Well, this is very pleasant. Only two months ago I met a new friend - a trans woman from the north west of England, quite casually, when she was visiting another local friend at the Nuffield Hospital in Brighton. I got on very well with this new friend, and found we had a mutual interest in photography. Definitely another person then to add to my network of people that I know.
But there has been a remarkable development in the last few days. This new northern friend (J---) went out for an evening meal with Shirley Anne (whose blog is Minkyweasel World - see my Blog List to the right) and the subject of hormones came up (that's an unusual topic, to be sure!). Shirley Anne suggested that J--- read my last post, and then they realised that they were talking about someone they both already knew - me. Isn't that amazing, because if I hadn't become a blogger I wouldn't have known Shirley Anne, and if I hadn't got to know the friend who was in hospital, I wouldn't have encountered J---! Tenuous connections indeed.
Or is it really so amazing?
I now have distinct sets of friends scattered across the country, all of whom I've got to know since I began my transition. None date from before the winter of 2008/2009. Not many are bloggers, although I can claim that I've personally met no less than nine other bloggers, which seems to me impressive. But making friends at places like the Clare Project in Brighton, or through encounters at voice therapy sessions with Christella Antoni, or by going to the opera, or simply through existing friends, has let me expand my social base more than I would have ever thought possible in the bleak days of autumn 2008, when I felt very alone and very subdued by anti-transition pressure. Now I feel part of a wide network of people who are all in the same basic position. We are not all close friends of course, and the chemistry between people is not always strong, but the link is there. And I'd bet that if all these people were asked who else do they know, we'd all find that there are even more links than we thought. The network of links might easily be dense, like neural connections in the brain. Even now, if I attempted to draw a diagram to show who knows who, it would quickly look like a confusing mess of connecting lines. So it's not altogether surprising that J-- and Shirley Anne might know me - or that someone else they know, whom I don't yet know, quite independently knows me!
But sadly it doesn't follow that every trans person automatically gets linked to a network. It depends on making contact. Putting yourself out there, and getting to know some people. And that can be very hard.
It's difficult enough to overcome fear and embarrassment and potential ridicule and a host of other practical problems when you are confident and in a good place to do something about your life. Those living in parts of the country where there is no local culture tolerant of boundary-pushing, or who cannot get the understanding and support of their family, face a solitary and dispiriting existence. I can perfectly see that unless somehow told that distance-bridging contacts can be made on the internet, these poor souls can remain alone and friendless, unable to find companionship, and excluded from any network.
And this is one justification for blogging. It's naturally pleasant to find that people respect and like what you write about, and that you have a personal following; but the real value of blogging is to become a trusted internet resource for those who need to read what others like them think about their condition, and what they do with their lives. So it really helps if one's Blog List (of the people you follow) is long and comprehensive and balanced. One should be a safe stepping stone for those crossing the raging torrent.