About friendship and relationships

  • Posted on June 8, 2013 at 5:27 pm

Like birds in treesHow interesting. I was looking for the reference to a poem, and I keep my poems roughly in two folders. One is marked ‘gender’ and the other is marked ‘general’. I used to know where to look, because the first was very definitely about the place and effect of gender in life, and the latter really had nothing to do with it really. But this time, I didn’t know. The two things have merged for me, and merged as much in everyday life as in my writing. The stitch, I think, is ‘relationships’.

Like birds with broken wings wasn’t where I thought, and it is all about friendship, broken relationships, and shared aspirations of love. Finding all my friends were in a similar place, losing, seeking, finding, losing loves – was in one way reassuring, but in another less comforting. One friend told me of the respite of having an evening with an ordinary couple or family, away from the personal story, where there was security and normality, and I wished I had had that too. But many of us have said the same things, emerging from brokenness: what was it about ‘being in a relationship’ that was so important?


What I have discovered with friends is that we have re-evaluated what it is we value most in being single and what it is we miss most. There is some consensus, and it doesn’t really help, other than to know these are common feelings. The real positives are: having your own space, not needing to put upon the other if you want to dance at midnight or have breakfast in bed while you write, not raising suspicions if you want an evening out with a single friend, eating raw onions, the peace and quiet and space to think as long as you like, the freedom to be spontaneous. And much more. These are all things you think twice about, confirm that it’s OK first, have grumps about when it’s expected that you will do everything together. If you can cope with the alone-ness that hits from time to time, and can feel safe that when you are in danger or fall ill, someone will come to help, then this is a far from fragile existence.

The downsides are equally obvious really: the absence of affection, no-one to say they love you each day (and mean it), having no-one to express love to freely or give to spontaneously, no-one to give you a hug when you need it most, no-one to come home to (in all senses), no one special person in whom you confide everything, trust with all and know enduring commitment with, no-one to share the small stuff and big stuff alike. All these positives are transient and vulnerable, as I found out. They are almost always conditional, often possessive, and may well be instrumental on the part of the other, whether you know it or not. Maybe they are instrumental to all of us.

Ah. I didn’t mention sex, did I? For people in both zones, sex may not be attached. From the polyamourous to the faithfully monogamous, to the sex-surfer, we have different ideas of the connection between sex and relationships. So I shall leave it out. Which is strange, because for me I used to have all the benefits of living in partnership, and it was the sex thing that screwed it all up.


And then. And then I reflect on my sexuality, and the questioning that transition has raised. For transsexuals this is not so much problematic as unpredictable. And no, it it isn’t down to the hormones! One of mine has been switched off and another is being pumped in, and it hasn’t changed how I feel. I desperately want initimacy again (black dog: just shut up!) and yes, I can imagine intimacy with another of any gender identity or none. This experience has made me realise just how much a person can flex in that regard, once the learned social constructs have shifted. Of course I know that sexual attraction and pheromones, and even genetic traits, are part of sexuality, but it is, I now believe, more than that. I am beyond the need to create a family nest and produce descendants, so for me sexual intimacy is freed from that layer at least. I believe that sexual intimacy can be relearned through love rather than attraction.

I guess I see gender as conferring a sense of identity in a way that sexuality does not. My gender does help define me (not the label, the self-awareness), whereas I think sexuality does this in a lesser way (come on, my LGB friends, correct me on this). I think I can flex my sexuality, which I used to think of as rigid, because I attach it to relationships and love, not raw attraction. However, I cannot flex my gender self-awareness because it really does have a home in me, whether I feel any attractions or none (and for each of us, that may be anywhere on the spectrum).

So, back to relationships! Some might expect me to remain heterosexual and seek a male partner, and there always has been that element of wanting more to be wanted (or ‘taken’) than to ‘take’ the object of my desire. Some would suppose that once firmly attracted to women, then this would continue (the ‘sexuality is singularly innate’ construct). I do think it’s true for me, but I think the reason is different. Am I a lesbian? By definition I think I am, but what I really compare is why I prefer the love of women.

Where my heart lies

Discussing this over dinner last night with a girl friend, we agreed that many cis women just constantly give men the benefit of the doubt. And I don’t. I have worked in the back rooms of male life, and I know too much. I know that I was never a man at all, that I did behave differently, that my mindset wasn’t right for the part, but I know. As a non-covert external observer now, I see things in men that frankly, I don’t think I could ever live with. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate men, I just don’t like them too close. Well, maybe a man very like the kind of role I played, but not generally. I would be less forgiving than a cis woman, expect too much. I have no qualms about the intimacy bit itself (and that is a major shift), but for me, I could only deeply trust another woman.

I am still on a journey, and there are more changes ahead, I know. But where does this leave me for now? I know where my heart lies, but I don’t know any more how to communicate it. I don’t know if my presentation is ‘right’ to attract another woman, I don’t know if my presentation matters at all. I don’t know how to tell another how I feel, because this time around the sex bit is the consequence of the personal attraction, not a driver. All I know is that I am a committing person who wants to love, and I don’t know yet how to communicate that without the background.

So I am enjoying friendships, guarding my heart and my space, and dancing at midnight. Some things remain unspoken, but I have a place reserved.


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