Just to set the time a little, this all occurred before Jenner came out about his(her?) transition, or about the many hundreds of articles featuring trans people that have become more commonplace lately… or perhaps I’m just more tuned in because of it. I leave it as a raw first reaction of an outsider looking in to something completely new and my evolving thought process once I digested it.
A friend of mine I hadn’t talked to in a while popped back up on social media. The last time we talked was some six or more years ago when we were both finishing up degrees and then we just got busy and lost touch. Normal stuff. I was happy to hear from him and asked what had been going on. Saw some recent pics of him, and honestly would not have known it was him if he hadn’t told me. He used to be thicker, seemed taller, bigger or something. We kind of chatted about pointless bullshit and said our farewells for the evening.
Years ago when we’d last spoken, he went off to do great things with law and politics. His life seemed to be everything he wanted.
A few days later, I get a pm asking if I am around and if I can keep a secret. I am even writing about this long before posting it to give him the time he needs to do what he needs to do so my promise has been kept until after he has disclosed his intentions to those around him. Not like it matters, we never did run in the same circle much. I suppose I write because I need to. I’ve been thrust into a situation I have 0 skill or knowledge and need to verbalize the stuff that I dare not to my friend or that he tried in the best way he could and I still ended up confused.
He tells me, “I have always been a woman.”
I haven’t a fucking clue what he’s on about and think he’s trying to punk me. I asked if he meant he had been reassigned as a kid either due to malformation or something. He says no, he has just always been a woman even though he was biologically born with XY and a penis. I’m hanging onto the literal words thinking dangly bits = boy, no dangly bits = girl… how the fuck could that be any simpler? As long as I’ve known him, he hasn’t been prone to wearing women’s clothes and I doubt he could identify 10 things in a woman’s makeup bag either so the local Drag scene has never been a part of his routine. We usually bullshit about Star Wars/Trek and other geek-speak, he’s hot for Xena. He always came across as the type of person who would have been shoved in a locker as a child, if he hadn’t grown so much taller than his peers.
At this point, I’m still bloody confused. I am trying to figure out how a genetic female could have XY chromosomes and a penis and why hasn’t this been plastered all over the news by now. I ask if he mean hermaphroditism, he says “no, that’s inter-sex”. I asked if inter-sex was like the female runner who ended being disqualified when they discovered a penis during her physical (she herself did not know about it), he said yes. I’m still confused how this applies to him.
Then he asks if I’ve ever heard of transgender.
It finally hits me… he was born a boy. Physically he is all boy and just FELT it was all wrong. Word of advice for the lunkheads like me…. walk us through it like we’re two, we’ll get there eventually.
Considering he’s about my age or maybe sliding up the curve of the hill well in view of the downward slope, I asked how long he’d felt this way. He said he had always felt this way. I wanted to ask why he hadn’t done anything about it before now, but I was blundering pretty badly in uncharted territory and I’m wondering if most of what I asked was in some way offensive. I was clear about my ignorance, but told him that my questions were truly to understand. I am curious about his motivations, wondering why he didn’t move towards this in college at least where, when he reached the workplace, he would already be known as what he really wanted and not be having to risk everything to do it in the middle of his career. A career he truly loves.
Thinking about it though, it is finally at this age that I truly couldn’t give a flying fuck what anyone had to say about anything I’d want to do. I was mostly like this as a teen too, but I was kind of weird in that way. The older I get, the less I give a shit about other people’s opinions. There was at least a minute amount of me then that didn’t want to be hassled about my choices and now, I’m brilliant about going deaf if someone tries. Perhaps, this was just the perfect time for my friend to act on the choice he has wanted to make as a child but just didn’t have the internal strength to do so.
I have a problem or two with it, but probably not in how you might be thinking.
1. I think it would kill me if Spawn came to me at middle age and told me they always wanted to be the opposite gender of what they had been born. It’s for the stupidest and most petty of reasons. Since that kid came into my life, I see nothing but perfection. To mar that, to want to change that, would confuse me. Not only that, considering how close Spawn and I are… it would also kill me to have never seen that longing in them as a child and have it revealed only in adulthood. The subtext tells me I wasn’t trustworthy enough to show that side, those concerns and desires or I was too stupid and blind to see it. Like I said, completely petty.
2. I asked if his parents were supportive and he said hasn’t been in touch with them since he was a kid. Apparently, there is a lot of darkness and issues there, as he is a very reasonable and laid back type of person. It made me sad for him. It kills me that he doesn’t have the family support he should for this journey. He has supportive friends, some of which are even co-workers, but its still not family. I only hope they are close enough that the distinction is truly irrelevant.
3. I fear for his life, his safety, and his livelihood. I have read all too many articles where transgender end up intensely beaten, usually by their partners, when their secret is discovered or divulged. My friend will be informing his very conservative workplace before it happens. He’s not a fan of weapons, but I begged him to at least start carrying mace, even learning some self-defense techniques would be good. Not only was he diving into the territory of being a woman and being constantly on edge, aware of their surroundings, and changing routines regularly, but he would need to be doubly so if he wanted to be open about being transgender.
I’ve only twice ever heard mention of transgender in my own workplaces of the past, but always in the past tense. When I’ve asked why they are no longer with the company, I get sideways glances that always say “duh, how stupid can you be?” and they clam up. I know there are some laws that are in place to protect discrimination for the most part, but it is intensely hard to prove no matter how obvious.
Does any of this mean I would prefer he didn’t do it for his own good? No, I just wish I had the power of foresight so I could help him navigate it without a hitch. Not logical at all, but doesn’t make me wish it any less so.
Then there is my own confusion. From a personal perspective, I really don’t get it. I understand the words, but when I try to put myself in that situation (as this is how I often try to see other perspectives) there is a massive wall for me. I identify very strongly with my gender, and I identify very strongly as a hetero. It’s not that I’m close-minded to those who aren’t, I even understand that sexuality is a constantly evolving process and something you like now, you may not like later (Baxter-Burney, Brando, McGillis, or Turner anyone?). There are even people who have identified as one way only to fall in love with someone who completely falls outside of that category. I get it all in theory, but it has never been a factor in me.
I’m pretty rooted. My gender is so much a part of my person that I completely sucked at AD&D even. I couldn’t role-play for shit because I cannot get out of my own head and internal dialogue, so all of my characters were all very much like myself. I’m sure it was boring for everyone who played with me more than once. I didn’t volunteer for drama either unless I could just do set design, I would have been much like the pigeonhole actor who can only do one type of character… me.
Does he feel like a lesbian, bi or a hetero woman in a man’s body? He said that he had already started on hormone therapy and had started growing breasts which were becoming difficult to hide in his suit at work.
In my partying days of youth and after copious amounts of alcohol. I nearly crossed the gender fence once to see if there was any potential interest… didn’t get far before that was a big fucking pile of nope and I was out and halfway across town. I’m open-minded about what other people do, but I found out quickly that I was set in my ways about some things for myself and thus far that hasn’t changed.
Last I heard he was living with his girlfriend, how is she feeling about all this? I wanted to ask, but it truly wasn’t any of my business. Where does this position her sexuality if she sticks with him and if she comfortable with it? Does she feel like a traitor if she isn’t ok? He plans on going for full reassignment, and he’s found someone he trusts to do it, but where does that leave her? I’m thrilled for him if she is supportive, but it does make me wonder how she can do it.
If I was in a relationship and my partner tells me they want to be reassigned to another gender, for me, a big key ingredient that has made the person I love who they are is being removed and replaced with someone entirely different. It’s not just a haircut, lasix, botox (minor), lipo (minor) or any of the other (minor) adjustments (i.e. not Mickey Rourke or Jocelyn Wildenstein… that is just monstrous). It’s more like “Oh your mate was a woman, but we didn’t have anymore girl dolls, so we stuffed most of her insides into a boy doll and they prefer it this way. No biggie right?” It may be shallow but it would make it pretty unbearable for me. I would not know them anymore, the person who didn’t like the meatsack they had and felt the need to completely switch it around didn’t exist before they told me and acted on it, so again… I don’t know them or I would have known that too, no?
So maybe that is the entire point. If I knew this about them in the beginning and they become my partner through it, it would be different. But having it dropped on me out of the blue? No, I don’t think I could linger. It would feel like being introduced to a stranger and mourning someone who used to be but didn’t really exist.
I would sincerely wish them the best, but it would not be something I could stay in a relationship through as it would feel like all of it up to that point had been a lie, as though they had been starring in a play but forgot to tell me I was just a part of the fiction. I don’t assume actors are anything like their on-screen personas, inversely, I would like those close to me in life to not be acting a part, even if they think doing so makes me happy.
As a friend, whatever he wants that will make him happy is what I will root for. He knows he has a long road ahead of himself and it will be hard, but he desires it in spite of it. If that is his dream, then he should have it and I hope in spite of my ignorance I can be a decent avenue of support for him should he need it.
I’m still not calling him “she” until 1. the dangly bits are gone OR 2. he actually dresses in full feminine attire (as proper Drag Queens are, of course, “ladies”). I like being literal, it helps me understand and differentiate… we briefly argued about “dude, then you weren’t born a woman, you were born feeling like you should have been, that’s different.” but he wouldn’t deviate from the statement above. I’m not sure if that is a counseling thing to help him identify more thoroughly during the transition, but it makes it terribly confusing for people like me who are completely stupid about it and need small words and concepts to grasp the meaning behind it.
Hmm, I really want footage the first time he tries to apply makeup though. 🙂
I’m going to leave all of that there since at the time, it was my honest take on something I didn’t have much exposure to and I felt addressing questions that should NEVER be asked of someone I know to this forum since, well, I’m just letting my thoughts run. If anything, maybe it will help those transgender know what the rest of us are thinking. We are stumbling the fuck over offensive thoughts, but we are truly trying to get it.
My friend made the announcement some time back and has removed all pictures of herself from before the “unveiling.” I am seeing more confidence and fierceness in her posts and it feels like I’m meeting a facet about her that has been nonexistent until now. She sounds happy, a lot happier than I have ever seen.
I read something not too long after I wrote this that explained a lot about what I wasn’t getting and right now I cannot remember if it was twitter or tumblr but they said something to the effect that transgender is “being one gender, but looking so much like the other you’re forced to pretend that’s what you are.”
At first, I read that and said “huh?” but then I came back and stared at it and put myself in that spot in this scenario. I know my gender deep in my soul, but what if I just had all the looks of the opposite sex… so much so that those around me and their reaction to my appearance were causing me to have to play a role I wasn’t comfortable being in, hated being in.
Ok, now I get it. I’m still stumbling over dumb bullshit because I’m too damn curious for my own in so many ways but at least I do understand my friend. She has always been a woman. Finally after pretending for all of her life, she doesn’t have to pretend anymore and that alone is cause for celebration and sad that she has had to wait so long just to be herself.