It has now been almost eight months since I came out, and if there is one thing that has surprised me about the reaction amongst my friends, it is how little of a reaction there has actually been.
I guess that I had come to assume that a jealously-guarded secret which I had been keeping to myself for decades would be considered important by other people, rather than just myself. I’d figured that the more conservative amongst my friends would abandon me in droves, while my closer friends would rally around me, leaping to my defense every time I was maligned: but in fact, the reaction, from people of my own generation at least, has been a collective shrug. “Oh, new pronouns. Okay. Carry on. Why can’t you just tell your supervisor/students/girlfriend’s mother again*?”
Of course, there have been one or two exceptions to this rule: when I first came out, one friend of mine (a brilliant scientist, but a bit of a space-case) had honestly never heard of transgenderism before. When I explained the situation to him, he apparently saw fit to shift into what I take to be his default mode of interaction with women; that is to say, he started broadly flirting with me (a situation I would characterize as ‘awkward’). Another time, a right-wing Christian friend contacted me in private, asking me (if it wouldn’t be too much to trouble) to justify what I meant. This I did, as is my want, by writing a lengthy essay on the subject of gender and my experience with it, which I liberally salted with metaphysical mumbo-jumbo about souls which I knew would dovetail with her spiritual beliefs. Apparently satisfied, she left me alone thereafter.
And then, of course, there’s the titular Strange Case of Subject A. I have been given leave to write about Subject A’s experiences, so long as I grant them anonymity.
Subject A was an old buddy of mine from my undergraduate days. I would love to say that he was a close friend, but the truth is that, for whatever reason, I never really had overly close friends in undergraduate university (you may recall that I did most of my socializing at the time online). He had, however, been quite as close as any of them had gotten; we’d collaborated on research projects, teamed-up on assignments, gone to barbecues together; he’d been one of the few people who had bothered to attend my going-away party when I finally graduated.
I had always taken Subject A to be the Human embodiment of “Testosterone Poisoning.” He was ex-military; spent his free-time going to bars, playing first-person shooters** and lifting weights; always had a thick beard on his face. That wasn’t the totality of his personality (he was, of course, also a somewhat well-rounded intellectual, and indeed, so charismatic that I once swore that he would become Prime Minister one day), but my overall impression was nevertheless one of a very manly man.
So, as you might imagine, I reacted with some trepidation when he contacted me a few weeks ago, wanting to catch up. I’m not sure what I expected; Subject A had never been brash or a bully, but I never know what to expect from old friends vis-a-vis the new (and improved) Jaime; doubly so when they are such alpha males.
So I postponed it. But it seemed that Subject A had had his heart set on having this conversation, so I eventually ran out of excuses.
It began normally enough; we discussed the old days, talked about what we were up to now… eventually we got to talking about jobs, and how I didn’t relish the prospect of looking for one, not least because employment discrimination against transsexuals is still, essentially, legal. That, of course, led into a discussion of trans issues, from which Subject A cut to the heart of the matter:
As it turned out, he, or rather she was also transgender. And all of that macho shit that she had been doing, which I had misidentified as the unifying thread of her personality, had really been nothing more than a string of failed attempts at self-denial, all enacted in the vain hope that if she did enough manly stuff, then sooner or later she would actually start to feel like a man. In fact, she seems to be one of the most ‘femme’ women that I have ever met.
My transition, she informed me, had finally given her impetus to come to terms with what she truly was. She confessed that this was the first time that she had felt like she actually had reason to live.
So now, of course, we are much better friends she and I than we had ever been when both of us were still make-believing that we were male; I have made my experiences fully available to her, and just this very night, I tried to help her name herself.
My experiences are, of course, not the same as hers. I never tried to drown my true inclinations in a sea of manliness (rather, I just withdrew into myself until I became little more than a ghost haunting my own life), but there are similarities. I too have known that sense of liberation when the life which you had always just assumed would never belong to you suddenly does; when the future, which you had assumed would be an eighty-year sleepwalk into the grave, suddenly seems worth living. I have people to thank for showing me the way too, of course; I consider myself to be eternally in their debt. And if I have played that role in someone else’s life too, well then…I consider it to be the single best thing that I have ever done***.
*Someday, I will blog about this tendancy that I have observed amongst friendly, open-minded people to assume that everyone is as friendly and open-minded as they are.
**Yes, I know gamer culture isn’t as monotonously male as it is made-out to be, but we are dealing with stereotypes here!
***(Although, that being the case, it’s probably a bit unfortunate that I didn’t do it intentionally).