So… it’s been a while. I didn’t intend to come back with an update, but when I posted on Facebook yesterday for Trans Day of Visibility, I had a message from someone in response. The content of that message stuck with me, and it made me think that it might be worth coming back to share some of my thoughts on the subject of relationships – of all kinds – and how they can be affected by transition.
Back when I posted regular updates, I didn’t write much about my marriage and the changing nature of that relationship. At the time I was mindful of my now-ex’s feelings during what was a difficult period for both of us, so I wanted to be cautious about what I chose to share. Also, as things were still uncertain and evolving, it felt safer to steer clear of blogging about those changes that were occurring in my life.
For those who don’t know my history other than what is shared here: I have two teenage kids, and was happily married to a man who identifies as straight when I realised I was trans. Understandably, our relationship couldn’t survive my transition.
Although it was hard for us to lose the person we’d hoped we’d grow old with, we both moved on from that loss and have both gone on to find new partners. I’m very thankful that we managed to navigate the breakdown of our marriage with mutual care and respect, and have been able to reassemble a new relationship that is amicable and friendly. We still spend time together as a family occasionally (not during the current COVID-19 crisis, of course) and this is a wonderful thing.
Transition also meant that I lost some friends – not through dramatic falling out, or being rejected/shunned – but through inevitable social changes and adjustments, and gradual drifting apart. But the bonds of many of my old established friendships were only strengthened by my transition (a friend in need is a friend indeed – as they say), and I’ve gained other new friends along the way.
I’m always drawn to nature metaphors, and one that seems to fit this process for me is that my transition was like a forest fire that swept through my life (the sort of forest fire that nature intended, not the ones that are burning out of control because of climate change).
Forest fires are devastating. Nothing in their path remains untouched, and the landscape left behind afterwards is almost unrecognisable, yet some strong, healthy trees survive.
The fires also serve an important ecological purpose. By clearing invasive weeds and thick undergrowth they allow more sunlight to reach the forest floor. With nutrients previously locked away returned to the earth as ash, new growth comes quickly in the aftermath and provides a home to more diverse species of both plants and animals.
So, coming back to my experiences of the past few years, my transition meant I had to let go of some relationships, while others have persisted and strengthened. Moreover the drastic change in my life has brought me new opportunities, new relationships, and fuelled a huge amount of personal growth.
Change is scary, difficult, and often painful, but it’s an inevitable part of life for all of us. Unless we learn to embrace change, we will always be fighting it. Through letting go of the person I thought I was, and becoming the person I am, I have gained so much.
If you’re reading this and you’re afraid of what being trans will mean for you, that’s okay. Fear is normal and you can get through this. If the people currently in your life can’t provide the support network that you need, please go and find the people who will. If you can’t get to face-to-face groups (I’m writing this at the time of the COVID-19 lockdown so most people are literally unable to get out and meet new people), there is a wealth of support online. Get on the Internet, and start searching for organisations and forums that will connect you to people who will understand and support you.
Find your tribe. They’re out there waiting for you, I promise.