If my life up to this point was working to attain and learn how to use the emotional tools I needed to transition, the next portion of my life is to learn how to not let my sense of otherness get in the way of my life and making new friends.
The solitary forests I haunted in my childhood were refuges from a world that didn’t make sense. There, I didn’t have to be anyone or anything. I could simply be a forest creature like the characters in the books I devoured. I would be a mouse pattering about in the undergrowth looking for seeds or a wolf sitting by a pool fed by a small brook, waiting for a fish to swim by.
Being alone in the forest meant that I was safe. Safe from the physical abuse of my brother, safe from the taunts and shoves of the bullies, safe from the lurking dangers of everyday life as a kid who knew they were different but didn’t know why.
As I got older, my solitary pursuits shifted to higher ground. There were summer hours spent upon small platforms of scavenged plywood nailed to the branches of the alders in my back yard. From up there, I could see anyone coming.
With a book or two and a soda, I’d read in the sunshine while the leaves dappled never-the-same-twice shadows across worlds I dreamt of inhabiting. Worlds where I fit in, where I had a place. Where people knew me and I knew them and everyone had a place and knew what to do, even when they didn’t know why. Worlds where I identified as much as I could with the lead male protagonists but secretly wished to be the female leads, even in their diminished roles.
But the sun would go down, it would get chilly, it would be time for dinner, and I’d come back to the reality I kept trying to escape. The reality of being different and not fitting in.
That reality spanned from childhood all the way into middle age, and I thought it would end at transition. It didn’t. My expectation wasn’t that it would all magically change for the better. I expected my ability to relate to people would get better and the sense of not belonging would ease. It didn’t.
The realization that I have massively underdeveloped skills in making new friends and moving through the world has been both ‘duh’ and troubling. Amongst having kids, a demanding career, moving to a more isolated location, and transition, fitting in time to be with my existing small circle of friends has been hard, let alone making new ones.
Pre-transition, it was easy to dismiss feeling lonely or confused in social situations. I was trans and hiding from the world. Post-transition, I’m no longer hiding, and those feelings feel ever more acute because it’s clear they have nothing to do with being trans.
They’re just part of me, the whole person.