Long distance

I talked to my best friend from high school on the phone this afternoon, for the first time in about three years. I wasn’t even sure if I had the right number, and the move from my college email account to Gmail meant the questionable number was pretty much my only hope. We only talked for maybe five or ten minutes–it was lunchtime in San Francisco–and afterward I walked into the kitchen to ask my roommate if she could maybe give me a hug. Then I started crying.

A little back story: I went to a private Catholic high school that unofficially frowned upon homosexuality. Nonetheless, I managed to date the prom queen my sophomore year, and my best friend shaved her head for the first time in the school bathroom during lunch one day. We weren’t best friends in the let’s-paint-each-other’s-nails-and-go-to-the-mall kind of way; we were best friends in the way two bumbling baby dykes can be. A little awkward, a little pained, but there for each other. We played basketball and soccer together, shared an adolescent longing for Angelina Jolie while we watched movies late at night with the sound down in her living room, and generally tried to keep each other afloat. Then she graduated and headed to California for college. A year later I headed to Boston. For the past five years we’ve really only seen each other a handful of times, and talked or written even less.

Then, a few months ago, I discovered he’d changed pronouns. (On Friendster, no less.) We talked about it, a little, online. But it wasn’t until this week that I realized we hadn’t talked–really talked–in ages. So I gave him a call.

He’s started T, which I could hear a little in his voice, but I was really glad he told me about it. Our conversation was a little awkward, the way conversations are when you don’t talk to someone regularly even though you care a lot about him. I told him I was hoping to make it out to SF in August, and he sounded glad.

Then I went into my kitchen and told my roommate about my best friend’s new name, and I just started crying. Later, my roommate wondered if maybe I was sad because I felt like I hadn’t gotten to say goodbye to the friend I knew before. But it’s not that at all–I know nothing will change between us, that he’s just becoming the man he was always supposed to be. I think I’m sad because it reminds me how little we’ve been in contact. We parted ways just as we were both on the verge of womanhood, so we missed each other’s rocky journeys into adult life. I’m sad because he’s going through something huge–has been going through it for some time now–and I’m only now realizing I haven’t been there for him.

So. I put it to you, dear readers: how can I be the best, awesomest friend when I’ve been such a shitty one for several years? How do I support his transition from afar?

On a related note, do folks have experience educating parental figures on this sort of thing? And I don’t mean about your own transition, but about people in your life who you love. We were good enough friends that my parents still ask after him sometimes, and this isn’t a subject I’ve ever even touched on with either of them. I’d like to be able to talk to my mom about it in particular since we’re very close, but I really have no idea where to start.

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3 Responses to Long distance

  1. wren says:

    Hey, I just found your page from a comment you made on that other panda site. Can I just start off by saying I’m impressed? This is a good blog you’ve got going here.

    As for the friend thing, I really think the right move is to acknowledge it with him. I’ve been known to be a pretty horrid long-distance friend myself. These things happen, college is huge, and I’m sure he feels an equal amount of responsibility for the whole thing. I think saying something like, “So, I missed this huge step in your life, and I regret that, this is my pledge to be awesomer because I’ve missed having you in my life” would really go a long way.

    Visiting is always brilliant, too. I don’t know how your friend presented pre-transition (except for the shaved head), but visually it might be quite a difference; barring that, he probably feels vastly different. If there’s enough openness there to discuss those changes, I think th life reconnection is a short bridge from there.

  2. Em says:

    I agree with wren. Just admit that you feel like a shitty friend and want another chance to be in his life. Life happens. I’ve made that apology and had it made to me more than I’d like to admit.

  3. pandanose says:

    Thanks for the advice, wren! (And the props.) I went ahead and sent that email and I think things are going to be good. I was already planning a visit in August, which is part of the reason I’m curious about ways to bring up trans things with my mom–she might arrange her travel plans to meet up with me, and I feel like it might be a good idea to start the conversation before then.

    But really, I just wish someone would write How to Not Be an Idiot While Someone You Love Is Transitioning. And send me a copy, or a link.

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