Can family and friends welcome new definitions of gender?
I’ve met a new guy recently and am pretty much over the moon. We began dating after meeting at a club and each moment we spend together, it gets clearer that we really have something. I’m a cis guy and he is trans. This is a first for me and I hate to admit that it has been a bit of a curveball, at least initially. Where I get really nervous is when I imagine how my family and friends will respond once they know him and his gender identity. So far, only a few friends know I’m getting serious about a guy at all. My circle have been very supportive since I came out about five years ago, but this feels like different territory. My bf says he wants close friends and family to know he’s trans because he doesn’t always pass and would rather people not guess. I fear that there will be discomfort or outright judgment… or that they won’t know how to be around him. What’s the best way to handle this?
Your new romance is forcing you to have to take a look at the narrow and outright oppressive ways our culture tends to view gender—and all the notions and expectations that go along with that. While your circle has been great at accepting and celebrating you as a gay man, you are right to consider that their understanding with respect to gender identity might take a different shape.
The likelihood is that there will be a range of responses. You can certainly prepare, to an extent, but there is no perfect way to navigate this step. Patience will be a virtue, as some may need time to adapt just as you did. Transphobia is very much alive despite increased trans visibility in popular consciousness. Friends or family that see themselves as progressive could still be outright phobic or more subtly ignorant to the plurality of gender and the difference between biological factors and gender identity, never mind the fact that gender identity and sexual orientation are not the same thing. You should consider just how much educating you are up for; as your peeps could look to you as their new Trans 101 professor.
Like so many mothers in countless after-school TV specials, I will repeat the overly simplistic argument that unkind friends aren’t worth having in the first place. I don’t want to minimize the potential risk to you, and your bf, of others’ discomfort or judgmental behaviour. Losing any relationship to a friend or family member over this would be outright tragic, but ultimately you may need to step back from anyone that actively works against you and your blissful new romance unless they are willing to evolve their stance.
Your sweet new guy has most likely already had to face a number of similarly difficult situations with regards to his trans-ness in addition to the assumptions that face him on a daily basis. My stance is that your friends and family are your responsibility when it comes to working toward making a safe place for both of you. That you have the intention of inviting others to share in your romantic delight shows that you are a strong ally and boyfriend. This confidence will go a long way in taking your relationship out of a vacuum and into your larger world.