Last weekend, I had the pleasure of seeing an old friend from high school. Due to our priorities being in different places, we hadn’t stayed in touch. I could belabor the details of what happened between us in school, the ways in which I was hurt by this person and in turn I probably hurt her, but I don’t really see the point. As much as I’ve reflected upon who I was as a teenager, I always come to the same conclusion: I wish I had been more confident because my life could have been so different. Maybe I would have moved from home and actually liked the college I went to. Maybe I could have not questioned the friends I tried to make in college and realized that they weren’t leaving me out, I was allowing myself to be left. Whatever the circumstances, when I look at the course of my life, I am grateful for the journey I have made thus far. I have become someone who still has her insecurities, yes, but who can own those and talk about them and be who I am despite them. I am a person who could rise above whatever turmoils were in our past, and have a genuine interest to see a friend from high school I haven’t seen since we were too young to see life for what it is: a journey in which we have to live in the moment, or the collection of lost memories will overwhelm you. I attribute much of my insecurity as a kid to why I’m able to be in the relationship I am in now with Katie. Empathy, kindness, confidence, and love are not purely inherited traits, but cultivated ones. I had to go through what I went through in my life to get to this point, to be this person, to be here for Katie.
I picked up this friend from the airport and immediately it felt like we had never lost touch. You never know what it will be like to see someone you haven’t seen in as long. Will you still have something to talk about? What if it’s awkward? I consider myself pretty good at talking to people I don’t know, but still, some social situations can’t be helped, even for the extroverted. We caught up on many things: our mutual friends, family, the things we knew from Facebook, the things we didn’t.
Before I met with this friend, I had a few conversations with Katie about being nervous about meeting her again. Do I tell this friend about Katie, or don’t I? I haven’t seen this person in over 11 years, and the idea of telling them the intimate details of my life with Katie seemed like too much. I don’t know this person like I used to. What if it’s awkward? What if she asks the many questions people think when they find out you’re not the gender assigned at birth? What if I get stressed and cry? As much as I am more confident than I was as a kid, the very idea of admitting to someone that the image she knows from social media isn’t real didn’t seem like a good option. I told Katie before I left to pick up my friend, that I wasn’t going to tell her. We’d eat breakfast, maybe do something touristy depending on the mood, and then I’d be on my merry way. This friend could find out with everyone else when we were ready to announce it online. Done. Katie supported my decision and understood.
Then we were sitting at breakfast, and there were several times during our conversation where my experience with Katie related to the conversation, but I couldn’t really say why. The specifics are lost on me now (yes, there were mimosas at this breakfast!), but there was a point where I wanted to say “oh, don’t I know that life doesn’t end up how you think it will,” but I held back. We paid for breakfast and went to the bar next door for another mimosa. At this point, I texted Katie to tell her that I thought it would be a good idea for her to grab the car so I didn’t have to worry about driving home. It wasn’t until I got the “I’m on my way” text from Katie that it occurred to me I would have to tell the woman sitting across from me about Katie. To have who she thought was Kyle come grab the car and not come say hello would be strange. Wouldn’t she want to meet my husband? To have Katie come into the bar as Katie without explanation would also be strange. My internal quandary was palpable and, again, mimosas blur the actual verbiage of the conversation, but I do remember apologizing for being awkward and telling the woman I haven’t seen in 11 years that Kyle was coming, but she should know that Kyle is transgender. Again, people never cease to amaze me in how accepting of this truth they are. I didn’t even see a facial flinch of surprise. I got reassurance that it was fine, was asked what name to use and what pronouns to say. Katie came and introduced herself as Katie. The entire interaction felt normal and I saw the image of what my life could be like if everyone just knew what was going on with us.
After the last drink and many tater tots, we drove my friend to her hotel room. On the way home, Katie and I talked about making the posts on Facebook that would announce Katie to all of our friends and family. I was ready and so was Katie. These posts would be announcing the secret we’ve been keeping for the past 7 months not just to our old friends from high school, former coworkers, current coworkers, and every other stranger you collect over the 10+ years of social media. We are also announcing this secret to our families, to our grandparents, aunts and uncles, to the ones that voted for the other guy in the last election, to the ones we don’t get to connect with all the time. Katie and I have spent hours since September trying to figure out how to tell Katie’s family. We were both afraid of rejection, of not being accepted, and of the stress this announcement would cause Katie’s parents. Ultimately, we knew we couldn’t make everyone happy and the reward of not having to live in the shadows was worth the risk.
The response we have received from our announcement yesterday has been overwhelming. To see so many people support us, support this path is really beautiful. It’s a testament to the people Katie and I are, to the values that map our lives, and to the people who helped shape us into who we are. Katie’s grandparents, aunts, cousins, and many others posted statements in support, not to mention the support of my family also. I am so lucky. The fear that consumed us before has melted away a bit. Now we can make space for whatever else is next.