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On this Wiki, the term 'significant other' is used as a catch-all phrase to encompass people who play a significant role in a transgender person's life.
Transgender people seldom live in a social vacuum. They have friends, family, partners and often children, some or all of whom may know, need to know or might find out about their loved one having a transgender nature.
This page addresses that point in a relationship where a person's transgender nature becomes a factor (by coming out of the closet, because of transitioning, or for other reasons). It is important for the person coming out and going through transition to know that their significant others will have to transition alongside them. Their significant others need to remember that their loved one will remain essentially the same person they were before.
Many transsexuals are in "standard" heterosexual or homosexual relationships before coming to terms with their gender identity and seeking treatment. The current partners may or may not be supportive at first but could change their minds either way as they begin to process the change their loved one's transition has on their life as well.
Some meet a new partner after beginning to transition, at which point there is usually already an acknowledgment of the situation by both parties. However, this doesn't necessarily lead to acceptance or understanding.
Some partners are very supportive, some (where, e.g. cross-dressing is involved) may incorporate transgenderism into their sexual relationship, and some have a very strong adverse reaction.
As relationships with partners tend to be based heavily on trust and are often the closest adult ties a person can have, one question almost every transgender person has to face is should I tell my partner?
Children brought up in a household with one or more transgender adults typically perceive the situation as one of normality (although this does not preclude recognition that this is not a societal norm). No reputable scientific evidence exists to prove that a transgender parent negatively affects the child's upbringing and normal development.
When children are very young, it can be relatively easy for them to adapt to changes in their life situation. When they are older it can be more confusing for them and, after a certain level of maturity, their reactions can be comparable to those of adult family members.
The impact of disclosing the transgender nature of the parent to the child is likely to mirror the post-disclosure relationship between that child's parents - if the revelation of a parent's transgender nature leads to divorce, that will impact the child far greater than one parent changing gender. Also, if beloved grandparents, aunts or uncles reject the transgender parent, the children may also be negatively impacted.
Where the transgender parent does not wish to transition it is often possible to conceal it from children, especially during their formative years. This is the primary choice for many as it can avoid untimely complications yet, in time, the repression of a parent's true nature may impact the family dynamic much more negatively than a transition would.
Parents, siblings and close family of a transgender person
When a transgender person is still living in the family home, the issues surrounding family members are comparable to those discussed in the "Partners" section, above. There is an additional option available though; once self-supporting, the transgender individual can usually move out of the family home and have a lot more latitude to explore their gender identity. For most transgender people, the decision as to whether parents, brothers or sisters are informed is usually based on how close the family unit is, the anticipated reaction and how possible their transgender nature may be concealed.
Many people decide not to inform their parents, especially when they are elderly, as they fear it will confuse them and cause unnecessary distress. This is (as with all such decisions) very much a personal choice.
Other Family Members
Where other family members are also good friends, then refer to the "Friends" section below.
It's usually a good idea to decide to disclose to more distant family members based on the level of knowledge within the immediate family - this avoids inadvertent revelation to closer family members who have not yet been informed.
Close friends are very important to many transgender people and are often amongst the most understanding. Nonetheless, relationships may change for the worse. Men can be disconcerted when their drinking/poker/golf buddy wants to be a woman; girls can be unsettled when the person they share their deepest secrets with turns out not to be the person they thought. This invariably leads back to the basic fundamental truth: Someone coming out of the closet is still essentially the same person as they always were, except that they have decided to become more open with who they really are.
Obviously, people that meet the transgender person for the first time after transition may not have to be told. It is a very personal decision for every trans person faced with this situation and, as such, it is difficult to point out the best direction to take. Suffice it to say that personal safety and security should be paramount in the decision to share the facts of a transgender history with anyone.
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This page was originally authored by members of Susan's Place Wiki Staff.