Changing Masks

When we first transition we challenge our friends, acquaintances, coworkers, and families to now see us differently. We ask that they call us by a different name, consider us as another gender; a gender we may long have felt internally, but not one they saw before their eyes.

I’ve mentioned before that for some of my male friends this led to some distancing and confusion, for others just discomfort as they negotiated a novel situation. I grew to prefer being told that a person was uncomfortable and needed time than the false cheery it’s all good story some would project while being queasy inside.

The degree of discomfort generally was greater for people closer to me, and by observation this has proven true for others I’ve know who have transitioned. The hardest hit are first the family, then the close friends and more rarely those they knew just a bit.

These people close to us, and indeed ourselves, are those who find it hardest to let go of the old person. They still see him when they see me or you or our friend who transitioned perhaps years ago. They grieve and our constantly reminded of a loss. Unlike death, this loss happens over and over again. For most it eventually reconciles, but not easily and not always happily.

What was most interesting were those who said they could barely remember him anymore or how I was always meant to be Rachel. Even after a few months this started happening. Now, after a couple of years I find my former life has taken on a certain unreality.

It’s common to say we wear a mask when we are in the wrong gender, but truthfully people wear masks all the time. They pretend confidence or competence when they aren’t, calm when their hearts are pounding and love when their hearts are numb. Who truly knows another to know what is genuinely in her heart, to know her values, to understand her soul.


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