Editor's note: names have been changed to keep anonymity.
Anyone who talks to me about transition knows that I prefer to emphasize the positive aspects of change, rather than focusing on all the pitfalls. Plenty of people on the Internet spend time discussing these issues. It is with this in mind that I want to talk about my friend John.
I had lunch with John last month. It was the first time I had seen him since my freshman year of high school. Back then we dated, and the relationship was fraught with short tempers, shaky emotional stability, and all the trimmings of a high school sweetheart relationship. To wit, John was my first real partner, the first time I looked at another person and said, "I could be happy here."
Things were different back then: he was a she and I was a he.
This lunch was also the first time we had seen each other post-transition. We came from a conservative, corn-grid town in Indiana, where racism was an accepted part of town history and discourse, and LGBT people were almost unheard of. Despite this, in our years of separation we managed to change in completely polar ways. Sitting at our table and talking about our lives I couldn't help seeing a mirror in front of me.
We talked about teaching and working with kids; careers and stealth; family and friends. The entire time I felt like I was talking to an entirely different person, built on all the best parts of what John was in high school. I wondered, idly, if he was thinking the same thing; after all, he did have a goofy smile on his face when he saw me for the first time, backed with a simple explanation: "you just look good, is all."
I tried to avoid comparisons, but I couldn't help it. My mind drifted back to high school, to our conversations on gender roles, to our relationship, to the breaking points we reached. I thought of my mindset at the time: confused, struggling to accept who and what I was despite all evidence to the contrary. I thought back to the desperation I felt, being stuck in that body, that lie, that world of "just make do," and I wondered if John had felt the same way, back when we sat together in my basement room talking about the differences between boys and girls.
Is this what other people see when they choose to accept their friends post-transition? My friends have repeatedly told me that I seem happier, more together than I ever was as a boy, but I always scoffed at the thought. (After all, how together can one be if they're willing to drop everything to change genders?) Yet John sat before me, all smiles and charm, a handsome young man ready to conquer the world. Is this the sparkle my friends see?
We were both so confused back in high school. I guess everyone's confused in high school to some degree, but gender confusion throws an extra wrench into the works. For four years we didn't speak, and for a few years after that we only spoke sporadically. Here, where we chatted and laughed and generally carried on, all smiles and happy thoughts, I kept thinking to myself, "What in the world happened to make things go so right?"