Rite of Passage

Originally appeared in Transgender Tapestry #104, Winter 2004.

by Melynda Jill

I have a good friend named Jan, a married woman. We met online eight or nine years ago; we struck up a conversation in an AOL chat room and were soon writing each other short notes almost every day. At the time, I was married and presenting as male. I was still in denial, refusing to confront and come to terms with the gender issues which had dogged me since childhood.

Jan and I lived three states away from each other. We corresponded for several months before her family, on vacation, passed through the area where I lived. Jan and I met for coffee. We had planned on talking for half an hour or so. Instead, we spent more than two hours together.
Jan and I found common interests and shared points of view on many issues. We would discuss religion, politics, her husband, my wife, children, careers, every topic under the sun, but one: sex. Neither of us were looking for anything beyond our marriages. It was just not ?there? sexually for either of us. We agreed that if there were a sexual overtone to our friendship, it would most likely get in the way. Neither of us wanted to jeopardize the specialness of the friendship. Besides, she couldn?t quite put her finger on it, but, she said, I was just ?different? from any other male she knew.

When I finally came out, I was scared to death to tell Jan. We had shared so many things, so many intimacies?but as with my family and other friends, I knew I had to take the risk of losing a relationship with someone for whom I cared rather than pretending to live differently than who I am. So, over a long telephone conversation, I told her. She was surprised, but not shocked. After reflecting on the issue for a week or so, she said, ?THAT?S what it is! I KNEW you were different, somehow.? Jan has been supportive of my transition ever since.

Prior to my coming out, Jan and I had not disclosed the existence of our friendship to our respective spouses; this was to keep them from thinking there was anything sexual between us. I don?t know where you come from or how you grew up, but where I come from, a married male just doesn?t make friends with a married woman unless something is going on on the sly. Now that he knows, her husband thinks I?m totally strange for doing what I am doing. In a way, maybe, he?s right.

A year after I came out, my marriage fell apart, and I moved to Phoenix. Jan lives in another community in the same state, but that?s not why I chose to move to Arizona. It?s just a happy coincidence. We see each other every few months when she is in town on business, or when I visit her. The rest of the time we send
e-mail and, occasionally, call.

Jan has witnessed the various stages of my transition, literally from day one. She has seen me as a male; as an ?out TS? but still presenting as male; as a newbie starting hormones; as a rough presentation, to the point I was read by the waitress one day when we were at lunch; as a budding woman with a softening of my facial features and pubescent breasts; and, finally, as I am now, a confident, post-transitional feminine woman who lives as such 24/7, and who is fearless about going anywhere in public any other woman would go.
This includes, of course, any women?s public restroom?and therein lies the story.

Consciously or not, we interact with others in a way that reflects their perceived gender. Two colleagues go for lunch. It?s strictly professional, but he will still open the door for her. He does not, however, accompany her to the restroom. My relationship with Jan had, until that day, been similar, with the typical male/female dynamics.

On the day in question, Jan was in town to run errands. We went out to lunch and caught each other up on all the latest gossip and news. After the meal, we continued our discussion over coffee. We all know what coffee does. I excused myself to go to the ladies? room. Jan said, ?Wait, I?ll go with you.? So we, two women, trotted off to the ladies? restroom, continuing our conversation on the way. We did what we came there to do, each aware of what the other was doing in the next stall, yet all the while talking over the partition. We then washed our hands, checked our hair and makeup, and returned to the table.
Neither of us commented on the
event, either during or afterward. What we did was simple: pee in each others? relative presence. Yet by doing so, we
forever altered what was left of any
residual male/female dynamics in the relationship.
It was a subtle, yet distinct acceptance and inclusion of me into Jan?s space as a woman. For that, I shall forever be grateful more than she will ever realize.