Opening up to friends and family

It’s funny how things never quite work out as intended and some people react differently than one may expect. My original plan was to wait a little, at least until I saw a gender therapist, before opening up to friends and family. But the drive to be myself, together with my passion for things moving forward and my perceived openness of some of my friends at least, slowly pushed me towards testing the waters and starting to open up to people around me.

The first person outside of my couple to hear about it was my best friend of many years. I went to lunch with him and after we were about halfway through, I told him what I was going through, who I really was inside, and what my transition would be like. His reaction?

“Really?… You’re not joking? […] Well… as long as you’re happy!”

This was, of course, the best reaction anyone could hope for and expect from telling someone they were changing their gender. It denotes an open mind and empathy, and a strong desire for a friend to be happy, whatever they have between their legs! We talked about what that meant for me, my couple, and for him of course.

This gave me the courage to press on, so I followed up a few days later with a conversation with one of my colleagues, a kind and kindred spirit. Not only did she have a similar reaction, she actually introduced me to two other transwoman, who were post-op and could offer some support. More on that in another post. Feeling good with my score until then, I continued on with a couple that is made up of a friend of mine and a friend of Vicey (yes, of course we introduced them, though getting together was their idea!), who had, again, the same reaction.

In this case however, further discussion with my friend led to some additional questions that showed a lack of understanding of gender issues, further questions, and some misunderstandings. But in the end, logic and persistence prevailed, and I was able to get passed that hurdle.

Two of my other friends, one who is now my BFF and another who is actually a friend of Vicey’s but whom I actually like very much, I happened to come out to through Facebook. Not that I actually wanted to, but in both cases I told them that I wanted to see them face to face to give them some good news, they freaked out and pestered me until they got me to, metaphorically, caugh it up. The first, Vicey’s friend, is actually gay, which only matters because we’re now technically both part of the LGBT community, and though he almost fell of his chair, he took it well enough. My now BFF is someone I’ve known for years, and when I told her that I had some big news, after just a little bit of coaxing, she actually did guess precisely what I was about to announce – “YOU WANT TO BE A WOMAN!”, in her own word! I thought I was going to surprise her, I guess that’s what we call a backfire… I’ve since then went shopping with her and went to see her parents (who knew me already), and felt great acceptance on all their parts.

Does this mean that every time I came out to someone, everything went very well? Well, not in all cases. Granted, most of my friends (and Vicey’s friends) were very open-minded and understanding, but after these friends were advised, what else was there to do? Well, then there was family.

Now, I’ve already given you a detailed account of most of my childhood so you know who the players were. But one thing I haven’t said (if memory serves me right) is that the single most important person in my life wasn’t my mother or my father – it was my big sister. She’d always been the one to protect me and to push me in the right direction – she was basically a mother to me, though I didn’t realize this until I was well into adulthood (you know, hiding the truth to myself was a habit at this point). So, though she should actually have been the first one I told, she was one of the last ones in the family. Why? Because I didn’t feel that I had the strength to tell her, I didn’t have the courage right off the bat, and I wanted to have my little speech prepared in advance. So, while Vicey knew merely days after I did, and friends followed suit,  my sister was one of the last ones to know. I actually started off the family by going to see my father’s side of the family (him and my two little sisters and their boyfriends, my mother in law, her two children and their boyfriend/girlfriends, all in all 10 people at once!). It *seemed* to have gone well at the time, though I haven’t actually heard much from them since… I’ll come back to that once I know what happened there.

But once my dad was aware… I went to see my sister. The reaction I go was something that truly broke my heart: crying, sobbing, utter disbelief… and a surprise: My sister though I was actually going to tell her I was gay, and if I had, it wouldn’t have surprised her at all! But this, my transition… It took a lot of wine, a lot of questioning, until she got her head around it. She then proceeded to deal with it in the best way that crossed her mind: by dressing me up, doing my makeup (oh, she’s a makeup artist, can you believe my luck!), and taking very nice pictures of me, so nice in fact that they were the first where I truly saw myself as a woman.

But then, it got very sentimental – my sister told me that she was really disappointed that she hadn’t been the first one to know, the first one I told… her reaction, how important this was to her… for the first time in a long time, I actually cried, for real. I had never measured how much, in fact, she cared about me, and now that I know, now that I’ve realized how much I hurt her by not putting her first and foremost in my life, I regret how it all went down. But, my sister loves me just as much as I love her, and she quickly forgave me for at least that.

Still, I have to admit it took her a few days to actually sober up and really, ultimately, realize what was really happening with me. It’s a shock, of course, and that was to be expected, but in the end, our connection has grown beyond anything it had been in the past.

And last but not least in my family at least, was my mother. I didn’t actually apprehend my mother’s reaction – indeed, I didn’t keep her last because I needed more time than my sister, but rather because she lives in the middle of nowhere, is hard to reach, and hard to get to. Her reaction was the ultimate positive one: she accepts me 100%, is happy that she still had her son to raise until I flew of my own wings, and now that I’m out of the nest, whatever I do that makes me happy, also makes her happy for me. And again the family love bond that me and my mother share, has grown into something much more solid.

All in all, I love my family, and as far as I know, they all still love me. That’s my close family of course, the fact of the matter is I have a very large extended family (16 aunts and uncles, only on my mother’s side, and yet another half of that on my dad’s!), and I couldn’t really have the time to approach them individually. And, telling them through facebook wasn’t really something I wanted to do… But in the end, that’s exactly what happened.

Less than a week ago, I made my official coming out on Facebook. I first prepared by unfriending all of my work colleagues (because my work coming out was something different again stay tuned for another blog post), and then I posted an “open” letter to everyone on facebook, a letter explaining what was going on, what the transition entailed, and linking them here (unfortunately the letter is only in french, I’ll update this if and when I translate it). The reaction, globally, was positive. Two things that didn’t go so well however: first, at least two people unfriended me (and I don’t actually know who it is, though I suspect), and second, I alienated Vicey by not telling her what I was about to do, and that led to our unfriending on Facebook.

Now, Vicey’s another story alltogether. And right now it’s a little late, I’m tired and probably not making as much sense as I’d want, and this post is already over 1500 words… so I’ll see you soon for a new update!