Saturday, 26 January 2013

The Breaking of the Fellowship

Those who go through a process like transition form strange alliances.

We were all different before; the process forces us to come together, and we form cross-cultural friendships as a group, our backgrounds not mattering. For a while we all have the same goals and preoccupations. We are bonded. And to the outside world we all seem remarkably similar. And then, once the major personal changes are over, we diverge again into our separate worlds. A Breaking of the Fellowship. Because unless there is something particular to sustain a connection, the mere fact of being trans cannot hold people together indefinitely. There is only so much you need to discuss with your friends for the time being. There is only so much group comforting required. Only so much that can be agreed upon. One day, after every essential stage is complete, the glue cracks and people break away one by one. Probably to disappear without trace into their private worlds, pursuing the ordinary ambitions of any human being, and never to be heard of again.

Imagine going to live in a foreign country. At first the language and the local customs seem impenetrable, and you cling to mutual support from other ex-pats. But after a while it all becomes easier. And then one day you see that it has stopped being difficult. From that point, you can go your own way. Your world revolves around the ordinary people of the country, and a distance opens up between yourself and the ex-pat community.

For some of my trans friends, that moment of departure happened a long time ago. For others, it looms and will eventually have to be faced. I'm thinking that the greatest challenge of transition, apart from the original coming-out, is deciding when you will make that decisive break.

It's a psychological thing really. It comes on bit by bit. There is no need to literally abandon dozens of friends all at once, nor the lifestyle that went with them. But in your mind, a fissure will open up between yourself, the transitional life, and some of the people you associate with it. It will gradually widen into a crevasse. It's entirely natural. Time's up. You've had your turn. Now you must do something different on your own.

Who should stay in your life? Who can you take along with you into the future? Surely in the end it's down to personality alone. Only those people who have important things in common - interests, attitudes and temperaments - will be a good match for each other, and survive as friends.

Mind you, this is a counsel of impossible perfection. I've had friends - I speak of the past forty years - whom I now realise were not a good match at all. I could not abandon them for two reasons: one, I'm terribly loyal; and two, I felt that one should bend over backwards to overcome reservations about a quirky habit, the occasional forgetfulness, some intolerance or prejudice or unjustified partisanship, or a certain touchiness when this or that subject was mentioned. And sometimes I felt they were wobbly and vulnerable in a secret way that they couldn't possibly have admitted to, and this, if nothing else, made me feel that I couldn't rob them of whatever my friendship was worth. Perhaps, for all I knew, the perception was mutual. Perhaps we were deceiving ourselves. But it's easy to see how difficult it is to make rational decisions about breaking away and making a definite new beginning.

So the 'trans world' is a transient world really, full of temporary alliances that will last only if there is some other, more enduring adhesive. Very far removed from the Monolithic View of trans people as an ever-growing united Force on the March, with a Collective Agenda and a Subversive Presence everywhere. To me, that seems like 1950s science fiction. Lookalike aliens infiltrating society and taking over, and other scary nonsense. When all the time we were just getting on with clearing up after the snow, and cooking lunch, which is the next thing on my own agenda.


  1. I guess so many aspects of human relationships are like that, Lucy. People find themselves joined by a particular chord or bond, which is often, of necessity, temporary.

    And once that bond is broken, they drift off.

    It works that way for school, work, in the military, etc.

    I see it as circles of individual human circumstances and activity, that move around, sometimes overlapping with other's circles, and then moving away.

    The mere fact that the circles sometimes overlap does not mean that permanent friendships will be formed. That's no different for trans people than it is for any other group.

    But in each group we enter, we do often make attachments with some people which are based on things other than the mere fact that, at the moment, those people share the same group as us.


  2. Oh yes: I like to think that several of the friendships I have made since 2008 will endure. You can't foresee how they may turn out, but I'm certainly prepared to put effort into seeing people and not be too concerned about little differences between us that really don't matter. But I will let others drift away if the only thing we have in common is that we happen to be trans. That fact isn't going to bind us together on its own.

    We are just ordinary people going through an extraordinary process. But it ends there. It doesn't elevate anybody to a select group. We remain bog-standard human beings with lives to get on with.

    Getting the most out of life is now the priority: a home, a good relationship, ambitions realised, whatever. And that means letting some people drift away if they have a contrary vision and contrary values, and if trying to hold on to them messes up one's own life.


  3. Wise words from both of you. In every situation in life we find others in the same boat and for a time bond with them, for mutual support. We may find enduring friendship or we may not. It is the same throughout our lives wherever we find ourselves. I have no friends from my school days though I had one or two when there, none from my working life prior to becoming self-employed and none since. What friends I have life away from me for they have their own lives to lead. Once I transitioned I very quickly drifted away from the 'trans' scene although still remain in friendship with one or two. The thing is we are all different and we may have similar interests for a time, as with transition, we may even have lasting interests which can keep us together much longer but close friendship is something that develops over a long time and may never happen at all.
    I say enjoy people whilst you can, whilst there is something between you, however small.

    Shirley Anne x

  4. Of course there is the other side of the coin too, if you reject too many people you could end up with an empty life lacking variety.

    Shirley Anne x

  5. Great post Lucy, captured my thoughts.

    So many interesting people have wandered through my life during these past four to five years, so many have come and gone without a trace. At first it felt personal when someone who I had come to know fairly well reached a point of comfort and security on their journey and often left without a word friendship through the ether can be deceptive.

    Contact with this life can only hold back many who have finally become the person they had strived so hard to be. I worried more for those who vanish whilst early in the great change, are they winning or loosing in the struggle to survive?

    I am sure a small number will have found links other than transition to keep us in touch

    When you no longer have to think about anything to do with transition outside of remembering to stick on the patches, the link to that world starts to stretch and weaken. My own memories of transition like the memories of life before then are getting more hazy, perhaps it's just my age...

    With the rate people whom I have followed are going through their GCS operations, few will be posting this time next year. My posts will probably be about gardening and drive the remainder away...

    Green shoots are pushing through the autumn leaves and snow.


This blog is public, and I expect comments from many sources and points of view. They will be welcome if sincere, well-expressed and add something worthwhile to the post. If not, they face removal.

Ideally I want to hear from bloggers, who, like myself, are knowable as real people and can be contacted. Anyone whose identity is questionable or impossible to verify may have their comments removed. Commercially-inspired comments will certainly be deleted - I do not allow free advertising.

Whoever you are, if you wish to make a private comment, rather than a public one, then do consider emailing me - see my Blogger Profile for the address.

Lucy Melford