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What do I do about my partner's changed behavior after I came out?

Q: My partner and I have been together for 17 years, married for almost 13, with a daughter. I came out on New Years Day 2022. Since then, I’ve gotten on HRT, and am working on hair removal, sorting out a wardrobe, and figuring out my hair situation as it is … unfortunately sparse on top. The good news is, my partner has been incredibly supportive throughout the whole thing and we are committed to each other. We plan to renew our vows, and she repeatedly tells me how much she loves me. But… physically…. I feel like I’m radioactive. I barely get much touch beyond hands, feet, kisses and hugs. We talk about this, and it goes around and around… I just feel so alone and isolated because not only am I hardly being physically touched, at this stage I feel like I’m projecting my insecurities onto my interactions with my daughter and my dog! I laugh a bit at that, but, it’s true. I’ve felt a shift and I don’t know what to do about it. Do I need to find, for lack of better term, a Leper colony to feel accepted by my loved ones?

S: This sounds incredibly difficult for you. I strongly recommend that you and your partner seek therapy, both individually and as a couple, because you're clearly at the point where talking to one another on your own isn't resolving the issue (and this is a much bigger problem than an advice blog can really help with). It sounds like she has some unexpected reactions that she'll need to process, ideally with someone who isn't you who can help her do that without hurting you further. You probably also need space to work through your feelings about her behavior (and whatever else is on your mind--there's some notes of self-hatred in here that I think a good therapist could really help you with). So my main answer to this is to seek professional counseling to support both of you as individuals and your relationship.

To respond to your actual question, of course you don't need to find a "Leper colony" (by which I assume you mean a group of other trans people, though that's obviously not an okay thing to call us). Trans and gender diverse people are in physically affectionate relationships all the time, sexually and otherwise. This is not something that is happening because you're trans; it's happening because your partner probably has something she needs to work through. Maybe that's about her attraction or lack thereof to people of the gender that you've come out as; maybe it's some deeply rooted anti-trans feelings that she needs help getting over (again, that help should come from a professional, not from you). Maybe she can get over it; maybe she can't. But it's not at all fair to you to leave you feeling physically isolated, and it's certainly not something that just happens and has to be accepted when someone in a relationship comes out as a different gender. Whatever issues are behind your partner's changed behavior need to be acknowledged and addressed so you can both determine how to move forward.

K: Agreed with S on all counts. It doesn't sound like this is getting resolved between the two of you, so couples therapy (in addition to individual therapy) sounds helpful. You need to figure out the root cause, because that definitely determines how to proceed. Your partner needs to work through something, be it anti-trans feelings that are affecting her attraction to you; or if she doesn't know what intimacy looks like moving forward because she's only been in straight relationships and doesn't know how this might impact y'all's dynamic, how and where you like be touched, what terms to use for things, etc.; or even if she has some weird idea now that you're not attracted to her (many cis people get confused and tie gender and sexuality together). Whatever it is, it needs to be named, and she needs to work on fixing it if she actually wants to do that. I really, really agree with S that help working through this needs to come from a professional, especially if the root cause is her having anti-trans feelings, not being attracted to your gender, or that thing where cis people talk about "mourning" who they thought you were before.

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