When we think about a person who wants to transition from one gender to another, we are often focused on the experiences of the trans person, but when does the partner of that person get to have a voice? At times, when practitioners are working with trans clients, they are mostly focused on that person’s transition. It's important to remember that that trans person may have a partner who they have been with sometimes long before they began to openly consider transitioning. The transition process, therefore, may also be a transition and loss, for the partner of that person.
The unique experiences of the partner is one that rarely discussed or examined, yet, if they stay with their partner through the transition process, they may be experiencing serious changes in identity and losses themselves, and often, with little support. As one partner of a trans person expressed at a recent conference, “I didn’t really have a choice, I was either on or off the train, but the train was leaving the station with or without me, I felt so out of control.” (Anonymous, 2014).
In terms of therapy, it is important for trans partners in committed relationships to realize that couples therapy may be a very helpful tool that they can use to help alleviate some of the stress their partner may be feeling. As a therapist, I want to help begin a dialogue about the changes each party will experience and help teach the tools they might need to face those changes without fear. Sometimes, talking is tough, but when talking is tough, that is usually an indication that talking is necessary.
Dori is a therapist in New York offering counseling for individuals, couples, families and groups. Visit http://www.mytherapist.info/dori