I've been coming out to professionals, friends, and family, over the past few months, and yesterday evening I decided to send an email to a male friend. I've been apprehensive about telling him I'm transgender because I have sensed that he may be less understanding than others and might say something hurtful. Nevertheless I sent the email that covered all the bases: my gender-related desires and feelings since preschool, my shame and depression, and how it all adds up to the fact that I am transgender. I felt it was comprehensive but not too long and I hoped that as a friend I've seen for a dinner every month for more than ten years he'd understand and express sincere support.
Here's what I received:
"Well, I hope that there was nothing that I said or did over the years that made you think that I would be hostile or unaccepting or anything like. I try to be tolerant and I hope that I seem tolerant too.
Anyway, none of what you wrote is offputting or means that you're stuck from the "friend" list. I don't want to say something that will be misinterpreted, but the sexual proclivity or gender choice (I realize that these are two different things) of my friends just doesn't matter any more than their height or color or whatever. (Now, if you came out and said that you voted for Trump, that might be a problem.) "
Maybe I'm being too sensitive - it wouldn't be the first time - but I needed to clear at least one thing up, so here's what I wrote back to him:
"No, there was nothing you ever said or did that particularly worried me. Sharing my secret is tough, that's all. It's like finally admitting to a lie.
Not to put too fine a point on it, but let me say that it's not a proclivity or a choice. I agree that it's like hair color or height, or being gay for that matter; modern science agrees that it's biological. I was just born this way. It's a tough row to hoe."
Although I know that emails and written "conversations" are fraught with misunderstanding I wanted to be clear that being transgender is certainly not a choice. He hasn't responded yet but as I think about it this morning I think all will be okay.
That said, overnight I mulled his use of the word "tolerant" as if hey, he's tolerant so isn't that good or righteous? It came to me this morning that it is not: I tolerate a spider on the ceiling, a few dust bunnies in the corner, and dirty dishes in the sink after dinner. But eventually I grab the stepstool and a tissue to nab the spider, vacuum the room, and wash the dishes. So yes, tolerance is better than hate or rejection, but it's not enough.
I don't know exactly what is enough but tolerance isn't it. In an ideal world being transgender would be like having blue eyes or blond hair - not even thought about by most, perhaps appreciated by some. But we don't live in an ideal world so I feel that I have to come up with a compromise. Maybe and especially from friends and family I'd like to hear that, regardless of my being transgender, they love and support me. I don't think that's too much to ask.