I’ll call her T, but she could be someone you know. She could be someone struggling with her college lessons, her trauma after a sexual assault, growing up with abusive parents indelibly scarred, returning from a war torn landscape remaking her world, or fighting substance abuse. It doesn’t matter. My T is another trans person, but this post isn’t about being trans. T isn’t the first person I’ve met like her.
When we set out to intervene in someone’s life we run a big risk. We need empathy to understand their world. Yet empathy opens us to feeling connected, and connection makes us vulnerable. The worst part is we can make the mistake of thinking we have control, that what we do or say can help or hurt in some definitive way.
T came on my scene some months ago. She had a substance problem and had recently come out as trans which was not cool with her wife of a year. Initially she was fairly open to help of various kinds. She has, to her credit, kicked her addiction. The wife is out of the picture understandably and she wants to transition.
If you read my earlier post on transitioning you’ll see that especially the mental aspects take a long time and that hormone therapy has a limited effect, especially in the short term. It is generally six months before noticeable breast tissue appears and many trans women end up with no more than an A cup (and there’s nothing wrong with that).
T is pushing her GP for hormones. Some of us, and I’ve definitely been very vocal, have tried to get her to slow down and get more counselling before taking that step. She also is already planning to go full time at work. The responses I’ve seen from her to me and others make me believe she didn’t comprehend a word of what I said. Not the first time.
If you read the poem I just posted, which this inspired, I talk about slipping through our fingers. When we try to help someone, someone following behind us that we are trying to keep safe, we can only help them if they are open to advice and ready and willing to take action. If they are not, the responsibility is theirs.
Without such detachment, caregivers can’t sleep at night because they are at the mercy of someone else making appropriate decisions.
I was trying to help P get ready for her upcoming surgery. I was just there to answer questions and explain my own experience with GCS. Someone else had done the same for me. P had her own ideas about what was appropriate. I avoided directly arguing with her but she followed through with her plan against all advice (surgeon, folks from the health care plan, me, others). By that time she had cut me off, so I never got the last word on how some of my concerns went.
There have been successes too, but it isn’t so interesting to say we talked and it all went great. The takeaway is that if they don’t want to listen, you can’t make them. It doesn’t matter what the relationship is either.