Losses – Coming Out as TransGender

11 11 2009

rememberance day crossKind of an odd day… and I have been reflecting on this for sometime now, here it is coming all together. I have avoided personal writing, for my own reasons – I have also satisfied my urges for personal writing by keeping them as drafts, here. This is article is a bit more personal.

Today is Remembrance Day. Have you forgotten what that is – or are you reflecting on it as an American, wondering what it really means?

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Armistice Day is observed on 11 November to recall the end of World War I on that date in 1918 (major hostilities of World War I were formally ended at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918 with the German signing of the Armistice). The day was specifically dedicated by King George V, on 7 November 1919, to the observance of members of the armed forces who were killed during war.

Oddly enough, I found myself playing Call of Duty, Modern Warfare 2, today. I reflected on what it means for people to lose others. We have losses nearly every day, a Policeman was killed in Seattle, some die in a plane crash, another with swine flu – many in vehicle accidents; the highest killer of all people under 25.

military cemetery

I had buried all my grandparents by 18 (carried the caskets of 3 of them). My father and biological mother (I cast her ashes in the Cromarty Firth in Scotland on a sunny November day) are both dead. All that is left for me of immediate older family is my mother who no longer remembers who I am or anything of my childhood – she was the last to know the child who was David (I think that is the first time I have ever mentioned that name!). I left my country, left behind friends and family more than 20 years ago now. Ad to that the experience I have had as a Wilderness E.M.T. and I think I know something about loss.

I lived with my father for nearly a year, back in Canada, as he wound down and died of cancer. I held his hand, with me crying when he died – and took out my stethoscope to hear his last rasping breaths and weak heartbeat cease.

Losses. “Becoming” (if that is what this is – but it is how others see it) transgender, incurs losses.

I came out first, publically, in March of 2007. I thought that I would start to come out publically after I had resumed the hormone treatments in Feb 2007 and had started body hair removal in Dec 2006. Physical changes and personal encouragement from supporters brought me ‘out’.

Before I tell you any stories – here is the data I offer… Of all the people (family, friends, coworkers), who knew / know you, that you tell when ‘coming out’, here are the results I observed:

50% will disappear, fading over a little time (or not) and they will drop right off the radar.

Of the remaining 50%:

75% will react based on beliefs, judgment and experiences that you never knew they had, and the relationship will be changed significantly from what it was. Sometimes this is for the better though.

25% will remain and they will accept you pretty much as you are.

What that means is that about 1 in 8 will still see you as they nearly always saw you. Then 3 in 8 will treat you differently and may hold some concept of who you are – they may also hold judgment and bias that will manifest itself in weird ways. Those other remaining 4 in 8 – they will drop you right away, or disappear quickly, being unable to come to terms with their loss of you as a person in their life.

Now the stories – first the positive, then some losses.

G: He was – and still is – my best friend. He knew that I had been on hormones back in my late 20’s. We had traveled together, camped, skinny dipped together. I told him about the hormones and breasts 6 years ago – and he had seen them when swimming with me. When he was first told about me transitioning, he reacted like I was kidding – like I was trying to say I was going to start cross dressing. It has taken over 2 years for him to refer to me as Sarah to others, he still calls me David to my face (and that is ok). He still struggles a bit with me as female – mostly because he thought that I would become another person. I think he thought that I would become a woman who knew nothing of what I had in my head and who never saw what my eyes have seen. He now seems to understand that we can still talk and play with Land Rovers. He is in the 1 in 8.

C: Thank God, I am working with / for and incredible women who is my direct supervisor with the company I work for and a person I am glad to call friend. She never batted an eye (although she does stare at my chest sometimes). She is the only person I interact on a daily basis with that I can make gender comments to. Like when we were in Safeway and I said “If I give to breast cancer I also have to give to prostate cancer – I can get both!”. She is always about the performance of the individual, not the gender – and she is quick to point out that the ‘innies’ get a harder shake of it. I remember when I told her (I then sent her this blog)… she said, so are you like a cross dresser on the weekend? Standing there, wearing a womans jacket, I took it off and said “I am wearing all women’s clothing, and have been – have you not noticed the make-up and everything else”? I have 7 ear piercings, long hair and breasts… yet, she met me as David and still sees me as ‘him’. C has never ‘betrayed’ me, never slighted me with a careless comment. The relationship is what I wanted – unchanged. I do not want to be Sarah to her.

DragQueenN: He is in the 3 of 8 category. N is a great friend, who became a better friend after I told him. It did change one thing – he still, no matter how much I explain it to him, wants to see me “in drag”. What that means, is that he wants me to look like some kind of performance drag queen! Sorry N. He is nice though (and he is gay) and has treated me great as a woman when we go out – he is the one guy I like going out to dinner with. His Thanksgiving dinners are as the family that I do not have.

The other 50% – who dropped off

J: G told J before I could talk to him. Now he has been a great friend, what else can you call a person who will help you drywall and insulate in your garage, live on your boat (and help pay for it), help you through a divorce?… the list goes on. I never got another email from him. I have seen him on three occasions in the past 2+ years at social Land Rover events and he treats me like I have an infection, that is contagious, in a cloud 20′ around me. WTF? 

J is the most glaring example of the 50% that fall off, but he is joined by

L: Who I at one time considered a soul mate and more, was the daughter of lesbians and feigned understanding and support until the truth caught her up – the lie that she held. L suffered from the Peter Syndrome – in private, she was all about support, but in public and with people she knew (in any way), I found that she did not even mention our relationship, about living with me or who I was. In the end, even with her here, I found that she would introduce me as a friend, David, while loving Sarah. L denied knowing me publically.

A: She is really in the 25%, but there was a wake of losses that my closest confidant, friend, lover and so much more affected because she was more than willing to share ‘who I was’. She told old coworkers and other acquaintances. She also told her conservative family before she had even worked out what was really happening – let alone how to talk about it. Not once was I there to share my truth. The mother of A was also able to fake support and understanding, for a short time, until I found out that she had portrayed me as a freak to all she knew (and she is the matriarch of the extended family) and her daughter as someone trying to ‘rescue me’. This is where I really learned the term “frienemy”. Honestly, those that have gone – the losses – the real loss is theirs. I gained knowing who are true friends to my being.

The relationships with women in intimacy have been most challenging. Beyond being TG, there has been other complications (like other relationships), but the “TG thing” always has a large bearing. I no longer know what is truth – honesty. There always seemed to be some kind of deception when all that I offered was the bearing of an innermost past that I buried for 30 years behind facial hair and outdoor leadership skills teaching. Being TG and transitioning is hard in intimacy, few relationships of this kind survive the transition phase.

Honestly, the most damage to relationships has been caused by others telling my “TG story” to friends that we both know together. Once you share “the secret” (because that is what it is to everyone you talk to), they will want to tell others; I promise you that.

So, the best way to share your coming out is organize yourself, figure out who, when, where and what you want to say – and in what order. After that, it will change your life, just like your transition will.

I have no regrets after more than 3 years of coming out. I look forward to the continuing journey.