The reality of my partner's medical transition has grown from a distant vision in our future to something imminent. If all goes well, and his doctors don't put up any new hoops for him to jump through, he'll be starting hormone therapy in the next few weeks. With that in mind, and after months of debate, he has even decided on a new name, Owen.
And to be perfectly honest, I'm scared.
This is someone who has been part of my life for the better part of thirteen years. We met during freshman orientation at college, and our lives have been intertwined for our entire adulthoods. I was there for the ending phases of his puberty the first time around, and it wasn't a piece of cake. Sure, we're older and hopefully more mature and complete people now, but the first year or two of medical transition can be brutal on both the person experiencing the physiological and emotional changes it entials, and for those who love and care about them.
But as his medical transition comes closer, I find that there's something that scares me more than the incipient roller-coaster ride of second puberty: the uncertainty of who he'll be when this is all over.
Having a new name to call him, rather than just an altered version of his birth name has brought that point home in the last few days.
Don't get me wrong, I don't think that his fundamental identity or personality is likely to change all that much. I do understand that transition is about embracing his true self, not transforming himself into someone completely new.
I imagine that some of my feelings must be akin to having a teenage child in your life. Who we are when entering puberty informs who we become, but isn't necessarily a useful predictive tool for what we'll be like. The people in our lives have to hang on and love us throughout.
Of course there are some huge differences too. For one thing, I'm his husband, not his parent. For another, part of the radical personality changes of puberty come out of learning to see the work through an adult's eyes, which in his 30s my partner already has down.
But other changes come out of having people treat you differently, learning what it means to be a grown man or woman in our society, and adapting to a new sense of self in a body that has changed from the one you knew. His protestations to the contrary, I know transition will change him, and in some ways that's part of the whole point of transitioning.
We've been repeatedly advised by friends and family, trans* and cis alike, not to mention the faceless hordes on the internet, to end our relationship. Some people say that it's because the aforementioned roller-coaster of a partner's transition is more than a relationship can weather. Others worry that having a cis person intimately part of the life of a person who is transitioning will hold them back from being able to embrace and explore their true selves. Still others have accused me of pushing my partner to transition (or not to transition, we've heard both), and feel that only alone he can decide if this path is right for him.
While largely born out of legitimate caring, this certainly has added to the anxiety we both are experiencing. Deepening my fears around the uncertainty of the next few years, while making my partner feel like he has to choose between being true to himself, or denying himself in order to preserve our relationship.
It's not easy to write publicly about my own fears around my partner's transition. There's nothing worse that can be said to the cis partner of a trans person than that they aren't being adequately supportive. "Don't tell him you feel this way or that" is probably the most common sentiment I hear from people I've talked about my own anxieties. "It's his transition, not yours, your feelings are irrelevant" is another very common one, and in truth it's a load of crap.
Yes, it's his transition, but it's our life together and I've come to believe that I'm allowed to have, process, and share my own feelings about it. It's worth noting that he never disagreed with this and was actually pretty offended by the idea that I felt I had to hide my feelings to "protect" him in some way. There are parts of this journey that are his and his alone, parts that are ours together, and parts that are really only mine.
Even with the uncertainty that clouds our future, what matters is that my partner is an amazing guy, and being able to fully embrace his identity can only serve to make that more true. While uncertainty can be scary as hell, it can also have its share of wonder and joy and I choose to believe that what is undeniably right for one of us, can only serve to make our lives better in the end.
(Fortune teller clipart via Bigstock)