He said he’d still love me even after he changed genders, but as much as I would love and accept him as a friend and support him through the whole journey, I just don’t think I could make it work with a female on that level. I don’t want to lose my fiancé, and I’m afraid to tell him that it wouldn’t work with us on a romantic level after he changed because I know it’d break his heart. Should I even try to be with him in that way after? I love him a lot. What do I do? — Engaged in a Gender Bender
First of all, it’s totally normal for you to feel a host of emotions right now: fear, sadness, regret, anger, confusion, and guilt, probably chief among them. Feeling all those things doesn’t mean you love and care for your fiancé any less; it simply means you’re human. This is huge, huge news to take in, and while your fiancé has likely had a lot of time to think about it, you’re only just now beginning to process that information that the man you fell in love with and thought you’d have a family with one day feels like a woman on the inside. If you need time and space to yourself to sort through some of your emotions, take it. Explain to your fiancé that you love him and you hope to remain in his life through and after his sex change, whether that results in surgery or not, but that you need some time to think about what your new roles in each other’s lives will be. Let him know this isn’t a judgment of him or his decision but that it’s a lot for you to take in and you need some space to let it settle.
You also need to keep in mind that your fiancé’s decision has nothing to do with you as a woman or your relationship with him. He has likely been feeling confused about his sex and gender for a very, very long time. Coming out to you about that confusion only shows how brave he is and how very much he must trust and love you. Your reaction to him — one of love and acceptance — proves that that trust and love is well-deserved. Whether you continue as romantic partners or not, I hope that the obvious bond you share can continue through whatever physical and emotional changes that may take place between you over the coming years.
Now, about remaining romantic partners… This is a decision you’ll have to make together. You know you aren’t attracted to or romantically interested in women. Can you make an exception for your fiancé if he begins living as a woman? I don’t know. Maybe you can. Maybe it’s worth exploring. He’ll be the same person, after all — the person you fell in love with. But it’s also important to give yourself permission to bail and not feel guilty. You’re not lesbian. You never signed up for a relationship with a woman and all that entails. And what about your fiancé? What is his sexual preference? If he feels like a woman on the inside, does that mean he identifies with being a lesbian? Or, is he more attracted to men? Maybe he isn’t sure yet. Maybe he needs time to explore and experiment — something to consider as you think about continuing a relationship with him.
Finally, as much for your own sake as for your fiancé’s, you need to be honest with him about how you’re feeling. He must have known on some level that the information he had to share with you would break your heart, so you can’t be afraid to do the same to him. This isn’t about an eye for an eye; this is about being true to yourself. If he’s being true to himself despite the pain it causes you, you need to be true to yourself despite whatever pain it may cause him. Truth is the only way to live your life. If you know in your heart — or, at least feel pretty certain — that a romantic relationship with him is now out of the question, you have to let him know that (as kindly and compassionately as possible). Part of the process for him in considering a sex change is dealing with his loved one’s reactions and the ways his change will affect relationships with them. You can’t protect him from that reality. It’s not your job to. But you can certainly be a loving support through the process and as much of a friend as you’re able to be. Just don’t forget to seek support for yourself, too. You’re dealing with a lot and need to reach out to a select group of trusted confidantes for backup (just be prepared for some initial shock, confusion, and even judgment. Not everyone is as open-minded as you seem to be. Select the people you share with this information very carefully. Talk to your fiancé about who he’s OK with your reaching out to.).
With the right attitude and the right kind of emotional support, you’re going to get through this. And so will your fiancé. He may end up with a new name; you may have find new titles and roles for each other. But with enough love, trust and understanding, you can remain important people in one another’s lives for a long, long time.
*If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, send me your letters at firstname.lastname@example.org and be sure to follow me on Twitter.