Saturday, November 23, 2013

Reaching out

I have six surviving siblings, four sisters and two brothers.  Of these, three of the sisters have friended me on Facebook.  One brother has not mentioned my transition … but he has talked to my wife, so it is not like he’s disowned me.  One brother and one sister are trying to get a better understanding of what I’m going through … as they are the closest to me in age and watched me grow up, I am sure it is most difficult for them.

I’m sure my transition will take time for everyone to adjust to … but as I keep telling those who ask, this is the period of adjustment.  I do not expect everyone to suddenly or magically perceive me as … … sister … aunt … female … whatever.  About all I can expect is for family and friends to ask questions … raise concerns … whatever.  I am very open to discussion as it helps me cope with issues as well.  Refusing to talk … refusing to ask … refusing to acknowledge what is happening will only cause more issues further down the road.

I have wrapped my fears around me so tight and for so long it is difficult for me to let them go. 

I would rather not disconnect from friends … I would rather not disconnect from family over my decision to stop hiding what I am, but it is truly a small price to pay to gain happiness.

I am willing to talk … to answer questions … to meet people halfway or try to work out some form of solution to help smooth out this awkward time period.  But in order for people to meet in the middle, both sides must move … for one side to expect the other to do all the walking is not even trying to compromise … it is being stubborn.

But I am willing to wait … I am wanting to take as much time as is necessary to help friends, family, coworkers … whoever, to adjust.

One of the good things that has come from this series of events is my brother and I are talking on Facebook.  He has many valid concerns … he also has children who are barely adult or not quite adult who he is watching out for … all this must be horribly confusing to them, and I am sorry for that.

When I am asked a question in earnest I try my best to answer in the same manner.  I may not always succeed … this transition is new to me as well, so I do not always have a simple answer or a simple solution.

I have copied and pasted a portion of a conversation with my brother which recently happened via my old account on Facebook.  Regardless of the outcome of all of this I truly admire and love him for reaching out to talk to me.  It will be difficult for him to adapt … and possibly he might not be able to, but he is making an attempt, and that’s all I can ask.

11/14, 6:28pm – from my brother:

I have some questions I'd like to ask. I have been waiting until things settled down a bit, but perhaps now is as good a time as any. I'll start with one that is central to my struggles with this. It is not really directed at you per se, more at your counselor. Don't answer right away. I'd rather you think it through and maybe even talk with your counselor. This is a very sincere question. I am wondering how I am supposed to alter my relationship with you from what it was with Tim to what you'd like it to be after your transition. You are stating that the person you were is not and has never been the real you. That person, in essence, is false. Yet the very aspects of your life you are now moving away from are the exact pieces that mark my relationship with you. So, by moving away from them, you are also moving away from me. How do those of us who are not transitioning deal with that?

I appreciate you and all that you have done for Mom over the years. I suspect it will start to get more difficult from here on out. Be strong.

11/16, 3:51pm – My reply:

Regardless of how I ramble, the only thing I am doing is trying to answer your question …

I have discussed this with my counselor, and likely will discuss it more as future family events or visits with friends come up. There is no simple answer … it is a period of adjustment in many ways.

Here is one issue … All of my memories of you come from the perspective of being the younger brother, that will never change. By deduction I can figure that all of your memories of me are from the perspective of having a younger brother and that will never change.

So now the question becomes how do we both alter our mindsets …

I don’t know. I am not going to go out of my way to dress extra girly or wear lots of makeup to prove I’m female. I’m likely not going to alter my voice during family visits … and if I do, it’s not a huge change … it’s more androgynous than female. If you see me after work, or if we go someplace I may wear makeup, but otherwise my clothing will be the same as it has been for the past couple of years.

My sense of humor hasn’t changed. Unless I’m truly stressed or in a depressive mode I still tell and like to hear the same kind of jokes … I still enjoy the traditional family stories … I am still an avid Steelers fan … I still have the Chezum stubborn / competitive streak … I still love to cook and BBQ (and unfortunately still love to eat) … I am still a very private person and very introverted.

When you talked to me July 2012 (I am skipping this past July and last Thanksgiving because I was not mentally right at those times) what did you talk about? When we were in San Diego what did we talk about? Odds are the same interests are there.

The biggest adjustment is the name and the gender pronouns. Pam has known about me for over a year and still slips with “He” or “Tim” … it is not an easy or quick adjustment. Like when scientists told us that Killer Whales are not truly whales at all and should be referred to as Orcas … I still can’t get used to that … of course now Killer Whale is considered an acceptable term again. Or when Pluto got demoted from being a planet … …

Am I comparing myself to a whale, or saying I’m way out there? Hmmmmm, maybe

Everyone adjusts or adapts at their own rate and in their own time, and that’s fine. It’s truly the effort or the thought that matters. Some never adjust or accept at all, and that’s fine as well. It is a lot to ask of someone to alter their way of thinking.

Any time people from my past, or family members friend me I post an announcement to my other friends on FB asking that everyone be patient with them if there is a gender or name slipup in any post.

Some people in my situation simply make the announcement and demand that everyone instantly adjust.  I know life and people do not work that way. The fact that we are discussing this is a huge step that I wasn’t sure would be happening this quickly.

Another truth is I didn’t expect to be on hormones until sometime in 2014. Walt’s death, my medical issues last year and the feeling like I was sliding back into depression were key factors in speeding up the process.

When I speak of past events where you gave me advice, you were giving advice to your brother … you were doing what you felt was correct and I love you for that. The only issue is it wasn’t right for me … I just did not know how to tell anyone it was not right for me. My own fear held me captive. If you were talking to a sister about dealing with a bully (or any of the dozens of other topics we talked about) odds are you would have had slightly different advice … had you known … had I been able to be honest everything would be different right now.

Then again … if I was able to “come out” back then I never would have met Pam, I never would have fathered Timmy … so many things would be different … I may not have been able to transition smoothly back then. We will never know.

The fa├žade of Tim was trying to be brother, the boy, the man that society expected. It was nothing about my interests … I still love photography, writing … I would love to get back on my bike if I could stop having nagging injuries to nurse. Actually, I think getting back on my bike would do wonders for the reoccurring depression symptoms, but whatever.

“I am wondering how I am supposed to alter my relationship with you from what it was with Tim to what you'd like it to be after your transition.”
I have typed a lot of words but feel I have not answered the question. Maybe the simple answer is this:

I understand that aspects of the relationship will change in ways that neither of us fully comprehend yet, but I don’t want to be treated any differently. All I am asking is that female pronouns be used and some form of the name Tiffanie be used.

You saw the blog … I am not picky. Some nieces like and already say “Aunt Tiffanie” and I like it … others may never be able to use that, and that is fine as well as long as the attempt is there to remember my new name.

You and the other siblings may not be able to think of me as a sister and that is fine … just remember that I am not the brother in the way you remember and try and address me with proper pronouns and etc.

How all the dynamics will change in a month … in a year … in a decade will gradually unfold. We all will learn and grow together, just as we always have regarding every issue.

You may think this was a quick answer that you asked me to dwell on for a while … but remember the chess thing. I was already writing this response in my head in August 2012 when I started having laser treatments on my beard.

My brother’s response is not relevant.  The fact that we are talking is very important to me, and hopefully to him. 

Some people ask what I want from this.  This conversation is an example of what I want … show a bit of respect … voice your concern or question … be honest … and maybe most importantly … … Talk to ME.  Don’t tell Pam or Timmy about your difficulties … they are adapting, too and telling them things and not me is adding unfair stress to them.

I want this to be as easy as possible for everyone … but that is a lot like saying I want everyone to stay as dry as possible as we go white-water rafting.  Some people will get wet … others soaked … but I am in the raft, too.

To my brother – thank you.  I hope we can keep this line of communication going.