Trans, non-binary couple say coming out of the ‘cis, het closet’ brightened their relationship

In the photograph on the left, a person with blue hair wears a dark jacket as they embrace their partner with red hair and a grey jacket. The couple is posed in front of a body of water. In the image on the right, the same couple are posed outdoors. The person with the blue hair is now wearing a red and purple plaid shirt while their partner is wearing a lighter top

A loving trans and non-binary couple has describe how coming out of the “cis, het closet” can strengthen a relationship.

Raven and Mina Nielsen met in 1994 and went on to have a “full-on Catholic wedding” five years later as they both came from religious backgrounds. 

Raven says this religious upbringing combined with Section 28 – a law, brought in under Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative leadership banning the ‘promotion of homosexuality’ in schools and local authorities – stopped them from exploring their identity. 

“So the combination of that and Catholicism, I knew pretty much nothing about [how] you’re allowed to be gay, that kind of thing,” Raven says. “I feel like I missed out on a lot of fun at university, not knowing that I wasn’t straight.”

It wasn’t until 2014 that Raven realised they are bisexual. Raven says coming out was one of the “scariest things” because they worried about a potential breakdown in their relationship.

“I was like, ‘Well, does this mean we’ve got to break up? Does this mean my partner’s not gonna like me anymore?’” Ravel says. “I just didn’t know, and as is so often the case, when I came out, ze was like, ‘Oh, I was wondering when you’d realise that.’”

In this photograph, a person with blue hair wears a dark jacket as they embrace their partner with red hair and a grey jacket.

Mina Nielsen (R) knew hir partner was having “interesting gender and sexuality feels” because Raven loved watching Eurovision contestant Conchita Wurst. (Provided)

Mina tells PinkNews ze believed Raven “started to have some really interesting gender and sexuality feels” after seeing Conchita Wurst, an Austrian singer and drag queen, perform in Eurovision 2014. 

The couple began talking more about their relationship and sexualities, opening up the relationship to explore their identities. 

Mina says this process of talking so much about “feelings and things” help hir start to analyse things ze was thinking about hir gender. 

“I initially started looking at myself as kind of gender-fluid, although my understanding now is that it wasn’t,” Mina says. “It was probably a non-binary identity and that gradually shifted to me coming out as trans at the end of November 2015.”

Ze continues: “It seemed to be like dominoes: Raven’s sexuality, open relationship, so much more conversation about sexuality, that led to reading and considering ideas of gender and then eventually Raven came out as non-binary a couple of years behind.”

Raven tells PinkNews they identify as genderqueer and always found questioning their gender “really confusing”. They say throwing away the shackles of gender has helped their entire family feel more comfortable talking to each other about their journeys. 

“Lately, I’ve said, ‘you know what? I don’t care’, and then with gender, ‘I’m not interested so stay away from me’,” Raven explains. “Giving the space [to explore our identities] means our kids have been able to look at that as well.”

They continue: “Our kids both identify as queer, [they] never had to come out because they can just think it through. It’s a safe space.”

Raven adds this open conversation mentality helped Mina’s coming out be “really drama free” though there were people questioning if they were ‘grieving their husband’.

“I think the biggest thing for me was lots of people going, ‘oh so it’s all different. Who’s this new person? You got to grieve your husband’ and that stuff,” Raven says. 

“It was like, ‘it’s the same person. This is the same person that I married. Ze’ve just changed hir gender. It’s not important. Gender isn’t important to me’.”

Mina says coming out hasn’t been a journey without bumps as there was a “difficult adjustment” period with hir family as some people “didn’t understand what being transgender meant”. 

“Mum has talked about how, in the beginning, she was like, ‘oh my god, I hope they don’t have surgery. That sounds awful’,” Mina says. “Whereas now, that’s totally different. My mum’s taken me for my gender confirmation surgery.”

In this photograph, a couple are posed outside with one person, who has blue hair, wearing a red and purple plaid shirt. Their partner, who has red-brown hair, is posed near their chest wearing a grey top with stars on it

Raven Nielsen (L) says every step in their relationship “got lighter, easier and better” when both partners came out of the “cis, het closet”. (Provided)

Mina says hir relationship with hir mum was a “bit strained” before hir transition, but that changed after the two were able to form a mother-daughter relationship. 

“I think when I came out, which was after my mum lost her mum, there has been this shift where mum is like, ‘I kind of really wanted a daughter that I could have that same relationship with from the other side’,” Mina says. “My sister lives in Australia so I think mum has leaned into [our relationship].” 

Raven tells PinkNews the couple wanted to share their story to highlight how “normal” it is for people in relationships to grow and realise their identities together. 

“We get so many stories about when coming out as trans just means everything goes to s**t, that your relationship is going to explode, everyone’s going to hate you, you’re going to die young – all that kind of stuff,” Raven says. 

They continue: “We need more stories about how it doesn’t all end badly. It can end well and be amazing. It can be ordinary too – trans mediocrity, we need more mediocre people.

“We’re just living our lives, and it’s brilliant. I love it. I just want people to know it gets better because I can remember it was so scary and uncertain. 

“Some of the conversations we had right at the beginning were hard, and there were so many tears. 

“We got through it, and every step we took got lighter, easier and better. And I wouldn’t go back in the cis, het closet for anything.”

Raven says they’ve gained so much more confidence as a result of coming out and living as their most authentic self. They encourage others, who feel comfortable exploring their identity, to “go for it” because they “only get one life” so “why waste it in a box”.