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My partner of over a decade came out as transgender, and I struggled to accept them at first. But now our relationship is stronger than ever.

Kacey Perinelli   

My partner of over a decade came out as transgender, and I struggled to accept them at first. But now our relationship is stronger than ever.
  • My partner and I met in high school and got married after college.
  • We were happy, but it was after we were already married that they came out as nonbinary and trans.

I met Mykel when I was 15 and they were 16. We got to know each other a bit back then, but we truly became friends at 19. Our friendship blossomed swiftly and easily, and we officially began dating in 2009.

We got married in 2013 in a fun and traditional "rustic" wedding. It was an amazing day celebrating with our family and friends, and we have had a very happy marriage since. But Mykel was dropping hints that they were experiencing gender dysphoria.

Over a decade into our relationship, Mykel came out as nonbinary and transgender. It was difficult for me to accept at first, but now we are stronger than ever.

In retrospect, the first signs that Mykel was having doubts that they were cisgender came before we even got married

A friend of ours — let's call her Mel — had come out as transgender years earlier, and Mykel would make comments about how happy she seemed. Mykel talked about how they had often played with the boundaries of gender, wearing makeup in high school and always keeping their hair long. The year after we got married, we attended a wedding to which Mel was also invited.

That was the first time Mykel expressed to me that they might be transgender; at the time, they thought they might be a trans woman, and this admission caught me off guard. After all, we were newlyweds. I loved them, but the idea of having a wife rather than a husband was a difficult concept for me to wrap my head around.

How would our marriage change? Would they still want to be with me if they were trans? I was honest about my concerns and posed my hard questions to Mykel, and they basically said: "Never mind, I don't know what I'm talking about."

My partner came out, and it was difficult for me at first — even though I'm pansexual

I can't pinpoint the moment that Mykel revealed to me that they were nonbinary and, indeed, transgender. I think it was not long before the New York Pride parade in 2019.

I had a really hard time with it at first. I have been an out and proud pansexual since I was 14, but it was still difficult for me to reframe my partner in my mind as a whole different person — someone who's not tied to the binary concept of gender.

Not everyone in my family knew I was queer because when I decided to settle down, I was in a straight-presenting relationship and didn't feel the need to come out to everyone. Given the political climate, I was also scared for Mykel and for myself. I was worried about being accepted for who we are as a couple, and I was concerned that their transition — whatever that looked like for them — would affect our relationship and our sex life.

My initial reaction was to be resistant; I can't apologize for it because that was my honest reaction at the time. I wish I could say I handled it great from the start, but I've since realized that it's a normal human response to be scared of change, and it's what you do once you've processed your feelings that reveals your character.

Eventually, I embraced the changes

When the COVID-19 shutdowns happened, and people were staying home, Mykel and I took it very seriously. Largely, we stayed home, drank beer from local breweries that we picked up curbside, watched "RuPaul's Drag Race," and did our makeup together.

Mykel's transition became our own little world that we could explore in secret, reveling in the happiness it brought us both. I was excited to have an excuse to buy more lipstick and eyeshadow palettes even though we weren't going anywhere. Painting our nails, which we did weekly then and still do now, became a form of meditation. It was a way to connect with one another and bring a new hobby into the mix when there wasn't much else going on in our lives. For a little while, it was just ours.

When Mykel was ready to share their truth with the world, I was there to stand by their side and help them through — no matter what people said. We had time to adjust to the changes together as a team, and all the worries I had about the things that would change or make our lives harder were the things that brought us closer together. We talked more openly and honestly than we ever had before.

While not everyone in our lives has been as understanding and accepting as we'd hoped they would be, our relationship is stronger than it ever was, and it's full of so much more joy now that Mykel is living their truth. In fact, we've decided to have a party for our 10th wedding anniversary this year that will also be a vow renewal. We can both put on party dresses and gorgeous makeup and dance with all the people in our lives who accept us for who we are.

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