I’ve reached the age where I can think about what I was doing ten years ago, and have vivid memories. It’s weird. I’m getting old. I graduated high school ten years ago, and shortly later, started my freshman year of college.
Ever since I got the invite for my 10 year reunion, I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting on who I am now and who I was back in high school. Weirdly enough, not much has changed. It seems, I’ve circled back to that person. I mean, I’m stronger and more confident (and I know what to do with my hair now – those old pictures are cringe worthy), but I dress the same way (for the most part) and like the same movies, TV shows, music – all that. I totally branched out and have grown as a person, but it feel like at my core – I’m the person I was trying to find when I was in high school.
Turns out – I’m not the only one. The only one finally embracing who they were trying to be back then.
Let me set the scene as I remember it: my sophomore year of high school, I got really sick with mono and missed a lot of the year. I was the new kid the year before, so many of those “new” friendships kind-a vanished while I was sick. I mean, I wasn’t around, so it felt like people just kinda forgot about me. However, during that time, I became good friends with two guys: Ben and Tyler.
Ben and I became really close. I wrecked my car junior year, so Ben drove me to and from school every day. He’d let me drag him along shopping and we just did whatever. We’d hang out at Tyler’s house and play video-games or watch movies. During free period at school, when Ben and Tyler were playing Magic The Gathering, I was usually shifting through the discarded pile looking at the artwork.
The best memories of high school always have always had Ben in them. People would ask all the time why we didn’t date. For me, Ben was the brother I didn’t have. I’d jokingly tell people he was like “a girl friend but just happens to be a boy.”
After graduation, we hung out a few times when we were both home, but it seemed like Ben was VERY happy to get out of our city and move on.
Years go by and Ben totally falls off my social media radar. I thought about him from time to time, but didn’t do much more than that. I felt like Ben always needed his space and if he wanted to talk to me, he would. Also, back in high school, when Ben had a girlfriend we were less likely to talk as much and hang out as much outside of school. I figured, that was the pattern we’d fallen into after high school.
So now, here we are. 2016 and I get an invite to our reunion on Facebook. I start scrolling through the names of everyone invited to see who had already replied one way or the other. I’d already decided if Ben and Susan (a girl I’d been really close with on and off since 9th grade) were going, then I’d be there.
A name pops out to me: Lucy. But attached to Ben’s last name and with Ben’s picture.
I think, “well, that’s a bit weird – but not really out of character for Ben. Or anyone from my high school..”
So I go along my merry way and start looking through Ben/Lucy’s profile pictures. He looks just like I remember him, but his hair is much longer and he’s rocking some glasses. Oh, well, he’s got eye-liner on in that one. That’s also not that weird… Then, boom. I see him wearing a long rainbow skirt, with a big smile, and a caption about it being his “Pride day” outfit.
Shocked. I put the phone face down on my desk at work. What – what the hell did I just see? That picture, put everything else into a much different context.
I think if you know me, you know that I’m a pretty open-minded person. People are people and I believe I’m here to be a steward to the Earth and be kind. So – it wasn’t the Pride thing. It wasn’t even the skirt on it’s own. It was what that meant in my brain’s context of who Ben was. Some fuses short-circuited and I wasn’t really sure how to process it all.
Taking a deep breath, I sent the friend request on Facebook. Almost, instantly, Ben – Lucy – whoever had accepted the request. I took this as a good sign meaning two things: 1) She (because I did a bit more stalking and found on Facebook that Lucy identified with the “She” pronoun. I didn’t even know that was a thing on your profile, but I was glad for it) was plugged into Facebook more than she had been before and 2) that she wanted to still be my friend. Granted, in our day and age, being Facebook friends doesn’t really carry much clout – but it was a start.
Then we started messaging. I was so worried and aware of every word I typed. I missed my Ben – my best friend that knew me back when. I felt like he was someone that would still know me today. I missed that person so much, that I didn’t want to wreck this new thing we had going.
After swapping some pictures/Snaps and messaging more, I knew that my friend was pretty much just the same. He could’ve undergone surgery to turn him into a green and purple penguin, and it’d be the same as her gender change.
That’s right. I guess I haven’t come out and said it. Ben has started on his journey to become Lucy – a woman.
From my messages with her I learned several things:
- Ben (using this name when referring to her back as my high school side-kick) had felt like she was a woman for a long time
- She’d just started hormone therapy
- She’d become a hardcore feminist
- She didn’t play video games as much anymore
None of these new things really changed who Lucy IS to me. After the initial shock,. I think that the most upsetting thing what that she didn’t play video games any more.
In some ways, maybe gender wasn’t ever anything that really factored into our friendship. Maybe, gender was how we knew to verbalize things.
My word counter says I’m already over 1,000 words and I still have a lot more to say. Really, all I feel I’ve gotten to do here is set the scene, but I still want to share my reflections on it all.
I want to end on this though: Out of all of it, I’m glad to be talking to my friend again.