Something I talk about less, mostly because it’s hard to dwell on, is how many friends I’ve lost over the years. So many former friends have either actively or passively rejected me over the years because of various turning points in my life and a lot of it ties back to gender.
I grew up in a very conservative household and for all of my childhood, that was my only circle of friends. Being homeschooled I didn’t have much opportunity to meet people who weren’t like me. My entire social sphere were also Evangelical Christian and very socially conservative themselves. So when I started to become more liberal in my politics and thoughts in college, particularly around supporting sexuality, I lost most of my childhood friends, even my best friend and the only cis man I was really ever close to.
Of course since I am a very extroverted person, I made a lot of new friends in college, particularly in the first couple years. But many of those people were also Evangelical Christians because of where I went to school and who I was when I started. So many of them slowly drifted away as I went further left in my thinking or because of my relationship to my very toxic ex spouse who I met in college.
The third round of loss happened when I decided to get divorced because of the emotional abuse and incompatibility with my ex wife. Many of our friends at that point either took her side because of the lies she told or didn’t know how to respond (because women can’t be abusers, right?). I also lost most of my communities during that time because I could no longer go to the same church or spaces for fear of running into her.
To be quite honest, if I hadn’t already started building polyamorous community and met my now spouse before that time, I’m not sure I would have survived. I had been deeply depressed for a long time and I felt very betrayed and isolated. And because of how my ex treated me and controlled our money, I had no savings and no self worth. The final straw in that marriage was me starting to awaken to my queerness and gender and she wanted me to remain closeted for her convenience because she was ashamed of her own asexuality.
But I rebuilt and kept going. Partly because I am an obligate extrovert and I had no other choice. My new partner’s friends and chosen family took me in and were so supportive during that time and they are still my closest friends. During that time I also started building new romantic relationships with my partner as we dated together.
Unfortunately a couple years ago in what we now call “the summer of hell,” I lost a major relationship of 2 and a half years. The person I had been dating decided that instead of breaking up with me cleanly, they would say they wanted to be friends but then behind my back spread rumors and distance themselves emotionally. And when I brought it up, they tried to blame me for that distance. Unfortunately we had intertwined our communities and polyamorous households so much at that point that I felt like I lost half of my family when they betrayed me. And even over a year later, I feel that loss of community very deeply.
But again I threw myself back into relationship building. I joined a trans community group on the path to becoming a nonprofit on their board. I invested a lot of time and energy into trying to create the type of community I wanted to see. Then a fellow board member turned on me and very aggressively painted an inaccurate picture of me that cause many other community members to take their side. They set me up in a way that I couldn’t defend myself without seeming like the aggressor myself. And while there were many people who showed private support during that time, public opinion was so soured that I couldn’t see myself ever trusting that space again. And so I lost more friends and another important community space.
I’m still working on rebuilding from all those losses. And I haven’t given up. But it is hard to trust people when you have been betrayed and abandoned so many times. The thing about trying to live authentically is that you make a lot of enemies along the way. When your sexuality and gender are so politicized that living openly is guaranteed to piss some people off, you lose people. And that constant tension breeds emotional vulnerability that also plays out in inter-community trauma.
I’m still working through my fear and trust issues related to all of this so I can’t say that I have reached the other side yet. But I am extremely grateful for my spouse and the chosen family I have built that have stuck by me and supported me through all of this. I mourn the lack of community but yet I still have a deep desire to build a space where trans people can support each other without the fear of attack from within or without. I don’t know how to do that yet but I dream and I take the steps forward whenever I find them.