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Help! My Partner Is Exploring Their Gender Identity And I Don't Know How To Support Them

Welcome to The B Spot, a monthly queer advice column catering to your personalized sex, relationship, and dating questions Google just can’t answer. Submit your burning gay questions to our candid team of queer editors at [email protected]. The B Spot appears here every month.

Dear Betch, 

I’ve recently noticed comments from my partner discussing gender, and I’m starting to think she may be nonbinary or at least exploring the gender spectrum. Her pronouns are currently she/her, so I’ll be using that.

She gets shy about talking about it and really doesn’t share much with me. I support her 1000%, no matter her gender, but I have been feeling a little sad recently that she doesn’t want to talk about it with me. Gender is complex. I get it as much as I can. Personally, I don’t struggle with my identity in that way, so I also feel like maybe she doesn’t think I’ll understand, but I wish she’d open up to me a bit more.

She hasn’t fully discussed her gender with me in depth yet, and I know she knows I’m supportive, but I feel like I can’t do anything to help her. It’s also been affecting our sex life because she feels very dysphoric and more self-conscious. She’s also quietly mentioned that she wants friends to talk to about gender, but I’m not sure how she can meet those people.

I would love to help her make non-binary friends and get her confidence up by purchasing a binder or anything else she needs to ease the dysphoria. Still, I’m a little reluctant as I don’t want to overstep my boundaries. I guess what I’m really asking is how I can show that I support her without intruding too much on this very personal journey or begging her to open up too much.


A Confused and Caring Partner 

Concept of person trying to define his or her own gender. Non-binary, genderqueer or genderfluid.
Image Credit: Shutterstock

Dear A Confused and Caring Partner, 

One of my favorite things about being in a relationship is watching my partner grow into themselves over time. This usually looks like them discovering silly little hobbies like climbing a wall with strangers, unearthing their love of reality shows after bullying me for years about my dating show obsessions, or new food interests they SWORE they’d never like. Some changes, though, like how they present themselves, how I present myself over time, and what we feel attracted to, scare me the tiniest little bit. What if their attraction for me dwindles because they’ve discovered new interests or desires, none of which I share with them? It’s daunting, but at the same time… it’s life! Maybe you’re starting to feel something a little similar? 

While these experiences and growth moments scare me a bit, I also find it refreshing to be in a partnership where my s/o feels they can explore themselves without restrictions. From what you’ve written, you’re giving your partner that same space and acceptance. 

I’m not sure I would compare gender and sexuality too much, as they’re both very different experiences. Still, I’m sure the terrifying feeling of “coming out” can amount to at least a little of what your partner is currently going through. There’s likely so much confusion there and a lot of very personal mental hurdles happening. If this were me — especially as a cis person — I wouldn’t take it personally that she’s yet to share a lot of this journey with you. It’s likely she’s still just figuring everything out for herself. I understand it may feel like she’s hiding things from you, but discovering one’s identity takes a lot of patience, especially as the partner on the other end. I do not doubt that, in time, she’ll feel comfortable opening up more to you about what exactly she’s feeling.

With all of these unfamiliar changes it makes perfect sense your sex life is affected. In this middle stage, where you’ve yet to have a conversation about a potential elephant in the room or one of you feels unsure about your body, sex is often the first thing put on the back burner. I know this may not be the answer you’re looking for, but rekindling your sex life may just take a little time. As she works out what’s going on in her head, she’ll start to step into her body more, which will propel you both back into a loving, intimate sex life. Right now, she’s working through her body dysmorphia and what that looks like for her. Have you thought about being intimate in other ways than sex? It could be a good starter to get her mind off her body and instead focus on your love for each other. For me, this looks like taking a bath with my partner, massage night, or shitty reality TV like The Ultimatum (no hate for that show; actually, it’s amazing). One of my favorite documentaries about gender (although it focuses on a trans man) is Stay on Board: The Leo Baker Story. OMG, when I tell you this is the most beautiful and heartwarming watch… believe me. Watching films about other people’s gender experiences might help her open up a little bit and possibly even feel less alone. 

Dare I even say when she is ready to talk and comes into her gender more, your sex life will change for the better? I have a strong feeling it could. 

But for now – And I KNOW this is hard — it’s crucial to give her space to come to terms with herself. At the same time (and I have no doubt you’re not already doing this), reassuring her that you’re there through anything and emphasizing your love is the reassurance she’s likely seeking. It’s frustrating not being able to help more, but until your partner is ready to talk, patience will be your biggest gift to her. She will find her community in time once she’s ready to start exploring on her own terms. 

As a notoriously planning crazy Cancer, the unknown of what’s to come and where your girlfriend’s head is at can be A LOT. Taking care of your feelings and emotions and sharing with her that you want to be intimate more (in other ways than sex) is also very okay. You’re allowed to express how you’ve been feeling and ask for more than she’s been giving. 

Truthfully, your question delights me because it shows how much you care. She’s lucky to have you comforting her whenever she opens up. I’m excited about the beauty your relationship has yet to uncover, and you should be, too. 


A Betch Who Knows Best 

Jillian Angelini
Jillian Angelini
Jillian (she/her) is a displaced New Yorker, writer, and occasional hot yoga-goer. When she’s not writing about sex, relationships, or queer things, you can find her reading about sex, relationships, and queer things. Follow her on Instagram @jnangee, or don’t; she really only ever posts her cat.