17 November 2009

What Came My Way--And What Came of-- Yesterday

Yesterday I had two surprises. One of them wasn't pleasant; the other might be.

First to the unhappy surprise: One of my brothers--the one who broke off contact with me after I "came out"--wrote an anonymous comment to this blog. One of the reasons I didn't post it is that he addressed it to me by my old name. If he wants to refer to me that way for the rest of our lives (assuming, of course, he ever thinks about or talks to me again), that is his right. As we say in the old country, he can call me whatever the hell he wants. But it would have been a bit incongruent, to say the least, to have something on my blog that's addressed to someone who does not exist.

Then he disputed much of what I've said about the relationship I had with him and his kids. Of course we all see things differently, but I never said that I was a court reporter. Rather, I write more about how I have experienced one thing and another. I don't expect him or anyone else to have experienced anything in quite the same way as I have. He claims that I was making my relationship with his kids seem closer than it was. He is right about this: I didn't see a lot of his kids. But I always enjoyed whatever time I had with them, and I thought about them often between visits--as I do now. I never said anything more--or less--than that.

He also took issue with the way I "came out" to him and the rest of my family. Maybe, with that wonderful gift called 20/20 hindsight, I could see a better way of having done it than I did. But given all of our circumstances at the time, and with what I could discern from talking to other people who had to do the same, I made the best decisions I could at the time. Perhaps someone else would have done better. It just happens that I'm not someone else.

Also, he complained how much I revealed about him and his family and expressed his belief that it cast them in a bad light. The irony is that his comment revealed more about him and them than I ever could have. So, in keeping with his wishes to the degree that I can (I can't be his male sibling or go by my old name.), I didn't post his comments. I will say no more about him and his family unless he decides to be in touch with me again. And I will continue to harbor no ill will toward him or them.

The other surprise came in my e-mail box. After opening her message by introducing herself, she wrote, "I've been trying to find some old friends and for some reason, your name sprang to mind."

I'd love to know for what reason. She didn't mention money or children. The latter is not surprising, as we did nothing that could have made them possible. And, as far as I know, we don't have some common relative.

The tone of the e-mail was friendly, as she recounted some of the things she's done since we were last in touch, which had to have been at least twenty-five years ago. She moved, trained for a new career, worked it for about fifteen years, then lost it in the recent economic turmoil. Now she's teaching in what she described as a "career college."

In her message, she said that she followed the name by which she knew me until it became the name I have now. (Well, she didn't say it that way, but it's the best way I can summarize what she told me.) And voila!--She found out that the guy she used to know is now a girl. And, along the way, said guy got married and did a few other things that weren't quite in keeping with either the young man she knew or the woman I am.

She also mentioned that she's still single (I advised her not to be in a rush to get married.) and that she's undergoing a religious conversion. Ironically enough, it was through her old religion that I met her.

All right, now I'm going to reveal another secret: When I was in college, I became involved with a Christian fellowship. In fact, I got involved enough to write for, then edit, its newsletter and to be a housemate of its leader.

All the while, I identified myself as gay. I did so mainly because I didn't know how else to identify myself: I wasn't terribly attracted to women. I wasn't terribly attracted to men, either, though I had relationships with a couple. But, somehow I thought that if I had no real interest in being involved with a woman, I must be gay. And while the thought of it scared the shit out of me, at least it allowed me to function, in some way, as a male. Although I knew that I am female, the thought of doing what it would have taken--at least at that time in my life--to live at one was simply unfathomable. Translation: It really scared the shit out of me.

So I was looking for some sort of refuge and solace, you might say. Yes, I was in a lot of emotional and spiritual pain. Why did I have to live my life with the conflicts I had with my gender identity and sexuality?, I wondered. Actually, within myself, I screamed that question. And I screamed it at God, as I understood--and desperately wanted to believe--in Him. Others were beseeching the Lord for his grace and forgiveness; I was crying "Why? Why? Why?"

Plus, I still had that totally desperate wish for something better (translation: easier) than what I had and what I knew.

Desperate: Now there's a word that describes much of what I've done in my life. I was trying to hold the truth about myself at bay. All of those drinking games and physical contests with men couldn't keep it away. Nor could the love of another woman, or the desires of a man. Nor, for that matter, could immersion in the Scriptures or a life dedicated to the dictates of the Holy Spirit, whatever those were.

Interestingly enough, being part of that Christian fellowship probably got me, at least in some ways, through those college years. Because I was editing that newsletter, I was always in contact with some people who studied hard and weren't malicious. The fellowship's leader, with whom I roomed for a year, probably got me to study, or just to do something constructive, when I was ready to give up. (He talked me out of leaving school at least once.) And, even though I essentially renounced my gender identity and sexual self, the people in the fellowship probably kept me more intact emotionally than I might have been because, at least, none of the males would challenge me to beer-drinking or beard-growing contests, or goad me into raping women. I admit that I did more than my share of drinking "on the sly" and a couple of times the fellowship's leader brought me back to the house when I couldn't get there under my own power.

And, it was in that fellowship that I met Elizabeth, who would become my best friend for many years afterward. She wants to forget that now. But I can't really judge her: After all, if the woman who e-mailed me yesterday or anyone else I knew from those days had tried to contact me, say, ten or fifteen years ago, I wouldn't have responded. I was trying to forget those days and to make some kind of a life for myself among people who didn't know my past. If you've been reading this blog, you know how well that worked!

Anyway, I am very interested to see what, if anything, comes of the contact I've just had with a friend I hadn't seen or heard from since my days at Rutgers, nearly three decades ago.