A difficult friend to have

  • Posted on May 24, 2013 at 11:36 pm

Just as I turned my corner and things felt like they really had settled down, I realised that I was spending more time than ever alone. It’s not a complaint, and it’s not just me. Single people just don’t get invited anywhere. It’s assumed you must be busy, or want more than just a coffee and chat, while all the time you’re sitting alone, or just getting on with stuff and wishing you simply had someone talk to you, and do ordinary, everyday things with.

But I’ve had to realise that I’ve been a pretty demanding (or just demanding, never mind the pretty) friend to have over the last year. Losing everything you hold dear and love is hard, so keeping it under when you’re with a friend is the last thing you want to do. That’s what friends are for isn’t it? We take it in turns to have hard times and to support. And sometimes we have hard times at the same time, and don’t offer the listening we should for each other. Looking back, as my life fell apart around me and I grew into more than I could have dreamed of, I was on an emotional rollercoaster. It’s just that those stomach-churning drops seemed to take longer than any steady climbs. A male history had left me with few friends, all girl friends, and all of them were going through difficult times too. And I know that I was talking too much and too intensely and too long and about me. So I screwed up really; and now I feel I’ve just worn them out. I suspect none read my blog!

I do hope I’ve learned about myself through this; I certainly feel very different now, and I hope friendships will grow back in coming months, now that I feel more ordinary than ever. I’m over the grief and mostly over the rejection, but I have to admit still to a bitter feeling about losing the love of the person I shared everything with so well, for so many years – and through no fault of my own. That will soften with time until one day I just won’t care anymore, but the matter-of-factness I’m getting about divorce is not quite how I feel about it. But now is no longer the time to speak of that, or share it with friends. I think they’ve had enough of the me, me, me.

As always, my week has gathered some coherent thoughts from different directions. This week, with so much parliamentary discussion over equal marriage, and a not-altogether satisfactory outcome for transsexual partners, there have been a lot of aggrieved people feeling cheated. Once again we can’t just let it go. Being transsexual is still a real tag-on-the-end of society. Why should time be spent considering so few people? And that’s how we come to feel about ourselves: hard done by, hard done to, neglected, separated, dispensable. Who will defend us, if we don’t defend ourselves? Can’t we just accept our lot and get on with it? Why do we push our presence, and our equality and rights on other people? What do you want? Special treatment?

At the heart of these feelings, and I guess why I wore friendships thin, is fear. Fear that we can never again be fully integrated in society. Who will want or desire us now? Some are lucky, most are not, and we know that. Deep down we know we are not the same when it comes to getting too close to another. And so we assert ourselves and remind others that life is hard at times, being trans. We want others to realise that we are just normal as people, even if our bodies betray that we are different.

Many, if not most, of us will have come to the impossible dilemma of choosing between self-authenticity, and relationships of trust and love. Someone this week described being trans as being given ‘a shit hand’ in life, and someone else on Facebook disagreed, and yes, we all know it’s what you make of it. I even wrote of it as a gift a couple of months ago. But whatever it is, it’s tough. It’s heartbreak, it’s emotional trauma, it’s grief, it’s sheer hard work; it’s about being obvious, about making mistakes, it’s about standing out and being different, and knowing you’ll be different forever. It’s about uncertainty and having to convince professional clinicians over period of years that it’s ‘real’, while you get it all wrong and gradually start to get it right. It’s about vulnerability and fragility. And fear of further loss. Every coming out is a potential disaster, and every time it isn’t, it’s a relief.

It does wonderful things to you, and nothing compares with the authenticity you can achieve. But it’s hard, and often leaves us quite on our own. And we take that to our friends. During transition, life is focussed on ourselves; we have been described as making Narcissus seem an empathic extrovert. We swamp friends in our fear and insecurity, because that’s what it’s like inside. And when we succeed, and develop, again we’re full of it and want to tell everyone, hardly believing we could have managed it. No; you can’t just get on in life when you begin transition. And your friends are on the receiving end.

I think, as well, that I had 32 years of someone I completely trusted, in whom I could confide, share troubles and joys, and know that I would always be loved – and that was suddenly withdrawn, leaving me with no replacement. I am still learning to have those conversations with myself, because I have no-one else. It’s less comforting, but it’s better than silence. And sometimes I do feel terribly alone.

None of this is unique to me. We can be very difficult friends, and all I can say to anyone who I’ve affected during my transition, is that I appreciate your fortitude, and understand you taking a breather. But I still need you, in a less demanding way I hope, and want to offer something back. So please don’t stay away and distant; I can be a good friend too.


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