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Somebody That I Used to Know Redux

A while back I swiped a post title from Gotye’s song, “Somebody That I Used To Know” to talk about somebody’s that I used to know. A little awkward now since one of them since friended me on Facebook. Well, I’ve said it before, this is the year of awkward, so no biggie. I’m going to risk some further awkwardness and push along the same lines, even though there is a chance (not sure how good of one, but still) they are right now penning me a beautifully supportive missive that will arrive mere moments after I post.

Before I go into that, I do want to be clear about something. I really, truly have nothing to complain about. The support I have received far exceeded the rosiest of my expectations in every regard. Many of those I was dead certain would right me off as an aberration and abomination have displayed a level of understanding and love that shames me for any doubts I ever had. I know this has not been the experience of most trans, and although I will likely never be in the !% of wealth, I am for certain in the currency of friendship. Even so, I am going to go on about this one person, because I was happy with the mental conversation I had with him and wanted to share that at least.

To give you some background, I worked with him for about 8 years and we did a number of projects together. Aside from that, we established what I thought was a close friendship. We’d afternoon walks to chat about this and that, and went out to lunch about every other week. He used his truck to help me pick up stuff from Lowes, and was my go-to guy when it came to home repair knowledge. I encouraged his forward thinking on how to move the company forward, reviewed his presentations and advocated whenever I had the opportunity. When he was laid off a year or so back, I used the best of my writing ability in recommendations, one of which he credited for getting him his next position. We often met up at the grocery store and always made follow up plans. When I officially came out this summer, I sent him both a long personal letter as well as a copy of my ‘Friends and Family’ letter that got me so many positive responses. Silence.

The other day he saw fit to write my ex and asked how she is doing. She sent a very nice and very honest reply that she shared with me. He wrote her back along the lines of “I don’t understand the psychology behind what Mike is doing (even though she identified me as Michelle), and I can’t find it in me to forgive him”. Yeah, I wasn’t totally thrilled by that, and I’m not even talking about the ‘Mike’ and ‘him’ part. Not understanding, fine, even though my letter explained it well enough for everyone else who received it, but also included both references for further information, as well as a very open invitation to ask me absolutely anything. But “forgive me”? Seriously? I clearly didn’t understand that his perception of my gender was the critical lynch pin that held our friendship together. Something he so dearly counted on as one of the pillars of his existence.

I naturally began to imagine the inevitable face to face, or even email to email. I can’t help it, I do that when I’m upset about something. It was easy to conceptualize his perspective (accuracy highly questionable of course); his rigidity about certain things is well known to me. “You represented yourself as male, made decisions as if you were, and therefore you are obligated then to continue on and suck up any namby-pamby feelings you might have otherwise, because that is your responsibility.” Yeah, I had heard his opinions enough to understand his position that ‘personal responsibility’ trumps any unfortunate circumstance. After all, if he managed to achieve some success as a white male from an upper middle class stable family, and paid for education background. Anyone else’s failure to do so was a clear choice on their part. If and when we meet up, and we will because Buffalo is just not that big, I imagine he is going to say something along the lines of, “You deliberately deceived me and everyone else, and chose this incomprehensible path without any regard for your family and friends.” To be clear, this may be my own circumstantial guilt speaking as well.

I want to tell him that he took no time to attempt to understand. I want to tell him that this is not at all about him; a friend at work said he had no stake in this and so had no right to any feelings about it, so why can’t he understand that as well? I want to ask him why he couldn’t even be bothered to ask me. I want to put him in my shoes and ask him, realistically, if he (a portly man) were told to run a marathon or lose absolutely everything, how long he could truly run before it just wasn’t possible to do so anymore, no matter what the consequences. If it’s all truly a choice, shouldn’t he be able to keep going? I want to tell him that in a world of no good option, I chose to stop, lose and live over running to death; a path where everyone loses. I want to tell him I’m disappointed that the package the friendship came in is more important than the quality of the content.

I doubt I’ll say much of this at all. For one, not many people have the patience to stand silently under a barrage of poignant and meaningful questions. I’m also really not that eloquent in person. Chances are, when I see him at the grocery store he’ll simply pretend not to notice me and engage in passive aggressive silent shunning.

I have nothing to complain about. I’m truly blessed by the overwhelming generosity of spirit I’ve been showered with. I love all the family and friends who knew me before and stayed, and I love all those I met after who have also become so important in my life. Still, I’m human and all too capable of irrational or invalid feelings of disappointment. No one really loves a lack of resolution either, even if it comes in the form of a ‘piss off and die’ message spray painted on the side of my dog (actually I’d be pretty heartened with that; she’s really fast and it would show a sincere effort). It will happen though. His prized ladder is still in my garage.

Somebody That I Used to Know

“Seriously Michelle, you are going to reference ‘Glee’ yet again? God, I think I’m going to try and find some handmade steampunk themed stirrup pants on Etsy rather than read more of this crap.” I hope not. In spite of my comedicly flat opening here it was my hope that we have something to talk about, plus you simply don’t have the ass for those pants. OK, so I was watching ‘Glee’ and heard the Gotye song, “Somebody That I Used to Know” and thought it was something I thought I would like to hear again. My spouse/sister looked it up on YouTube and we watched a delightful video by the original artist a couple dozen times.

I’d explain the song in detail, but honestly, you are already in front of a computer so go look it up and come back to reading this. Really, it’s worth it. If you are rolling your eyes because everyone already knows about this, all I can say is look, no one who has even read one of my posts before would fling the words “hip” or “with it” or “not pathetically dorky” in my general direction.

The reason this is so popular, other than the gratuitous use of a xylophone and naked people covered in paint, is that it speaks to a very universal phenomenon. To stay on topic and not just write a teenagery gushy tribute to the song, I’m going to take a big leap and say that so many of us in the transgender community have a collection of such somebody’s as a direct result of our existence. I think the goat man [Editors note: Gotye did not choose his name on account of his resemblance to a goat] said it best, “and that feels so rough”. It does feel rough.

Now, I’m not bringing this up as an excuse to air some grievances at individuals who turned away or instituted a policy of radio silence once I came out as trans. OK, maybe a little bit, but I’ll leave out names. Been down that road before in a blog from years past where I under estimated the tendency people have to dive 38 pages deep into a Google search of themselves. I got quite the verbal spanking and promised not to do that again.

Most of the people I came out to reacted way more favorably than I could have hoped for. I will say this, no one told me off or anything, well, except for that one time, but I don’t think that happens much anyway. I wrote to one of my oldest friends and let him know. We were best friends in the first grade and virtually inseparable through all of grammar school and high school, lost touch sometime in college and reconnected on Facebook a few years ago. Just last March he came to my dad’s wake and we pledged to get together for dinner and catch up. Anyway, I wrote him in December. Nothing. I pinged him on my old male Facebook account and asked if he got my letter. Nothing. Now that it’s late spring, I’m beginning to think he’s now just somebody that I used to know.

I had a very close friend in the Air Force whom I loved with an intensity that has only been surpassed by my love for my spouse/sister. We worked together, spent every day together, talked almost every night after I came back to Buffalo, and she even came to my wedding. I wrote her a long letter as well and received only deafening silence in return. Honestly, I would have well preferred a nice venomous “fuck you, freak” because at least then I could have mustered some righteous indignation over the severance of the relationship.

“But you didn’t have to cut me off; Make out like it never happened and that we were nothing… But you treat me like a stranger and I feel so rough… I guess I don’t need that though, and now you’re just somebody that I used to know.”  It’s true really; all of it. So you all don’t take this the wrong way, yeah, it hurts a little, but just part of life in general. On getting my letter they may very well feel exactly the same way. “Michael” was somebody who they used to know and just got the news that he’s no longer there, and maybe never really was to begin with. Hurt feelings in transition often go both ways, and as much as tell ourselves it’s really only about us, we know that isn’t true, even if we want it to be.

So, as with anything in life, I say goodbye to some old friends, embrace even tighter those who stayed, and welcome new one’s who are happy to know the real me. All said and done, it’s a pretty fair trade if you ask me.  Maybe not so rough after all.

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