Please note: This is completely anonymous. I am not disrespecting anyone by not using their names, it is only that I don’t know their names. This advice column is completely set up so that I have no idea who is contacting me, and that this is a friendly conversation between two people on the street, nothing more.
Mrs Orange sent me in:
“Do you think that you could assist me in developing a whole new set of personal friends that I might even to be family so that when I @ 63 transition from a male to a female so that I can live out my remaining 25 years as the woman I was meant to be?
When a transgender person transitions from the gender they have lived for decades to the opposite gender most close personal friends and family chose not to continue the relationship because of their inability to accept that kind of change, it presents too many questions and it is easier to just walk away.
This is the number one reason why I have waited my entire life to transition, FEAR, fearing the loss of friends and family that I thought loved me unconditionally.”
Hi Mrs Orange! I hope you don’t mind me calling you that? I tend to give my anonymous people names like the cast in Resorvoir Dogs — if you’ve ever seen a video of me you’ll see a poster of them behind me. Big fan! Anyway..
I can’t honestly imagine the pain and worry you must be going through right now. I have a transgender friend and I know what the pain and worry was like for them during their acceptance phase. I feel you my friend.
I’ll tell you a story. In fact I wrote about this same thing on the Huffington Post if you’re ever interested in it.
A long, long time ago when I was a young man I was having a relaxing train journey with my friend. You see, we worked together, and as luck would have it we managed to strike up a friendship on our very first day. Yeah, my friend was pretty awesome, and here we were, talking about everything and anything, stopping momentarily to watch the trees and houses whizz by at an incredible speed.
During that moment of calmness my friend broke the silence by staring me dead in the eye and began telling me about how he always wanted to be a woman, and that he dressed up every now and again in the quiet to keep those urges away.
Well, if I’m a bit honest that kind-of knocked the wind right out of my sails because I had never-in-my-life seen a man that liked to dress as a woman in the flesh, let alone be friends with one. Not that I was scared, only that I was new to the entire subject. But because she was my friend, and I personally don’t like to lose friendships I heard her out.
Well, it didn’t take long before I allowed her a safe space in my house to dress as she liked and be comfortable in her own skin. You see, I’m not being a good friend if I’m not allowing my friends to be themselves around me, right?
She started off with slow baby steps by telling me about it, and then soon she was telling her work, and fast forward to today where she is completely transitioned into family, work, and social life acceptance. I’m not sure if she’s had the procedure done yet but from what I hear she’s not far away from it.
You see for her the biggest hurdle was getting her family to accept who she was. I get it also, her family is christian and pretty harsh on anything that deviates from societal norms. But, after a long, long, time she managed to win them over and eventually they came around. Work and social life was a different story because she lives and works in a very accepting area of the country. She has a ton of friends, and work let her be who she is.
Anyway. Nice story, right?
The key aspect to my friends story is that she gave her friends and family time to come around. She also answered everyone’s questions — and boy did I (and others) have questions!
I’ll be honest and say I know absolutely zip about being transgender. Nothing, nil, zero. But I do know people, and if you want to win people over in any way shape or form you have to have an open attitude to what you’re trying to get them to accept.
It IS your domain to convince them because YOU are the one that’s making the change (through no fault of your own).
Now I’ve heard people say in the past that it’s exhausting continually explaining themselves to people that don’t understand, and I’ve had a few instances where I myself have asked questions and I’ve been told to google it because it’s not their place to educate me on what I don’t know.
Please don’t listen to that sort of advice.
I’ve spent 10 years in the trade of removing communication barriers from people and one thing that I find universally true is that if you’re wanting to win people over in any way — you have to do some form of convincing, be it explaining, or just being there (making your presence known).
You win people over by answering their questions and being in their corner. You don’t win people over by being difficult.
Also, if you read back to my story my friend was pretty fearless wasn’t she? She told me first. A big hairy, heterosexual brute of a man, all the way to the customers in her shop. Fearless.
You’re never going to know if you don’t risk it, right?
And if they don’t accept you? At least you’ll know. At least you can say you tried, Mrs Orange. At least you can walk away with your head high knowing that you gave it a go.
The other solution is to never know. Always wondering. Wishing you had known what it would be like for your friends and family to know.
I say this to everyone, whatever they ask. Risk is something that we have to live with, else we’ll never progress in life. We’ll never move forward. If you never risk anything because of the fear then you’ll stay in your safe bubble never having moved the goal posts.
And lastly, time.
Time is a great healer. My friend, well, she didn’t come home and tell her mum what she wanted to be straight away because it was a difficult step for her. And when she did come out it was difficult for her mum to accept. In fact, their relationship has always been rocky as far as I understand it. But the rockiness, now, isn’t because of the transition, and I’m sure over time she slowly accepted it.
Sometimes it takes people time to accept things. Some people are more accepting than others. If my son told me he wanted to be a woman I’d still love him no matter what, but I’m at an advantage because I’ve immersed myself in that line of work, educated myself, and also had friends that are near their transition — other people don’t have that advantage.
And sometimes, people will refuse to accept. That’s a sad part of life. Some people will forcefully refuse to take on any new information or be willing to expand their mind a little. And there’s nothing you, or I can do about that. BUT. At least you’ll know where you stand.
But please don’t look at cutting ties until you’ve exhausted every last option. Why would you want to get rid of all those years of friendship? All those memories? They are people too 🙂 – they feel, hurt, and will probably miss you as well.
So to paraphrase myself, my friend.
Take risks, be fearless, answer questions, give them time, and most importantly.. make an effort!
I hope you’ve found this useful.