Tuesday, May 25, 2010

How friendships change

I've made an observation recently about my general everyday circles of friends. Before I transitioned, I primarily spent time with guys (excluding my wife of course) and yet nowadays I find myself exclusively hanging out with girl friends. It's not something I intentionally did at all but somehow it automatically happened.

Don't get me wrong, I have many supportive guy friends (and of course lots that aren't) and they'll come help me move when I need it or come over for a LAN party when I plan one but it's no longer an everyday thing to call me up and say "Hey how's it going? Want to hang out?". And in some cases, when I've made the effort, they tend to be too busy.

I guess I understand, in a way. As much as I say I'm the same person, in a lot of ways, I'm not. Whether they no longer want to hang out with me because I'm trans or because I'm just a girl, I don't know....but I'd imagine it's a mix of the two.

I suppose it doesn't have to be like that but then again, when I was married, I didn't hang out with other women without my wife because it didn't reflect well on me, no matter what my intentions were. Now that I have a boyfriend, I guess it can go the other way too, whether they've been friends for a long time or are brand new, hanging out with another guy alone might be at least semi-frowned upon, if not by my boyfriend, then by others.

Am I sad about this change? Of course. But like the loss of my parents, I guess I have to accept it as a loss among the slew of gains.


Dana Andra said...

Hi Debra,

This is a big issue for all of us, I'd say. It's certainly something I've talked about with my male friends in particular. "Will you still want to hang out with me when all is said and done?" They really haven't been able to give me a definitive answer. While I wish they would say, "Yes, definitely," I understand their inability to predict how they'll react or feel.

The thing about you is that you thoroughly pass in the eyes of most people, not only as a woman, but as a cute & attractive woman. Is it possible that some of your pre-transition male friends are having a problem dealing with the awareness that they're finding themselves attracted to you?

I don't know. My female friends have genuinely embraced me as Dana, and one of the things I'd hope to become is "one of the girls." So that's truly gratifying. But I'm a girl who likes to hang out with my guy friends sometimes, and I really hope that will be possible, too.

Losing friends and family is extremely hard, but as you said, it's something to be accepted, among a slew of gains.


Rick Muth said...


I think part of it, just might be what Dana said. Some of your friends from before, might find themselves attracted to you, and they dont know how to deal with it. Now, I cant speak for most guys, all I know is that if we lived closer, and you called me up to hang out, I would say yes.


Véronique said...

There are women who hang out with guys. In my experience, they are usually kind of asexual, and thus treated as "one of the guys." That doesn't work for most women. In general, guys want to hang out with other guys.

I agree with Dana, and I think it's one reason for transphobia among men. At least some of your male friends might find you attractive, and that is unlikely to be comfortable for them.

Especially now that you're going out with a guy, hanging out with other guys as a friend might not work very well, and especially not with one guy. It's just the reality for heterosexual women.

Sonora Sage said...

I have to disagree with Veronique - I'm a woman who hangs out with guys, and I've never thought of myself as asexual. But then again, I'm quite happy to be considered "one of the guys" too. I recall being quite unhappy in college when our professor would enter the room and greet us with "Hi guys ... and Liz". Why did I need to be singled out for my gender?

In my experience, the problem may not be that your male friends find you attractive. It may be that they think you might find them attractive (as they now know you're attracted to at least one guy) and that's where the "trans panic" comes from. Not the fear that they will be irresistably drawn to you, but that you will make unwelcome advances on them. It's ironic really, as the female experience in society often has a constant backdrop of fear that men to whom we are not attracted will make unwelcome advances on us. We're used to that feeling, but men aren't. But I don't want to turn this into a feminist rant. :-)

My advice would be that if you want to hang out with the guys, then be one of the guys. Don't flirt, don't "dress up", put a few of the old "male facade" mannerisms back into your repetoire, and just relax. Save the ladylike behaviors for when you're around those that you do want a romantic relationship with.

OTOH, it may be that at this stage in your transition, doing that could trigger your gender dysphoria again. Only you can decide how important it is to retain the "hanging out with the guys" aspect of your life.

Dana Andra said...

I really like what Liz said, even if the notion that your male friends might fear being hit on by you is laughably conceited on their part. I hadn't considered that one. But the approach Liz describes is largely how I've thought I would straddle this particular fence, with my male friends and with my son. I can certainly be more girly with my female friends, which doesn't exclude my male traits but adds everything that being a woman allows. That sense of freedom of self. I could easily tone that down with my male friends and my son without feeling that they're inhibiting me in some fashion. People are many persons at different times, according to the environment and setting. And I think that in this way, one CAN kind of have their cake and eat it, too.

Jessica De Leon said...

I'm truly enjoying your insight as your life is enriched every day.

Renee said...

"I say this from the point of view of someone who used to be a heterosexual male who too often found himself attracted to female friends."

But were you ever a heterosexual male attracted to a friend who was transsexual and had executed a male-to-female transition in front of your very eyes? Not to pull straight cred here, but as someone who might actually be interested in dating their own male friends but has repeatedly run up against the wall of prior history, I can tell you with very high degree of certainty that the problem with Debra's friends isn't that they're attracted to her. They may be able to admit (if they're very progressive) that she's attractive, but that's different than being attracted to her. Believe it or not, guys are ever so slightly deeper than just lusting after anyone that happens to look good; that may be the initial trigger, but all sorts of things in the "getting to know process" can cause a potential attraction to fizzle. In this case, they already have that; they remember her from before, and that's more than enough to derail the primal mating urge completely.

(unless they have a thing for transsexual women, in which case getting it on with a "chick" who used to be your "bud" may hold a certain fetishistic appeal. I've dealt with that one too, amazingly).

If they're uncomfortable around her, it's because the complex social dynamic that was their friendship has now been thrown into chaos and they have been forced to re-examine it. Or quite possibly they're just grossed out (seriously, lots of boys would see putting on makeup or a floral print skirt as kinda icky, so seeing one your best "guy friends" do it can bring up a whole host of feelings, most of which they don't have the tools to deal with maturely).

So yeah, I wish it were as easy as "oh, they're just attracted to you and don't know how to deal with it." But it's more complex than that. Just like with our wives or parents or children, friendships aren't simple little things, and having a friend transition cuts right to the core of each person's social identity. Like they always say, it's not just the trans person who transitions...it's everyone in their lives too (and in some ways it's harder, because they didn't get a say).

Véronique said...

@Renee: OK, so you had to make it all complicated. And kill my theory which is mine. :)

I must admit that the personal situation I described was different. Just so you know, though, I was rarely attracted to a friend only out of lust. In fact, it was usually more because I really liked the person.

I don't know how I would react if one of my guy friends because an attractive woman. The reason I don't know is actually kinda sad -- I never got along with guys that way and never had a gang of males to hang out with. Female friends, couple friends, gay male friends, but not a bunch of hetero guys. I never fit in that way. One of the great side effects of transition is that I have friends now -- female friends, for the most part. As far as friendships went, there was no loss for me.

@Debra: Whatever the reason behind this change, I hope you can find a way for it to be positive for you.

Renee said...

@ Veronique

Life is complicated! lol :-)

Also, even my suggested comparison doesn't work that well because even in our "male lives" we didn't think like men. Our understanding of gender is far less rigid than most others', and especially men. I only believe I have some insight into it because I do have hetero male friends - lots of them - and they're open and progressive and thoughtful enough to share with me. But, not attracted to me.

Unlike lots of other men - who didn't know me from me before my transition - who are attracted to me. And even some few of those guys remain attracted even after discovering my "secret", which seems to be an impossibility among the guys I knew from before. I hesitate to say it, but quite possibly it's because our prior history prevents them from seeing me as a "real women", or entirely "real", or something. It's as if our earlier history has imprinted upon them in some way that has clearly disqualified me as a romantic interest.

C'est les vie. I love my guy friends still and I'm lucky to have them. Not all guys are scoundrels, as it turns out. Just the ones I actually do go on dates with, it seems.

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