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Reunion Part 2

I am reliably informed that my previous post on the reunion may have left an overly negative impression. That really wasn’t my intent. I’m afraid a bit of my lingering melancholy and poor self-esteem might have tainted what I was trying to say – especially near the end of  the post.  After re-reading the post this morning, it would probably do some good to expand upon some of the negative-sounding points I was making and add a little more context.

First, I should probably emphasize once again that the reunion was a really great experience. E and I talked about it quite a lot on the drive home, and during the following day, and almost all our conversation was glowingly positive. I suppose that’s part of the reason I felt the need to point out a couple of other things on my mind. I’d been over the good stuff many times by the time I wrote the post, and I was exploring different thoughts around the corners of my mind.

My point about missing a chance to explain my transition better is actually a step forward for me. Some people who transition feel the need to exhaustively explain every aspect to even marginal acquaintances (I sometimes cringe reading the level of personal detail involved in certain “coming-out at work” e-mail examples intended for mass audiences). I’ve always gone the opposite direction. I figure that, in most cases, people I come out to just want to get on with their lives. If I didn’t play a big part in their lives before transition, they’re unlikely to care about more than the essentials covering “how does this affect me?” now.

This weekend I was with a number of people I actually wanted more from. For a change it wasn’t just about being left alone to live my life as I wished. All of a sudden I was talking to people I hoped would understand on a deeper level so they could truly accept me despite any doubts my transition caused. It’s not a common experience for me, and I wasn’t really prepared for it. So to the extent that any people there were displaying polite tolerance because they didn’t understand well enough to come to a deeper acceptance, I feel like I might have missed an opportunity. But even in those cases it might not be my last opportunity.

On the other hand (and this was what I didn’t do a good job clarifying in the previous post) I didn’t feel like  I was “tolerated but not accepted” in general. That was not my experience at all. I felt truly accepted by a number of people, and it was really wonderful. I’d hate to leave the impression that I was ungrateful for that.

Sure, I have doubts how close any of us are going to be able to remain. I hope that this weekend reminded a lot of us why we liked each other so many years ago, and the reconnections we made will last.

The trans aspect of my life causes me to distrust how easily I’ll ever fit into that kind of happy ending. That’s something I’m working on. As I told some people over the weekend, when I come out I always – always – assume total rejection. It’s emotionally safer that way. It took me a long time to accept myself. The same factors that made self-acceptance so difficult generate a lot of skepticism around the notion that other people can accept me. I’m learning to counter-balance that skepticism with a new found sense of hope. But that’s a work in progress.

In any case, I hope that makes things a little clearer and a lot less negative than I left things previously. I’m probably not going to say anything more on the blog about the reunion after this point. But anyone who wants to know more (particularly those who were there) should feel free to contact me if you want to discuss anything about it.

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Reunion

The college reunion (technically, college dorm reunion) went well. I’m pretty sure it’s unusual for someone to return to an event like that in the midst of gender transition. I think we’re supposed to skip it, hide the transition, or wait until we’re finished and perfected before daring to make a new impression. I didn’t take any of those paths, and I think I’m stronger for it.

This is, after all, pretty close to the impression I’ll be making when I come out at work. In retrospect it makes a decent trial run with an audience inclined to be more forgiving. I would have liked to thank them all for that, but really it wasn’t that kind of moment. This event wasn’t about me, and thank god for that!

Really the thing that struck me about the whole event was everyone’s desire to normalize our interactions. There was very little talk about my transition. Surprisingly little. I’m pretty sure this was because people felt awkward bringing it up, but it made for a nicely normal experience. That’s not something I take for granted, and it’s something I really appreciate these days.

I’m under no illusions. I don’t pass flawlessly. I’m too tall. My weight doesn’t sit where it should. I spent too much time grinding male posture, gesture, and vocalisms into habit to overcome it all now.

But I don’t think I heard more than a couple slip-ups calling me by my old name the whole weekend – and they were immediately corrected. Pronouns were similarly respected. I know these aren’t easy mental adjustments to make, but it was nice to experience a group of people who cared enough to try. I’ve been working with my parents and other relatives for the better part of a year, and they’re still not there yet. This weekend gave me hope on that front.

But in a way I feel like I missed a chance to explain. I’m sure some of those attending resolved to smile and stay polite even though they couldn’t understand what all this transition stuff was about. “Smile this weekend,” they likely thought, “It’s only a couple of days after all. It doesn’t mean anything really.” I wish I could have spoken to those of that mindset. I didn’t really try at all. I couldn’t have had the kind of weekend I did if I had done so. But it does feel like a miss on my part.

I’m not sure I rekindled any lasting friendships. I have a sense that the weird factor overrode the strength of any reconnections. But at least people were polite enough not to act like it. When you’re young you damn this kind of thing as inauthentic. But at my age, I can appreciate the grace in that kind of polite interaction. After all, these were people who once meant much to me, and in some sense I meant something to them. No matter what happens now, the past holds true.

For me, more than anything, this weekend was about reclaiming my former life – the person I used to be  – and connecting that to the person I’m becoming. In that respect, I’ll call the weekend a success. Any other positives are frosting on the cake.

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Road Trip

The time for the much anticipated college reunion has arrived. We’re heading out in the morning for the flat lands of Central Illinois.

Upcoming trip highlights include:

1. Living a Hollywood cliche as the guy who comes back to “his” reunion as a woman.

2. Finally remembering which people I forgot to forewarn about my “changes” ahead of time.

3. Spending three nights with a mother-in-law who has never previously seen me in anything other than guy-mode.

4. Fun with pronouns!

Despite the snarky tone, I actually am looking forward to seeing everyone.  It’s bound to be an emotional trip, but I’m thinking the emotions should mostly be the good kind.

The timing has actually worked out pretty well. One month ago I would not have been ready for this. I’ve gained a lot of confidence since then. The act of reaching out to a lot of people I haven’t seen in a long time to tell them about myself has proven a healthy exercise for me. I’m hoping the chance to speak to them in person will be all the better.

Anyway, as a blog detail, I don’t know what my Internet access will be like. I might try to sneak in a post or two during the trip if I can, but I wouldn’t assume I’ll be able to post anything until after we return Sunday night.

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Drama Reconsidered

Remember back when I was being all dramatic about going to the college reunion? Ahem… I might have mentioned something about comparing myself to a sacrifice?

Well anyway, there’s a reason E and I fit together so well. She was able to persuade me that I was being a wee bit over-dramatic about things. It’s really not that big a deal. No one is going there looking to have it out with me over my transition. If I chicken out at the last minute, no big deal, but she really doesn’t think I ought to.

Her position is undeniably more rational than mine. No one is going to throw bottles or rotten tomatoes when I show up. If I get a few strange looks, that’s nothing I don’t deal with already in other venues. Besides, if people disapproving of my transition is scary and prohibitive to me, how would I ever expect to survive it?

So I’ll be going. And tempting as it might be for comedic effect, I will not arrive in a ball gown and a tiara. I’ll leave that to the fabulous world of drag performers (I wonder if anyone at the reunion is secretly one of those.). Transsexuals are typically more “jeans and a comfy top” kind of people, though I’m pretty sure most people at the reunion won’t realize there’s a difference.

Anyway, the time off work has now been approved. The dates are on my calendar. Let the countdown begin.

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So I’ve committed to E that I’ll attend the reunion for our college dorm.

I know she means well, but I see it as offering myself up as a sacrifice for the benefit of other attendees. Frankly, I don’t need that.

Pretty sure none of the others do either. Is it possible I can just freaking blend in and spare everyone any additional drama? I guess it remains to be seen.

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I attended the Minnesota Trans Health & Wellness Conference this past weekend. It’s an annual event, but this is the first time I’ve gone.

It was surprisingly well attended. I have no idea on the official numbers, but there seemed to be at least a couple hundred people milling about. I don’t know how many I expected to see there, but it wasn’t that many.

Just goes to show, there’s more of us out there than you think.

Anyway, it was a fun and well run event. I met some great people, and re-connected with some old friends. I got some important new things to think about, and some new resources to help me sort out other stuff. All in all a good time. My compliments to the organizers.

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