4 ways to support your partner when they are questioning their gender identity

queer lgbt couple

  • Coming out as trans can be difficult under any circumstances, especially if you don't know how your significant other may react. 
  • Jor-El Caraballo, therapist and co-founder of Viva Wellness in New York City, told Insider four ways people can support their partner if they are questioning their gender identity. 
  • First, ask them what they need to feel supported. 
  • In addition to listening to their needs, it's essential to understand your own feelings about their gender exploration to adequately support them. 
  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

Coming out as transgender can be difficult regardless of your circumstances. Doing so to a romantic partner is no easier.

Trans people often face the fear of being rejected for their gender identity.

A study published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships in 2018 found 87% of people would not consider dating a trans person. Another study published in the Journal of Social Psychology and Personality Science in 2018 found trans people are more likely to be considered unattractive in comparison to cisgender people, regardless of what they look like. 

Coming out to a partner of several years is different to telling a stranger you're trans, but the fear of rejection is still a very visceral one for many people questioning their gender identity. 

A supportive partner can make a world of difference. Knowing how exactly to show support, though, can be difficult. 

"Questioning a part of yourself, and considering how the world sees you, is a big task, and partners of those who are questioning their gender identity can be supportive by making sure their partner feels safe and has the space to do so," Jor-El Caraballo, therapist and co-founder of Viva Wellness in NYC, told Insider. 

Caraballo shared four ways people can be supportive if their partner is questioning their gender identity. 

Ask them what they need to feel supported

Before jumping to conclusions about what you need to do to support your partner, Caraballo recommends simply asking them what they need to feel heard. 

"Sometimes we assume what's most helpful to others around us, and even though we may be well-intended, sometimes our efforts miss the mark," Caraballo told Insider. "Checking in with your partner about what they want, or need can be incredibly helpful in making sure they feel like they're getting the support that they need."

Be patient with your partner's gender journey 

Someone's gender journey isn't necessarily linear. Even if you whole-heartedly support your partner possibly being trans, Caraballo said you need to give them time to figure out how they feel for themselves. 

Giving them the space to talk through their feelings of gender dysphoria or ideas about their identity can give them a sounding board to make sense of it all. 

"Being patient with your questioning partner is essential as this kind of introspection can be incredibly difficult," Caraballo said. 

Process your feelings about them questioning their gender with a friend or therapist 

We don't always realize how we're feeling about a situation while it's happening. This is why it's important to put aside time to process your feelings, especially when someone large is changing in your relationship. 

"One of the best ways to support your partner is to also recognize that this exploration may also have an impact on you," Caraballo told Insider. 

Talking with a therapist or friend about what this could mean about your sexuality, your idea of the future, or how you feel in the relationship is essential. Finding these outlets can help you understand how you can healthily support your partner while also making space for your own processing. 

Be present in your relationship to show them their gender won't cost them your affection 

Trans people often struggle with feelings of desirability. The best way to combat these anxieties as a partner is to treat your significant other with the same love and affection you felt prior to them coming out. 

Reminding them you love them and enjoy their company with everyday activities like dates, acts of service, and spending time together can help affirm them. 

"Being present as a thoughtful partner during a difficult time shows that you love and care for your partner," Caraballo "By showing acts of support and love you continually invest in the maintenance of the relationship which can lead to greater stability and intimacy over time."

Read More:

5 ways to handle everyday gender dysphoria

What you should know about puberty blockers, a standard treatment for trans youth

What you should know about gender pronouns, how to use them, and why they're important

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