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.