Dear Prudence

My Girlfriend Is Livid That I Rent Out My Family’s Cabin to Hunters

Prudie’s column for Feb. 16.

Photo illustration of a cabin, a hunter, and a distraught man.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by Marc-Olivier Paquin/Unsplash, Ben White/Unsplash, gchapel/iStock/Getty Images Plus.

The newest addition to the Dear Prudence lineup, the mini-column, is moving to Saturday for a spell.

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Dear Prudence,

I inherited a cabin in the woods from my grandfather and fixed it up. My girlfriend likes it too—she says the quiet helps her work on her Ph.D. on visits. She always knew that I would semiregularly rent it out or lend it to friends on weekends, but I guess I never specially told her a good portion of those people were hunters. I don’t hunt myself, but I grew up with people who did. My girlfriend got upset with me over this. We ended up fighting. She said I lied to her and that I need to stop having hunters at the cabin because all that death would “taint” the place. I got seriously irritated and told her she was being irrational. The rent money offsets the property taxes, and most of the hunters are friends of my family. They take care of the cabin better than my own brothers do. Everyone has legal permits and eats the animals they hunt. She made it sound as if they were massacring endangered baby eagles. We ended up sleeping in separate rooms. The situation is still not resolved, and my girlfriend has turned down any attempts to take some of her younger siblings on a trip to the cabin, despite the fact we promised them at Christmas. My girlfriend is an animal lover, but this is getting out of hand. We have been together two years and live together, but I would never dictate what she does with her own private property. What am I missing, and how do I fix this?

—Cabin Fever

Unless you knew beforehand that your girlfriend was, say, a strict vegan, or she’d made it clear that she never wanted to be around hunting and you hid that information from her, I’m not sure how you lied to her. Regardless, if your goal is to find a way to understand your girlfriend better and avoid similar surprise arguments in the future, I don’t think you should spend too much time either trying to prove you did everything “right” in the beginning or that it’s more important to have a “rational” objection than an emotional one. Tell her, “I want to try to talk about this again, because I feel like I missed something the last time around. I don’t want you to do anything you don’t want to do, so if you’d rather not bring the kids to the cabin right now, we can find another place to go camping; if you’d rather not visit yourself, I’d be sad, but I’d understand that too. Can you tell me more about when you feel like I lied to you? I really want to learn more about where you’re coming from, and I didn’t purposely withhold any information from you [I’m assuming this is true]. I was genuinely surprised by your reaction.” That doesn’t mean you have to stop renting the cabin to people who pay on time, hunt responsibly, and leave it clean after they leave, but you might be able to learn more about how your girlfriend felt left out of the discussion, and at the very least you can agree that if she doesn’t want to visit, she doesn’t have to.

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Dear Prudence,

I’m a mostly stealth trans woman who generally doesn’t share my trans status or want people to know about it. My boyfriend of three years has been very loving and supportive. He never failed to affirm his love or ever denied loving a trans woman, even after a (former) friend of his outed me and tried to embarrass him about his sexuality and masculinity. We agreed that we will only let our shared friends know. So far, no one from his family and none of his old acquaintances know I’m trans, even though I have already met all of them. He just proposed to me, and I said yes. But I’m frightened of what will happen next. I know he will ask if it’s OK to let his family and friends know. He has said that he is ready to accept their love and support, or deal with their disapproval. But I don’t want his friends or family to treat or view me differently, and I’m worried that would inevitably change.

Further complicating things, I may have to put off my plan to have sex-reassignment surgery until after our wedding. And I worry that a surgery like this will be too hard to hide from his family. My boyfriend and I have already been pressed to furnish reasons why we won’t have biological children and don’t keep in contact with anyone from my side of the family. I know it’s not fair for my boyfriend to keep lying for me and to do so for the rest of our life together. But I know how blessed I am to have found a supportive man and also to never have to be judged by others for being trans. It’s hard for me to give that up. What should I do?

—To Come Out or Not

I’m not going to make a recommendation in either direction when it comes to your fiancé’s family. I can only recommend a particular process as you investigate your own feelings, fears, and possible best- and worst-case scenarios. One thing I do think you can ease up on is guilt over your boyfriend “lying” for you for the rest of your lives together, which makes it sound like you’re consigning him to an eternal burden. Declining to out someone is not the same thing as making something up, and it’s neither your fault nor his that it’s generally safer to assume someone is transphobic until proved otherwise. I don’t know if you’re friends with many other trans women, but it might be helpful to ask around (at a local support group, if you don’t have any friends to call, or online if you’re not in a city with any trans meetups) and see how other women have talked about their recovery or time off work for SRS without outing themselves. You can be as vague as “abdominal surgery” or even say, “It’s for my reproductive health. I’m going to be fine, but recovery will take a while, and I’d rather not go into detail about it.” Mostly, you shouldn’t pressure yourself into coming out now because you’re worried that someday after your wedding you might have to come out. It’s wonderful that your fiancé is in your corner and prepared to weather any reaction his family might have, but he’s not running the same risk as you, and it should be your decision, not his. Take your time, talk to other trans women who’ve had similar experiences, remind yourself that your boyfriend is happy to be with you and doesn’t seem to think of himself as needing to lie for you, and remember that you don’t owe anyone, even family, in-depth explanations about biological children.

Catch up on this week’s Prudie.