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An Expert Shares What You Need To Know About Introducing Your Family To A Gender Non-Binary Partner For The First Time

Firsts are freaky, but they don’t have to be. In Her Campus’ series My First Time, we’re answering the burning questions you might be uncomfortable asking about IRL. In this article, we tackle introducing your family to a non-binary partner for the first time.

Introducing a new partner to your family can be a nerve-wracking experience for anyone, but when your partner identifies as non-binary, there may be some additional layers of complexity to navigate. In a world where traditional gender norms often dictate societal expectations, introducing your family to a non-binary partner may require delicate handling. As awareness and acceptance of diverse gender identities continue to evolve, more individuals are embracing their true selves outside the confines of the binary construct of male and female. This societal shift brings about new dynamics in personal relationships, including how families understand and embrace the partners of their loved ones.

It’s important to acquaint your family with a gender non-binary partner with sensitivity, respect, and open communication. But, how do you introduce your family to your non-binary partner respectfully — and what do you do if the conversation goes South? So, I spoke to the University Of Michigan’s Spectrum Center Wellness Program Specialist, Spencer Hall, MSW, who primarily works with LGBTQIA2+ students, about how to handle this kind of situation. Whether you’re preparing for that first meeting or seeking to enhance ongoing family relationships,  here are some practical bits of advice and support for creating meaningful connections between your gender non-binary partner and your family members.

Firstly, talk to your SO about what they want.

Before scheduling anything with your family, speak to your partner.  If you want to have your partner meet with your parents or family members, you must have permission from your partner first. It’s completely up to them if they are ready to meet your parents and share their preferred pronouns with them. “Check in with your partner first, and talk about if this is something that they want to do and what this would look like for them,” Hall suggests. “Your partner may decide that this is not something they want to tell your parents right now and you have to accept that.” 

It may not be the right circumstances for your partner, and you have to respect that. Your partner’s gender identity and pronouns are something they should be comfortable sharing first and not something that should be done without their consent

If they do want to meet your parents and share their gender identity with them, Hall suggests talking about what this would look like for your partner and how you can support them throughout this situation. “Come up with a plan that will take into account all things that could happen, good and bad, and what your next steps would be to comfort and be there for them, if needed.” Be prepared to be an advocate for your partner through this entire situation and support them if they need it. This could be an uncomfortable experience, so be prepared to be there for them all the way.

Allow your family, and your partner, time to process.

A part of introducing your non-binary partner to your parents is understanding they may need time to process. Learning and using gender-neutral pronouns and seeing “they” as a singular pronoun can be harder for older folks since they are not accustomed to using them regularly. You could give an example of how “they” is used as a singular pronoun and reaffirm them as they continue practicing. 

“There will likely be a lot of questions and you should answer them honestly,” Hall says. There may be questions that you can refrain from, but try to be open to them as you feel comfortable. After having this conversation about your partner’s pronouns, it would be helpful to allow them time to process and get used to using gender-neutral pronouns. This may require multiple reminders or conversations to help make it stick, but it’s the effort that counts.

It’s OK to remove yourself from the conversation and advocate for your partner.

If you have genuine concerns about the safety of you and your partner, I would suggest making an exit plan and executing it. Throughout the situation, Hall suggests checking in with your partner and making sure they are doing alright. “Seeing how things are feeling for your partner during the event and how you can help alleviate any stress they may be experiencing is essential,” Hall says.

If you are able to, you can respectfully dismiss yourself from the conversation and leave with your partner as soon as things become uncomfortable. Again, this could be an uncomfortable situation for your partner and you would need to consider removing you and your partner if things start to get out of hand. However, advocating for your partner is an important part of your relationship — so, be prepared to support, or stick up for them, if things go South.

Introducing your family to your non-binary partner isn’t the easiest thing in the world, but it can be done. Through conversation, planning, and time, things can go over well with your family and your partner would come out of this experience confident in themselves and you as a partner.

If you or someone you know is seeking help for LGBTQ+ mental health or safety concerns, call The Trevor Project‘s 24/7 Lifeline at 866-4-U-TREVOR (866-488-7386). You can also reach out for instant message or text message support via TrevorChat and TrevorText, respectively. For additional resources for trans people, call the Trans Lifeline at 877-565-8860. In an emergency, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or call 911.

My name is Aricka and I am a recent graduate from the University of Michigan. I enjoy writing articles about sex and relationships, mental health and books. On my free time, I enjoy playing video games, writing short stories and spending time with my family and pets. I also have hobbies like crochet, reading books and painting.