My girlfriend says she loves me, but doesn't want to be sexual with me now that I'm transitioning.

I'm transgender. My girlfriend has supported me from the time we got together, celebrating my "transliness", even finding tips to help me transition easier. When I got my packer, she laughed at it and asked me to take it off. I felt humiliated, but did so. Ever since then, she begs me to take it off if we start to become intimate. (The term there is "if"; our intimacy has been on a steady decline ever since then.) Now that I'm on testosterone, she's shying away even more. It seems that being able to afford a decent quality binder has really halted anything. She's even refusing to kiss me more than once or lay against me. A few nights ago she said that something was bothering her and to not get offended. She admitted that she is a lesbian, and only got with me originally because I was female bodied. She says that she's fallen completely in love with me, but is no longer sexually attracted to me unless I take my packer and/or binder off. She coaxes the binder off by offering a back massage. (Seeing as I have pulled every muscle in my back and slipped 2 discs, I can't refuse.) I have absolutely no idea what to do. I'm humiliated. She says that she will always love me, but is sexually frustrated. She doesn't want to leave me because she loves me, but would rather have sex with a girl. Any advice or..?
Mo Ranyart replies:

I'm sorry to hear that things have been so strained between you and your girlfriend when it comes to your transition. Gender transition is a pretty intense experience; a good thing for you, to be sure, but it’s still full of a lot of changes in a relatively short period of time. And it can be tough, even for folks who want to be supportive and are happy for you, to adjust to those changes as quickly as they’re coming.

For some people, too, it’s a very different thing to be supportive of the idea of trans people, or of trans acquaintances and friends, and to see a loved one go through that process. You’ve probably had a good while to sit with your thoughts about your own identity, get excited about the physical changes that testosterone will bring, and try out changes to your gender presentation. But even if your girlfriend’s known that you were trans for a while, she still hasn’t known as long as you have, and the reality of it may be startling or jarring to her as changes become more apparent.

There’s a process some cisgender folks go through, consciously or not, of “mourning” their “lost” sister, son, girlfriend, father, etc. when a loved one transitions. To be honest, I personally roll my eyes at this a bit because I didn’t die or vanish when I transitioned, and didn’t feel like I was mourning anything at all - I was celebrating! Even so, I don’t have to like or agree with it to understand that it happens.

Your girlfriend may just be taking a while to really understand and process the changes you’re going through. It also sounds like she’s been thinking a lot about her sexual orientation and what it means for her identity if she’s in a relationship with someone who is not a woman.

Your girlfriend is entitled to whatever feelings come up for her right now, around you, your transition, and her own identity - there’s no way any of us can control our feelings and emotional responses to things that happen in our lives. However, while your girlfriend has the right to her feelings, no matter what they are, it’s also her job to manage them in a way that is not excessively hurtful to you.

She doesn’t have the right to be disrespectful by laughing at your packer or anything else you wear that makes you feel happier and more comfortable. That’s really not okay.

It sounds like what’s happening now is that her comfort during sex is taking precedence over yours, and while that might work for her, it seems pretty clear that this isn’t a good situation for you.

Any time we’re having to act like someone we’re not in order to be sexual with someone else, that’s a pretty clear sign that the sex will not be very positive or enjoyable, regardless of our feelings for that person, and that those unhappy feelings and dynamics will leak out into other areas of the relationship. The fact that you’re feeling upset and humiliated by your girlfriend’s actions makes it sound like this isn’t an entirely positive relationship for you outside of the sexual component, either.

Your girlfriend says she loves you, but at the same time she has been pretty clear that she only wants to be sexual with women, which doesn’t bode well for you, sadly. It's possible for people to love each other but still not be in the right place to have a relationship together, or sex together, and that’s the idea I’m getting from what you’ve said here.

Your girlfriend says she doesn’t want to leave you, but what do YOU want right now? Does this feel like a positive and supportive relationship in other ways? From what you’ve said here it seems like it will continue to be difficult have your gender identity respected in this relationship unless things change quite a bit.

Have you told your girlfriend how hurtful her actions are? I’ve heard a lot about what she’s said to you but I’m not sure how much you’ve talked to her about this.

It might also help for you to really visualize what kind of relationship would be great for you. What would be in it? How would the other person in it respond to you as a person and a partner, including their response to who you are per your gender and how you present that gender? Write this stuff down if it helps. After you have a pretty clear picture in your mind or on paper, it might be easier to look at that, then look at this relationship, and figure out what is or isn't okay about it, and how much it really does or doesn't mesh with what you want and need.

I’m going to leave you with a few links about evaluating and talking about relationships; some of this might help you have a conversation with your girlfriend about where things stand between the two of you.

Ultimately, though, it may well be that despite whatever great history the two of you have had, this relationship has run its course. Sometimes relationships have to end not because one person horribly wrongs the other but just because people are always changing, and sometimes those changes mean partners aren’t a great match any more.

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