Michele O'Mara

Gracie the Graceless

Filed By Michele O'Mara | September 09, 2008 7:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: dating, gay dating, transgender, transgender relationships

I spent years in two long-term relationships (about five years apiece), and the last one ended because I started my transition (MtF, and at least a few years from GRS). Shortly after that, I got deeply involved with another partner, and it dissolved after only two months.

I'm worried that I'm somehow overcompensating -- that emotionally I'm just swinging to the opposite extreme, and I'm going to crash through one stupid relationship after another over the next couple years. This would not only be personally painful but very detrimental to my transition. I'm also worried, though -- if I eschew relationships in general for a few years, trying to regain stability...well, that it'll look weird in retrospect to anybody I'm trying to date, sort of like a gap in employment.

Is it reasonable to spend some time not engaged romantically, or am I closing myself off to people when I shouldn't be? I spent a long time emotionally armored, and I'm good at finding excuses not to do things...I don't want to close myself up. :(

-- Gracie The Graceless

Gracie,

I'm going to respond to the two key questions I hear you asking in order:

1. How does, and should, one go about dating in the midst of a gender transition;

Transitioning from one gender to another is an emotionally-charged, significantly vulnerable time. Having worked with hundreds of transgender individuals, I am aware that many relationships end during these transitions, and if they survive it is usually because there is a lot of concentrated effort given to making the relationship work. The energy required to manage gender conflicts takes quite a toll on relationships. Your decision to address your gender concerns and your commitment to a transition is a great first step toward improving your odds of having a healthier relationship!

It has been my observation that the first year or two of transitioning requires just about every emotional resource you possess to negotiate this life-changing, gender-altering experience. Rather than suggesting you NOT date, my suggestion is that you NOT put energy into finding someone to date. If someone finds his or her way to your heart, be open to the possibilities. (Though there is a caveat to this that I will detail in #2 below). If the prospect of dating someone becomes a distraction and energy drain from your gender pursuits, be sure to keep your priorities in check.

2. How smart is it to cease dating all together in an effort to regain stability

Unlike most therapists, I am not one who believes that spending time alone is going to improve your odds of success the next time you enter a relationship. The reason I conclude this is because the skills involved in being alone are very different than the skills involved in being in a relationship. Getting good at being alone will give you the skills to "stabilize" your life while single.

The logic is that when you love yourself, when you can "be" with yourself, and you don't "need" another to feel complete, then you'll be more prepared for a relationship. This theory holds some water, it's just not hole-proof.

My perception is that the best way to strengthen your relationship muscles is to exercise them while you are in a relationship. You get good at being single by being single. You get good at being partnered by being partnered. Just as going to school makes you good at being a student - getting a job once you graduate makes you a better employee.

While you may have been a straight-A student in school (or get really good at being single), your performance as an employee (or your performance in a relationship) may be very different. The skills of being a student (single) while similar, are different than the skills of being an employee (in a relationship).

It stands to reason, though, that the more stable you are, the better your chances are of attracting a stable relationship. Like attracts like. This is the caveat I mention above. If you are at the top of your game, you are likely to attract someone who is compatible with where you are. If you are at your worst, well, you'll likely attract someone else who is compatible with where you are - and when you become more stable, more adjusted, you may find that you've "outgrown" your partner.

It's ideal to attract a partner when you are feeling good about yourself - when you are functioning well and are stable. This is likely to attract a better candidate for a successful relationship than if you attract someone when you're not in such a good space.


Recent Entries Filed under Living:

Leave a comment

We want to know your opinion on this issue! While arguing about an opinion or idea is encouraged, personal attacks will not be tolerated. Please be respectful of others.

The editorial team will delete a comment that is off-topic, abusive, exceptionally incoherent, includes a slur or is soliciting and/or advertising. Repeated violations of the policy will result in revocation of your user account. Please keep in mind that this is our online home; ill-mannered house guests will be shown the door.


I'm in a pretty similar situation and have gone through some relationships where I was left completely amazed at how different my perception of the relationship was to that of my partner. I certainly worked too hard to find relationships and ended up with some people who were just reflecting the turmoil I was going through in my transition.

Whilst I know that I cannot avoid relationships until I get my GRS over and done with, I'm now relaxing about it... I'm spending more time on sorting myself out (I have been in a pretty dodgy state) and if someone turns up, great. If not, it's me and my cat together against the world! :)

I think this statement says a mouthful:

It stands to reason, though, that the more stable you are, the better your chances are of attracting a stable relationship. Like attracts like.

This is a truism through the ages, I think. It's why "birds of a feather" is such a timeless phrase.

I would suggest that while a person is transitioning, it is important that the person be able to focus on one's own personal needs unencumbered by attempting simultaneously considering the wants and needs of someone else. Life is very stressful enough during a period of transition, and while love can be supportive, it can also be a distraction to the resolution of many issues. There comes a point in the transition, which really is a life-long process rather than a one-time event, when one knows when major issues are behind the them, and a person can feel comfortable in a meaningful relationship. The important lesson here is not to allow oneself to become trapped in isolation, which transgender persons allow themselves to do frequently. As Michelle so aptly put it, living in isolation prepares one for a single life. When love does come into our lives, an isolated person doesn't know how to respond to it. It is a vicious circle of isolation leading to a lack of self love, which magnifies isolation. Breaking that circle is sometimes a painful experience, but a learning one.

Unlike most therapists, I am not one who believes that spending time alone is going to improve your odds of success the next time you enter a relationship. The reason I conclude this is because the skills involved in being alone are very different than the skills involved in being in a relationship. Getting good at being alone will give you the skills to "stabilize" your life while single.

completely separated from the conversation about transitioning, this is too true for me. I'm in my first serious relationship after years of single-hood, and I'm still learning that, yes, I have to make time for others, that I can't do all the various activities I filled my single life with, that I have to think of someone else when I go to the grocery store, etc.