Hi there ...
My ex transitioned the other way, FTM while we were living in a small town in BC. If you want to PM me, I'd be happy to answer any questions or speak to any concerns you might have.
It's wonderful to hear that you're walking this new path with an open heart and an open mind.
Take good care of you self, too, even while the focus might be on your DP right now.
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I don't know how much this will help, but I heard a segment on a Radiolab show about a guy transitioning in a small conservative town. It was one of three segments on their show "The New Normal" and I found it really interesting, I think you could find it pretty hopeful right now.
Other than that, I don't have anything to make it easier, really. The only transgender guy I know does have a lot of trouble with working out how to be accepted and still go on about his business. In this case, you're talking about the transition not only for your husband but for you as a couple, from a hetero couple to a lesbian couple. It sounds like you're ready to try and tackle that challenge, but it is an additional challenge. My trans friend faces this difficulty as well, and I don't think he's really worked out a way to deal with it yet. In some ways it's easier for the two of you, as you are already a couple . . . but in others it's harder, because you live in a small community. It's possible that people there would be willing to accept this change, given a chance, but it's likely that along the way they would have a lot of questions, some of which they might hope you two would answer without them having to ask.
While I was writing, starling & diesel had a much more helpful post. Still, search for radiolab online, you can listen for free, and listen to the New Normal show, that's what your post made me think of. It's not really specific advice, just a little ray of hope for a great outcome!
My partner transitioned MTF two years ago, and our relationship is better and stronger than ever. We've been together 5 years. It was hard at first. She didn't pass early on, and it made her miserable and reclusive. But now, after facial feminization surgery, speech therapy and a year+ of HRT, she passes completely, and new acquaintances or people on the street just see her as cis female, which is what she's always wanted. She's so much happier. Trans stuff is still a big part of our lives, but I foresee it getting less important as we knock over the obstacles (GCS, changing the birth certificate).
In the beginning, there was a lot for me to come to terms with. The biggest thing was that I was a straight woman, suddenly in a relationship with another woman. Gradually my sexuality has shifted and I now identify (proudly and happily) as a lesbian. It's also changed our perceptions and made us a lot more aware of transphobia and homophobia in the media and in people's attitudes than we were before.
DP still battles with dysphoria and a skewed perception of her own body, but it's gradually getting better. FFS was the single most important change. We had to spend all our savings and get a loan from her parents (I'm an undergraduate and she's a PhD student, so we have a very low income), but it's been *totally* worth it. She doesn't get misgendered or stared at when we go out anymore, and that's enabled her to be a normal, happy, functioning person instead of a depressed dysphoric recluse.
It is different being a lesbian couple than it was being "straight". We've never faced blatant discrimination, but we do feel the need to hide being gay (like by not holding hands) when we're in a less LGBT-friendly place. We don't have kids yet (we froze her sperm before she started HRT so that we can TTC in the future) so I can't give advice about that. We're lucky that both our families, all our friends and her work have been accepting. DP does occasionally feel guilt about being trans and about "making me a lesbian", but I reassure her that it isn't her fault, because really, it's not. It's not her fault she's trans, and not transitioning just wasn't a reasonable option.
You seem worried about not being strong enough, and I think that's totally understandable and a good thing to address. Transitioning is emotionally draining, and your DP will need you for support, but you need to have support yourself - friends, a counsellor, whatever. It's really important for you to take care of your emotional needs - I struggled to take care of mine properly, and I nearly burnt out. It's also important for your DP to have someone other than you that they can talk to, to reduce the emotional load on you. It all sounds like you've got a really good, open, trusting relationship, which is really awesome.
Wow...I can definately relate to where you're coming from. DP (MTF) and I have been together for 3 years now marred for 2 and have known each other for seven. We met in college and at the time I had only met DP as Liz....it was almost a year before I met her as Justin and when she showed up in pants and no makeup and all I was pretty shocked lol. She is definately passable when she wants to be, but not on HRT or 24/7 or anything, But the idea of her transitioning has come up more and more lately, I know she wants to but she is not actually "out" to all of her friends and is very worried about it. Her family knows but is not supportive at all (they just sort of don't talk about it) thankfully my family is fine with it (my mom was actually more concerned about our 11 yr age difference than about DP being trans, lol).
We have one DD 8mo and I know that DP is VERY concerned about how she will be percevied by DD later and -if she doesn't transition and stays just part time- about DD accidentally outing her later. For me it doesn't really matter, dresses or pants, long hair, no hair, guy or girl, it doesn't make a difference to me, I fell in love with DP as a person not as a set of clothes or a particular gender. I'll support her in whatever she chooses, as long as it makes her happy.
I think all you can really do is to continue to support your DP and be there as much as you can. As for your area not being very liberal...we live in south texas and I work as a horse trainer with a bunch of old school cowboy types, when they first met DP as Liz (not Justin) they asked me (politely out of earshot) what was going on, I told them and that was that. Nothing else was said and the awkwardness went away after the first few minutes. People may surprize you, especially if you don't make a big deal of things and try to expect the best of them. I know that's not always the case but you never know.
Anyway, it's nice to talk to other people in similar situations sometimes it can feel like we're the only ones and it's good to connect with other people even if it's online!
I don't have any first hand experience, so take this for what it is worth.. I have become friends and a confidant for a MTF woman that I play derby with. She just completed her first year of HRT and is in the clear for any surgeries she wants. From what she has told me and from what I have gathered is, its not easy! She sees her counselor regularly (as it's required) here and there have been some really hard times. What's seemed to help her is having a strong support group. She goes to meetings and conferences and is close to people who are on the other side of it. The biggest lesson I think she has learned is that if she doesn't accept herself, nobody else will. It took her a while to stop talking about her former life as a man and saying things like "if I was still Ken he would do x,y,z.." that sort of thing. After the first week or so of knowing her her gender wasn't an issue anymore, I saw her as Jenny and it drove me crazy that she wouldn't see herself as her. Anyway, it sounds like you are very supportive which is awesome and I think that if he feels that this is what is right for him, then he should do it!
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although i don't have experience with mtf's too much, i am married to an FTM transgendered man and have seen through all of his stages of transformation. we have been best friends for over 11 years, been in a relationship for 3 and married just a month. my number one piece of advice? BE SUPPORTIVE NO MATTER WHAT and do not waiver. there are so many stresses and issues surrounding trans individuals that support from loved ones is huge...ive been my husbands only support at times i know the difference it has made. its not easy being who you truly are and the more people who are positive, uplifting and encouraging make that journey SO much more bearable and light.