When I was in undergrad, I took a class titled Perception in Psychology. The course focused on how differently we interpret things in our lives because of what is either “normal” to us and/or our most recent experiences. We did a demonstration of this in class one day. We had three bowls of water. One bowl was water at room temperature. Another was the temperature of your typical good, warm, soothing shower. The last bowl had several ice cubes in it. Each of us had to leave our hands in the warm and cool water for a minute each before then placing our hands in the room temperature water. When we did that, one hand felt like it was freezing and the other felt scalding. The brain perceived the room temperature water completely differently for each hand because of the recent experience with the extremes.
I have recently gotten a pretty stark reminder of that lesson after not having AC for almost two months. I am far more comfortable with my AC being set in the mid to upper 70’s now, where as before…I would have it set at around 68.
Why do I bring this up? Well…I believe you can tie it in with my last post addressing my friend’s question about how to maintain positive relationships with someone who is transitioning.
Often times on my journey, I have fears and concerns that others couldn’t ever understand unless they have walked this path too. That doesn’t mean they can’t be empathetic to what I am going through. It just means they don’t have anything to help them really grasp that exact experience. It is, however, in many of those moments of reaching out for support where someone like myself chooses to either step away from a relationship or work to nurture the relationship more. A prime example on my own journey is this…
For the first 18 months I was on HRT, we could not get my estrogen levels where they needed to be. It was an exhausting battle as every blood test I had showed my estrogen being MUCH lower than it should have been considering the doses I was on. About 10 months into my HRT, I got the results from a recent round of blood work and I was devastated. Not only had my levels not improved, but they came back lower than they had ever been since starting HRT.
I texted an old and dear friend of mine because I was a wreck. I had been crying for a good ten minutes before I could get myself together enough to text her. It wasn’t just a matter of these low levels pushing back my presentation date and my timeline for SRS surgery. This struggle with getting my hormones where they needed to be was literally impacting how much my body would ultimately change and reshape. This battle with my estrogen levels could literally impact my ability to pass in public in the long run.
When I messaged my friend, her first response was the blanket, “Everything is going to be fine. Just wait and see.” As I tried to explain to her about my fears and the impact this could have long term, her response to me was literally along the lines of, “Because I love you, I am going to excuse you acting like a whiny bitch.” If you thought I was devastated by viewing my lab results, I am sure you can just imagine how I felt being completely discounted as I was trying to discuss a legitimate fear in that moment.
Needless to say, that friendship has forever changed because of that one text exchange. Our conversations are now very superficial and I no longer reach out to her when I am struggling with something.
I have forgiven her for what she did that day. I do understand that has never had to place so much focus on lab values for anything in her life. She has never had this weight of, “Am I going to be able to pass?” or. “OMG! What happens if we can’t get my levels high enough?” For me…until just a few months back…that was a daily concern of mine. It was something always weighing on me but was never a thought to even cross her mind.
It was all a matter of perception and experiences.
Its as important for those of you supporting us to keep these things in mind. You haven’t experienced the fear of not being able to pass or the anxiety that can come with every blood draw. The same is true for those transitioning who may lash out because a family member has unintentionally misnamed or misgendered them. While I have known my whole life who I am, many in my life are still getting used to it and don’t do these things intentionally. That level of empathy is important for all of us to maintain, in any relationship. It is critical when wanting to support someone who is transitioning.
I have always said that while many of the experiences I am having in life right now are unique to someone who is transitioning, the emotions are universal. Happiness, sadness, fatigue, fear, loneliness, anger, etc. are all emotions all of us experience. They are universal to being human. Also, fear of not being able to understand a difficulty someone if going through, as well as our desire to want to make it “right” can often drive us to dismiss what another is experiencing. Don’t dismiss another just because you can’t understand it or just want the other person to be happy.
Listen to use when we reach out. If you don’t have a direct experience to relate to, just tap into the emotions they are expressing. Let us know that you do want to support and be present with us when we are struggling. Most of us know what a challenge it can be to support us…which is one of the reasons we sometimes struggle to reach out when we are hurting or afraid.
We don’t need you to fix things or tell us everything will be fine. We need you to hear us and just be there for us.
After all, experiences a unique and relative to each of us.
See it on Flickr.
Foxcity – Stairs (Standing) 7 (Right Hand adjustment with Animare)
Soho Building (no snow)