A friend came out as transgender last year. It took me a while, but I found my response…
Hey! Sooooo… I apologize that this took so long for me to send to you. I saw your coming out post when you originally put it up, and it’s taken me a while to work through a lot of my thoughts and feelings. It’s still a work-in-progress for me, but I just wanted to share a bit with you.
When I saw the post, I was pretty surprised. It wasn’t something I had suspected or considered for you before. The trans experience is pretty outside my wheelhouse. I have acquaintances who are trans, but no close friends. You were the first person that I’d say I know fairly well who’s come out as trans. So this is a new personal experience for me.
Even as I’m writing this, I realize how me-centered my thought process is, rather than you-centered. This is your experience primarily, and mine only secondarily, and I’m sorry that I have to consciously think about how that’s the case, and focus on re-orienting my thought processes so that this is more about you, and less about me. I think that everyone who comes out has to do this funny little dance where people should be compassionate towards you in this difficult (even if freeing) statement, when, in reality, you have to be compassionate/understanding towards the people you come out to. Often, they’re the ones crying and apologizing and saying how they feel about the experience, rather than letting you do these things.
So I know it’s ironic that I’m here telling you how I feel. I suppose… initially, this was really hard news for me. It’s strange, because I tend to think that I should be empathetic and let people live their own lives, especially if those lives are lived distinctly from mine. But I had a hard time accepting this. It made me kind of angry, not necessarily at you, but at the situation. After some processing (and a discussion with my counselor), I realized that I was going through a sort of grieving process. I realized that I’d really seen you as a very significant father figure in my life, and I felt like I was losing that. I didn’t know what to do with this new person, with a new name (and no beard…). And in losing that person, I felt like I was losing a part of myself. And it made me feel very very sad.
But, of course, I know that you are still you. I know that those memories I have, and the things I learned from and through you are real, and important, and good. And even if there’s a new you, that old you was still you, too, and I’m grateful for that. We all change, and I want to give you the room and space to grow, even if I’m not really entitled to be someone to give you that. You don’t need that from me.
All that is to say… I just want to say that I’m grateful for you, for all the wonderful memories, and the things you’ve given me. I’ll always carry them and be grateful for them. And even if this transition is difficult for me, I want you to be free to make the decisions that make you happy. I don’t need to understand them for them to be good. I’m still working on integrating the transgender experience into my understanding of Catholicism, but real lives don’t always move at the pace of our understanding, and that’s ok, and good.
I think the name change may take some time for me, but I just want to say that I love you, and I hope that this is a freeing and happy experience for you, and that whoever and however you decide to be, I’ll always be grateful to have you as a part of my life.
You can find more of my (developing) thoughts on Catholicism and gender here.
Chris Damian is a writer, speaker, attorney, and business professional living in the Twin Cities. He received his B.A. in Philosophy from the University of Notre Dame and his J.D. and M.A. in Catholic Studies from the University of St. Thomas. He is the author of “I Desired You: Intellectual Journals on Faith and (Homo)sexuality” (volumes I and II). He is also the co-founder of YArespond, a group of Catholic young adults seeking informed and holistic responses to the clergy abuse crisis. In his free time, he enjoys hosting dinner parties and creative writing workshops.