How to tell your family about your transgender groom

Photo of Elroi and Aly courtesy of Our Labor of Love
Photo of Elroi and Aly courtesy of Our Labor of Love Photography
Where is my manual on throwing a wedding with a partner who is transgender?! Both of us previously identified as lesbians, but now it's "Hey, I don't have a girlfriend anymore but a boyfriend, but I'm still gay, but we're getting legally married as male and female, but but but…"

Do I let guests show up and see my big queer event with my male partner and have them think whatever they want?
-Becky

Hey, Becky. I've got my answer, but first I'm bringing in the expertise of Elroi Windsor, who Offbeat Bride readers may remember from this inspiring queer wedding. Elroi is an Instructor and Doctoral Student of Sociology at Georgia State University with a focus on gender issues, and this was hir perspective:

Becky really should just deal with everything up front, before the wedding, so she doesn't have to deal with it during. That way, she'll only have people present who support her and her partner.

If everyone knows her as a lesbian, and knew the couple as a lesbian couple, then she needs to explain to everyone what's up if she wants them at the wedding. It's up to her to set the limits about what's ok and not ok to ask about when she relays the news.

Another option for her is to create a standard email with the news, a brief explanation, and a link to some other helpful resources. The internet has tons of how-to-come-out-to-your-family resources for trans people and their partners. Becky may want to link up to one of those she finds useful.

It can be tiring explaining everything to everyone, but the mental and emotional toll can be reduced if you connect folks to the resources that are abundantly available.

Now, as for my response to the question, I've got some nitty gritty thoughts: Is your partner still going by the same name? If not, that could be the easiest solution. Just announce, "I'm marrying John, formerly known as Jane."

If your partner kept his former name (ie, something gender-neutral like Corey or Chris), then maybe you can just say "I'm marrying Corey — who has legally transitioned to be male."

Megan Wallent, photo by ArielAbove all else, I agree with Elroi that your best way to deal with it is head-on. I've been really inspired by Megan Wallent, a Microsoft exec who transitioned very publicly last fall from her previous life as Michael Wallent. She created a blog to address the issue publicly and when I interviewed her she said:

I could have said "This is what I'm doing, but I'm not going to talk about it. Suck it up." But if you do that, you give the power to the people outside yourself, because you no longer own the message.

While transitioning in a work context is different than transitioning in a family context, you probably want to face the issue with the same transparency. People are going to talk — you might as well own the conversation! Plus, if you get all the questions out of the way before the wedding, then people can just focus on the beauty and magic of the actual event.

PS: Thanks again to Our Labor Of Love for the great photo of Elroi.

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  1. I love the way you handled this … I have a small set of friends who are in transition, and I think that their partners have the hardest time! Afterall, they still consider themselves queer, but are in love with someone who is legally becoming the opposite gender now. Gender transitioning brings out so many issues for everyone who knows and loves the individual.

    5 agree
  2. Mr.GV and I don't have any trans stuff to address, but I just wanted to tell you how great I think this post is. I was already wowed by Aly & Elroi and their GORGEOUS wedding, but reading about Megan Wallent is also inspiring, and it's great to hear from Elroi again. I love hearing smart people talk about issues that are so difficult for some people to understand. 🙂 Megan and Elroi are clear, concise, and understated in their approach to this – which makes people listen.

    4 agree
  3. Best wishes to Becky! It certainly puts worrying about things like decorations and readings into perspective, doesn't it?

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  4. This is why I love OBB from the bottom of my heart. Who writes about this stuff? No one! But you do! Amazing.

    I agree, head on is the way to go. We had lesbian friends who got married and were trying to decide who in their big catholic family to invite. Awesomely one o fthe bride's mom's called a cousin and the conversation went like this:
    "Hi, my daughter is getting married to her girlfriend, are you going to want to come?"…. "No, I don't care at all why you think it's wrong."… "Nope, I just don't care. But thanks, we'll cross you off the invite list. Bye."

    So, agreed. Deal with it head on. Figure out who's supportive. That is who you want to be standing with you when you make this commitment.

    13 agree
  5. Good response. Mine would have been more along the lines of, "if they don't know the couple well enough to know what the deal is, they don't need to come to the wedding." On the other hand, family matters aren't always black & white.

    However I don't think that leaving the "coming out" to one line on an invitation will cut it, if there are family members who might be more religious or old-fashioned. In that position I think I would write a brief (less than 1 page) heartfelt letter BEFORE the invites go out & maybe package it with a save-the-date card. My family is all about principle & I could see people not coming to the wedding just because they felt caught off guard by the news. Or to be assholes, but still, I can see where my grandpa might feel blindsided if he got that news and the invitation in the same envelope.

    Anyhow, my letter would state the whole situation without volunteering too many details – i.e. "He was my girlfriend, then he was my boyfriend, and now he's my fiance, but he has been my true love all along. We would be honored if you would join us in celebrating our commitment to each other. Wedding invitation to follow."

    This is purely personal, but I would also specifically state in the letter that we would be willing to speak with them more on the subject if that would make them feel more comfortable during the wedding (and subsequent marriage) because… you know… the whole fear of the unknown element that a lot of older relatives might experience not having dealt with transgendered people in their lives.

    14 agree
  6. So, youre announcing your wedding at the same time that youre announcing your partner's transition?! I dunno, I dont have any good advice, its so complicated and so personal. Truly, talk to the family members and friends you trust the most. Get advice from them. And, I hate to get all establishmentarian on you, but some brief, solution focused counseling might be good, too. Just like, 4 or 8 sessions with a gay therapist to steer you through the bumps. That, or you could start a blog ;}

    Stay strong; Have Fun!

    1 agrees
  7. I truly love the wording of this poster, "He was my girlfriend, then he was my boyfriend, and now he’s my fiance, but he has been my true love all along." This is beautiful. Thank you for sharing your story.

    7 agree
  8. Thanks, too, for the nod to non-traditional, non-gendered pronouns. Not that all transgender/genderqueer folks use them, but your acknowledgment of in-betweenness is noted and appreciated.

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  9. LT, I got schooled when I wrote about Elroi & Aly's wedding last year — I originally referred to it a "lesbian wedding," which didn't fly. Aly left a comment clarifying:

    In print, he would prefer to go by gender-neutral pronouns such as "ze" or "hir." In an ideal world those pronouns would work for speech too but whenever I try to use them I end up feeling like I'm faking an accent, ala Madonna or something. 🙂

    I was definitely more thoughtful in writing this post, and I'm still learning.

    3 agree
  10. I'm finally getting a chance to respond to this. Busy Week! Thank you Ariel for posting this and for the helpful information.

    To clarify, no, my partner does not go by the same name. However, he doesn't like people to know or use his previous name. We met at the beginning of his transition so most of my friends/family don't know him by that name either. The majority of the folks at the wedding already know about our relationship/gender/identity dynamics, but it's my faraway aunts and uncles (who my mother insists must come) who are in the dark. He has family who knows (grandparents, aunts) but who have never seen him since he's transitioned. We're still unsure of how they are going to respond to the invite.

    I think Elroi is right and I want to say something to my family before the wedding. I will likely email them and explain. I asked my father what he thought about speaking to them and he was very uncomfortable, but I don't want to worry about this around the time of my wedding. Ultimately, I want people I want people to be there who are loving and supportive. I don't want someone freaking out about a lot of the queer aspects of our wedding and there will be many.

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  11. First, congratulations and best wishes to you and your partner, Becky! I hope you have a lovely wedding and a very happy life together.

    My partner is also a transman, and I identify as queer. Both of us previously identified as lesbians, but he was already living as male when we began dating. When we talk about our (very nebulous, far in the future) nuptuals, we think we'll address it in the same way we address his trans status in the rest of our lives. To everyone who knows and loves us, we're completely open. To distant family members and acquaintances, we don't bring up trans stuff unless they do (in which case, we're completely truthful and open). Honestly, if we were close to them, they'd already know.

    I also think Elroi's advice about telling people in advance is great. If you can't bring yourself to send everyone a letter, try telling a few key people how you're feeling and let the lesbian post/ gossip train do the rest. You'll be amazed how fast news travels. Anyone who has issues will be prepared or just won't show up.

    (As a side note: I'm lucky enough to know Aly and Elroi in real life, and they're both as caring and smart lovely in real life as they are beautiful in their wedding photos – which says a lot. You might also look for more info on Aly and Elroi's wedding in kvetch or in their Logo wedding special)

    2 agree
    • "To distant family members and acquaintances, we don't bring up trans stuff unless they do (in which case, we're completely truthful and open)."

      I think that wording "we're completely truthful" is a bit problematic. It's very problematic to imply that disclosing one's trans status is being "truthful" because that implies that individuals who don't disclose, or individuals who have medically transitioned yet perhaps do not identify as trans or queer, are being dishonest

      3 agree
  12. I am also marrying a transgender groom, but although he has a legal name change he is not legally recognized as male. In our state (NJ) we only have the option to get a civil union, so I'm tempted to go to CT or MA to get a legal marriage. It feels really relieving to read someone else's story about going through a similar situation with an FTM partner.

    1 agrees
  13. I love the article the advice is right on in both cases.

    I am in a similar but all together different situation. I am a trans woman marrying a trans man.

    Keep up the good advice.

    Bianca

    1 agrees
  14. I'm kind of glad to really read about another circumstance that's similar to mine, except I'm going to marry a aspiring MTF transgender who does not live as a woman, only behind closed doors.

  15. I don't know why, but it always raises my hackles when I see gender-neutral pronouns. It's like the emphasis on on the trans-aspect, rather than him just being an awesome guy. I'm trans myself, so I do see this as a pervasive problem in society these days.

    1 agrees
  16. Thank you for this article.. I'm a transguy preparing to throw a commitment ceremony with my partner, and we're working out how to 'come out' to his family and reinforce my transition to my own.

    Also? As far as I'm concerned, gender-neutral pronouns are awesome. It's up to each of us to choose what we feel comfortable with, and I'd never ask anyone to validate my own identity without being willing to accommodate theirs.

    4 agree
  17. The links in the article about Elroi's wedding don't work any more. Too bad! I would love to have seen those photos – especially after all of the raving about them in the article!

    • Yeah, this post is over three years old at this point — we can't control other sites removing content. 🙁

      1 agrees
  18. I know this post is three years old, but it seems like the perfect place to get schooled on this subject.

    I'm hetero and I support and love all orientations and identifications, however, that does not make me terribly informed about them!

    So, I've had a few questions just eating away at me. If a couple is same-sex and one transitions to the opposite gender…do those people still identify as lesbian or gay? If so, why? To me, as an outsider, that would make it seem like the person transitioning wasn't actually making a change aside from clothing choices. Also, do homosexual people consider relationships with transgendered people of the, now, opposite gender? Further, how does transgendered marriage work in a state that doesn't allow gay marriage?

    I'm hoping I didn't come off being rude or totally stupid, but I would love to get to know more about the communities I don't usually get to be a part of as a hetero person. Maybe there's a book someone could suggest? Thanks! 🙂

    • Hey Stephanie-

      I'm queer but not trans, but since I had a lot of the same questions as you do I'm going to take a shot at answering them.

      So you know, sometimes trans/queer/gay/other marginalized people get frustrated at being asked questions like these, since it can be a derailing tactic– which you can learn about here: http://www.derailingfordummies.com/#educate

      That's not saying you're trying to derail the conversation. It's obvious from your questions that you mean well, so here are the best answers I've got.

      "If a couple is same-sex and one transitions to the opposite gender…do those people still identify as lesbian or gay? If so, why?"

      It depends entirely on the people in the relationship. Sexual identity isn't dependent on a person's partner, so it's possible, for example, for a woman to identify as a lesbian and be in a relationship with a man (either a trans or cis-gendered one.) I know a man and a woman who are married to each other, monogamous, yet both still strongly identify as bisexual.

      Many people now identify as "queer" instead of "lesbian" or "gay." Queer is viewed by some as being a more inclusive term, since it can also include trans people, their partners, asexual people, and those people who are still exploring their sexual identity.

      "Also, do homosexual people consider relationships with transgendered people of the, now, opposite gender?"

      Some do, some don't. It all depends on the individual.

      "Further, how does transgendered marriage work in a state that doesn't allow gay marriage?"

      It works just like heterosexual marriage, because in the eyes of the law, that's exactly what it is. Once a person legally transitions, the law sees them as the gender on their legal documents and doesn't differentiate between cis and trans.

      It's great that you're an ally, and that you recognize that you're not well informed, but you should be careful expressing your curiosity so you do not inadvertently offend. Trans (and queer) people are individuals and therefore there's no one "right" answer to any of your questions. Plus trans (and other LGBQ people) have dealt with many years of being judged to be freaks or fetishized, so your statement that you love all orientations and identifications made me cringe a bit.

      I hope some of this was helpful! And perhaps someone with more direct knowledge than me will chime in.

      5 agree
  19. sliding in late (thanks to the prod from Ariel!).

    I think what you should do really depends on whether or not your partner would want to go stealth*. It sounds like he does not, but I'm only inferring from the question being asked at all. If he wishes to go stealth because he would rather live in his now than in his past, then there's nothing to discuss and no need to share. Especially since this is directed more towards folks you don't see/talk to very often.

    If he wishes for you both to be completely out with his transition, then I think the best way is to be matter of fact about it. One of my best friend's partner is trans* and when she was telling the more sheltered members of her family, she said "I started dating my girlfriend X. I love her very much and think we could spend our lives together. She is transgender which means she was given a man's name and gender when she was born, but she really is a woman. This is how she is. I completely support her and there's no changing her for it. What questions do you have?"

    Her situation was different in that the possible pool of people to do this with seems like it's smaller, but the same general principle could apply of "X and I are getting married. When we started dating, he outwardly identified as a woman. He's come to align his outward identity with his internal gender and is now in the gender transition process. I felt you should know this because I know you've heard about him, but maybe you heard about him when he was going by the wrong pronouns. I still love him and I'm so happy he's taking these steps to be who I've always known he was. I know you have questions, but I want you to know that questions about a, b, c or d** I don't feel are appropriate."

    *Stealth in the strict sense of not discussing transition and only focusing on where he is now and how he identifies. Whether it be for safety or pain from past traums

    **Whether it be genitals, surgery, birth name or any other topics which he is not comfortable discussing

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