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My boyfriend is gay, but I'm not always really a man or masc at all -- what should I do?

Q: sorry if this is kind of long. so for the last few years ive identified as masc agender & gay, and i was very comfortable with that. recently though, i discovered im probably genderfluid, and very frequently feel much more "girl" than "boy". usually i would be excited about something like this & would fully embrace it but the problem is, my boyfriend of about 2 years (also transmasc) is entirely gay, & that part of his identity is very important to him .. i want to tell him how ive been feeling & what pronouns id like to use and everything but im worried that he'll either not want to date me because im more "girl" sometimes which would make him no longer gay to date me or he'll feel like he has to change his identity to stay with me, which i really dont want to make him do. i really just dont know what to do, he's my whole entire world. any ideas?

K: I'm far more used to this scenario being presented with a trans person worrying about coming out to their cis partner, and the fact that you're both trans definitely impacts my advice. I would like to point out though that your question is very much so focused on your boyfriend's identity as gay, and how you being genderfluid might impact his identity, so I'd like to start with addressing that. To start, your boyfriend can still be gay and date you, no matter what your gender or gender expression is. Sexual orientation labels are personal (meaning, your boyfriend defines who he is, rather than other people defining him based off of his current partner), and, historically, the boundaries between labels are less rigid than we currently tend to talk about them. He would not have to change how he identifies to keep dating you, unless he wants to. Secondly, I would like you to consider that you haven't told your boyfriend about your gender and pronouns because you don't want him to "feel like he has to change his identity to stay with [you]" which is exactly what you're doing right now -- you're keeping yourself from informing him how you experience gender and would like to be referred to because, in your mind, it is the only way to for sure stay together. If this were the usual scenario where you'd be dating a cis person and would be worried about coming out as trans, I'd probably suggest posing a hypothetical to your partner. Or, I'd suggest you could present this scenario as something that you read about in a group on social media where someone was asking for advice and see what he thinks. Generally these suggestions make sense because part of what people are trying to figure out is if their partner is transphobic. That's not really a concern here. You could still try it, and this might help you get a better idea of how he feels, but you won't know for sure unless you communicate with him directly. Feelings are complicated, your boyfriend might not otherwise want to date someone who would describe themself as "more 'girl' sometimes," but there is a difference between "I would not start a new relationship with someone whose gender identity generally falls outside of the type of attraction I experience" and "I would break up with someone I've been with for two years based on their understanding of their gender changing." So in a hypothetical scenario about other people he might be like, "well, they'd probably break up," but in his own personal life, he might not feel that way at all. This brings me to my third point, which is that it's not fair to anyone to assume the worst about your partner's feelings and have that guide how you live. For one, you can't be certain how he feels at all unless you ask him, so you're possibly generating a lot of unnecessary stress for yourself, and two, you're not really giving him credit. You have very strong feelings for your partner, and unless you have evidence demonstrating otherwise, assume your feelings are reciprocated at this point in your relationship.

Overall, I suggest being upfront with your boyfriend. It's possible this will be a complete non-issue for him and he'll be very happy for you (which, as a fellow trans person, I hope is the case). It's also possible it would be a problem. You won't know unless you talk to him about it. I wish you the best.

S: I agree with all of this. What really strikes me about this letter is that you're assuming that your boyfriend's orientation defines how he'll react to your gender. K is absolutely right that he can still be gay and be with you. Enforcing strict rules about what people of a certain identity can and can't do is actually pretty harmful, and it erases a lot of the glorious fluidity and openness embedded in queer history. Plenty of trans and gender diverse people come out to their partners and the relationship survives just fine (or becomes even stronger since you're happier and there's increased trust between you), because usually we're dating a person, not their gender. For example, when I was transitioning, I was in a relationship with a lesbian who was incredibly supportive and didn't have any issues being with me even though I realized that I wasn't a woman. I can't say for sure that this will be the case for you, but you definitely should not assume that it won't be. You don't get to decide how your boyfriend defines his own orientation, including whether that self-identification changes based on the gender of the person he's with.

I'd like to gently suggest that, unless your boyfriend is an established asshole, you're not actually being fair to him by making these assumptions. It might help to think about how you would feel in a similar situation--wouldn't it be horrible to learn that your partner was hiding their identity from you even though they really wanted to come out, solely because they were afraid of how you'd react? (I hope so, because that should feel horrible.) Obviously I don't know how he'll take it, but I do know that letting your fear prevent you from giving him the chance to respond means that you'll never find out. Right now you're assuming the worst, so at the very least I'd think seriously about why. And if you don't have a reason to genuinely think that he would respond badly (and I mean a real reason based on directly relevant things he's done or said, not the false belief that a gay man can't possibly be with someone who isn't another man), then consider giving both of you the opportunity to find out. And you've already described your previous gender as "masc agender"--unless you also identified as a man, your partner wasn't dating one before anyway.

On the off chance that you do know that he'd respond the way you fear (like he's specifically and seriously said that he could never date you if you were a woman or something) then you do need to work out whether the relationship is more important than your ability to be yourself with the people you care about most. For me that's a pretty definitive "no"--I don't think any relationship is worth denying who you are, and anyone who would want you do to that isn't worth staying with--but that might not be the answer for you.

Either way, I suspect that you already know that you don't want to keep your identity private from your boyfriend. If I'm right about that, your next step is figuring out how you're most comfortable telling him.

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