After telling the last of my secrets to my wife late last week, she encouraged me to reach out to one of the people I’d been in contact with in the local support group. Even though there wasn’t an actual meeting the following weekend, she said, they might be willing to meet and talk over coffee. Any support was better than no support.
I knew she was right, but I am shy by nature. The thought of reaching out to a complete stranger like that was uncomfortable. In a group meeting I could blend in, fade out, be the wallflower, speak up only on my terms; but I wasn’t ready to sit down and share with a complete stranger one-on-one. However, there was one other option.
In my life, I’ve known two transgendered people (that I was aware of). One of them is my brother-in-law, who is a FTM transsexual. He knows about about at least part of my current feelings; he was one of the first people my wife confided in after I told her. But he lives on the other side of the country, and I don’t know that we have the kind of relationship that would make me comfortable talking to him, anyways.
The second was Erin, a full MTF transsexual. I knew her through my gaming circles; she used to run Dungeons & Dragons sessions at the local game store. We weren’t really more than acquaintances, and I hadn’t actually seen her in over a year, but she was someone I knew locally. So I gritted my teeth (social anxiety! ugh!) and composed an awkward e-mail (“I know we’re not friends, but I’ve got a situation I need advice on, it has to do with identity and transition,” etc.). A bit to my surprise, she readily agreed to meet me at a local donut shop.
As it turns out, I am not the first person who has ever approached her about this. She’s been active in the local support groups and group therapy sessions, first as an attendee and then more as a mentor for others coming to terms with transgender feelings. So she was more than happy to lend me an ear, listen to my story, and tell me her own story.
If my conversations with my wife had been humbling, the conversation I had that evening with Erin was freeing. I’ve had so many discussions online with people about my crossdressing and transgender feelings, including the writing of this blog and the great engagement with the readers. But none of you know me; I keep this thing purposely anonymous. Speaking with Erin gave me the chance to say so many things out loud to someone who knew my real world identity, and yet I wasn’t threatened or scared because I knew that she got it, really got it, and she was not going to judge me at all for it.
We spent nearly two hours talking things out. I don’t feel the need to go into the details here, as there are too many and the conversation went all over the place. Suffice to say I got a lot out of just talking to a kindred spirit, unmoderated by a computer screen. Erin also was able to point me in a solid direction regarding therapy and group support to help me sort things out — real therapy and group support, done by professionals with a specialty and focus in LGBT issues.
Last week was a crazy week. But by the end of it I did finally feel like I was beginning to find my footing. My wonderful wife took a heavy burden with grace and understanding; Erin was there to give me someone to relate to and learn from; and of course I’ve got all of you, the readers who cheer me up just by bumping my site stats, but also sometimes offer your sincere words of advice and encouragement. I’m lucky to have such a support structure.
This whole thing isn’t a sprint; it’s a marathon. I’ve been told that several times this week, and I’m finally beginning to believe it. Slow and steady wins the race …