Last night I was listening to a song by Mana. I closed my eyes and picked out the various parts – two acoustic guitars, keyboard, bass, drums and percussion – hearing how they played off each other and blended into this incredible beauty of sound. I thought of how Kristin and the boys are learning music, and often play together both with Ken, their teacher, and with each other in practice. I thought how much fun it would be to join with them, though I've been resisting for some time now because I just don't have the time to learn music. Then I reflected on the many times I've tried to learn to play an instrument – drums, guitar, banjo, jews harp, harmonica. I never learned any of them, and thinking back, it seems to me the reason is I never played with anyone else. I never got lessons, never played with peers. For me, like everything else, learning music was a solitary experience.
Then I got to thinking about why that might be. Part of it – maybe most of it – is because I never had friends I could share that with. I noticed that my entire life, I could make only the most shallow friendships, because my primary goal in any relationship was to protect myself – to avoid revealing who I really am, to keep my deepest thoughts and desires secret to myself alone.
The overriding reason I wanted to keep myself private was shame.
I was so deeply ashamed of myself for those thoughts, desires, and experiences that reflect who I am. I was ashamed because I saw that my own experience was so different from everyone else's; because I simply could not relate those thoughts, desires, and experiences to the male role models in my life – at least, not in a deep, personal, and gendered way.
While there are many activities in life that are not gendered – woodworking, chess, gardening, the list goes on forever – there are no relationships that are not gendered. I relate differently depending on who I'm relating with, and gender is part of that relation. Even my relationship with myself is gendered. Women relate differently when they are in a women only group vs. mixed company, men do the same. Mostly, I think, people accept these differences for granted, perhaps don't even notice them. For me, they dominated every social experience.
Because I was so deeply ashamed of who I was, I tried to relate to people according to my sex, and because doing so meant I could not relate in a genuinely gendered way, I could not reveal enough of who I was, even with my most intimate friends, to share real intimacy.
In short, I never learned how to be a friend. Others related with me in the fullness of who they are, and I responded with a deep reserve and definite deception. I related with a mask, an assumed persona I'd pieced together to disguise my real self.
As I reflected on my current life, this became very clear, because I am finally learning how to be, and what it means to be, a friend. It's a matter of baby-steps, of stumbling in the dusk. I still don't have the basic skills of friendship down, by any means. However, I am relating in the wholeness of who I am, and that is bringing incredible changes.
I have real women friends now. These are the people most responsible for my new growth. This is the growing richness of my life. Girlfriends. I am finally welcomed into the social role where I belong. No longer am I isolated, an outsider in every social situation, an interloper who feels out of place. I can be myself, and people actually like me.
I cannot relate to you how incredibly beautiful that is, to belong, to be myself, to relate to others as fully human. This is the best thing, for me, about my transition. Women friends. Honesty. Relating fully, no longer isolated and alone, no longer a square peg in a round hole, but real, comfortable. I am just me. I cannot find words to express the sense of wholeness I have found. It is a pearl of great price.
To the extent that my body does not match my gender, it affects how people relate to me. But the need for human, intimate connection is so great and so basic to our humanity, to feeling and expressing love, so essential to our development and survival, that I will change my body as much as I possibly can to achieve that fullness of social connection. I cannot do otherwise. I am amazed that I stayed alive for so long without that intimacy. Kristin is responsible, of course. I was able to forge a relationship, cobbled together out of my deceptive persona and elements of my real self, with her that was sufficiently intimate to survive, and her love sustained me for 15 years. Yet there is no doubt in my mind that if I had not transitioned, I would now be dead. I simply could not survive in that vacuum of my own soul, in that social and personal isolation, much longer.
There are still a lot of aspects of being transgendered that suck. I hate parts of my body. They betray me. They are completely dysfunctional to who I am. Every day, throughout the day, they rear up and show me how still incomplete are my social relations. The pain of them is constant and unremitting. God, how I wish I could change them! But they do not dominate my life. I have hope. I have meaning. I have girlfriends.