This year is a landmark one for a wonderful (if somewhat astonishing) reason. September marks the anniversary of when I met my best friend (my ‘Soulie’) for the first time, and this year is the year we will have known each other for HALF OUR LIVES!!
I still remember our initial encounter, in Japanese class (taken because we were both fascinated with languages, and pretentious enough to think that dabbling in a year-long class would be a bit of a giggle), where we took an intense and immediate dislike to one another. I thought her brash and lairy; she found me snotty and aloof.
We shared a mutual acquaintance but were careful not to include one another in any interactions. We successfully ignored one another ‘out loud’ for several weeks until one day we turned up to discover that the unimaginable had occurred – people had changed seats and we would have to sit together.
I rolled my eyes and flopped down heavily into the seat next to her, with a sigh loud enough to let her (and everyone else) know what a chore it was going to be to be lumbered with this person. A little later as she was showing off her vast(er than mine) knowledge of German, I (incorrectly, it turned out) corrected her pronunciation. We didn’t speak much for the remainder of the lesson and resentment simmered. In spite of our proximity, we successfully managed to keep one another on the periphery of our interactions.
The lesson after that, the same damn thing happened with the seating. What changed, I still don’t know – we were both bristling about it – but we either heeded the call of destiny or decided to make the best of a bad job and fell rapidly and irrevocably in friends.
The remainder of our time at college was spent in each others pockets. We visited each others houses, got to know the other girl’s family, bunked off together, and supported one another through some of those intensely challenging late-teenage years with pizza, sleep-overs and poetry.
With her, I felt for the very first time as though I was accepted and appreciated for exactly who I was. She enjoyed my company and sought more of it (another first) and the feeling was unequivocally mutual. When our time at college together drew to an end, we were closer than I ever knew it was possible to be with a platonic friend.
She felt like the other half of my soul.
She felt like home.
Since then we’ve been the constant in each others lives through the very best and worst moments – boozy picnics, marriages, long afternoons of just *being*, talking through the night about matters of the soul, children, tea and cake and laughter…and divorce, miscarriages, house moves, mental breakdown, life-altering diagnoses, struggle and despair.
Through it all we have been staunch, steadfast and THERE for one another.
She was the keeper of my secrets and the person privy to most of the All of me – the bits I couldn’t even tell Husby or my family, sometimes.
And I thought I was hers, but there are some things, even after they’ve been acknowledged to the self, which are too tender and sacred to be revealed to any other human until the time is right. And that’s okay – even BFFs don’t owe each other their secrets.
Recently, things crystallised and the time became right. After a conversation over some form of messaging service, I was directed to a blog – a new one – where my best friend in the whole world revealed her truth – that she had long felt as though she was more male than female; perhaps had always known but for reasons to many and complex to discuss, had remained living as a girl instead of challenging it; that there was a jarring disparity between her inner and outer selves, and she was going to begin to reconcile the two.
Pardon me…he was going to begin to reconcile the two.
Half my life I’ve been best friends with a boy, who was living as a girl, and I never knew!
I felt like the scales had been knocked from my eyes and I was seeing clearly for the first time, because I’ve ALWAYS been better friends with boys – better able to understand them, get along with them, joke around with them, live life alongside them – than with girls (my Soulie notwithstanding), who have often left me feeling somewhat baffled.
We used to talk about the things which united us in this – neither of us was ever a fan of wearing overly feminine clothing; neither of us had particularly girlie interests; we had no time for all the drama and politics which seemed to go into most girl-girl friendships we saw around us; we (arrogantly) felt we had too many brain-cells to spend hours rhapsodising about boys or celebrities or makeup or fashion – we talked about important things, like poetry and music and farts and swearing.
This. Explained. Everything.
We’ve had a couple of conversations which have explored the transition further, but not really many. I’ve been fascinated by his transition and the reactions he’s getting from the people he meets, as he lives, dresses and acts as a man. Last time we met up, it wasn’t an issue. We still hugged, still chatted about the everything and nothing, as we ever do, everything was the same. Next time we meet, I suspect there will be no difference.
A couple of people have asked me about his transition, and a couple of thoughts have occurred to me; what about the children? What about clothes? What about male exes and new girlfriends? What about surgery? What about hormones? What about prejudice and being ‘out’ and living as a man? What about…what about…what about???
But whatever the question is, I keep coming back to one fact – it’s none of my business. If he wants to tell me, he will, but I don’t need to know – because none of it really matters.
He’s still the exact same person he ever was before. I just now know a bit more about him, which involves the (probably several times to-be-goofed) necessity of remembering a different pronoun, and a different name. He might look a bit different than I remember, but not vastly. That’s all the change – skin-deep and grammar.
We will still have deep, important chats and drink tea and eat cake. We will still be there for each other through thick and thin. We will still talk about farts and poetry. We will still drink wine and be silly and have sleepovers. We will still get our tattoos commemorating half our lives together. We still hope to grow old and crotchety together, wherever we end up living.
He is still my best friend in the whole world – my Soulie.
And nothing changes that.
Have you ever had a friend reveal a big secret to you – how did you handle it? Is gender/sexuality something which even matters in friendship? Would you avoid someone if you knew they were transgender? Would you find it difficult to interact with them? What’s your take?