A few weeks ago, a friend of mine told me she (which was her pronoun of choice at the time, to my knowledge) was transgender. She could have fooled anyone, she was the picture of femininity and showed no outward expression of desiring a gender performance other than feminine or an identity other than female. I was floored.
She told me that she made herself that way because she felt she had to. She had a vagina, so she had to be a girl. I gently explained that that’s not really how it works– she agreed. But at the same time, she didn’t seem willing to dismiss her conventional femininity and she was still in a relationship with a straight guy, a relationship she had been in for many years. Her hesitations for not wanting to outwardly live what she knew to be true about herself was rooted largely in the fact that her then-boyfriend said he wouldn’t want to be with her if she weren’t a her.
She was at a crossroads and she knew that who she really was was slowly crawling up and choking her with her long hair and faux femininity. We talked for a while that day, and during that time, I told her what I largely tell most people who ask for advice. I told her she had to live her truth, and I quoted Cheryl Strayed because I’m borderline obsessed with her: “your truth is a god you must obey and a force that will inevitably bring you to your knees.” I told her that she could come to terms with this now, or she could put it off until she had a nervous breakdown– which, by the way, was where she was headed.
I encouraged her to cut her hair and buy androgynous clothes, as she said she wanted to. I told her to leave her boyfriend, which is usually not something you tell someone who has been in a relationship for years, at least not that bluntly, but I did, because if he said he wouldn’t love her for who she really is, he didn’t really love her. She didn’t argue the point. It is the truth that nobody really wants to hear, and it’s that sometimes people love us for reasons that have nothing to do with who we are. I told her she was about to conduct the ultimate test to see who really loved her. I also told her that the people who didn’t accept who she wanted to be– no matter how difficult it would be to accept– were not people she could afford to have in her life, because they weren’t in it for the right reasons.
I sat down to have lunch with my friend today, and I called him by the name of which he prefers to be called, although not many people know this yet. The journey has just begun for him, so he’s still in a place of uncertainty, as is to be expected. But he cut his hair off, told his friends the truth and was met with mostly unconditional acceptance, talked about it extensively with his family and left his boyfriend. In other words, he overturned his entire life as I had advised him to. Just as I was about to get anxious for fear of influencing something so drastic, he told me something. He told me that as he was shopping for his new attire, the first time he put on men’s jeans and a t-shirt, he cried in the dressing room because of how attractive he felt, how right it felt to look and be that way. And you know what I said? I told him that that was his truth, releasing the chokehold.