14 February 2010

What Would (Fill-in-the-blank) Do?

Yesterday I talked to someone with whom I hadn't spoken since I started living full-time as Justine. It was about what I expected: He kept an emotional distance--at least as much as he could--but not necessarily reserve. We didn't get into an argument, mainly because I didn't give him anything he could argue with me. And he said he would not mind maintaining a relationship based on phone calls and e-mails, though he has no wish to see me.

I didn't try to get him to understand how I feel or why I made the changes I've made. Actually, I think he knows more than he'd like to--and not only because I "came out" to him. He even said,"You did what you needed to do." But, he said, he cannot and does not want to see me as anyone other than the guy named Nick he knew for a long time.

I told him I could understand his feelings, at least a little, and that is the reason why I am not, and have not been, angry with him. And, I told him, I understand and respect his wish not to see me. I promised not to ask him to change his mind--or to ask him any other favor of any sort.

As you may have guessed by now, he is related to me. Why else would I have even bothered to call him in the first place? Two people who once called themselves friends have decided that they no longer wanted my friendship--in fact, one even denies that we ever had a friendship. I am not sure that I would be interested in resuming a relationship if either were to call. But for someone related to me, that is a different (and more complicated) matter.

So why did I call, you ask? Well, I really was wondering how he was doing. But, more important, I felt somehow that I needed to do it for myself. Have you ever forgiven, or otherwise reached out to, someone who utterly despises you (This is not to say that the person I've mentioned despises me.) or who has simply hurt you in some way, even though you know that your effort will make absolutely no difference to that person or the situation? If you have, you know that you're doing it for your own spiritual survival or, if you're lucky, growth.

That's not to say that your act necessarily makes you a better person or improves the situation in which you find yourself with that other person. It may not even be a learning experience--or, to use that odious phrase that was so en vogue a few years ago, a "teachable moment." (How can a moment be taught anything?) Rather, it's something that's simply necessary: In what sense, I couldn't tell you. It just is.

Of course, I didn't tell him that and he will know only if he reads this. The only other thing I could say is that I did it because yesterday was the first time I felt emotionally ready to do so. I really feel that I have become, oddly enough, stronger as I've become more vulnerable. Really, I've had to. I knew I could be hurt--in a non-physical way, of course--by my conversation with him. But I also knew I needed to take that chance in order to "move on," as they say.

Plus, there's nothing like hashing out the decision to transition and have surgery, much less actually doing those things, to show you what else you need--and want--in life and to make you feel less guilty or apologetic about going for them. I knew that there would be people who didn't approve of what I've done, and I anticipated that some would want nothing to do with me ever again. But I could not let them deny me my chance at living my own life and being my own person--and, to paraphrase Goethe, dying my own death.

The one I called yesterday referred to me by my former name and male pronouns. He seemed to make a point of doing so. On the other hand, when he said he couldn't take seeing me "act feminine"and I said it wasn't an act, he said, "Yes, I know."

Some might say that I should have asserted myself more. Perhaps. But getting into a battle over names and pronouns would have accomplished nothing--or, at least, would not have changed his mind. So, I thought, all I could really do was to call him and actually be myself, whether or not he wants to acknowledge it.

It's the best I knew how to do. But I'm still second-guessing myself.