Saturday, June 04, 2011
Transitions and Adjustments
So yesterday evening I went to a reunion. It was mostly a bunch of theatre friends from my college days. Most of them I hadn't seen in 18-20 years, so it was fun to get reacquainted and see some of them again. My only regret was that more of these dear friends were unable to attend.
Anyway, one friend who I haven't seen in person in probably 15 or 16 years had a sex change since I last saw her. She grew up as a man, and that's how I knew her in college and most of the years after. I knew she would be attending the reunion, and I wanted to make sure that I handled her transition as nonchalantly and normally as possible. I wanted her to feel that it was no big deal to me and to feel that I was treating her no differently than I did when she was still a man.
But I must admit, I was a bit nervous. When you've known somebody as "Bill" for most of your relationship, and they're now "Betty," it is hard to adjust. It's hard not to want to call them by their former name or refer to them as their former gender. That's obviously my problem, not hers, but I must admit it was challenging not to call her by the name I've known her as for most of our relationship. (I didn't, of course, and true to my intentions, I think I succeeded in making her feel that, as far as I was concerned, the sex-change was a complete non-issue for me.)
When we were in college together, "Bill" (not his/her real name) was a bit odd. We were friendly, but I certainly wouldn't say we were best friends or anything. Actually, at the time Bill scared me a little bit. He seemed preoccupied with death, violence, and liked to do outrageous things to provoke people. I remember him and another kid being absolutely convinced they were vampires and living their lives as closely to that ideal as possible. Bill enjoyed talking about morbid things and loved doing this trick where he would take a needle and flick it upside down and right side up over and over again with his tongue. He liked inflicting pain on himself to gross other people out and liked telling kind of gross stories. I was always convinced that if any serial murders ever occurred in the small college town where we lived, he would be at the top of my suspect list.
I later transferred to another college a year behind him, and he had mellowed somewhat since our first years together (I always suspect he was so outrageous because of self-esteem issues), and I liked him better then. He was an odd guy, though.
While I never once suspected that he yearned to be a woman, I also can't say I was surprised when he became one. I guess I was surprised he actually wanted to be a woman, but wasn't necessarily surprised that he did something so drastically life-changing as becoming a woman. It seemed like the kind of outrageous sort of thing he would do (and I don't mean that having a sex change is outrageous; I mean that Bill having one seemed like just the kind of attention-getting thing he would do when I knew him as Bill).
I certainly don't mean to imply that Bill got a sex change just to be outrageous. I'm sure Bill really wanted to be a woman. I just didn't know that until she actually became one.
Betty (also not her real name), by all accounts from mutual friends, seems much happier now, and from what I saw, I would agree. As one friend said (his words, not mine), "[Bill] could be kind of a douche-bag, but [Betty] is quite lovely." I actually have to say, my friend is kind of right. Bill could be a bit hard to deal with at times. Betty seems much more relaxed and happy with who she is.
Still, I won't lie. It does take some getting used to. When I gave Betty a hug, she, naturally, had breasts, and I thought to myself, "This is different. Last time I hugged her (as Bill) those were not there." Bill also had a very deep, somewhat gruff voice. Betty's is lighter and airier.
I will say, Betty still looks a bit mannish to me (but maybe that's because I've mostly known her as a man and it's harder for me to see the woman). Bill was quite a masculine-looking guy. In fact, as an actor he played the role of a very gruff cowboy-type villain in a fairly well-known movie. That was his type. Certainly she is more feminine now, but she still looks quite masculine in many ways to me.
In any case, I truly am glad that Betty is happy with who she is (and she does seem happier than when I last saw her). It was really nice to see her and my other friends. We had a really great time. I had so much fun and was really glad I went.