Dear Love, I love my boyfriend very much. We've always done a little drag, but lately he's doing a LOT. Like, around the house, not just going out.
I'm afraid he wants to transition, and as much as I want to support his happiness, I don't want him to. I'm attracted to men. Not women. I don't want to date a woman. I don't want a wife. And there's something lately about going out with him, when he's in drag and I'm not, and I can tell we're passing as hetero... I don't like that, either! I'm not sure what that's about. I never thought I'd be worried about dating a woman, that's for sure. Of course you're going to say we need to talk about it, and I think so, too. But he won't talk about it. In that way, he's totally acting like a man. We own a house together, we have pets, we have family holidays already planned out. I don't want to break up, but I don't know what to do. Help!
Dear Mr. X,
The way you and your partner are intertwined, I'm not surprised they don't want to talk about this issue with you. Given your certitude, it's unlikely they're unaware of your feelings. But you're getting way ahead of this situation.
First of all, you don't know what they're really thinking. They might want to transition, they might just find housecoats the ultimate in hygge. Secondly, there's no rule book for transgender transformation. Clothing may be the extent of it. Or using different pronouns, going by a different name, or grooming differently. Of course there are medical procedures available, but these can be prohibitively expensive. Money aside, they may not want to transition medically. Planned Parenthood has a basic guide to start getting yourself educated, which I highly recommend you do more of regardless of what happens in your relationship.
Ultimately, when a person decides to transition, it's not like trying out a new lipstick. It's more like letting the color that was always there shine through. Ok, that analogy is femme focused, but deal with it. What I'm getting a sense of from your letter is that you may be a tad on the controlling side. Your holidays are planned already? I hope you mean Easter and not Christmas. Still, you have to recognize that all relationships evolve.
Don't worry, I'm not going to try and tell you to be with someone you don't want to be with. That would be worse for both of you. The evolution in this case might be to friendship. But there is absolutely a lot here for you to look at, whether you stay together as a couple or not. You can be supportive, but not with the attitude you have.
What is it about your partner or your relationship that you fear is going to change? All that's mentioned here is your inability to be attracted to a woman. But we don't know whether they're going for medical procedures or not. If your partner wanted to use a feminine name and/or refer to themself as she/her, that wouldn't change the dynamic between you that much, would it? Surely, there's something that's always been feminine about your partner. Have you been ignoring or overlooking or even asking them to downplay this aspect of themselves? When your main focus on your partner is what you wish they'd change, you've stopped being a good partner. It is possible to right this ship, but you'd have to be willing to be changed.
First, your ideas about what is masculine and what is feminine. These are worth looking at as such binary thinking will serve you less and less as you move through life, no matter what happens here. We're all just wearing skin suits. Gender identity is a construct, no matter how much you believe in it. Each of us has every right to express our gender as we wish. In your case specifically, if do want to stay with this person who's exploring gender options--in the words of Ice Cube--you better check yourself before you wreck yourself. If your partner is, indeed, about to transition, they'll be facing a lot of discrimination. Their home should be a safe space.
Transitioning is less about change than realization, and the truth is, it's the people around the transitioner--like you--that need to do much of the realizing. Be supportive. Offer to listen. Don't try and dictate the terms of your partner's transition. This is not to suggest you won't have your own feelings to deal with, but this is a case where you would do well to ask for help.
The LGBTQ-friendly counseling center at Metro Inclusive Health is a great place to start. There you can explore why this situation is so threatening to you. You can look at your most negative feelings about the situation and find a way to express them that's not going to be hurtful to your partner. You even say, of passing as a straight couple, "I don't know what that's about." This suggests you're not accustomed to looking at your feelings and understanding them. Again, regardless of what happens here, it will serve you well for the rest of your life to get more adept at this.
It's unlikely that this issue, when you get to its true nature, will simply not come up in another relationship. It might look different, but until you're ready to face the part you play in your relationship dynamic, the problem will recur. Then you'll find yourself saying, to someone you've been on two dates with, "You always do [insert whatever's annoying you here]," when the truth is, it's a feeling that's familiar to you, even if you don't know why. Love will always test our capacity as humans, do we rise to the challenges, clash against them, or duck?