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Coming out as transgender: The cisgender heterosexual spouse's perspective

Porter, Mckinzey T. H.
A transgender identity disclosure is a relational matter. Having a partner come out or identify as transgender can shift a relationship into crisis. When a partner comes out as transgender within the context of an established heterosexual marriage, the impact to the cisgender-heterosexual spouse is often overlooked. This study utilized a Consensual Qualitative Research (CQR) approach to answer the following research questions: (1) What are the experiences of cisgender-heterosexual spouses who have had a partner disclose a transgender identity? (2) What do cisgender-heterosexual spouses of a partner disclosing a transgender identity describe as playing a role in maintaining their marriage or not? Twelve participants whose partners came out as transgender after marriage were interviewed for this study. CQR data analysis revealed ten thematic domains: (a) Marriage; (b) Learning about My Partner and Transition; (c) Learning about Myself; (d) Family; (e) Reactions; (f) Mental Health; (g) Support; (h) Social Influence; (i) Cultural Influence; and (j) Pandemic. Findings indicate that participants underwent a vast array of both positive and negative experiences and shared a variety of factors that contributed to their decisions to remain married or not. Implications for clinical practice, limitations, and directions for future research are discussed.