Living Through the Transition Hokey Pokey

The wife of a transgender woman explores coming out, then going back into the closet.

Transition is a complex and frightening journey for everyone, the transgender person, their family, and their partner. Making the decision to live life as your authentic self is not only frightening, but very courageous. One of my favorite quotes is "feel the fear, but do it anyway." This very personal decision begins with speaking with a gender therapist and figuring out what transition looks like to the individual. Transitioning is not a race but more of a long walk to get to where you feel you belong. For both partners there are so many unanswered questions and because we are all different there are no one size fits all solutions.

I am not sure if there is such a thing as a proper transition because it is different for everyone. Some folks are completely satisfied with hormone replacement therapy, dressing in the clothes that they feel comfortable in, and never having any surgeries. While for others, they can only feel like their true self after completing one or more surgeries. No two people have the same experiences or transition in the same way. Some folks find that they are genderfluid and living somewhere in between is their zen. This time of self discovery is necessary.


While trying to figure out what transition means to them, some transgender folks may go into and out of the closet, several times. I have heard many partners refer to this as the transition hokey pokey. They put one foot in, then they take it out. Mostly due, I think to the fear that self doubt brings into the situation. I have had trans folks tell me that their kids won't accept them, their spouse will leave them, or their parents will disown them. As a result, some folks choose not to transition. While they are trying to navigate all their interconnected relationships, sometimes their feelings about transition waver. If they do not see a light at the end of the tunnel, they may choose to exist as they have been, in the dark.

I can promise you after going through transition with my wife that transgender folks don't do this on purpose. I know that some partners misconstrue these signs and think that maybe their partner really isn't transgender. Maybe they are just going through something else. Depression, anxiety, or perhaps a midlife crisis. I hate to burst your denial bubble, but when someone is questioning their gender, they are being as honest as they could possibly be. Getting to that place is exasperating and coming out to the ones you love is challenging.

So while it might look like the hokey pokey to some partners, it is just their way of mapping out what transition looks like for them. Feelings of doubt and insecurities will come and go during this process, try to be patient. As I know it can be taxing on your relationship, being a supportive member of your partnership will go a long way. Be a good listener. Try to help them unpack years of suppressed feelings. Even in difficult times try to practice self care. Having a support system is a good place to start. Journaling and meditation always helps me to de-stress and unwind. Have some time in your day to do something that brings you joy and has nothing to do with transition. This stage, like all others, will not last forever.

It's hard, I was out and happy for 2 years before going back into the closet for 10 years. I'm out again and never looking back. I regret those 10 years in the closet but we all have our weight to bare so it's just to keep looking forward and enjoy the fresh air.