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Sunday, December 11, 2011

How Do You Tell Who You Tell?

Though I have helped many, many tell  others they care about that they are transsexual or transgendered, telling the most important people in my life leaves me confounded and creates some level of anxiety.

 It's not so much that telling people I know on a social, less personal basis is so hard. I don't have the emotional investment in them that I have with other people. If they can't deal with it, well that is not such a big thing for me.But with those who I am most closest, the process of who to tell, when to tell and why to tell becomes an issue that is anguishing at times. I'm a person who is an introvert and I have just a few close friends who are not also transgendered.

Specifically, I'm thinking of my two best male friends who I have ongoing relationships that spans decades ( NO I SAID!! I am NOT going to tell you how OLD I am! A lady never tells her age... and NIKKICOLE, you don't know EXACTLY how old I am either!). My one friend B. and I have been friends since the first week of my undergraduate education and my other friend K. I've known since the end of my graduate education. Both are and have been wonderful and loyal friends and to have such close relationships over that length of time is something truly to be cherished.

What makes this difficult is not the fact that I need to tell them, but how to tell them and when to tell them. It hardly mattered when I never held out the possibility that I could actually become self actualized and live an authentic life. Now the time is at hand and I need to take care of this soon. The biggest obsticle is that B. lives in Oklahoma and K. lives in Arizona, where before B. lived here in Virginia, and J. lived in Alabama. B. lived close enough that I would see him at least every other week and K., being in Alabama, I got to see at least once a year. This is something I do not feel comfortable telling them over the phone and certainly I wouldn't disrespect our friendship by tossing off a letter to them, no matter how well I crafted the letter. This has to be done face to face.

The distance involved makes it more difficult. I haven't gotten to Oklahoma or Arizona on one of my magical mystery tours of workshops to date, or even near there yet. Most of the workshops I do are done out the desire to help other trans people and have been paid for out of pocket. That doesn't leave me much money for leisure travel. Yet I must do this in person with them. I don't think it is fair to them or to our friendship to do it any other way.

Then too, because of the distance and time since I've gotten to see them, it worries me to no end what their reaction will be when they do find out. One friend is extremely liberal and he loves everyone and everybody. I don't think it will be a huge issue with him. You never know though. Some people who are very liberal are some of the people I would never have guessed would have trouble with a trans person turn out to be the most bigoted and prejudiced against trans people and some of the conservative people I know who I would have thought would be the most unable to accept transpeople turn out to be some of the most accepting people I know. It's a funny world. I'm very conservative and that it would turn out this way was something I never would have dreamed possible. Of course, there are many liberals who are accepting of trans people and many conservatives who aren't. You just can't figure it out by someone's political philosophy.

I had an experience tonight that reassured me that I will be able to tell B. and K. and the outcome will be good. I was speaking to B. tonight and I mentioned the workshops I've been doing as I had done quite a few east of the Mississippi this year and he asked about what they were on. I told him that they were on helping transgender people and he was interested. He noted that they have often had difficult times in life and that more and more we are finding this to be a biologically based issue. I was surprised that he knew that much about it, but then again, he IS a LIBRARIAN, so it wouldn't be unusual that he had read some things about transgendered people, plus he had lived in Minneapolis- St. Paul which has a reputation for being extremely tolerant of transgender people. I feel much more hopeful about the outcome of this coming conversation and I think that he and I will make the transition in our friendship without too much difficulty. I just have to figure out how to get out to Oklahoma to see him for a couple of days.

K. and I have been good friends for quite a long time, not as long as B., but long enough that he is just as important to me and I have to sit down with him too. In some ways, I expect it will be easier with him. He and I have both had friends who are gay and he knew a couple of transgender people that I don't know from Alabama. He has always seemed accepting of them and I have never heard him make a derogatory comment about them. His middle name should be Tolerance! Since he moved to Arizona, he has gotten married. He knows that I am doing extensive work in the area of transgender care and his wife has a nephew who is an f2m transman. I'm pretty sure he will be ok with this, and I had always thought that he would be the easier of the two to tell, but then I've had these experiences where the people I think will be tolerant are not and the ones I think won't are.

My biggest worry is that they may be upset that I kept this hidden from them for so long. In my defense, most of that time I was fighting as hard as I could not to be transsexual (I wonder if there are ducks fighting hard not to be ducks?). I worry that they will be upset and may feel they don't know me at all because I hid this from them for so long.

The other relationships I'm worried about are my parents and my wife's family. My parents are very elderly and I would hate to ruin our relationship now when they really need me. On the other hand, I worry what this revelation may mean for my wife's relationship with her family. I've wondered if I can avoid telling her family, make token appearances far and few between in an androgenous manner and leave it at that. My parents are a more delicate situation because we live so close. Can I do the same with them? I'm not sure that those are viable options.

In the end, I know that it will be what it will be. If I lose their friendship, it will break my heart. If I am able to preserve these friendships I think the bonds will be even stronger than ever. In any event, my life will go on and it is up to me to make of it what it will become. It is my choice to be happy or sad. One can look to the future or dwell on what was lost in the past. I prefer to look to the future.


  1. For some reason, I thought you were more "out" than this article suggests. As for telling people what is coming, it's always a hard thing. I dreaded it every time I had to do it because I never knew what the reaction would be (and that uncertainty always makes it hard to gauge how much to tell and when). :(

  2. Sherri, I know what you are feeling and I think that we all do. I ALWAYS expected the absolute worst, only to find that my fears were unfounded. Those that truly care about us and those that are real friends, will always be there for us. They undoubtedly will have some sort of difficulty "wrapping" their heads around this, but they will be there for you. Let's face it, this is very difficult to explain to someone that isn't transgendered. You will find out who your friends really are and who are just acquaintances for sure!

    At some point, as with me and thousands of others, you will proceed because you just have to and as you said, what happens, happens. We can only do so much to make it easy for others because at some point we must live our lives genuinely.

    I wish you only the best. It will all work out!

  3. Sounds like you have chosen your friends well. I doubt if the revelation that you are transgender will be something that they will not be able to handle. With the knowledge it sounds like they both have on the subject you might find that they might already have a clue about you. Now having said this to think that the relationship that you share with these men will stay the same may be a bit optimistic. For all we like to say we are the same person as we were before, that isn't entirely true. We interact with people in a different way as men an women. Even if we are engaged in the same activities as before there will be a difference in how you react to them even when doing something as simple as engaging in a story. There reactions to you in the same situation will change as well and this is a good thing it shows that they accept you as the woman you are not as the man you were but even in the best case there can be things will be changed and that is can be a good thing too

  4. Hello Sherri,
    I see that you are a very caring & sincere person / Regardless of your circumstances - it takes -2- to "Tango" in life / My mummy often told me that if my "Dad" was anything like "Me" - she would have left him in a flash !! - But you are my kid, and I will always love you - "Regardless"
    My own brother has very little to do with me - My -2- closest friends whom I grew up with - left me for "Dead" - as it was my choice to cut off contact at the age of 30 / I have since tried to re-establish contact with one of them - but with no success.... / Being who I am, is the most important issue - no more anxiety - no more depression - and most importantly - I am no longer a sex addict - with "Myself"
    "YES" - I have my lonely moments, and it can be scary at times - especially if I get ill, and there is no one around.... / No one has a perfect life kid !! - And I still wouldnt trade places with anyone Ive met so far.... LOL !! / The very best of luck with telling your friends, and people who are close to you... / Sherri - you are more than just about "Gender" - I hope people can realize that !! / *** HUGS *** from Shirley

  5. I love to read the collective wisdom in the responses I get to my blogs. it's been quite a year of progress for me. I get frustrated sometimes with the pace of things until I realize how much I have accomplished in transitioning. At work, 7 other professionals throughout the hospital system know about me and are tremendously supportive, so I am making progress in that area.

    I have a social life that includes my new church here and my wife and I have been able to work together through some difficulties earlier in the year. I am out now in one of my professional associations (WPATH, of course that was an easy one). I feel free and comfortable traveling by air and dealing with every day life, shopping, dining out and taking care of all the day in and day out things one does. Over the past three years I've gained more and more professional experience in my profession and am comfortable in my professional identity. It's finishing up some of the untouched areas that I fret over, such as my two closest friends. If they were closer geographically,I'm sure it would be a done deal by now. It's going to be what its going to be as I have made my decision this summer, when I was hanging out with Valerie at Trans Ohio in Columbus that this was my path and that it would all work out fine. That was a nice time, wasn't it Val?

    Every day I gain a little more confidence as I open up more to the world. Growing up as a survivor of abuse and a child of alcoholic parents, it doesn't come natural to be open to others, but in that too, I've learned to be a lot more trusting that most people only wish me well and won't hurt me. Each discovery is a bit of healing for me.

    Of Course Deanna, you are correct in that these relationships will be different because of the dynamic of gender. And I do want to be treated like a lady. I just hope that the essence of the relationship will be the same, though we will relate differently. I would be pleased with that outcome.
    hugs, Sherri

  6. It was a great time Sherri, one that I will cherish for a very long time. Spending two days with you and learning from you is one of three occasions that made me realize that I needed to live authentically. Flying to Atlanta as myself and my trip to Dallas contributed as well.

    So far my wife is the only loss that I have suffered, but that was prior to her knowing of my transition. My son has been wonderful with me and my brother is incredible! I actually think that he gets it! I have made several great female friends in my neighborhood and have a former female boss that I just got done going out shopping with today. So I guess what I am trying to say that the positives for me far outweigh the negatives. Other than GRS, there is not much that I want or need. I feel almost complete and very happy that I made the decision to live full time.

    You can attempt to minimize damages for the rest of your life if you let yourself and in turn will never be happy. The time will come when you just have to be you and the cards will fall where they may. It happened to me. I could not go on as him.

    Thanks for this blog Sherri. I think we can all learn a lot from these and if nothing else, make us think.


  7. I'm at the point to let the chips fall, but I want to be at peace that I did everything I could to keep my relationships. If they are lost it will be sad, but I'll have the peace of mind I did what I could and I can live with that. We all lose relationships along the way. It's just the natural order.

  8. Sherri, if I may be so bold as to say that as thorough as a person as I know you to be, you have done that already. Lost relationships are always sad, but the peace you will find in being who you have always known you are, will ease the pain. You have done more than most to make sure that no one suffers and the only one suffering is you. You are going to be okay girlfriend.

  9. Thank you Gal, that is so sweet of you to say.

  10. Sherri, you don't look that old :-)

    I've been formulating a blog on this subject, but got sidetracked with all this doctoring stuff.

    Over Thanksgiving, while in IL, I was able to talk with two of the three family members I wanted to talk to. My mom and my niece (the one who asked me to officiate her wedding next year). I didn't get a chance to talk to my older brother. He's going to be a bit harder, as he is quite conservative in his thinking and beliefs.

    Now, I know my situation is different from yours. My life of "stealth" will come to an end when I finish my book. It's all in there, plain as day. And I don't want the people who I love most to find out that way. I am not announcing a transition, but "merely" that I am TS and would transition if I could. All my friends and the family members I have told so far have been supportive, and our relationships have grown stronger. But, though it is a difficult concept to wrap your mind around, since I am not transitioning my presentation (other than the hair and little girls, etc.), there is less impact in their lives.

    Yes, I believe that negative reactions, and rejections primarily come from the perceived impact of our transition on their lives. I have two sections on selfishness in my book. One for the trans person and one for the people around the trans person.

    You are doing fine, young lady. When you have friends and family who love and respect you, it's likely that they will continue to do so. Hugs

  11. Sherri....

    I may be able to help with being able to tell B. Please PM me and I can tell you what I am thinking....