How to Emotionally Process Your Partner Coming Out as Transgender

LGBTQ couple being playful

jacoblund / Getty Images

Over one and a half million people identify as transgender in the United States. While you might be surprised if you hear that your own partner is one of those people, it isn't nearly as uncommon to be trans as we once thought it was. Teenagers and young adults represent over half the trans population, but the possibility of someone you know and love coming out as trans is still a perfectly likely one.

If your partner has just informed you of their trans identity, you might have a lot of questions. You also might have a lot of feelings, which is completely normal!

To help you best move through this complex situation, we have a step-by-step guide for how to emotionally and mentally process your partner coming out as trans. By following these steps, you'll ensure that your behavior as a supportive for your partner as possible.

Don't Doubt Them, And Be Respectful

When your partner tells you that they are trans, you might find yourself shocked. You might have had inklings of their gender dysphoria, or you might be fully surprised.

Whether you suspected your partner might eventually come out as trans or not, they know who they are and they are placing a large amount of trust in you by sharing their identity with you. They are putting themself in a highly vulnerable situation, to boot.

The most important thing when your partner comes out to you is to not doubt them. Doubting someone who shares a part of themself with you is hurtful and invalidating. Additionally, it's disrespectful.

If you shared a deeply intimate piece of information about yourself with your partner, the last thing you'd want is for them to tell you you're wrong. No matter how taken aback you are by this news, behave respectfully, as you'd want your partner to do for you.

Try Not to Have A Gut Reaction

When your partner tells you that they are trans, you might have a gut reaction that this is going to be the end of your relationship. While no literature is available about exactly how many couples stay together after one person comes out as trans, we do know that many couples successfully make it through transition together. It's very possible that you and your partner will survive this change. In fact, there is potential for you to have a better relationship together than prior, because your partner is now able to embrace who they are.

You may be thinking many different thoughts, and you may be overwhelmed with sudden, strong feelings. We'll get into how to handle those ahead, but initially, it's important that you not voice your gut reaction and worries. It won't help the situation, and it could lead to conflict because you haven't yet had time to parse through your emotions.

Ask About Boundaries

You're bound to have questions when your partner comes out to you, and that's ok. While you should avoid sharing your gut reaction, you'll want to let your partner know that you'll be taking some time to think about this so as to not overwhelm them in turn with your reaction. After sharing that you'll avoid having a gut reaction at them, ask your partner about what involvement they're seeking from you.

Knowing your partner's boundaries around their transition will help you iron out your own feelings. Perhaps you'll feel completely on board with everything they tell you, or maybe your gut reaction is negative. Either way, this situation is about them, not you, and it will be helpful for you to know how they see your role in the picture moving forward.

Gender affirming care is personal and intimate. Your partner may have already thought about how involved they want you to be through the process, so finding out those boundaries is an excellent place to start. You should also ask your partner if they will want your feedback about any matters related to their care or identity, or not. It is up to them to decide whether or not your feelings impact their care and their journey.

Sit With Your Feelings And Educate Yourself

Once your initial conversation is over, take time to sit with your feelings about your partner being trans, and educate yourself about what to expect throughout the transition journey. That way, you can avoid asking your partner questions that are easily researched on your own, thus preventing them from doing more emotional labor for you than necessary.

You might find it helpful to journal about your feelings, or to call a friend and share your feelings with them. If you choose to tell a friend about your partner, be sure you have their permission, as this is essentially outing them to an additional person, and that deserves their consent.

Some examples of how to educate yourself include learning how trans-affirming care creates a better quality of life for trans people, and what may be involved for gender affirming care during transition. Your partner may be seeking all, some, or none of the procedures and therapies; that is something you can find out about when you speak in depth.

When Ready, Dialogue In-Depth

Once you have digested your feelings and are coming from a calm and rational place, ask your partner if they are comfortable talking more in-depth with you about this news. Before sharing your feelings, make sure they want to hear them, then do so in a manner that is not mean or offensive and is fully respectful.

This is a great time to discuss what's next for your partner. Now that you understand about the benefits of gender affirming care, you should enter this conversation with an open mind about the procedures and/or therapies your partner may begin looking into.

Most importantly, your partner relies on you for support, just as you rely on them. Behave supportively, and lean into their enthusiasm around their new identity as much as possible. There is potential for this transition to bring you two closer and to help you thrive as a couple: That will depend on you being the kind of partner you yourself would want if the situation were reversed.

Get Support

Finding out that your partner is trans may make you feel alone, but there is no reason for that. Countless resources are available to help you mentally and emotionally process this news. One option is to seek out a support group for partners of trans people. In addition to online groups, your own LGBTQ+ center may have an in person support group for partners of trans people.

You may also benefit from discussing this matter with a therapist. If you're already in therapy, tell your own therapist about this news so that they can help you process it. If you aren't, but this is of interest to you, choose a therapist who is informed about gender identity and trans issues. That will help you achieve the best possible feedback and information from them.

Additionally, this is an excellent time to give couples therapy a try. Talking together to a therapist can enable you and your partner to have deep, effective, and soulful conversations about this topic while simultaneously ensuring that everyone behaves appropriately and respectfully. A couples therapist can help you to understand one another better than you may have thought possible.

A Word From Verywell

Transgender people face discrimination in many different avenues of life, and it's of utmost importance that your partner's own home not be one of those places. No matter how taken aback you are by the news of your partner being trans, always act and speak in ways that won't cause them harm.

4 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Herman Jody L, Flores Andrew R, O'Neill Kathryn K. How many adults and youth identify as transgender in the united states? UCLA Williams Institute. June 2022.

  2. Meerwijk EL, Sevelius JM. Transgender population size in the united states: a meta-regression of population-based probability samples. Am J Public Health. 2017 Feb;107(2):e1–8.

  3. Bischof GH; W. Thematic analysis of the experiences of wives who stay with husbands who transition male-to-female*. Michigan Family Review [Internet]. 2011;15(1). 

  4. Overview of gender-affirming treatments and procedures | Gender Affirming Health Program [Internet]. [cited 2022 Jun 17]. 

By Ariane Resnick, CNC
Ariane Resnick, CNC is a mental health writer, certified nutritionist, and wellness author who advocates for accessibility and inclusivity.