If you’re a cisgender person and your partner came out to you as non-binary, congrats. Coming out takes a lot of guts from your partner, but the way you’ve shown up in your relationship has let them know you’re a safe space. Maybe you’re cisgender and heterosexual, but you’ve always been an advocate for the LGBTQ+ community. Or maybe you’re cisgender and queer, but have always advocated for trans rights. Your support is meaningful and so necessary.
But if you’re wondering what else you can do for your partner now that they’ve come out, the answer, simply put, is to keep that same energy going. Tap into the same humility, compassion, and inquisitiveness that made you a trans ally in the first place.
Mix Thomas, a psychotherapist who specializes in working with trans and non-binary people, tells Elite Daily, "Some folks agonize over coming out because they’re afraid of losing their partner(s), friends, and family." Make that a non-issue for your partner by letting them know you love and accept them for who they are, and you’re willing to do the work to prove that. Here are five tangible ways to support your non-binary partner after they’ve come out.
1. Educate Yourself So Your Partner Doesn’t Have To
The fact that you’re reading this article is an excellent first step, but don’t stop here. Keep educating yourself. If your partner is open to explaining what "non-binary" means to them, cool. But if they’re not open to it or aren’t sure, remember: Google is free.
In fact, the main thing Thomas advises against is pressing your partner to unpack their gender identity with you. "Don’t push them to define themselves immediately, please! Some folks share this information about themselves before they totally understand it and what it means for them," Thomas says. "They may still have doubts and be scared, or be battling internalized transphobia. If they’re just not sure about things yet, let that be OK."
So before anything else, find an LGBTQ+ resource center in your state, or turn to national resources like GLAAD or The Trevor Project. See what podcasts and documentaries you can find about the trans/gender non-conforming experience, and scope out LGBTQ+ advocates to follow on Instagram.
2. Touch Base On Terminology
Language is so important when you’re embracing your genderfluidity or genderqueerness. The right words help GNC (gender non-conforming) people feel confident in their identity and help them feel "gender euphoria," a happy, contented feeling that comes when someone’s gender is affirmed. Ask your partner about their pronouns, and how to refer to them sexually and romantically. Even though this conversation can be daunting, approach it with curiosity.
Thomas recommends saying something like, "Hey babe, I’ve done some research, and I want to make sure I’m making you feel seen and understood. Is it OK if we have a conversation about pronouns/how you’d like me to refer to your body parts/if this changes the words and titles we use to refer to each other in our relationship? Totally understand if you’re not ready for that, but I’m here when you are."
3. Ask For Specifics On IRL Allyship
Along with making sure you’ve nailed down your partner’s pronouns, ask them what kind of ally they need you to be among family and friends. "Ask them what role they want you to play in sharing the information, and correcting pronouns or names when you hear other people get it wrong," Thomas says.
4. Remember It’s Not About You
If you’re straight, you may wonder what your partner coming out as non-binary means for you and your sexuality. This is definitely something you can bring up with a therapist, or seek answers to independently of your partner. More than anything, Thomas urges you to remember that your partner is the same person they were before they came out to you.
"They’re just sharing a new or better understanding of themselves with you," they explain. "Maybe that does mean you want to explore your own labels in relation to your partner’s identity, or maybe you’re just a cis het person who loves an enby!" (Note: Enby is a spelling out of "NB," which stands for non-binary, and is a term that many genderqueer people use to refer themselves.)
As Thomas says, "Coming out as non-binary can be empowering, but it can also be scary!" Because your partner needs as much care and encouragement as they can get during this time, seek out your own support if you’re struggling with what their identity means for you. Talk to a friend, or better yet, vent to a therapist.
5. Ultimately, Lead With Love
At the end of the day, what’s most important is that your partner has been radically vulnerable with you, and has granted you a ticket for their gender journey. By educating yourself, auditing your language, and leading with empathy and warmth, you can cultivate a welcoming environment for your non-binary partner.
Mix Thomas, MSW, LGSW, psychotherapist who specializes in working with trans, non-binary, and GNC clients
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