I have been proof reading my book this week and came across a section which I thought I would like to share with you this week.
This is the story of a friends journey of understanding and accepting Princess being trans. I think it is a story of hope for any trans person who is worried about coming out to friends and family.
She is a gentle happy soul who has very definite religious beliefs about what is expected and what is right and wrong, although I never knew that she had these beliefs until I interviewed her for the book, because she is a very unassuming sort of a person who would never ram her beliefs down others throats.
When she was first told about Princess, she rather famously amongst our friends, after a period of quiet reflection burst out with, “but you’ve got a penis, you’re a guy!?” She was reminded of this many times over the years in warm friendly jibes, and was never allowed to forget it.
She confessed to me when I interviewed her that when everyone was out as a social group, she tried to distance herself from Princess because she was not comfortable. She didn’t want to spend too much time with her.
She felt that she wouldn’t want to introduce Princess to her friends or others she knew. She felt that she would be judged by others for being associated with Princess, in particular she didn’t want to be placed in a situation of introducing Princess to friends who she thought might not be comfortable with her being trans.
“Even though the people I am with know Princess, I worry what others in the pub think of me being with him. I know I shouldn’t, but I do.” I found this honesty and inner battle she was having very moving. Interestingly, she said it was easier if I was in the group, because I am so open about it. After some probing questions I found out that, for her, it came back to the issue of homosexuality. If I was with Princess, and obviously her partner, there was less speculation. I should put her beliefs in context, in that she is from a very different cultural background to England. She said; “sometimes, when I am in Princess’s company, I want to back away, I need space to get comfortable with it.”
Gradually, over time, she was getting more comfortable with it. “I always feel I am offending him by using ‘he’ and ‘she’ at the wrong times, but I am getting more used to Princess now. I see him as a guy, I met him as a guy so when I refer to him, think of him, it is as ‘he’. Time makes it easier to understand, not accept. I am OK with Princess, but I don’t accept it [trans]. The more time goes by, the more I slowly understand, and I am getting used to using the right name.”
I made a promise to everyone I interviewed for the book that what we talked about was confidential. Annie has since agreed for me to share this story, but at the time I found this interview difficult, in as much as, when we were next out as a group of friends where Annie and Princess were both there, I was obviously very conscious of what Annie had confessed to me. I was protective of Princess, although didn’t tell her about the specifics of the interview. But it allowed me to subconsciously observe Annie’s behaviour.
However, I had very little cause to worry, because shortly after interviewing Annie I saw her quite quickly warm towards Princess. I could literally observe it as a bystander, with the knowledge I had of our conversation. I saw a barrier lift, and she became more open with Princess, greeting her literally in a more physically friendly way. I was relieved and was really pleased that I could have perhaps influenced just one person’s understanding, and someone who was important to me.
Annie has now moved back to her home country. I spent her last night in England with her, trying to enjoy as much of the last of her company as I could. I reminded her of our interview, and said how much respect it had given me for her. She jumped in and said “I know, I was really surprised too. I felt much more at ease and relaxed and enjoyed being with Princess so much more after that.” I said it had been obvious, she was different with Princess and they seemed closer. She said she had understood more about how difficult it could be being Princess, and tried to see what life must be like from her perspective.
Princess was the last person to see her leave the country as she saw her off the next day at the airport.
This story for me perfectly illustrates just one person’s journey of understanding, accepting and integrating trans people into their lives.
If you are reading this Annie, thanks and we miss you. For the rest of you I hope this has given you food for thought.