I'd say probably the biggest challenge for me when I first realized that transition was going to be the route she would take was coping with how I, her, and our relationship would change in the eyes of the world. If you want me to be brutally honest, I was reminded of the scene from Fiddler On the Roof when Chava is begging Tevye to accept her love for her non-Jewish boyfriend, and he shoots her down, declares her essentially dead in his eyes. I haven't told any of my family yet, but I'm expecting just that, based on past statements about trans people and my mom's horror at the suggestion that I might be bisexual (That was my attempt at coming out, which quickly fizzled and forced me to abort all attempts to talk about it)
Family is one thing, and I have been building myself up mentally for the possibility of being disowned by them for several months now. Beyond them, I am also fearful of other folks, ones I haven't even met yet: Landlords, future bosses, coworkers, airport security officials, basically, I have internalized a fear of every stranger who may have power over my life and how I live it. When I read stories about trans people being deported when trying to travel abroad, having a difficult time being treated with dignity by healthcare professionals, or being denied housing/employment, I bite my lip, and try to remind myself that not all will be like that, that there is hope. But I worry often about our dreams of travel. She and I used to spend hours awake together, whispering "Let's go to Bahrain" or "Let's go to Ukraine" or "Let's go to Java", and detailing our adventures, the sights we'd see, the museums we'd frequent, the food we'd try, the bodies of water we would swim in.
Occasionally we would worry about some places being unsafe to travel, either because we are Westerners, or because I'm Jewish. But now, it's much more frightening to think, as two women travelling together, one of whom is trans, about our safety when travelling abroad. Hell, it's a nightmare to think about our safety in our very own neighbourhood! That has probably been the biggest shocker to adjust to, more than anything else. It's a truly unfair choice: Live as we truly are and be ourselves, or have to give up on a good portion of a dream we shared as a couple.
Another thing which I have had a hard time adjusting to is having to be patient. My girlfriend, bless her, she's a physicist. Her interest lays inherently in plotting things out, looking for the little cogs which make the big machine work, and carefully conducting step-by-step to get to the end. I'm the exact opposite. I am interested in results, fast. So when she began going to her therapist, I thought, "Well, that's great, we can get the ball rolling, put you in a dress, and I'll teach you how to wear heels without breaking an ankle."" No," was the answer I got. "We have to take this slow. Make sure to gradually begin to feminize [girlfriend's] appearance, little things, like growing out hair more, and then we can work our way up to electrolysis, feminization, and hormones."
That frustrated me. What probably aggravated me the most was the fact that my girlfriend was reluctant to "come out" to the world. As far as the majority of the world of our friends and acquaintances and people we see every day is concerned, we are still a heterosexual couple and my girlfriend is a red-blooded Canadian boy. I began to get impatient with the slowness, I was eager to come out, and we have probably had more fights over this issue than any other. I don't want to live in a closet, I argue, and why should we hide who we are from our friends? We have nothing to be embarrassed about.
But in making this argument, I was ignoring my girlfriend's right to control how she comes out and the pace at which she would feel comfortable. I'm an absolute jerk for doing that, I know. It was hard for me to cope with the slow pace, but that's no excuse for being so bossy and domineering over HER transition. When I realized this, I apologized, offered her a hug, and decided it's time for me to take Don't Be a Jerk lessons, if anyone's offering.
As time goes on, I know other issues are going to come up. Hormones can make people grumpy or curt, medical procedures are difficult to deal with, and all those years of integrated prejudice and bigotry aren't going to come off with elbow grease alone. But I have to keep growing, keep learning, and realize above all else: It's not about me. It's her journey, and I'm just a helping hand. I'm not a perfect partner, but I've got to do my very best to make this as easy and pain-free for her as possible. It's my honour and my duty to love my girlfriend and help her be at her happiest as a woman. Our relationship with each other, society, our family, and just about everyone else is going to change, but we'll still be the same people, and still have love and unbreakable friendship as a foundation of our togetherness.
It's not been all champagne and chocolates. But it's quite the interesting journey, if you can learn to not be a backseat driver.