There’s no doubt that a couple that is honest about their sexuality often has a happier relationship. After all, incompatible sexualities make it hard for relationships to survive. But when you discover something about yourself years into a long-term relationship, honesty can start to feel dangerous.

It’s easy to wonder whether your partner will leave you if you come out. Not every relationship survives one person embracing their true self.

But I can confidently say that relationships get better when you’re true to yourself. After all, my partner’s honesty made our relationship happier than ever.

How things started

When my partner and I got together, we knew we were both queer. From the outside, though, our relationship appeared entirely heterosexual. There was a certain amount of comfort in embracing our so-called straight-passing privilege. It was easy to fall into the neat social niche of “young straight couple,” and rocking the boat seemed like a lot of scary work.

From my perspective, the first three years of our relationship fit that mold perfectly. My partner seemed like the perfect guy. They took care of their appearance by regularly lifting weights and maintaining an impressive beard. They opened doors and jars for me like a gentleman. They even defended women’s rights with passion.

I’m not going to lie: I really liked how well we seemed to fit the cute Instagram ideal of the happy relationship, down to the cute riverside engagement in 2018.

But at the end of 2019, I found out that we had been experiencing very different things in the same relationship.

Relationships change - sometimes more than you expect.

In the fall of 2019, shortly after we first moved in together, my partner came out to me as trans. At the time, they weren’t entirely sure what that meant for them. The two things they were confident about were simple: they weren’t a cis guy, and they wanted to explore femininity.

They had spent the past several years coming to terms with the fact that they liked very little about their assigned birth gender. The meticulous attention to their appearance was an attempt to make themselves more comfortable with masculinity. The chivalrous behavior was their attempt to live up to what men “should” be or do in a relationship. Their defense of feminism was because they’re a good person, but they also had a personal stake in the matter.

Their announcement came as a shock to me. I was the first and only person they had ever told. We were just over a year away from our wedding.

I did my best to reassure them that I loved them no matter what. Too many people lose their closest people when they come out, and I couldn’t let J be one of them. Still, I had a lot of thinking to do. Despite being friends with a number of trans people, I was nervous about what J’s transition meant for us.

I avoided bringing up the topic, and J didn’t mention anything about it for several months. It still hung in the air between us. Our schedules led to us spending a lot of time apart, making it easy to ignore anything beyond day-to-day stresses.

The day the world shut down

As everyone knows, in March of 2020, the world shut down for the pandemic. Once the pandemic hit, J and I were suddenly working from home from the same couch. It was a far cry from our previous schedules that only gave us a few hours daily to spend together.

That turned out to be one of the best things that could have happened to our relationship. When you’re spending that much time together, honesty becomes the only option. You can’t avoid things that bother you.

I learned to avoid eating crunchy foods when J could hear, and they learned how to sweep the floor up to my standards. We also learned how to navigate the gender transition process together.

Since we were home all the time, J didn’t feel the need to perform masculinity. As a result, they were able to explore how they really wanted to present. They realized that their draw towards a feminine presentation was a pull to things they didn’t feel like they could have. The pandemic gave them the chance to honestly explore their feelings, and they concluded that they’re nonbinary.

Tough conversations and tougher questions: a starting point for a happier relationship

Meanwhile, I was watching and doing my best to support them in their exploration. I did a lot of internal work during that time. I realized that my hesitancy about their transition had nothing to do with them.

It was entirely based on my own attachment to fitting that social box of “straight couple.” It was losing that sense of security and “fitting in” that upset me. That realization didn’t make the feelings vanish overnight, but it went a long way toward fixing things. Something about discovering my own internalized biases made it much easier to push through discomfort and into a healthier relationship.

We had a few hard conversations, but it was incredibly worthwhile. J explained their gender and what they wanted out of their life. We discussed having kids, the expenses of transitioning, and what to do about our family.

The entire time, we made radical honesty our top priority. As a result, we became closer than ever before.

Radical Honesty helped us build the happier relationship we had both dreamed of

During the year and change we’ve been in lockdown together, I’ve had the joy and honor of watching my partner grow into themselves. They’ve come out to their work and their friends. The people they care about most respect their pronouns. They present however they feel on a particular day, and their nail polish matches their hair - and their beard.

J is happier than I’ve ever seen them before.

As they transitioned into their true gender, our relationship got better. An invisible weight was lifted from their shoulders, and with it went anger and anxiety.

And as I watched them get happier, it became impossibly easy to let go of my old visions for the future.

Honesty let us become our true selves and build a happier relationship without fighting to fit into society’s box. We realised that the box was a cage, after all.

With our newfound policy of radical honesty, we went into our December wedding with our eyes wide open.

Today, I’m proud to say that J is my spouse regardless of their gender.

We’re here, we’re queer, and now we’re free to build the life we want.

Gabrielle H