Monday, 11 February 2008

Past Friends, New Me (The Friends Reunited quandry)

"Hi do you remember me. I'm Jenny Harvey?"
... "Who?"

One of the trickiest things I had to tackle after transitioning is making contact with past friends. I have done this twice so far.

Simon from University.

Me and Simon were great friends for a couple of years at Liverpool Polytechnic over 20 years ago. We were pretty much inseperable, sharing a similar absurd sense of humour. Simon constantly made me laugh. I guess our relationship would have been perceived at the time as blokey, although I did seem to spend lots of time getting him out of scrapes, which tended to revolve around drinking and a lack of bus-fare home. This did make me feel more like his mother at times. It goes without saying that Simon did not have an inkling that his scruffy friend had any gender confusion.. I always regretted losing touch.
Around this time last year, out of nowhere I found myself thinking about Simon. As I am prone to many random thoughts, while desperately trying to concentrate on some work matter, these musings rarely amount to much. This time however it coincided with my attempts to find an address over the internet. I shoved his name and birthplace into thhe website and lo, an address appeared. Now I had no real idea whether this my my Simon, so I decided to put pen to paper, or more accurately finger to keyboard. Of course my worry was how to broach the subject of my gender. It so easy to come across as "Hey look at what I've done!" I wanted to contact Simon because he had been such a good friend. On the other hand the subject would have to be brought up sooner rather than later. Also there is no guarantee an old friend will be comfortable with my new gender. I was pretty sure Simon would be ok with the concept of Transgenderism. However, being a woman now would mean any future friendship would have a different dynamic than when we were both men. Anyway to cut a long story shortish! I wrote a short letter that went along the lines of "Hi, Are you the Simon from Liverpool Polytechnic in '88. If so its your old friend, if not then please ignore this letter" I signed the letter Geoff. Sooner not later but not now! I did include my new Jenny themed email address, though of course he would have thought it was my wife's email address.
A couple of weeks later my inbox flashed up a message from (illustrative purposes only). I wont use full names or any details on this blog unless I have ok'd it with them. Mind you, if there is a person called S. Thingy signed up to an ISP called Somewhere , then I am an idiot and appologise to them. There was a lovely email from Simon, glad that I had made contact. Of course he asked what I had been up to these last 20 year! Mmmmm had anything changed with me....what could I think of. As usual I whimped out of a head on attack and instead replied cryptically that I was a little different now, and the clue was in my email address. Guess on reflection that is not really very cryptic! All my dithering and worry was of course for nothing. Simon and me exchanged emails and he was just as I remember him funny, and still a friend.

Darren from Primary School

Darren and I were really really good pals through Primary into Secondary school. I recently joined the phenomeom that is Facebook, and one bored evening in a desperate attempt to increase my pitifully small rosta of friends I started to randomly enter names of school friends. I had no real expectations of results, but when Darren's name found a match with an accompanying picture I knew it was my Darren from all those years ago. Darren and I were great friends for years. I have fond memories of long hot summers with long hot bicycle rides, footy kickabouts on Gorsty Hill and sneaked X rated movies on his dad's videoplayer (They had one before anyone else. I looked up his profile and sent him a gentle poke (A Facebook term used to get someones attention). I deduced from Darren's profile that he hadn't been on facebook for a while, so I wasn't overly disappointed when he didn't reciprocate my poke straight away. A couple of weeks later a small blue message appeared on my Facebook profile, "You have been poked by Darren Thingy" I dont think he's related to Simon Thingy!) I was chuffed that he had replied. Yet again I had worried that a past friend would not be keen to make contact with the new me. I really have to have more faith in people. Darren sent me a lovely email and said that although he was surprised, he wasnt shocked. I look forward to keeping in touch and hearing more about his past 20 plus years.

There are 2 friends from my working life that I would love to make a reaquaitance. Peter Bamford and Tony Bowyer. Just like Simon and Darren I was really good friends with both for a discrete period of my life, and have now lost contact. Pete was probably 12 years ago and Tony perhaps 8. I do know where Tony is working and ought to make contact. From the experiences above, I shouldn't fear a bad reaction so I have no excuse.

The last past friend I would love to see again is Andrew Ellis. Andrew lived in the Post Office at Tean and we were best mates from mid Secondary school age untill 18 when I went to university. We used to do everything together from going to our first pop concert ( Tears for Fears at Hanley Victoria Halls) to an obsessional interest in Dungeons & Dragons. Rather spookily well after we became pals we discovered that we were related (2nd cousins once removed, whatever that means)

It is only now, that I am more confident and settled in my identity that I feel able to revisit these old relationships. When I first transitioned I always worried that my old friends would reject me. I have definately learnt that my friends were friends with me because of our respective personalities, and this is not necessarily dependant upon my gender.

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