I cannot ever feel or know your pain. The pain that someone who may be like me -- being transgender -- has caused. None of us who have been your partners can really understand you, just as it may be hard for you to understand us. All that is clear is that the person you thought you knew appears to be someone very, very different. Perhaps you knew something was up, or perhaps it was a total surprise, but it really does not matter. The pain is there and it is real.
I only really know my own pain. That's the pain of confusion, the pain of denial, the pain of suppressing my truth and the pain of choosing my truth that brings me the pain of maybe losing everyone in my life -- even you. But I cannot feel your pain. I can only relate to the pain your partner's is no doubt experiencing. I suspect those feelings may be much like mine, but we who transition can never know your pain or even find the proper words for to apologize for that which we are responsible for. No matter how hard we try, we will never know how deeply we may have hurt you.
Perhaps some of you knew about your partner's pain, but could never feel it. How could you? After all, it was not yours. Perhaps you questioned your partner's decision to externally transform. Of course, that transition changed everything for you, but not for your partner. The decision for any transgender person is not easy, but it is the only way we can honor our personal truth. It the decision that frees us to live the life of the person we have always been.
Some of you may have had no idea about your partner's internal struggle. When you learned I suspect you felt many things, but mostly confused and betrayed. Loss of trust hurts. You may have even thought it was your fault -- It was not! And where does love fit into this? Where do all the years of relationship fit? Where is responsibility? Did they mean anything?
When a person decides to transition gender they force everyone in their life to take a journey also. For many, this is a journey they were not prepared to take, and don't want to take. Once we finally come to our own self-acceptance and choose to change gender we want everyone to be excited for us, but often neglect to understand the impact on those we are in relationship with.
Are we selfish? We don't see it that way, but I am pretty sure from your viewpoint it looks that way. I understand this, but still cannot feel your pain. We see gain where you must see loss. You ask how can we do this to you? Truth is, this choice we've finally made is one of life and death for us, but I doubt that even knowing that can ease your pain. We most likely have burst the bubble of happiness in your life and in return, have asked you to understand and be happy for us. Heartless? Not really. Many of us do not even know how selfish this is and the pain we've caused.
We can, and want to share our stories with you, although many of you are hurting so badly you cannot, or will not listen. Gender and sexuality topics are difficult enough to deal with even without having a partner decide to change gender mid relationship. Added to this, no matter how many years we've battled with our internal struggle, we want you to jump on board with us immediately. It hardly ever works this way. I've seen this to be true in both heterosexual and gay/lesbian relationships when one partner transitions. It is an unreasonable request. The transitioning partner will tell you that they are still the same person. My personal and professional view is that when they say that they are still in denial -- unaware of where their transition will lead them. What we all come to know is that transition in not a destination. It is just another step on our journey.
And yet, you are still in pain, and we are the source.
Even though we know that being transgender is not a choice, we do have a choice of what we do about it. You may even know this, but it does not ease your pain.
How often our choice hurts the ones we love most, the ones we care about, the ones we do not want to lose. How often our choice to live our truth results in losing those so dear to us. And yet, we know we must find the courage to make this choice. We have to.
We can't make excuses for the emotional outcome. Many of us don't even know how to articulate our responsibility in a credible manner to you. We often don't know how to ask for your forgiveness, as we will never really understand your pain. We have only just found a way to relieve ours.
No... this is not fair for any of us. Not in any manner!
In his classic book, The Road Less Travelled, M. Scott Peck defines love as: "The will to extend one's self for the purpose of nurturing one's own or another's spiritual growth." Each of us can interpret this in our own unique manner. To me, coming to terms with my true gender and making the choice to transition has done so much to nurture my own spiritual growth. It has allowed me to love myself in a way I never could before. I know I have forced those around me to take journeys they did not want to take. My wish for them is that even though there may be pain, they find a path for their own spiritual growth. This is the love I have for them.
Perhaps this is no solace for you, but I hope it is. I cannot feel your pain, but I do know someone's transgender journey may have caused it. We can only hope that in time, through the love that at one time was there, you will find a way to accept that our intention has never been to hurt -- only to heal. Maybe then, we will find a way to continue the journey we were destined to make.
Grace Stevens is a transgender woman who transitioned at the age of 64 and holds a Masters Degree in Counseling Psychology. She is a father of three, grandparent of two, athlete, advocate and author of No! Maybe? Yes! Living My Truth, an intimate memoir of her personal struggle to transition and live her true life authentically as a woman. For more information about Grace, her work and how Gender Variance Education and Training can help you, visit her website at: http://www.graceannestevens.com/. Follow Grace on Twitter: www.twitter.com/graceonboard .