…but i don’t agree with you

With the advent of the school year, this young fellow has been thrown back to the wolves of academia with a notepad in his hand and his lucky underwear covering his ass. Such adventures so far have included: buying textbooks, falling asleep reading said textbooks, and enjoying a fifteen minute break in art studio due to a fire drill. Oh, college.

Technicalities aside, school being back in session is responsible for returning a familiar cast of characters to my life. I lived all summer in the arms of my queer family and close friends. It was so comfortable that I forgot some people don’t understand the way we live and understand ourselves in the queer fold. I remembered this three days ago over coffee with one of those characters. My ‘coming of identity’ story is rather polished these days and on this particular occasion it took about five minutes to explain to my friend my journey from gender ambivalent child to gender obsessed twenty-something. I told her how my relationships faltered last year when I spent more time searching for myself in the mirror than with my significant others. I told her how my parents are two shakes away from being forced to have an honest relationship with me or not one at all. I told her how I am more comfortable with the man in the mirror than I ever have been and that the pieces are finally starting to fit together for me in this great puzzle we call life. I finished my story and waited for her response. She expressed sympathy for my crumbling relationship with my parents and then said –

but i don’t agree with you.

… I didn’t know what to say. Given the great difference in our politics and beliefs I responded with “well, we often agree to disagree but that’s my reality.” Was that right? What could I have said to impress upon her that, in those few words, she is disagreeing with who I know myself to be? I respect that we disagree on issues like abortion, sure. But can we remain friends if she actively disrespects my identity? My first thought is a somber ‘no’.

I plan on bringing this up over coffee again. If it was a sincere misunderstanding, I will be happy to talk more about this. If it’s a lack of understanding she has on trans issues, I will be happy to educate. But if her statement was revealing a lack of respect, I can’t say that I will go out on a limb to change her mind. I’m here, I’m queer, I was your friend before you knew I was trans, get used to it.

On other fronts, personal education persists. I ask for male pronouns from my classmates who knew my former female self and I get sincere questions about what it means to be trans. It’s not easy to educate every minute of every day. I might eventually want to carry print outs of wikipedia entries to do the talking for me. But as an activist, it’s worth the trouble. Five minutes can build allies for life.

I will soon be coming out to my parents who will not understand and will not agree. My father taught me that honesty is the best policy so he may soon be wanting to eat his words. Society teaches me that I should have a relationship with my parents. If they want one with me as I do with them, it will be honest and mature. No more manipulating me with money or guilt. I will post updates as things unfold.

This year is the beginning of the rest of my life. May I have the gumption to enact the change I want to see and the grace to handle that which I cannot.

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