May 3, 2013

Aw, Man!

Today is not a day I’m looking forward to. In fact, I’m kind of dreading it. The reason? Today is the day that I tell two men about my transgender status.

In my brief life as a transgendered person, I’ve only actually come out to women. There’s my ex, of course. Then there’s the mental health professionals I’ve seen, all of whom have been women — Cecelia and Nancy, the gender specialists; Dr. R, the psychiatrist who prescribes my antidepressant; the psychiatrist, nurse practitioner, and social workers at the mental hospital. [In fact, it’s kind of surprising that I haven’t encountered a male mental health professional yet.] Then there’s the transwomen I’ve met, including Erica and the women in Cecelia’s group sessions. And of course my mother and my sister.

The only man I have directly told my secret to is my father, who was something of a passive participant when I came out to my mother and sister. There are other men who are aware, but they’ve all found out indirectly. My ex’s best friend’s husband, my brother-in-law, Erica’s husband — they know, and I know they know because I’ve been told that they know, but I’ve not exchanged two words about it with any of them. I’ve been in social situations with each of them since they found out, but it’s just not something two guys talk about, even if one of the guys is really a woman inside.

There’s just something about the idea of talking to men about this that’s … discomforting. Because they’re men, you know? And I’m coming off of thirty-seven years of personal man-being experience here when I say that it would probably be weird for them, too. Maybe it’s that I’m afraid men will have a stronger negative reaction, one that’s less sympathetic and more judgmental. I’m not sure that, even a year ago, I wouldn’t have reacted in a negative and judgmental way if a buddy of mine told me he was really a woman inside. Now that I’m the one coming out, I’ve been trying to avoid that reaction as long as possible.

But today, I’m going to have to break that protection, expose my secret to some men, and see what happens.

The first is another therapist. Dr. R thought that it would be healthy for me to see a therapist who would work specifically with my depression and divorce issues, since both Cecelia and Nancy are gender specialists. So she recommended me to Tom, a therapist in the same facility whom she thought would “be a good match” for me. I was reluctant, but hey, he takes my insurance, and honestly I’d like to have someone to talk to about those things.

My first session with Tom is tomorrow. While having someone else to talk to will be helpful, it means I’m going to have to tell my story again (that got so tiresome in the mental hospital). And this time, I’ll be telling it to a man. Granted, he’s a therapist and a professional and I don’t anticipate any problems, but he’s a man, and so I’m already not looking forward to it.

Tom will only be the preliminary bout, though, the qualifier that will set me up for the big one tomorrow: when I come out to one of my best friends. He’s an old college roommate, someone whom I’ve kept close with over the years; our kids play together and we sometimes get together to watch some football. His wife even helped me get the job that led to my current career. So he’s a real friend and a real nice guy.

I don’t have to come out to this friend. But things are reaching a point where not coming out to him is making things complicated in some areas of my life. Like, with some of the more obvious accessory choices I’m choosing to sport now on weekends (more on that in another post). And so before he notices something and asks me, I want to tell him. It’s what a friend would do, and so I’m going to do it.

I’m really dreading this second coming out today. This is a friend who’s dear to me, and while I don’t think he’ll react poorly, the fact is I just don’t know. No matter what, it will change the nature of our friendship; how could it not? I’ll probably give him the old “I’m still the same me I was before,” line, though it’s really not 100% true. I am different now than I was six months ago, or a year ago or seventeen years ago when we shared a college apartment. My tastes are changing, my interests are shifting, I’m learning new way sot interact within society. But I’ll tell him the old lie all the same.

So that’s my day today: go forth and man up and tell some men about my womanly side. Wish me luck!

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