Dear friend who is trying to understand but just doesn’t know where to start…

I realise this is hard to wrap your head around, outside of your experience and I want to answer your questions honestly. You may not agree with or like some of my explanation but I want to be as open as I can in the hope that you will come to see how I’ve reached this point of acceptance and peace that you seem so find so puzzling!

Don’t try and imagine “How would I feel?” because you don’t know,  besides which working out how you would feel won’t help understand how  I feel, we’re different, everyone is and no two people deal with something like this in exactly the same way.

I’ve learnt so much over the last couple of years, I’ve come to understand that sex and gender are different things;  Sex is biological and assigned at birth based solely on what is between the baby’s legs, gender is about what’s between their ears and is about who they are or will be. Both are completely separate from sexuality which is the mysterious business of attraction and who you will fall in love with. Neither gender or sexuality are binary both can be seen as a spectrum which makes sense when you consider that you get very girly girls and other girls that live in jeans and have no desire to conform to any gender stereotypes and also get men varying from one end of the scale of macho to the other! That is not what it is to be transgender, this is not simply a case of a not particularly butch guy wanting to wear dresses and deciding to become a girl in order to do so!

You say that you feel that gender is a social construct and that people should be able to wear what they like and feel free not to conform to gender stereotypes so why the need to change gender? and I do agree, sort of. I think gender expression is heavily influenced by societal norms, the rules that we blindly follow that tell us who can wear what and which roles are considered acceptable for men and women are man made and on the whole utterly arbitrary. But a person’s gender is innate within them, it’s built into the wiring of their brain, it’s who they are. This isn’t something you get to choose, you don’t wake up one day and decide, try to imagine feeling exactly as you do right now inside your head but looking down and seeing a man’s body, it would just feel wrong, as if you were in someone else’s body.

I’m not staying simply to raise the boys together or because it’s easier than being a single mum etc. If I’m honest it never really crossed my mind that I wouldn’t stay. I fell totally in love 20 yrs ago with a wonderful, sweet, sensitive, caring person who has been drifting away from me for years. We’ve been through some really tough patches but that love and the belief that that person was still there on the inside made me hang on through them all and now bit by bit they are coming back to me. Amy is the person that was always there on the inside, she’s the person I fell in love with even though I had no idea at the time. I know what married to the wrong person feels like, I know I’m now married to the right person, I’m not throwing that away.

As for the sexuality bit it’s a huge question but one that as yet just doesn’t feel like a big deal for me. Yes I’ve always identified as straight but none of the relationships I’ve ever had have started with physical attraction, I’ve always got to know someone, fallen for their personality and then attraction has followed. I’m the same with people in films, I have to like the character before I consider someone attractive! I’ve come to feel that the term pansexual fits me best, I’m attracted to the person not the package, it just so happens that before now I only ever fell for guys!

Will people perceive me as a lesbian? Possibly although we’ve never been particularly publicly affectionate kind of people so holding hands in public isn’t really something we’d do much anyway.  Does it worry me if they do? Not really, it would be odd but I’m not one to worry much about what the world thinks of me. I’m taking this one step at a time and will work it out as I go, as I said pansexual seems to fit me best right now but I’m learning more about myself all of the time so who knows? I’ve been asking myself all sorts of questions that I never considered in my youth!

Would it have been better to have worked this out as a teenager and dealt with it then? Whilst yes realising this years ago could have led to many years less depression, Amy maintains that she wouldn’t do it differently as that would have meant not having me or the boys and she wouldn’t change that for anything.

I guess part of what you were really asking was what about sex?!! I married my best friend, that hasn’t changed, I don’t see that changing and yes obviously we have 4 kids, sex has played a part in our relationship but it’s not the glue that holds us together. I can’t honestly say what will happen but I’m not worried, we’re done having babies anyway, that would have made it much harder. So as with everything else, one day at a time and it’ll be fun finding out!

The last question that I wanted to address for now is the one concerning our boys, you asked if I was concerned about their mental health and the simple answer is no, had they continued to live their lives with one parent so horribly depressed all of the time then yes I  probably would be. Certainly in the cases of the teenagers I see their relationships becoming closer as the barrier that has always been there shifts and they develop a deeper understanding of their parent as a person. As for having a male role model I have no worries on that score, the boys have plenty of fantastic guys in their lives, that’s not changing.

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One thought on “Dear friend who is trying to understand but just doesn’t know where to start…

  1. I have a friend who believes she understands however her actions and words tell me otherwise. I find it very frustrating and she could not possibly understand how I feel as she is not in ‘my’ situation and in any case her life is so vastly different to mine. I am slightly offended that my friend worries about our kids (she has none of her own, neither is she in a relationship or has been for many years) but not once has she pulled me to one side to say to me “Avril, actually REALLY how do you feel?”. Maybe I’m expecting too much from someone who purports to be my best friend – my best friend in reality is Lucy and has been since the day I met her. Actually I feel fine, mostly, but there are some times the enormity of it all hits me.

    However we will be fine. Like you Lucy is so much happier these days and although we know there is a huge roller coaster ride in front of us, united and together we can face anything.

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