An acquaintance recently posted about Jay Brown’s article Speculation and Support: A Note on Transitioning that tries to help allies find a way to be better friends to the trans folk around them.
The most resonant piece of information for me was the last paragraph:
And remember, this isn’t about you.
And remember, this isn’t about you. This may indeed be the first time anybody tells you they are transgender — or may be the first time you’re part of someone’s transition. Remember, this isn’t about you. Avoid telling them how hard it’s going to be for you or that you’ll always think of them as your best ‘guy’ friend, your first ‘girlfriend,’ your favorite ‘niece’ or any gendered description that doesn’t match who they’re telling you they are. If you need help, there are others you can turn to. But the person who is transitioning needs your support.
I found myself a little dumbstruck by how much I could relate to that moment. It’s one of the most common responses I’ve gotten from people when I come out. First there’s “I’ll always see you as our little ween-dog” or whatever title/ pet-name they choose. There’s also the perennial favorite of “I’ll always love you, but it’s going to be hard to adjust” and it’s some of the most unhelpful support you can offer a person. I know that it’s truthful, because pretty much everyone that knew me as a woman struggles with my pronouns, but in that moment- it’s kind of hurtful.
It’s similar to a backhanded compliment, “I love you, but really don’t appreciate this imposition you’re putting on me”. Yes, I can see how difficult my wading through the sea of gender expression is going to be for you. Please realize that I’m not doing this for you. I’m not taking hormones just to fuck with you. I didn’t change my name just for shits and giggles. I am doing this because I need to.
When I came out to you it is because I want you in my life, and moving forward I’m going to be Lee- a man that looks a lot like that girl you used to know. I’m not asking you to get my pronouns right every time in the beginning. I’m not asking you to throw me a parade. I’m asking you to try. I’m asking you to talk to me. I’m asking you to treat me like a human being and not a zoo animal. That’s all. Well, I may also ask for a hug. I’m not sure when I turned into a hugger, but I did. Deal with it.