Professional Development Day: Working with Partners of Trans-Identified People - Southampton, 8 September 2017

Until recently partners of trans’ people were void of any positive information and support; indeed ‘considerably more isolated than the trans’ population itself. Historically, treatment protocols categorised marriage as ‘a contraindication to cross-sex surgery’ (Randall J.R. 1971) so divorce was a prerequisite for gender reassignment. Thus only marriages where the trans-identified partner did not transition could survive - and that was far from encouraged. Transvestism being regarded as sexually deviant, wives were similarly described – and therapists were encouraged to ‘help such women... develop sufficient insight and information to intelligently manage the dilemma’ (Wise T.N. 1985) - accepted outcomes being either the wife accepting her husband as perverted or severance of the relationship. The possibility of somebody ascribed female transitioning to male simply wasn’t given consideration.

Whilst our regulatory discourse of relationships is gradually expanding it frequently assumes  autonomy in identity and in relationship –  that one knows and is secure in one’s sexuality, that one chooses relationships in line with that identification, and that  there are recognised pathways of relating. Moreover that one has access to bodies of knowledge concerning one’s relationship – socially, psychologically, and sexually. 

Beyond these frameworks people in relationship with the trans-identified population frequently find:

  • Autonomy in identity/relationship challenged
  • Sexuality becoming uncertain and insecure
  • No defined pathways of relating
  • Bodies of knowledge concerning relationship - socially, academically, and sexually – are sparse

According to O’Leary a ‘ good therapist encourages dialogue, deflects tendency to blame and engenders human sized hope’ (2011) this Professional Development Day will endeavour to equip attendees with sufficient understanding of the challenges and issues involved in partner relationships with trans-identified people  to feel able to work positively in this field.

About the presenter

Tina Clark (formally Livingstone) is a Client Centred Counsellor and Pink Therapy Advanced Accredited Sex and Gender Diversities Therapist working in private practice. An experienced supervisor, consultant, and trainer, Tina has sixteen years experience of working with partners of trans-identified people, and was a founding member of Depend, a national self support association for wives, partners and families of trans-identifying and trans-historied people. She wrote the feature article “Relationships in the Melting Pot” for the BACP Healthcare Counselling and Psychotherapy Journal (July 2015) and was a keynote speaker at the annual BAPCA conference 2015 with “Dancing with Rainbows; perspectives on  person-centred partnering trans-identified and trans-historied people”. Further details of her work can be found at: http://www.positivebeams.com