I knew some of my old friendships would not go with me when I made the decision to “transition”. What I didn’t know was who would follow me, who would not, and how everyone would have different reactions.
Which is Worse, Rejection or Abandonment?
I thought I was ready to expect the unexpected when I stated my own process of oping up. It didn’t take long and I quickly saw that the range of reactions, especially from my friends who I cared dearly, was much wider than I had ever considered.
From the few close friends that I was in touch regularly back in 2015, when I made the decision, no one dropped me. For the most part everyone was and has been super supportive. From my old friends, specially those from more than 20 years ago, I got a wider range of different reactions.
I knew it was impossible to predict who would react in which way, but in my head I did create some expectations. I thought certain people would have positive reactions, while certain other people probably not as much. Funny thing is that all those expectations were wrong. The people that I thought would have a harder time with my decision actually embraced me more than those who I thought were going to be ok. That showed me how little I knew of the people I thought I knew.
I tried to group my old friendships based on how our relationship has changed after I opened up about my decision.
Those that now we are in touch more often
This was a really nice surprise. For the most part I had little communication with many of my friends from long, long time ago. After so many years of living far from my native home, we had little in common, so we were not in touch as often anymore. The nice surprise is that a few of these old friendships rekindled and now we’re somewhat closer than, say, a couple of years ago. It hasn’t been just remembering the old days, but really catching up with so much that has happened through the last number of years, and at the same time reinforcing the things that haven’t changed much between us. I’m confident my friends in this group are with me, if not strongly supporting me, definitely not minding or not having an issue with my decision to “transition”.
Those that said they were fine with me but don’t keep in touch
Most of my old friends said that they were very supportive of my decision and that they’d love me regardless of how I present. What has happened after about 1.5 years since I opened up to them is that yes, we keep in touch, but still not very often. The fact is that I don’t know for sure if these old friends really support me or they just told me that they support me. Even with this doubt, I tend to believe they’re behind me, but let’s be realistic. Distance and time have grown us apart. It doesn’t necessarily mean these friendships don’t support or love me. It could mean that my decision and current way of life is so alien and distant from their interests that there is little in common between us. Or another very probable case is that distance and being apart for so long are much stronger reasons to loose touch than my decision to my current way of life.
Digging deeper, I think the aspect I dislike is not being 100% sure where these friends stand. Not that it matters much (see below), but the thing is that I’ve loved many of the people that fall in this group, so having the uncertainty of where they are in regards to me is not a cosy feeling.
Those that told me they wouldn’t follow me
I did get a couple or a few friends tell me outright that my decision was something they didn’t understand. As much as we had a lot in common in the past, the concept of “transition” I figure it was too unknown and far-fetched for them.
I have a lot of respect for these friendships because they respected my decision even when it made short circuit for them. They respectfully disagreed with what I was about to embark, and for the most part they did not challenge me. They did question my decision, which I now take it as an important sign that they cared for me. Even though I may have felt threatened by the questioning I now know they wished me no ill. Most likely it was quite the opposite, wanting to make sure I was not making a hasty or misinformed decision or something I would greatly regret in the future.
Another reason why I have a lot of respect for my friends in this group is because they made their stance clear without imposing it on me. There was no ambiguity, no sugar coding, no misrepresentations. Their feelings straight from their heart and still entitling me to my own decision.
After about a year and a half, we’re still friends. Not as close as friends as we were many years ago, but still acknowledge and cherish the memories we have in common and we have a good respectful relationship now.
Those that simply stop talking to me
Back in late 2015, after I made my decision to “transition” I decided to open up to my family and my closest friends. I reached out to the people that I cared the most. In that group were many of my old friends from 20+ years ago, that though we were not as close as we used to be we were still in touch from time to time. I did manage to speak with a number of them directly, and I knew they would tell other people eventually if not right away. So for those that I did not get a chance to speak to right away, for one reason or another, I reached out to them individually via email.
My reaching out email didn’t contain any details but it assumed they have heard of my decision from second voices and I invited them to contact me regardless if they had already heard anything or not. My objective was to talk to my friends so they would hear my story directly from me. Even when I knew there was a good chance they had already heard about my decision, I wanted to talk to them. I wanted to hear their questions and I wanted them to hear my excitement and my points of view. I really wanted to share something that was really joyful for me. This integral part of me that I had been hiding.
Some of my friends when they heard about my decision from someone else, or a few that hadn’t heard anything but had read my email, contacted me right away. They were curious what was going on and they wanted to hear my story. That was very nice, and that’s the kind of response I was expecting from all that I reached out to. But it didn’t go like that for everyone.
There were still a handful of friends that never replied and never made contact anymore.
They abandoned me.
It is clear they don’t support my decision. I feel they don’t want to hear or know from me anymore. I took it as a silent but loud message from them telling me “I don’t get what you’re doing and I don’t want to hear anything about it.” For that reason I didn’t reach out again to them. I felt I would be imposing myself as I understood they didn’t want anything to do with me and my decision. I always wished I tried contacting them again to tell them I miss them and that I respect their choice, but I believe that would push myself on to them. I also regret not having the opportunity to share with them the crazy enjoyment I’ve experienced in the past few years. I wish to tell them I’m fine.
Again, I don’t like the feeling of not knowing, though. Not that it really matters in the big scheme of things (read below), but not knowing what crossed their minds and not knowing their points of view is something I’ll have to live with. Not to challenge them, because like everyone else, they are entitled to their own views and choices. It’s that after having such a strong relationship and friendship in the past I find it extremely interesting their sudden abandonment.
And then there was the outright rejection
This is where I don’t know which is worse: rejection or abandonment.
From all my very close friends from 20+ years one of them sent me a rejection email. That email was one of the toughest things I’ve ever read. Reading it or just thinking about it still stings hard today. I took it as HIM lecturing ME on how wrong I was in my decision. Probably the part that hurt me the most is that he came to his conclusion without learning anything from me. Nil, zero! It was all based on what he heard from someone else and his own preconceptions.
My question of what’s worse, rejection or abandonment kept rolling in my head. My assumption is that those that abandoned me had a similar thought process, preconceptions, and conclusions as the friend that outright rejected me. For me there is a huge difference between having heard from my friend via his email and simply not knowing anything from the others. But it’s been hard for me to figure which is worse.
Sometimes I believe that outright rejection was the worst. It hurts more, and I didn’t know why it hurt more until just now. As I write this I believe I figured it out. This is why writing is my friend!
This is the reason why getting outright rejected was wore than abandonment is that my friend’s rejection is indisputable. Clearly there is no way I can change his mind and there’s nothing in his words that would make me doubt anything in my decision. It’s exactly knowing that after all the love we had for each other, there is simply no possible common ground unless either of us changes something. In the case of those that abandoned me I still have the doubt and I suppose I still have a tiny bit of hope in the back of my mind that they didn’t rejected me. Of course time is forcing that hope to fade.
I now figure that writing that email must have been tough for my friend; probably tougher than what it was for me reading it. At times I think of thanking him for taking the time to write and considering “helping” me in the only way he knew. But reading that email definitely stings much more than having a relationship fade away. It feels like trying to fly and hitting a solid wall I didn’t see coming versus trying to fly and just gliding to a soft crash.
That old saying is so true: if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything. Now I know from personal experience how large the difference can be.
Now It Doesn’t Matter
I liked coming up with these groups for my friendships based on all the different reactions. It helps me process the complexity of my interactions and relationships with all my friends, past and present. Probably my assumptions of who fits in which of the groups I describe above is inaccurate, but to be open, it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter because there is simply no way I can know what’s in anyone’s mind. Even if they did tell me it could be their whole truth, or it could be a partial truth, or it could all be false. And it doesn’t matter.
It doesn’t matter because I can live with the doubt. Not knowing, or even knowing the rejection, I work around it and don’t waste any energy wailing the loss. Yes it hurts, but it doesn’t consume me. I shouldn’t consume me.
I’m super happy with myself, my decision, and with what I have learnt in the last few years! I wish I could share all these experiences with all my friends regardless if they’re new or old, but I understand not everyone is interested, and probably in most cases not interested in the details.