How to love and support your FtM partner or your soffa as an FtM
How to love and support your FtM partner (I will use the term “ftm,” “boyfriend” and male pronouns, although you may be married to your partner or he may have a non-binary identity or you may still see him as your “girlfriend”):
-Affirm his gender identity, sympathize with him and comfort him when others disrespect his identity.
-Research trans issues as much as you can, educate yourself so you can educate others. Know what is generally considered offensive so you don’t accidentally say offensive things, don’t depend on your boyfriend to educate you or to know what is okay or not okay to say in the community (for example, he might not have a problem with the word “tranny” but many other people in the community do and you should probably avoid it).
-Seek out support if you struggle with your boyfriend’s transition. Find other significant others who are going through similar situations and talk to them. It may be difficult for you because you are emotionally invested in your boyfriend’s body and, possibly, his assigned gender. Acknowledge these feelings and allow yourself to fully feel them.
-Ask your boyfriend what words he prefers you use when talking about his body and try to honor those preferences. Remember that you have a say too, if you are uncomfortable with using certain words you shouldn’t have to. Also try your best to use the pronouns and name he prefers. If you screw up, correct yourself and move on.
-Don’t out your boyfriend without his consent. Although his transition certainly directly affects you and is in many ways a large part of your life story and identity too, you must respect his privacy. You should always ask before disclosing his trans status to someone, even if it is one of your close personal friends. Remember that he may view his trans status as something intensely private and the fact that he has shared this information with you means he deeply trusts you. It totally depends on the guy so you must be sensitive about this.
How to love and support your partner as an FtM:
-Understand that your partner may struggle with your transition and that he or she is undergoing a lot of changes as well (in regards to their sexuality/sexual identity, the way they are seen in society, etc). Even if you consider yourself “fully transitioned” or don’t think about your trans status on a day-to-day basis, to your partner it may be completely new.
-Don’t try to force a sexual identity/sexual orientation on your partner in order to affirm your own gender identity. If your partner considered themselves primarily attracted to women before you started transitioning, you can’t expect them to give up that identity over night. Similarly, if you are dating a queer, bisexual, or pansexual person it is wrong to insist that they are straight/gay and erase their sexual identity. Although it can be unnerving to be a man dating a straight man or lesbian woman, your partner’s identity is their business and something that transcends their relationship with you. The only right you have is to demand they see you and relate to you as a man, not that they change their sexual orientation for you.
-Keep your partner informed on your thoughts and feelings on your gender identity and transition as they evolve. Don’t leave them in the dark in regard to your transition. You should let your partner know if you’re suddenly considering bottom surgery, thinking about going off of testosterone, or wanting them to treat your body differently than they already do. Communication is key, and keeping them on the same page as you is important in a relationship.
-Do not use your gender identity as an excuse to force your partner to do anything they may be uncomfortable with. Although strap-on sex (just as an example) may be very affirming to your identity, if it makes your partner uncomfortable you should back off of the idea.
-Also, don’t use your gender identity as an excuse for sexism/misogyny/general assholeness. This is a general rule, but it especially applies to those in relationships with women. Just because you identify as male doesn’t mean it’s okay for you to expect your girlfriend to suddenly play a traditional female role in your relationship. It especially doesn’t mean you are allowed to tell her to do your laundry, make you dinner, or fix your clothes. Although clear gender roles in your relationship might make you feel more masculine, they can be unfair to your girlfriend (although, if she’s comfortable with whatever, than by all means do what you wish).
Post-Op Recovery - A Guide for Those in The Waiting Room
Supporting recovery, any kind of recovery, is a skill that all people should try to develop. As a transperson who’s opting for surgery, we often see these skills played out by others in our lives, benefiting from them, being nurtured by them. We all have our preferences for receiving support, but how often do we consider how we support others? The likelihood that we will find our own feet firmly planted in the waiting room, rather than on the operating table is quite large. How do we then provide the best support structures for our loved ones?
Adrian has spent time at the home of a friend in Florida, attempting to support him through his top-surgery recovery with Dr. Garramone. This experience has highlighted the fact that Adrian has really only considered support after surgery as a tangible good that he received and continues to receive after his multiple surgeries, never framing it as something that he should also give.
Oftentimes as transfolk, our own personal transitions take stage front and center, but there may be a time when we have to put our transitional histories and future trajectories on the back burner to provide space for the necessary support that other transfolks around us need. This is that guide.
How to Support Recovery as a Friend/Family Member/Partner:
1) Be adaptable - be able to cater to specific needs that are often unpredictable and in a state of flux.
2) Be honest about expectations - sometimes it is difficult or awkward to suddenly become a caregiver when you had previously only been a friend. Talk to the person who needs support about what they expect from you, and what both of your boundaries are.
3) Be present - oftentimes gender-confirming surgery recoveries beg for a lot of attention, affirmation, and reassurance. Be available, ready, and willing to offer this up.
4) Do Not Make It About You - be cognizant of how much attention you are using up, don’t steal the show. If you’ve had the particular surgery your friend is currently having, don’t dominate discussion about your experience unless it is absolutely relevant or you are specifically asked about it. If you are planning to have the surgery your friend is currently having, don’t gush with jealousy or somehow make your friend feel bad or guilty about having the surgery before you. Let your friend have this moment, it is their moment.
5) Be ready to participate in touchy-feely moments - You may be needed to scratch and itch that’s hard to reach, you may be needed to wash their hair or scrub other parts that you previously had never touched. These oftentimes intimate moments can be awkward, try to make them less-so.
6) Be ready to cook and clean up for your post-op transperson. Cook them things that they want, not what you want. Food and nourishment are a huge part of recovery, sometimes you’ll have to forfeit what you’re really craving in order to satisfy the needs of the person you’re taking care of.
7) Be the nurse in the room - keep track of their medication schedule. Most often these kinds of surgeries come with an intense medication regiment, which probably includes a pain-killer making your post-op person drowsy and forgetful. Map out their schedule, providing food at the opportune times, and keep them on it!
8) Be willing to listen to complaints. Post-op depression is a real thing that does not get talked about much. Be prepared for your post-op person to be critical of their surgical results, or be grumpy about the state of their bandages (too tight, dirty, smelly), or be irritable about their overall condition. This is normal, let them vent to you.
9) Leave when asked - sometimes all of this one-on-one time and the dependency that comes with being immediately post-op can be a real drain on relationships. If your post-op person needs a break from you, don’t take it personally, and kindly leave them alone. Sometimes breaks are good for all involved.
10) Know your limits - not everyone is cut out for this job. If someone in your life asks you to support them after surgery, know your boundaries and be thoughtful to your own needs. If you don’t think you can provide adequate support, tell them.
The unique needs of Trans partners and why it's ok to have them - PART TWO OF TWO
As partners of trans individuals, we are in a mostly happy, loving relationships (or at least that is what I wish for all of you partners!) which come with a unique set of situations/rules/structural boundaries … I have no idea what to call it, but we come with some unique stuff. You as a partner take on the role of not only lover, but you have the option to become a social advocate, your sexual label may change to you and/or the rest of the world, you become an educator and a medical caretaker and a therapist. To a certain extent, it’s part of any relationship be it homosexual, heterosexual, or ____sexual (the ___ meaning any place on the beautiful non binary spectrum). But with a trans partnership where you are pursuing hormone therapy, facing problems with family or friends as they transition, and pursuing gender reassignment surgeries definitely brings up unique needs.
I said this in a previous post, but to paraphrase a very wise woman, YOU as a partner are allowed to feel just as supported and feel as understood as you trans partner. You are both going through this transition, now take a look at what you need to make yourself whole and happy, your partner certainly is. Go on that beautiful journey of self fulfillment together, and that means taking care of yourself and your needs.
My needs? Well I need ice cream and enough sleep and other than that I’m pretty much ok. But, to get very personal for a moment, I’m going to share with you my journey to my needs, and what a worthwhile trip it was to the relationship that I know is forever.
Travel back with me in the way back machine to December 2011…..
My boyfriend is having top surgery tomorrow. Any tips on how I can help him after the surgery? and is there anything we should do at home before? Thanks so much!
Zak: Sorry we’re getting to this a bit late, I’ve been traveling. There’s really nothing I’d recommend doing at home before except buying stuff to prepare for his recovery. I think we have an article on what to buy to prepare for top surgery, but to sum it up I’d recommend comfortable pajama pants, shirts that button in the front so he doesn’t have to slip anything over his head, bendy straws, and plenty of foods that are easy on your stomach (like oatmeal, jello, etc.). A lot of guys also like having an incline or wedge pillow. If I recall correctly, you’re required to sleep propped up for awhile after top surgery, so having a pillow that will do that for you in a comfortable way can be really helpful.
Anyway, after surgery he’s going to need someone to help him get up and down, get him things, and make sure he doesn’t over-extend himself. It’s basically like any other minor surgery in that he’ll probably feel like he can do things for himself before he actually should. He’s not going to be totally confined to his bed, but he won’t be able to drive and will have a really limited range of motion. You’ll basically need to compensate for that. I’d seriously recommend thinking about yourself as well and making sure you have something to do to get away or plan some time for yourself. Being a caretaker is hard and you can’t do it 24/7. Make sure you have food for yourself, time for yourself, and something fun to do. It’s very easy to get burned out taking care of someone! So yeah, that’s what I’d recommend. I’d also like to mention that lot of people experience post-surgical depression, pretty much no matter what the surgery is. Coming off of the anesthesia and the pain medication and going through a major bodily trauma is difficult. Also, a lot of people have difficulty sleeping because of the surgical binder or are in a lot of discomfort because of that. Just be aware that there might be some issues there and don’t take it personally if he’s really down for awhile (or up and down).
“Not telling our parents absolutely everything is framed as a kind of dishonesty, not only with your family, but also with yourself. But the ability to come out to one’s parents is a privilege that many, particularly people of colour, don’t always have because of cultural, religious, and familial barriers.”
My name is Wayne Maines, I live in Old Town. I have a 13-year-old transgender daughter. In the beginning, I was not onboard with this reality. Like many of you I doubted transgender children could exist, I doubted my wife and I doubted our counselors and doctors. However I never doubted my love for my child. It was only through observing her pain and her suffering and examining my lack of knowledge about these issues did I begin to question my behavior and my conservative values. I learned that the medical standard of care requires parents seek assistance from a panel of experts. We did this and our team of doctors recommended my daughter to live fully as a girl. We cannot turn back now.
When my daughter lost her privileges at school and both children and adults targeted her, I knew I had to change and I have never looked back.
When we moved to Maine, it was clear my daughter was transitioning from male to female with us or without us. She used the girl’s bathroom with no fanfare; she was confident and very social. Her strong personality helped the entire school transition right along side of her. She was proud and secure with herself and when people asked at the young age of six she openly stated that she was a girl trapped in a boy’s body.
The transformation was amazing, but her happiness would not last. Unfortunately the fears of others would destroy everything that our team of doctors, teachers, school counselors, friends and classmates had work so hard to establish.
I know that it is difficult for some of you to understand the needs of transgender children. You only need to spend some time with these kids to see that they are struggling and suffering beyond your imagination only because they are singled out and misunderstood. They are just like your children and grandchildren; they have the same hopes and the same dreams.
In the fifth grade because of significant negative exposure we had to take drastic measures to protect her from harm, including splitting our family up to go in hiding and we are not the only family that has had to do so. When she was told she could no longer use the appropriate bathroom her confidence and self-esteem took a major hit. Prior to this my daughter often said, “Dad being transgender is no big deal, my friends and I have it under control.” I was very proud of her. It was only when adults became involved with their unfounded fears that her world would be turned upside down. “She came to me crying and asked, "Daddy what did I do wrong? Daddy please fix this?” That is what dads do – we fix things. I had to break her heart and say, “You have not done anything wrong sweetie, but Mommy and I do not know how to fix this, but we will try.”
Continuing to single these kids out is not necessary. Having the opportunity to use the bathrooms of their true gender is essential for these kids’ well being. This bill places transgender children in a position of doom and hopelessness. This bill tells my daughter that she does not have the same rights as her classmates and reinforces her opinion that she has no future. Help me give her the future she deserves. Do not pass this bill.
- Wayne Maines, in a testimony against Maine’s proposed bill which would allow the operator of a restroom or shower facility to decide who can use which gender’s restroom based upon “biological sex.”
Originally posted by Joanne Herman at Huffington Post (follow link to read her commentary on this amazing testimony)
My son is transgender, or maybe it would be “transsexual”. Whatever…he is a man. (note: I refer to him with male pronouns in the past as well as present because it feels right to me). A son who is FAAB: female assigned at birth. He spent the first 19 years as female identified. Naturally we have a lot of accumulated mementos from those 19 years. He agrees that it is all a part of his past and who he was and therefore those things don’t bother him; I don’t have to hide them or anything. Out of respect for him, though, we don’t display the more obvious female things.
It is more than that really. I gave birth to him, and we raised him in the gender that fit his birth anatomy. Picked out a female name. We did a good job of raising him in an androgynous manner, trying to keep him free from gender-typing, but you can only do so much. He was given frilly dresses and forced to have his picture taken in them for the family. He was given fancy dresses and uncomfortable shoes to wear to weddings. Was told he had to do something with his hair and no, he could NOT get a haircut like Anakin Skywalker! We bought him knights instead of princesses and he got to be Harry Potter rather than Hermione for Halloween, but the world kept waiting for him to, basically, grow up and embrace femininity.
Then at age 14 he came out as a lesbian. Oh, okay, THAT’S why he never “grew into” a feminine person, he was a lesbian! NOW he could get a short haircut and wear male clothes because he was a “butch” lesbian. Except- my son is a lot of things but “butch” was never one of them. It didn’t fit- but we were so blind to the possibility of trans* that it never crossed our minds. Not even after he, as a kid, wrote a book where the main character was FTM. HUH? Well one day I did ask him if he felt trans. Did he feel that he should have been a boy. He said no, he was fine with the way he was. I recall my answer: “I’m SO glad because it would make me so sad if you were unhappy with your body and gender.”
It was over a year ago that he told us he was transgender. Over the first several months or so he bounced around from genderqueer to trans, to NOT female… but when he had time to let things settle in his mind, he knew. He was a man. And it made sense. Even his therapist, who we also see as a family,said that there was always something that didn’t feel right about him being a lesbian— but trans fits. I agree, it fits.
People ask me how I “got over it”. How horrible it must have been for me. Am I devastated, like I lost my daughter? Did I cry? When I replied that I was fine and only concerned about him getting the right care and wanting to help him though his transition – people accused me of being dishonest with either them or myself. I was in denial, they said. A year has gone by and I still feel the same way. I didn’t lose anything at all. I have my son right here.
But there is something that does make me sad. This brings me back to where I started- the packed away mementos of his childhood. When I look at them I feel pangs of guilt. I feel like I cheated my son out of a boyhood. Why didn’t I know my own child? Why didn’t I let him get his hair cut like Anakin? He was telling me he was a boy, long before he even had the words in his head for it himself, and I didn’t hear him.
I will always keep and treasure the things from his childhood but I don’t like to spend much time looking at them because some of them seem strange and other-worldly (I still love to look at his pictures though). But that name we gave him, plastered on everything. He didn’t want that name; the name was forced on him. He talks about the positive aspects of being a man raised as a female. He knows what females are like, sort of knows their language, and that it makes him a better man. I believe him and agree.
That’s my story. That is honestly the only negative emotion that I have attached to his transition: guilt. I could have made his life easier and I didn’t.
Please use language that corresponds to my gender identity, even if my body does not seem to match, and even when talking about my past.
If you are still adjusting to my transition, it is normal to make mistakes with pronouns. Don’t draw attention to it. Just correct yourself and carry on.
A transsexual woman is a male-to-female. A transsexual man is a female-to-male. It is never the other way around. Though sometimes it is referred to as male-to-male, or female-to-female because individuals may not have ever identified as the opposite gender and don’t see it as a transition from one to the other, rather an alignment of body and mind.
Don’t assume my gender identity defines my sexual orientation. Who I am attracted to is totally separate from my gender. If I am a transsexual man who likes men, treat me no differently than any other gay man.
Don’t expect me to conform to stereotypes of my gender. I wear clothes I like and I have a variety of interests, just like everyone else. There is no need to point out which of my behaviors are “boy actions” and “girl actions”.
Please don’t use my old name or ask what it was. Instead of saying “back when you were _____” or “when you were a girl” say “before you came out as a man” or “prior to your transition”.
Don’t use my name in the 3rd person as if I was someone else, i.e. “Are you dressing as Jack now?”
If you use the word transsexual (or trans), it’s better to use it as an adjective to describe a person, not as a noun, i.e. trans people, trans man, trans woman.
Don’t assume that I have chosen to be a transsexual person. The only choice I have made is whether or not to accept my situation and fix it to live a healthier life as I see fit.
When your child is LGBT they are part of a minority. If you are like most parents and heterosexual, this is a minority that does not include you. Most of the time that’s not the case. Most minorities are based on race and religion – things that tend to run in families. History and stories are told from generation to generation. Politics are discussed over the kitchen table where everyone has the same stake. This is different.
You may not be LGBT, but it is now your job to become an expert in this minority. You need to learn LGBT history, LGBT current political issues and LGBT controversies. Because you need to know your child’s history, your child’s issues, your child’s reality. This might feel uncomfortable to you, maybe even a little alien, but this is not about you. This is about your child.
Parents are freaking out? Send a nice article to calm them down.