Transgender pride pin from Etsy

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.

Photo of Elroi and Aly courtesy of Our Labor of Love
Photo of Elroi and Aly courtesy of Our Labor of Love Photography

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 upfront, 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.
Photo of Elroi by Our Labor Of Love

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, then you could just say “I'm marrying Corey, who by the way is now indentifying as male.”

Above 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 get to 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.

Comments on How to tell your family about your transgender groom

  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.

  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.

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

  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.

  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.

  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!

  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.

  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.

  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.

  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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