If I Should Fall Behind...

Sunday, May 27, 2012

It's been another crazy week, so crazy that I have barely had time to process coming out to my friend M on Monday. But I would like to write a bit more about it, because I was so touched by his reaction.

As you may have gathered from his initial response - and his subsequent reaction when he realized I was serious - M has a somewhat warped sense of humor, similar to mine. Perhaps too similar, in some respects; we were roommates for one year, which ended when we realized it was better to stop rather than have it affect our friendship. Good move on our part. :c)

We did have fun, though. M is Jewish (in case his "Zelda Morgenstern" joke didn't give that away) and, well, I'm not, so when the holiday season arrived that year, we came up with the perfect compromise. We put up a Christmas tree and topped it off with... a Star of David. We have since offered our proven interfaith negotiating skills to the State Department, but, alas, in vain. So far.

Anyway, M has been one of my best friends since we met in college. Nonetheless, I hesitated to tell him my news because he was going through a tough spell the past year or so, one that I'm happy to report has come to an end. So I finally felt the time was right to tell him.

Several people offered sound advice as I prepared to come out to people: have no expectations about how people will react. Because you simply cannot predict what will happen.

I've been very fortunate in that everyone I've told has been *extremely* supportive. I am well aware that my actions affect them; they've all been an important part of my life for years, and (I hope) vice versa. I always have that in the back of my mind when I prepare to tell someone, and do my best to make accommodations as circumstances dictate.

Well, as fortunate as I have been so far - and I have been VERY fortunate - M's reaction was the most remarkable.

Once we got past his completely understandable shock at my news - and my shock at *his* reaction ("I didn't think you could possibly get any paler than you usually are... but I was wrong!" he told me later), I asked him if he was comfortable with me talking about this.

"I'll listen to anything you want to tell me," he said. "You've had to keep this secret your entire life; it's the least I can do.

"I just feel awful that I didn't know you were going through this your entire life and thought you had to do it alone. I feel like I failed you as a friend."

I assured him he most certainly had not, nor had any of my other friends. If anything, I had let them down by not feeling I could share who I really was with them.

"I'm sorry to hear that," he said. 

"But we all had a secret too: none of us really liked you all that much," he added. "So this means you get to start with a clean slate as yourself - and not a moment too soon, by the way!"

(You can see why M and I get along so well; when in doubt, make the other person laugh. Or, well, try to make them laugh, in my case. ) :c)

When I asked him if he knew what transitioning entailed, his immediate reply once again took me by surprise.

"It means you finally get to be yourself," he said. "And you finally get to be happy. And no one deserves that more than you."

Yes, I was a little teary-eyed after that. :c) (Did I mention I have amazing friends?)

In fact, this is what has occupied my thoughts this week. The one thing that has consistently surprised me is the level of compassion my friends have shown me, and their distress that I felt I had to carry this burden alone. And that bothered me.

I had a session with M, my therapist, yesterday, which was very much needed, as it was, for all intents and purposes, my first in three months. I told her that I felt sorry for how much I had underestimated my friends.

"Maybe you might consider looking at it another way," she said. "Instead of feeling you underestimated them, maybe you should give yourself credit for instinctively choosing friends who would be there for you whenever you finally felt you could reveal yourself to them."

I thought about that for a moment.

"My friend F told me once that your friends are a reflection of who you are," I said. "That makes me feel pretty good right now."

M just smiled.

"Isn't it nice to realize that you actually deserve the faith your friends have in you?" she asked.

Yes, it certainly is.

And I hope I can justify their faith as I move forward.


This is a deeply moving version one of Bruce Springsteen's most beautiful - and under-appreciated - songs. It a perfect wedding song (for anyone out there planning for their nuptials ;c)), but its sentiments are universal.


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