Rose Perez, 23, shares how her life changed when her husband came out as a transgender man, and what she’s done, and continues to do, to support him.
When Xander and I first started dating, we were your average lesbian couple. I was a lesbian for quite some time, and I was very confident and proud of it. As I got to know and fall in love with him, I realized there was a part of him hidden away.
Xander always had more masculine mannerisms – the way he dressed, spoke, and carried himself. At times, I asked if he thought he was trans; he was still hesitant and unsure, and I knew it wasn’t my place to decide.
There’s power in patience and listening
It took time for Xander to realize who he was and wanted to be. It also took time for me to understand how to best support him through this journey. Throughout our relationship, I’ve learned how meaningful it is to listen. You don’t listen for you, to figure out how to respond. You listen for them, to make them feel validated.
I had to listen and let him come out when he was ready. He came out as a transgender man around two and a half years ago. That’s when I really saw him flourish. He didn’t act self-conscious anymore. He just appeared to be free.
It was also important for me to let him choose his new name. Be cautious of tons of friends and family giving their input; they may mean well, but this is a very personal and defining moment in a trans person’s life. Xander actually chose his name because he’s always dreamed of naming his son that, and he realized it was the right fit for him as well.
Listening has also been beneficial during his medical transition, as he’s on “T” (or testosterone therapy). T can cause mood swings and aggression – more so than we’re used to. When tensions rise, genuine listening helps us both.
It’s okay to mourn
Mourning carries a negative connotation, so it can be controversial to relate it to someone transitioning. But mourning is not always negative; I think it’s a natural state of mind when going through a significant change or loss that helps us grow.
I missed the Xander I first met, but I knew he wasn’t living his truest life. Coming out made him happy, and that’s all I wanted.
The biggest adjustment happened with my sexuality; that’s what people don’t talk about enough. I was always attracted to women. I had dreams of being a lesbian wife, with the stereotypical “Mrs. & Mrs.” light-up sign on the wall. This was no longer an option. With Xander being a man, I was becoming “normal.”
It took a lot of self-reflection to figure out how my own personality was to change and to “wave goodbye” to that old part of me. I loved Xander and I was very much still attracted to him, not only physically, but more so emotionally. I loved his soul. My soul couldn’t be without it.
I now identify as pansexual; we are a queer couple.
You have to be fully ready and committed
Xander came out in little ways over time. It wasn’t an impulse decision. So, I was prepared, and I felt it coming, but I still had to ask myself, “Am I ready for this?”
For me, it was an “eyes” thing. When I look into someone’s eyes, I can read them and tell if they’re being genuine. I knew with Xander that this was far from a fad or cry for attention.
Knowing that his life was only going to change for the better made it all okay. It wasn’t easy. I had my ups and downs. Some days I was proud, or sad, or confused. But everything boiled down to me wanting to be with him.
How do you act when you’re the spouse of a trans man? I implore people – don’t do it for “clout.” Don’t address them as a trans man when you introduce them to people. I say, “This is my husband Xander.” I don’t say “This is my trans husband.” That’s his place to explain it, if he so chooses.
You have to do your research
You may not realize if you’re fully ready to be with, and be supportive of, someone who is trans until you do your research. How much do you know about the community? What kind of health care do they need? How might they change, physically and emotionally, and what do they need from you to be supported? You can try to figure it out on your own, but there are so many resources – including social media – out there to learn from. Being on T, Xander’s taste buds and appetite have changed. It’s things like this you don’t expect.
We’re also in a unique situation because we already have a child, so a lot of my research involves how to explain it to our daughter. I’ve found a lot of helpful children’s books online that teach about gender identity and fluidity in age-appropriate ways. One of our biggest goals in raising her is to help her be inclusive and ensure her that we’ll love her no matter what.
Sometimes you’re their protector
We felt judgment – hate even – as a lesbian couple, and now, we face it in different ways. We’ll go out to eat, and our server will address Xander as “ma’am.” It’s difficult to speak up, but, sometimes, I will correct people for him. It’s a necessary form of support – to show him that I have his back. I have to do this because I can see the light leave his eyes when people misgender him; I can sense the pain. With that being said, we have to pick and choose our battles. It’s important to know when to not make the situation worse. And, in some cases, it is an honest mistake.
Surround yourself with supportive people
Transitioning is a huge journey, physically, emotionally, socially, romantically. You can’t go through it alone. We turn to our best friends for help, support groups and others in the LGBTQIA+ community online. It’s important to surround yourself with people who will help you grow in every way.
When I first saw Xander after his top surgery, he appeared “reborn.” I was so proud. Before, he couldn’t walk out the door without covering up his chest. Now, he looks so happy – a different kind of happy. He’s rejuvenated.
When you fall in love with someone, it doesn’t matter what’s on the outside. Love is not enough to keep a house going if you don’t build a foundation. If you’re not there to support them, and work through everything together, what are you there for? If you love someone, you love all that comes with them.
I knew there were – and are still – going to be bumps and bruises along this path, but it’s a journey I’m selflessly committed to.
It takes a lot, but just remember – be present, be understanding, and be strong.