“I’m me. I’m the same person you always knew. Nothing about that is changing.”
Around the time I came out to myself, my partner, my family and friends as being transgender; I remember repeating those words over and over. Not only did I need to convince then, but I had to convince myself, as well. Would I still be “me?” I honestly didn’t have a clue what transition would bring me and how it would impact my interpersonal relationships. At that time, I wasn’t even sure that I was going to transition.
Ignoring my true gender identity had taken its toll on me, driving me into a deep depression, leaving me both mentally and physically drained. Life didn’t feel like life anymore. As time went on, I felt myself more and more unable to find anything to look forward to. My existence was simply day to day, surviving more than living.
Despite this internal flailing, I had wonderful relationships with those around me. The fear of transition driving them away consumed me and likely postponed any action on my part by years. How would they react if I were to transition? How would our relationships change as a result of my transition? If I did this, would these people still be in my life?
I had to keep telling myself that I’d come out of this stronger than I went in. I had to keep faith in the belief that I wasn’t destroying what existed, but rather that I was improving on what was already there. I wasn’t replacing, I was upgrading.
A car with a defective part may drive fine for the first few months of existence. Eventually, though, that defective part will cause a break down. With a broken down car, you can scrap it or you can repair it with new parts. Once fixed, while the car may run differently or perform differently, at its core, it’s still the same car. I am that car. I wasn’t ready to be scrapped.
I am still same person, I just run differently.
There are a lot of stories of relationships tearing apart relationships. There are a lot of stories of families abandoning their trans brothers and sisters, sons and daughters. Mine isn’t one of them, and I am very lucky for that.
I give my partner, my family, my friends and my co-workers a lot of credit. The vast majority of them had not known a trans person before, let alone know how to interact with one. They could have run from the unknown. They could have refused to acknowledge my existence. They could have lashed out at me.
They didn’t do that, though. Generally speaking, everyone I came out to took the news of my impending transition in stride.
The vast majority of my existing interpersonal relationships have actually strengthened as I’ve become truer to myself. No longer was I hiding away, building walls around myself. No longer was I irrationally projecting the anger I had with myself on those around me, driving them further away. Instead, rather, I saw myself becoming a more caring person, interested in the lives of the people I loved, able to genuinely enjoy the company of those around me.
They weren’t getting to know someone new, but rather, they were getting to know the same person they knew years earlier.
Learning new names, new pronouns, a new gender and physical appearance might have seemed like a gut rehab of the person they knew. I needed to be patient as they took it in. I needed to find strength in my most vulnerable time. I needed to nurture these relationships in what is, nearly by definition, an unbelievably self-centered time in the life of a trans person.
Relationships are what you make of them. People are dynamic, people are malleable. Friends may acquire new interests, change habits, relocate or change professions. Each experience in our life changes us, and healthy relationships adapt. Yes, I’ve changed, but so has everyone else. Our actions, interests and life experiences result in growth, not replacement. I’m still me, and you’re still you, changing every day.