When I first came out to my parents, my mother told me that it was as if I had died. It was like the son she had raised and loved for three decades of her life had been taken away from her; lost forever, consigned to memory while this new person had swept in and taken his place. Sure she has all his memories and experiences, but she isn’t him. She isn’t the son that was loved so unconditionally. Instead of a cold, depressive, neurotic introvert, there is this wide eyed, expressive woman who smiles lots and sometimes cries at silly things. My mother said that she was in mourning for her eldest son, and that affected me deeply. I felt like a murderer. Sometimes I still do.
What is, from my point of view, a blossoming or transformation into who I feel I should have always been, to others seemingly appears to be more like a schizophrenic breakdown as the person they knew so well radically transforms in body, voice and expression into someone else.
Indeed, there were several people I know, whose initial reaction upon my coming out to them was to tell me that I wasn’t Trans, and proceeded to lecture me as to what ‘Trans’ actually was, like I was ignorant of what I was really saying. There were one or two who would say nothing to my face, but I would find out that behind my back, they were saying that I was only doing it to get attention and that I’d get bored of it. Others would be all ‘Nicey-nicey’ to me, and yet, behind my back and to other friends describe me in the most unflattering and insulting terms.
I found myself repeatedly ostracised and left out of things because people were apparently too embarrassed to be seen with me, and still everyone was still nice to my face. Friends I had known for a long time wanted nothing to do with me and seemingly punished me because they were worried about how other people might react to them should they see me with them.
People who I had always defended against any negative comments or nasty rumours have kept quiet and let the nastiness carry on behind my back. People whom I have supported in their times of need, suddenly become utterly absent in mine. I have had people insist on referring to my ‘Gender Identity’ as a ‘Lifestyle Choice’, like it’s a fashion trend.
I have been asked to ‘tone it down’ in front of other people. With my modest dress sense and keeping relatively to myself in public, I do not know what exactly I am supposed to ‘tone down’, save for presenting as female in general. I have had to listen to people verbally attacking other Trans people I know behind their backs for the way that they dress or act, even going as far as to say that they would like to punch them, or that they deserve to be assaulted for it.
I have been accused of talking about nothing but Trans and LGBT issues by people who never seem to talk about anything other than how much they hate their jobs, or how much they hate someone they work with or know.
I had nearly ten months of hardly speaking to a certain member of my family because they didn’t know how to deal with it, and they still won’t acknowledge me on Facebook even now, seemingly in case their friends see me and realise what is going on.
In December, ten days before Christmas, a very close family member was diagnosed with a very serious illness. Someone that I had bereaved by taking away someone they loved only ten months before was now seriously ill. I did not know how much time I might have with them, and the guilt hit me. I couldn’t help but wonder if the first Christmas I would spend with them as me, would also be our last. While my relationship with them is the strongest it has been for as long as I cannot remember, the emotional toll such an illness has on family members is so often overlooked, and to be so far from them in a geographical sense makes things all the more upsetting and frustrating when I cannot just pop in and see them, or go and help with taking them shopping or to medical appointments. In this situation, one needs friends to turn to.
So this is the toll of Transition. SOME people you care for stop caring for you, SOME people you defended attack you, SOME people you respect treat you like a joke, and SOME people who you would support will drop you. Why? It could be all manner of things. Prejudice, confusion, incomprehension, resentment, grief. The cause is ultimately meaningless, it is the result that matters. It is quite simple to say that one does not need that in one’s life, but the reality of losing friends, especially in a time where you need emotional support, is a soul crushing experience.
Fortunately a handful of friends still care and are the most wonderful and supportive people in the world for me, and there is my partner who is a rock. I can go to these people when I need to rant or cry or just be distracted and they welcome me without judgment or a dagger behind their back. There are also other friends I have made since starting my transition who I cannot imagine living my life without, and the acceptance of most of my family which has been of great comfort, and I have reconnected with other friends thought long lost. This is a new chapter in my life for friendships and relationships, and the best thing to do is to leave behind those to whom I mean so little now.
After all, the person they counted as their friend, to their minds, isn’t me.