On losing friends

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.

The power of support

Have I mentioned recently how amazing my chosen family is? I am incredibly lucky to find myself at this point in my life surrounded by the queerest, most supportive friends and partners imaginable. And I want to take a moment to acknowledge how much that support means to me and keeps me going.

Do you know how wonderful it is to come home every day to a house full of amazing queer and trans humans who have chosen to make me a part of their lives? I live with my spouse and anchor partner of 4 years, a bold, proudly fat and femme, queer cis woman who supports me in all the little ways that matter so much. I never feel like an oddity or burden when I’m around her because she has shown repeatedly that she can handle the hard stuff, saying the right things to reassure me when my brain is being mean and holding me close when I’m depressed. Not to mention providing fashion inspiration!

My household also includes my spouses partner, my metamour, a sweet Southern transmasculine person who joined us last year, as well as an amazing queer woman who defies categorization filling simultaneously best friend, romantic-turned-platonic partner, and close chosen family places in my heart. Life isn’t always easy when you live in a house with a bunch of queers with anxiety disorders but we hold each other up and support each other both emotionally and financially by sharing expenses based on how much we make relative to each other. Sharing a house together holds so many perks, especially knowing that when you have a hard day there will be someone to talk to and hold close.

Then there’s my chosen family and friends who cheer each other along as we stride through this world that isn’t always so friendly for us. I have so many queer and trans friends, and a few token cishet ones, who show up for the hard work. When I’m down I know that support is only a message away and that helps a lot. And being polyamorous, there’s plenty of people that blur the lines too. My life is full of former partners, either of mine or my spouses, and budding new relationships with other nonbinary folks. The best part is that I’m never lacking in cuddles!

I’ve talked a lot here about some of the hard parts of growing up in a conservative religious family but for all that my parents have been far more supportive than I could have imagined. Despite some incredibly vast ideological differences, they have stuck around and showed me that they do love me even when they don’t understand me. They live close enough that I get to see them at least once a month and they have opened up their hearts and home to all my partners and friends as well. They still struggle with pronouns but are slowly getting better and have grown so much in the past dozen years.

I am so sad that every person doesn’t have the kind of love and support in their life that I have found but I want to offer some proof that you can find that even if things seem bleak at the time. I went through some very isolating years in my previous marriage where even when I had friends, there were very few I could truly be honest with. I’m really lucky that my best friend from college survived all my ex’s attempts to sabotage our attempts to stick together. I’ve lost almost all my friends several times now but seeing who sticks around when it’s hard does help you find your true friends.

I know it sounds cliche but the point is that you need to keep trying. It does get better. And it’s because of all the support that I have gotten as far as I have in my transition.