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© 2019 by Anne M Reid 

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If you are the friend a trans partner turns to, here are some suggestions for assisting them. Remember, everyone’s situation is different. Listen. Hear. Keep in touch. Often.

Do not be offended if you don’t hear from your friend. Sometimes it is really difficult to find the words to express one’s emotions during a transition: they are tangled and confused.

  • Be generous and open. Your friend’s understanding, position, and decisions may change and contradict earlier ones. Your friend is going through their own transition and realising their ‘new normal’. Don’t say anything that you might have to later take back.

  • Your friend’s emotions will be many and may change drastically: from denial to acceptance, from love to hate to love, from sadness to joy—or the reverse.

  • Your friend will become an ally. They will have learnt a great deal, and have an insight into much of what transition entails, as well as the circumstances that led to the revelation and ‘coming out’. They will be far more informed than you might expect … or be ready to hear.

  • Respect that your friend is now living life in a minority, and are trying to make sense of all the legal, moral, religious, implications this has. Ostracism from family and friends is likely. Know that your friend will likely be hurt, humiliated, and may lose their support network.

  • Do not offer judgment or solutions. You can empathise, but don’t tell your friend what you think you might do in the same predicament.

  • Don’t malign the trans person, who did not intend to betray or abuse. He or she is very confused themselves and have not broken their news out of spite or disrespect.

  • Research. Research. Research. Understand all you can. Learn what terminology to use, and what not to use. Seek permission to ask lots of questions if your friend is willing and able to answer.

  • Everybody’s situation is different. Reports about Caitlin Jenner (a multimillionaire, Olympian, and reality personality) bear absolutely no resemblance to what your friend or their family is going through. Knowing Caitlin’s story may have raised your awareness, but will give you no insight.

  • Ask permission before introducing your friend to others or giving out contact details to anyone you believe might be able to help. You could be wrong.

  • Support as you would someone grieving the loss or death of a significant other. Yes, it is this monumental. Some have likened it to dealing simultaneously with a death and the birth of a new child. Phone them. Take a meal over. Send cards. Message them reminding them they are in your thoughts. Keep in regular contact.

  • Expect to be punched in the nose—very hard—if you mouth platitudes such as ‘everything happens for a reason’, ‘I will pray for you’, ‘every cloud has a silver lining’, ‘that which doesn’t kill you, only makes you stronger’, ‘this is part of life’s plan’, ‘life doesn’t give you things you can’t handle’, ‘time heals all wounds’, ‘God never gives us more than we can bear’.

  • Turn up. Don’t take no for an answer. Don’t just say, ‘I’m here for you’, ‘Call me if you need anything’ or ‘If there is anything I can do, just ask’—because chances are your friend won’t take the initiative. Get them out of their own headspace for a while. Be proactive and consistent. Your friend would have heard ‘Call me if you need anything’ from numerous people who never meant to follow through.

  • Do not ‘out’ your trans partner friend until they are ready. If you have been given the OK to tell others, be respectful and careful whom you tell. Do not post anything on social media that could expose your friend or their partner. It is distressing to be the focus of gossip; choose your words wisely so as not to sensationalise the news or belittle or humiliate those going through transition. This is a real-life struggle. It is not a source of humour or an opportunity to recount amusing anecdotes.

  • Maintain contact. If you have been a constant part of your friend’s life and they have children, be sure to maintain some normality for the children's benefit. They are likely to be very confused if the people they know start to treat them in a different manner, or simply disappear.

  • Educate your own family, particularly if you have children. Your own child’s friendship and kindness towards a trans child could make all the difference to the trans child’s sense of being, confidence and safety. Grow empathetic children!

  • Practice good social media etiquette. Be very, very careful about ‘liking’ or sharing anything on social media that could be construed transphobic or anti-LGBTIQ. It is likely to end up on your friend’s feed and make you appear to be the worst, most intolerant and bigoted person, and guilty of betraying your friend.

  • Try not to praise your friend as ‘brave’ or ‘amazing’ or ‘wonderful’ in their support of their trans partner. They are doing what they feel any person would in the same situation.

  • Your friend’s discomfort will not end quickly. They may appear to have dealt with the situation well, but transition will eat into every aspect of their life, in more ways than you might ever consider. These changes are not easily or quickly resolved.

  • Your friend has not fundamentally changed. They are the same person. Don’t pity them. Do not treat them with kid gloves. Keep calm and carry on the relationship as you would have if this had never occurred.

  • Acknowledge your friend’s contribution to the transition process. They are a caretaker and are dealing with so much more than you can imagine. They may seem strong and together but they have a lot to process, a lot of emotions to deal with and a lot of fatigue

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