I recently contacted an old friend from college through Facebook. We were very close during our time in school, and I wanted to come out to her in hopes that we would be able to stay in touch, however infrequently. My Alma Mater is a very conservative, Christian college, and many of the students that attend hold traditional uber-conservative views. It was my hope that even though her husband is a pastor she would be one of those cool Christians that puts love first instead of their own personal dogma. Here is her response to my coming out, personal information and names redacted for privacy reasons:
Hey[old boy name] ([new girl name])
Sorry, it’s weird thinking about calling you a different name. Thanks for looking me up and letting me know about what is going on in your life. I’m sure it has to be difficult to open up about this to others who know you from different circumstances and places. I appreciate the openness you took with me.
I did look you up and sent a friendship request and would love to stay in, however often, contact with you. You were a great support to me throughout [Alma Mater] and I (probably [husband] too) wouldn’t be where we are today if it weren’t for you!
Regarding ‘switching genders’ (I understand that this is a crass way of describing your situation, however I have no idea how to state it!), it’s difficult to describe what I believe and what I feel about this. You see, I support the people I love with love. No matter what is done, I will still love you and respect you as I did throughout our times at [Alma Mater]. However, in regards to this life choice, I find it difficult to say that I can support you in this decision 100%, based on what I know and believe from the Bible. I will always support you in life decisions like jobs, school, buying a house, getting a dog, etc. It will be difficult for me to fully support you in this decision though. I want you to know that this means that our friendship will not change.
Oddly enough, I have had a conversation like this with several people. If you need an ear, feel free to message, text, or call me. [Husband] and I do not share secrets with each other [I’m sure she meant “keep secrets from each other”], so I did have him read your message. We will keep this between us and not share what is going on with others. We know that that is for you to do. (He says hi by the way!)
Anyways…. [personal life stuff that’s not important for this post]
Sorry for an even longer message. Talk to you soon!
I’m sure she was trying to be nice; she’s always been a kind person at heart, and I know deep in my own that she meant no malice in her words. However, to say what she did and then follow it up with “our friendship will not change” was just too much for me. And given her husband’s job leading a flock of pious Christians, I truly felt a need to speak my peace in hopes of changing their perspective. Here is my letter back to her:
[Response to personal stuff, not important here]
So, I’m going to be blunt with you. These past 3 or so years have been the hardest of my life; I’ve had to confront a huge amount of personal truths and accept things about myself that I used to loathe. I’ve found wells of courage I never knew existed, and as a result of the personal battles I’ve faced I have become a completely different person than the one you knew long ago. [Alma Mater] seems like a different life to me, one long past. I am no longer a Christian, and instead tend towards Secular Humanism, which is a philosophy rather than a religion. That being said, I put no stock in what the bible says. When you say, “No matter what is done, I will still love you and respect you as I did throughout our times at [Alma Mater]“, but then follow it up with, “However, in regards to this life choice, I find it difficult to say that I can support you in this decision 100%, based on what I know and believe from the Bible”, I find that statement entirely contradictory. One cannot love another yet refuse their personhood.
First off, this is not a life choice I am making. This is a biological necessity, a medical condition that I have had since birth. Think of it as a birth defect if you will, one which I have a chance to correct. It is called Gender Identity Disorder in the DSM IV-TR (though the term will likely be changed to Gender Identity Dysphoria in the upcoming DSM V), and the treatment of it is considered a medical necessity. It’s less a choice and more something I’ve had to overcome. You know I’m not an idiot, though I often seemed to be during our time at [Alma Mater], and that I wouldn’t choose to do something that makes me a pariah in society’s, and the government’s, eyes. Every single time I walk out the door I face a hard truth that many people in the world today will happily beat and/or kill a transgender person, and think they’re doing the right thing the entire time. LGBT people are the most assaulted group in this country, and of this group transgender people more likely to be a victim of a violent crime than any other. This is not fun for me; I am scared to death every time I leave my house. Yet this fear is so much preferable to the near suicidal pain I experienced pretending to be a boy for 13 years.
Second, I honestly don’t need judgement. I understand that based on where you’re coming from in life, and based on your absolute belief in a book which ascribes to homosexuality a sinful nature (and thus to transsexuality as well, even though the two are completely unrelated categories) you would think of this more as a sin against god rather than a hardship I’ve had to face. I used to have this mentality as well, and viewed starting my transition as though I lost the battle within myself. I spent over 10 years thinking that every boy on the planet wanted to be a girl, and that learning to be a man meant learning to suppress this side of you. I look back on my childhood and see all that I’ve missed, all that I should have had, and all the things I never will have. However, I also know that fighting this battle for so long has made me the person I am today, and accepting this has been a struggle I wouldn’t wish on anyone. When you say you love and accept me in spite of this trans part is not saying what you think it is; it’s an insult to all of the pain I’ve gone through, and I will not have that discredited. I am the aggregate of all these life events, and to do anything in spite of the thread that gives strength to the whole is to unravel everything.
I did not message you in the first place just to rant at you, but it’s important to me that you and [husband], especially since he will be a pastor, understand what all of this truly means. You mentioned that you’ve had conversations about this with other people, and in all likelihood you will meet somebody else either looking at transition or who has gone through it. When somebody is transgender, you cannot ignore that part of them, and you cannot deny them their identity by bringing up what the bible says. If you truly believe that god created people the way they are, then you have to accept them at their very core. It would sadden me greatly to know that somebody came to you or [husband] to confide in you two what is likely their greatest secret just to hear that it’s not what god wants. Ignoring this does not make it go away, it simply makes life more complicated for the trans person down the road, or eventually leads to their suicide. Trust me, I know from personal experience what kind of pain comes with this and it really, truly can lead a person to kill themselves.
I hope when you read this that you don’t take it as a personal insult. My words can come across strong, but that is only because I feel strongly. None of what I said was meant to be rude, but this is an important topic, and the intersection of it with religion is a huge source of pain for many people like me. You and [husband] are going to hold very important positions in peoples’ lives, and you as a teacher may very well run across this as well. Even if this message leads you to hate or dislike me in any way, I would rather the words be said and to know that you’ve heard the truth than to simply parse words for the benefit of a friendship. I hope what I’ve said makes you think, and I hope even more that you’ll allow a personal account some amount of credibility.
Thanks for reading what turned out to be a short novel. [My girlfriend] and our puppy just left, so now I have to get ready before they get back. Hopefully I hear from you soon, and I would like us to continue this discussion if there are any points you would like to chat about. Talk to you soon!
I was full of emotion when I wrote this, but I didn’t want to change a word in posting it. I could have phrased things differently and altered my tone slightly, and I’m sure I pissed her off more than made her think, but this is an important conversation, and I would much rather have it than keep friends.
So, it has been a few days since sending this letter. I have been incredibly lucky thus far, every person I have come out to has been incredibly cool, but I believe I just lost my first friend from coming out. I can only hope that somewhere down the road we will put our differences behind us and find a way to be friends once again. Until then, I will miss her, and cherish the relationship we once had.