Last night, on impulse, I typed out a letter to a couple that M--- and I used to know for many years. They were among those who became instantly silent, so far as I was concerned, as soon as I came out as a trans person. They have remained silent.
Of all our friends, I found them the most inexplicable example of apparently taking sides with M---, and shutting me completely out of their lives. M--- knew them from her student days, very many years ago. But they had still known me from the start of my relationship with M---, since 1994, and that's eighteen years by my reckoning. A long time.
I feared that many people would ostracise me, but I strongly hoped they would not. And I had reason for that hope. They had always seemed to like me, and had always given every sign of welcome to me. And I was equally friendly with them. Ours was an easy-going relationship. She was a Quaker with a sense of fun; a talented blues singer; and I considered her serene and sensible, a lover of life, and the last person to make an ill-considered judgement on hearsay alone. He was a Humanist; a poet; a gentle, reasonable man. Both were creative and artistic, and musical too. They had very nice friends.
I expected them to be surprised and concerned when I came out, and certainly supportive of M--- in particular. But I thought they would want to know all about what was driving me, in a spirit of wanting to understand and help. They could so easily have provided a safe and gentle space, an evening meal for four friends. It could well have eased the rapidly-growing fear and tension that M--- was experiencing. It would have helped enormously if offered at once. I thought it would be. But I was wrong.
Of course there was nothing to debate, no 'doctrine of transsexuality' to examine, nothing to argue me out of. It was about self-realisation and its what needed to be done about it. About what a person, especially an older person who did not have time on their side, was compelled to do now, having recognised that they had been living their life on entirely the wrong basis. It was about feelings and their consequences. How to manage necessary changes. The best way forward.
I couldn't have spoken clearly about these things at the very beginning, as I was reeling with what I had discovered about myself, afraid of what might happen, and I had no pat explanations to give. But their practical help would have given me time to find the words. Their provision of a controlled and civilised forum for discussion would have been a reassurance for M---, a place where the pressure would be less for us both, a safety net. But they did not step in. They did not ask me what it was all about. They listened to to M---, and presumably offered her advice and support, but they did not speak to me. Nor was there a letter from them to me, nor an email, not even a text. They could have done a good thing, something for us, something that would have mattered at the time. It was a missed opportunity.
I'm not saying that they made a deliberate decision to abandon me and cluster around M--- only. I don't know what they thought. It might easily be that they discussed it deeply, and decided it best to stay detached from the situation. In case intervention, however well-intentioned, made it all worse. Perhaps they knew something about what usually happens to couples where one of them finds they are trans. They might have made a realistic assessment of our chances, and concluded that whatever effort they could make ought to be reserved for M---. I can't dispute the reasonableness of that.
Whatever their position, they left me strictly alone, and did not enquire nor offer a mediating hand, nor keep in touch in any way. I had thought them persons of understanding and tolerance, the very sort to throw down a line to a drowning human being, even to someone who might be mad, or a monster. But no line came.
At one point I felt like saying, 'So much for Humanism'. And, 'So much for being a person of religion'. Where was the fellowship that should be offered to all people, regardless of their crime? Where was the love of God, that enjoined those who accepted His will to go that extra mile with the errant? Where was the Good Samaritan?
But then time passes, and you see things differently, and you want to break the dreadful silence. To test the water. And to have a proper farewell, if farewell it must be. So last night I decided to risk a rebuff and write to them. It was a good letter, and I've kept it on file as a draft, but I've decided now not to send it.
It comes back to that word: time. Time has changed things. I can't revive my relationship with M--- as it was. I can only, at best, form a fresh connection based on how things are now. These old friends will have moved forward too. Their lives will have developed. Could we even speak to each other, after an hour of catching up and explanation? What would there be to say? How could I fit into their lives now? Or they into my own life, so different from the one I used to lead. What if their first loyalty remained with M---, and they wanted to keep it exclusively that way? Should I embarrass them with an approach?
I saw all this, and turned off the printer. They would not welcome a voice from the past. There had been too much silence for too long. I let them go.