Every relationship that we as humans have, whether it is with a schoolmate, family member or coworker, can be compared to raw earth. When you take what seems like just a lump of rock, it can contain useless, worthless material or possibly rare gems or precious stones and metals. There will be times that the only way of knowing what kind of relationship you have is by putting it through an extreme test.
When a transgender person goes through the steps to transition their physical body and their life to match that of their mind and soul, relationships can be put through a time of trial. Some relationships will show their true colors without much examination. The brilliance of the precious gem will shine through any extraneous material. Sometimes the gold of a relation will need to go through a fine shifting to remove things that hide it’s true nature. But many associations will be put into a crucible and tested. As the useless material is melted and burned away, the purest form of a relationship is found.
When I made the announcement of my transition in 2010, I experienced and saw nearly every reaction across the spectrum. Before I made the announcement, I knew there were many people in my life that were supportive. I also knew my decision would be a problem, if not spark some controversy, among some of people in my life. Those people had to examine themselves and sort through their own views on what it means to be transgender.
At one end of the spectrum, several of the relationships I had had for many years, even going back to my younger days, didn’t survive the crucible. Some turned their back and quietly disappeared from my life. Others found it necessary to verbally disagree with my choices. That alone didn’t bother me as much as they did it without even having a meaningful discussion on the matter with me or failed to do any research on their own on the subject. Their view was the only view they were willing to listen to. That disappointment was what moved me to decide that the relationship was nothing more than fool’s gold. What originally was something of beauty to look at, when tested, proved to have nothing in it of any value to me.
From the age of 8, I lived in fear of what people would say and how they would react. I was even in fear how my own parents would react when they found out that the son they thought they knew, needed to be their daughter. I was nearly 40 years old when I made a long distance drive to tell my parents that I was homeless, I was separated from my wife and the reason why. It was the “why” that worried me. It had worried me my entire life. Growing up in the Christian church and knowing the misconceptions the church has about being transgender, I didn’t know how my parents would respond to the news. Though they needed time to adjust, to my continued joy, they were and still are extremely supportive. As my mom and dad have told me, “We’re your parents, we love you no matter what.”
Now all that said, I have to give props to a bunch of people I have known nearly all my life, most going back to kindergarten at Lincoln Elementary School in Wheaton, Illinois. These were the people that stuck with me more than any other group. Though surprised by my announcement, it really had no affect on our friendship, except now I was free to be myself. That freedom has allowed me to become closer to many of true friends.
When I mentioned to several of them how surprised I was at how many of the “Lincoln crowd” stuck with me, they told me that regardless of what the outside looked like; they were friends with who I was on the inside. Those men and women with their continued support, truly remind me of how God looks at each and every one of us. He looks past what we all can see and focuses on who we truly are. In the Old Testament, I Samuel 16:7b says, “God judges not as man judges. Man looks at the outward appearance. God sees what is on the heart.”
I count as blessings, each person in my life that survived the crucible. I am encouraged each day by those people that God has put into my life, both my life long friends and new friends I make along this journey. I knew going into this that many relationships would be tested and I am thankful that God gave me the strength to survive those failed relationships. Only by removing the unnecessary trivia surrounding our interactions with others can the true nature of friendships be revealed.