Too often we believe ourselves capable of things only to realize, when confronted with an opportunity to rise to the occasion, that our own prejudices, notions, ideas and even experiences prove us to be less capable than we had thought or hoped. Many years ago, while at university, I became close friends with someone. We traveled near and far, from the local pet store to play with the puppies to the mountains and back to campus in an afternoon. We found, I like to think, the deepest kind of friendship and respect. We counseled each other on our respective relationship issues, our hopes, our concerns, ambitions and anxieties. We followed our respective academic paths and, after graduation, traveled different directions. As happens to many, our communication became less reliable and time and distance took their inevitable toll. Several years passed.
Dating, marriage, parenthood and all the conventional steps of life came to me. Although I never completely forgot the friendship, I became less and less connected to the people of my past. This came, in some part, from a long un-diagnosed depression, but also from a growing disinterest and disgust with social media. For quite a while I was absent from Facebook and, as such, from the minds of many. This changed earlier this year when I reactivated my Facebook presence and started to seek out friends from my past.
What came from this was an opportunity to reunite with this singular personality. While at university, we had discussed the subjects of sexuality, orientation, gender identity and the like. I sincerely believe that these conversations set for me the foundation of my progressive views on these matters. Because of our friendship, what might have been deeply unsettling and difficult for others, became a completely seamless reunion on New Year’s Eve.
My friend’s name is different from the one I had originally known. The voice is markedly different, the necessary pronouns have changed and certain facial features are new, and yet we sat together as we had sat together all that time ago. For me, the most difficult thing was deciding whether an embrace or a handshake was the most appropriate initial action. With only the slightest hesitation, a selected the former.
Returning to the original observation, I was undeniably anxious that I would somehow offend or fall into making our visit more about politics than friendship, the macro instead of the micro. There was no need to fear. The question of transitioning from one to the other, the trials and tribulations facing the LGBT~ community in this era of “bathroom bills” and an increasingly reactionary governing class was, for this great moment, put aside. We talked of family, friends, work and goals. We spoke, not like laboratory specimens in some cold and sterile social experiment, but as human beings who, to be sure, have had very different life trajectories and yet did not feel a need to dwell upon or compare those experiences. If my friend, at some point, would like to share the story, I will of course be readily available and eager to listen. But confession and testimony are not prerequisites for friendship to continue and grow.
I have deliberately avoided using my dear friend’s name or gender identity because I want to empress upon the reader that friendship transcends these banal categories. Names and appearances may change as might the words we use to describe them, but friends of the purest type are not bound by those characteristics. This is not to suggest that we should not be cognizant of each others’ preferences and wishes, but it is to suggest, to demand, in fact, that we don’t allow those preferences and wishes to cloud our feelings and thoughts. I was not there when my friend “came out”, but I hope that, in my own small way, I have helped make that remarkable and unfolding journey easier to face and a little less lonely.