While a common experience for me, and I believe, most transgender people, this particular form of unbalanced relationship is not specific to or exclusive of gender.
Recently I had a conversation about an upcoming milestone in my life. It is something I imagined, dreamed about, and hoped for in secret for many, many years. It is also something I never dared to share during most of those same many, many years for fear of ridicule, shaming, and ostracization.
I shared how I had planned the next few weeks leading up to my personal milestone. I explained how I had worked out details to make certain nothing went wrong, doing my best to organize and structure every detail. How I was fitting as much as possible into these few weeks.
"You certainly have a full schedule!" he sagely remarked. "Why so much?"
"Well, in part to distract myself leading up to it, but also to fully justify the parts of this I am expensing to the company. I do not want any appearance of taking unfair advantage of my employer. So the cost related to my work activities which I will expense are in comparison much lower than normal."
"Hmm..." he pondered, wheels whirring, eyes distracted, stroking his chin. "Have you ever wondered," he paused eyes seeking to engage me more directly, "if since you need to be distracted you should reconsider pursuing this milestone?"
I jolted. My soul crashed and rolled as tumbleweed scraped and jabbed my ethereal self as they flew away from my path every which way. My lizard brain whispered fiercely, "See? What did I tell you? Here comes ridicule, shaming, and ostracization!"
"It's not that at all!" I protested. "I need to distract myself from the waiting. I have been looking forward to this for so long!"
He slowly nodded. Wordless doubt and hesitation clouded his features for a moment and then passed. We changed the subject.
After telling this story to my cousin, who I fiercely love and trust, she was quiet. Then she said, "I think his words came from a deep place of love."
So what is the unbalanced part? It truly isn't clear from what I have said, and I realize my cousin's input was reasonable from her perspective. The imbalance is the history leading up to his words. The history of his repeatedly not seeking to understand traveled my journey and my future path, or at least to try to understand my feeling of it. The history of his carefully adhering to politeness only underscores the chasm of separation between us.
The imbalance is also my cousin not grasping I knew his words came from concern and love for me. Not understanding at once that it was his immediate movement towards disbelief, disenfranchisement of identity, his lack of interest in trying to learn or understand from me that was upsetting. His assumption that I will have regret.
His mind was made up before I came out.
We were brothers, and now we are siblings. There is still a bond and relationship. But it connects only in part. That truth has always been there except in the past, I hid the part of me to which he is not connected. Now that he sees that side of me, the unexplored surface of mystery, he doesn't reach out to explore and know. Instead, he tries to rotate me back so that side is, once again, hidden.
I believe most transgender people also experience this particular form of unbalanced relationship. But it is not specific to or exclusive of gender. This imbalance between two people could pertain to any goal or milestone.
- Do you want to be an artist and have parents that want you to choose a practical stable career?
- Perhaps you are called to a faith or spiritual practice that your family does not share?
- Maybe you just think outside of the box too often in a conservative financial firm?
When faced with naysayers, do you usually not understand their perspective? Or is it the other way around? It's all well and good to point out the pitfalls and the negative aspects of a thing, but it ceases to be reasonable or helpful if you also ignore or don't seek out the benefits and positive aspects of that same thing.
Do you really only try that which has no downside? Of course not! You are aware of many of the pros and cons. You have considered each as long as you have been able before acting!
Or, perhaps, are you making a snap judgment based on knowing that this thing is an awful lot like those you, or those you trust, have experienced before?
Why is this a big deal?
I mean, this kind of exchange happens all the time, doesn't it? Well, yes, but does it happen to you all of the time?
When you are transgender, you face this disbelief, this doubt, from many of those around you. It is constant and can be relentless. Those with whom you have a close and long relationship especially feel empowered and justified in expressing their doubt. Of course it comes from a place of love and caring. But it is not, in fact, loving or caring.
It only underscores how people may not even begin to understand or try to understand! Consider questions such as:
- Why should awareness of transgender people existing and having a place in our world be taught?
- Why should transgender awareness not be excluded because it sexualizes our children?
- How can your gender not match your biological sex (mine does)?
- What is a woman?
Do you hear or sense the lack of understanding or willingness to understand in those questions? It only becomes clear when the questions are repeated and repeated, making it obvious that they are only rhetorical devices that lead to a specific conclusion. A conclusion that you are not valid.
It's OK to ask questions. Just try to listen to the answers.
It's good to ask questions, just be sure you are seeking understanding or at least confirming understanding in the person you ask.
I am now going to take my own advice. I will ask my brother why he suggested or implied that I may doubt or regret? Would he like to know more? Understand more? May we finally, just really, talk?