When Arlo first told me they were planning on transitioning almost a year ago, one of the first things I frantically tried to find out was whether I should stay with them or cut my losses and leave. It was probably the most difficult question to find an answer to and most of the answers I found were extremely disheartening, in fact, it wasn’t until I came across another blog of a trans partner that I had any form of hope.
Well even though I was having a really difficult time processing that I was going to be dating someone I didn’t physically recognise, I’m a strong believer in that you should never end a relationship on a whim. The same way that you should never break up with someone during a fight because emotions are high and you might not even feel the same way in the morning. So I already knew even if I did leave the relationship I needed the news to settle first, I needed at least a month to process it and then I’d check in again and see how I felt. When I did check in with myself a couple of months later I felt a lot better, not amazing but better, and that was a very good sign that we were going to work together.
At the time Arlo told me about their transition I identified as a lesbian, not necessarily because I had fully examined my sexuality but because the label was very convenient. So when they came out I immediately worried that their gender and my sexuality were incompatible, but the more I thought about it the more I remembered having long conversations with my ex-girlfriend about not being able to work out if I was bisexual or a lesbian – and dating a girl at the time, I just chose lesbian so at least I had a sexuality.
I spent a lot of time examining my feeling towards, well, every gender I guess. Which is very difficult when you’re seeing someone, because trying to envision being with anyone who isn’t your partner, regardless of gender, if extremely difficult. As a queer woman I very much fancy women but trying to imagine kissing a woman – when the only person I want to kiss is Arlo – is really hard, let alone trying to imagine kissing men or other non-binary people. I still don’t think I’ve worked my sexuality out which is why I love using the label ‘queer’, I don’t have to know the specifics but I’m definitely not straight. If someone asks me to be more specific I tend to say bisexual, or pansexual but I definitely prefer identifying as ‘queer.’
At the beginning of Arlo’s transition I was absolutely terrified of two things: one, waking up and literally not recognising the person I’d fallen in love with; and two, having to tell my very middle-class, conventional, and cis-het family. What I didn’t realise about number one is that all these changes weren’t going to happen overnight, I wasn’t literally going to wake up to a stranger. Partners change all the time, they buy new clothes, cut and dye their hair, get new jobs, pick up new hobbies, make new friends. All of these occur over long periods of time and are completely normal, but if your partner did all of these things in one day it would seem like a drastic change. So when Arlo made a majority of social changes they happened in stages each a few months apart, first the haircut, then the pronouns, then the name, and soon top surgery – Arlo gave both themselves and me enough time to get used to each change before they moved onto the next one, and that made it significantly easier.
The fear of telling my family, however, was terrifying. I was already the first not-straight person in my entire family (including extended family) and now Arlo and I were about to be the first not-straight-and-not-cis-couple of both our families. Thankfully they took it pretty well, but the relief was indescribable. At the beginning I thought I was scared of Arlo’s transition – well I was a bit, change is scary – but I realised that I had actually been incredibly afraid of people’s reactions to Arlo’s transition. I should also mention that I have GAD (General Anxiety Disorder) which made it very difficult to know where the root of the anxiety was, all I knew was that I was very anxious; but still, I almost gave up my relationship because I was scared of what everyone else would think.
Also therapy is incredible. As part of the top surgery referral process, Arlo and I were required to have six private therapy sessions, and whilst we did talk about their non-binary identity we also talked about our relationship. Both Arlo and I have been through quite a bit of NHS therapy, but private therapy was a million times better, we managed to work through and discuss a massive variety of issues to help us both understand how the other one was feeling. If you can afford private therapy – even one session – I highly recommend it. I’m pretty frugal with money but I asked if we could go back to our therapist for more sessions, just because it helped us both so much.
So back to my original question when Arlo told me about their transition why did I stay? What made me not pack my bags and leave that evening? Well, I knew I needed to give myself some time before I made any big decisions; I knew that I had a pretty bad anxiety disorder that was most definitely screwing with my head, and I knew that there was a possibility that I wasn’t actually a lesbian after all. Arlo and I have an incredibly honest and trustworthy relationship, but I knew how scared they were tell me and to risk our relationship, so I knew how desperately they needed to transition. I love Arlo because they’re so caring, they love being with me, and they make me laugh so much; not because they use a particular name or pronouns, or have (soon to be had!) a female chest. As soon as I realised that I knew we were going to be okay. April 2019 I thought Arlo and I were over, January 2020 we’re starting to talk about getting engaged.