Tuesday, January 24, 2012

New Beginnings



January is the month of new beginnings for me . . . a clean slate, a time to dream and a time to be inspired.  I had a conversation with a dear friend that I wanted to share with you, because it represents so much of what inspires me every day to work hard for the LGBT community.

My friend is a highly respected individual in his field of work, which is dominated by men.  He is in his forties, is married, and has two beautiful children.  He was also born in the wrong body and has struggled most of his life wondering what was wrong with him.  For years, he literally thought he was insane.  He prayed for God to change his body to be female, then he prayed for God to make him “normal”, and when neither of those happened, he prayed for God to let him die.  Eventually, he stopped believing in God.  For years and years, he lived his life alone and in fear -- fear that he was insane, and fear that others would find out that he was monumentally different inside.  My heart cries when I feel how much he has suffered.

This year, my friend is planning to transition his body to female.  The past nine months have been a horrendous challenge for him.  His marriage of 14 years is in jeopardy.  He flew back home to tell his parents of his plans.  He was so scared of their reaction that he almost turned back; he was surprised, but ever so grateful for their acceptance and support.  They don’t understand all his thoughts and feelings, but they know that they love their child; and for now, that is all that is important.
He is also going to discuss his transition with the top leaders of his company.  He knows that without their support, it will be difficult for the rest of the company to support him.  This is another terrifying act of courage.  What if they don’t accept him and he loses his job after transitioning?  Unemployment is rampant among transgender people, given the social stigmas associated with being transgender; losing his job, which is a critical element of his life, would be devastating.
He also faces very painful, somewhat risky, and phenomenally expensive surgery that is not covered by insurance.  Even after surgery, it is likely that he will not look particularly “feminine”, so late at night, he wonders whether the surgery will be “worth it”.  Will people look at him in horror or mock him because of how he looks?
But despite these near-paralyzing fears, he is transitioning, for himself, in 2012.  He hopes his marriage will stay intact (he still loves and is still attracted to his wife), but he has no control over whether she can be attracted back when he transitions.  He and his wife have gone through couple’s therapy; he is in a transgender support group; and he now sees that with his decision to transition, he must allow his wife to make her decision to find her future happiness.   He also has a very unselfish goal of being part of and helping to drive a paradigm shift in society.  Perhaps his act of courage will permit others to find a way to live in alignment with who they are.  And he hopes his highly visible “coming out” in his field of work will shows others that transgender individuals can be intelligent, caring, and contributing members of society, regardless of what they look like on the outside.
I applaud my friend and I support her bravery.  She is making the world safer for my son and for her children.  And as a mother, I am ever so grateful for my friend’s spirit and her willingness to show the society that it is neither sexual orientation nor gender identity that is a determining factor of a person’s worth . . . it is the heart and character of that individual that makes all the difference.

2 comments:

  1. Marsha - our friend just came out to me today and sent me your link. Can you believe the courage involved? I admire the destruction of the chains that have bound him and allowed her to begin her flight. This journey surely won't be without pain. Change is inevitable for human beings. If we accept and embrace this idea without fear, we can support those whose changes are more spectacular than our own. And we can all evolve into our more perfect selves.

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  2. Dear YouGuys Know:
    Thank you for your most eloquent and beautiful comment. And if your friend and mine are one in the same, I applaud not only her courage but her wish to change the world by bravely showing an older generation and conservative industry that no matter who she is on the outside, she is still the same competent, caring human being on the inside.

    Marsha

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