I know my partner’s body intimately. I’d know if he’d had transgender surgery (from physically having vagina/clitoris/vulva to penis and testicles to match his true male gender) I’m sure – I don’t think he would be able to hide it, going on the images of post gender realignment surgery I’ve seen in the media. There’s also the fact he’s fathered a child with me as well, something he wouldn’t have been able to do via the traditional penis-in-vagina method we used. So at this point, it’s difficult to see how he could have hidden the fact he’s an aware transperson all this time and for it to suddenly become apparent.
If it were instead the case that he wasn’t an aware and gender realigned transperson, and that in fact ‘he’ was female in gender/inside with external penis, testicles and traditionally ‘male’ appearance, I’d feel deceived that my partner had chosen to hide their true female self from me. I would be disappointed that they hadn’t felt able to be open with me about such a fundamental part of themselves and instead felt forced to live a lie – pretending to be a cis male/fathering a child/living as a man when in fact she’s a female. It would take an incredible amount of effort and working on open and honest communication to overcome such a big deception.
Does a person’s gender really matter in a relationship?
Not to me, but perhaps it’s different for you. As I’ve already mentioned, there’s the reproductive aspect to decide in any long term relationship. Even if you don’t want to have children, it’s a subject you need to broach with your partner and I believe most people discuss this important option in their honeymoon phase, at the start of their relationship. People want to know if children are an option in that relationship or if both people are agreed that children aren’t for them. Although there are many ways you can enjoy raising children outside the traditional reproductive sex method (surrogacy, egg donors, sperm donors, IVF, fostering, adoption), the topic still needs talking over at some point so you can make sure you both agree on what you want from the rel in that way.
Whether your true gender matches your physical genitalia then does have some bearing, because it could make a difference to how you decide to achieve children if you need to go a different route than the penis-in-vagina one.
I believe the true gender of a partner will matter to a person if they require their partner to be a specific gender inside and out. By that, I mean if a male identified person is straight or if a female identified person is straight they would probably be more affected by the revelation that their partner isn’t in fact the opposite gender at all, but that they in fact identify the same as them (albeit that their anatomy doesn’t match their true gender).
Therefore, there’s quite a few ways in which I’m feeling perhaps a little too dismissive of gender differences in my own relationship. It’s pretty damn easy for me to sit here and announce that I don’t care what gender my partner is, I’d love them anyway – when we already have our children and when I’m bisexual and the gender of my partner doesn’t matter to me in order to enjoy a happy relationship (emotionally, sexually and otherwise). For a person who is looking ahead to a future with a partner of a very specific gender, and with perhaps the option of children, the question ‘would you leave your partner if they were transgender’ might have a very different answer indeed.
So, it’s over to you. Does your partner’s gender matter to you? Would you leave your partner if they were transgender? I look forward to reading your thoughts in the comments below.
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