Friday, March 6, 2015

True Friends


In my journey toward an authentic life, I carefully study and learn from experiences and friends. No friend has helped me more than Jennifer.

I met Jen six years ago when we were both frequent visitors at a website. I didn't have a blog yet and didn't even know about blogs. (I discovered them in 2010 and started mine then.)

From the outset, Jen was exceptionally kind and supportive. Naturally empathic, she picked up the weak signal I was transmitting to the world and amplified it. Jen sees and accepts me as female -- which is a much bigger deal than it sounds. She was the first to encourage me to express my true self. Jen asks sincere questions, listens closely to answers and supports me in my struggle.

I visited Jen and her family in Atlanta last weekend for the first time. I felt tremendous anticipation about the event and listened to a song by Little Feat ("Oh, Atlanta!") for days beforehand.

There were two notable aspects to my trip. The first was my discovery of Jen's life. The second was a profound realization about myself.

A true friendship goes both ways. You give and you receive. Only a selfish person accepts kindness without trying to repay it. I am not selfish. In gratitude for years of warm support from Jen, I'm eager to become a good friend for her. To do that, I need to learn what her life is like, what her needs and desires are, and how I can help. Real friends search for ways to help.

I was thrilled to see how Jen surrounds herself with love. Jen has a wonderful family any of us would jump to join. Jen's world is full of happiness and emotional connection. Jen is married to Jason, a bright and interesting man, and they have an adorable young daughter, Juniper, who is perfect in every way. Jen and Juni are deeply connected as a result of Jen's attentive, talented parenting. Watching the two of them together gives one hope.

Normally when I visit blogger-friends for the first time, I get a hotel room and see them in public places; I understand people worry about strangers. Jen insisted I stay at her home which was not only a vote of trust but opened a gate for us to interact all day long. The opportunity enabled me to get to know Jen's family and life quicker than otherwise. By the end of my four-day visit, I felt like a part of their family -- I'm the adopted aunt from New York. I can even tell you what kind of cute pajamas they wear!

With most couples you know, there's one person whom you like. You tolerate their partner because couples come as a packaged deal. Jen and Jason are rare in that both of them are independently attractive friends. Both are smart, caring, and full of entertaining interests. Spending time with them is a delight; when one is called away by duty, the other fills in with equal charm. There wasn't a moment of my trip that wasn't fun.



Jen and I went thrifting and found lots of nice clothes. Shopping with a girlfriend is bliss for me; we chatted endlessly. We also had several terrific meals with Jason and Juni. During free time, Jen told me about her past. She showed me her high school yearbooks (complete with stories about mean girls) and I swooned when she pulled her wedding gown and formal prom dresses out of the closet. From the visit, I got a full understanding of Jen's environment and life. I'm grateful she opened it up to me.

One of the most valuable things Jen does for me is nudge me further down the road toward a female identity. I want to go there but often I'm scared or anxious. Despite having conquered many challenges in life (e.g., male sports; hard court battles; motorcycling racing), I get transported back to my childhood when I consider acting female -- I vividly remember being smacked, criticized and berated. Parents, teachers and classmates united in forcing me into boy behavior and appearance; my constant pleas to be accepted as female were cruelly rejected.

So the very notion of acting female makes me flinch in anticipation of opprobrium. I have to consciously overcome that learned instinct and realize that, at this stage of life, my personal fulfillment is more important than criticism from others.

Jen helps me with this. She makes me feel safe. So when Jen urged me to bring female clothing down to Atlanta, I did. I laughed when I thought about a TSA baggage-inspector finding a wig and girl-clothes in a man's suitcase.

As scary as it felt, I knew it was okay when Jen asked if we could dress up. Her offer to do my makeup was the highlight of the trip. Not only did that experience fill me with trust, it showed me a new possibility. Jen's skilled makeup-application exceeded my pathetic efforts by such a degree that, for the first time, my faced looked normal. She chose colors that work with my skin and did things I don't grasp. The experience opened yet another door for me, the importance of which cannot be overstated.

There's an ancient proverb, "When the student is ready, the teacher will appear." Jen has taught me innumerable, valuable lessons. My gratitude for that is endless.

One final point. During my visit, Jen always addressed me as Ally and introduced me to her friends and family as Ally. Jen uses female pronouns talking about me, even when I'm standing next to her in male clothing. Any confusion this causes is quickly explained away by reference to my transgender nature. In the past, the concept of transgenderism wasn't well-known but it's becoming more common as celebrities like Laverne Cox and Bruce Jenner get discussed in the media.

Some well-intentioned friends have suggested that if I present myself in public as female, I become female and they imply that if I don't, I am not. This thinking reflects a fundamental misunderstanding. I am female, whether dressed in pants or a skirt. I am female, regardless of perceptions by an observer. I have only one self and it has never changed. I know this fact to be absolutely true. Spending a weekend with Jen helped me realize the relation between my inner self and public life. While I can publicly express myself in feminine or masculine ways, my inner self never changes. And I should respect that. We should all love ourselves for who we are.

Thanks, Jen.

Do you have a friend in your life who helps you a lot?

49 comments:

  1. I love this post. What an awesome friend you have in Jen. I particularly like the statement: "personal fulfillment is more important than criticism from others" - absolutely!!

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  2. Wow. You found a good one there. It is amazing that via the internet you managed to connect. How wonderful.

    No, I am not lucky enough to have found such an amazing friend. You won the lottery there.

    bisous
    Suzanne
    http://www.suzannecarillo.com

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    1. Yes I did. We who are unusual are now able to locate and connect with similar folk through the Internet in a way that wasn't possible before then. I know -- I was alive before 1995. :-)

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    2. LOL difficult to believe isn't it?

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  3. How generous and kind - a mark of a true friend! You look amazing (great make-up!), Ally!

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  4. I am so, so happy that you have a wonderful and supportive friend like Jen! It sounds like the trip was just what you needed in every way.

    Your makeup does look fantastic, but I think you don't give yourself enough credit for what you can accomplish on your own. It took me about five or six years to learn what makeup looks best for me...and now, 13 years after I started wearing makeup, I'm still fine-tuning my technique!

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    1. Nothing beats practice. The more I do, the better I get, even when the improvement is so incremental that I don't notice it.

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  5. What an amazingly wonderful and beautiful human being it sounds like Jen is. I'm so glad you had a wonderful trip and I am even more glad you have such a treasured person like that in your life. I'm so happy she has helped you be so happy! And you look fabulous - you're radiant and glowing in these pictures!!

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    1. Thank you, Beth. My face doesn't lie!

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  6. Allie,
    Thank you for introducing Jennifer . I am pleased for you that you are expanding you horizon, adding true friends, as it should be. I know what you mean about couple friends!
    Jen is very pretty, and that photo of you is so pretty too, you look comfortable and happy. I am so pleased for you! Love the sheath dress!
    XX, Elle
    http://mydailycostume.com

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  7. Wow, Jen sounds absolutely wonderful, as does her family. What a special experience you shared. It is so amazing to have friends like this, who allow you and encourage you to be you. You look absolutely radiant and so beautiful in these photos.

    To address your final point, I have thought often about the blog post I wrote after we met. I called you Ralph and used the pronoun 'he' and have truly felt bad about that. At the time, you had presented yourself to me as masculine and although I do understand that you are a woman and I know you as Ally I was confused and wasn't sure how to address that in my post and I am sorry. I wish I could go back a re-write that post. In life we are always learning and growing and I want to thank you for being so open about your life and who you are and teaching me so much. (Maybe I should have sent this as an email, but I figured since you addressed it here, I would as well.) xoxoxo.

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    1. Please don't feel bad. My gender confuses people and I'm aware of that. It's okay to call me Ally or Ralph or Fido. There's room here to be flexible. All I truly care about is people liking and respecting me. You do that and I'm grateful for your friendship. Now let me buy you a cup of tea...

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    2. Well, I will most certainly never call you Fido. But I will take you up on that tea!

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  8. Wow...whenever I need a self-esteem boost, I'm coming back to this post! ;) What kind comments everyone has left, not to mention the post itself.

    It was such an amazing and memorable visit...I was SO excited leading up to it, and you know how they say the anticipation is better than the result - but not in this case! And yet it felt like this wasn't even the first time we'd met in person.

    Bonnie also said she felt like you were my aunt!

    Here's the visit through my eyes: http://blog.theclosetnarcissist.com/2015/03/a-special-visit-with-ally.html

    Love ya!!!

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  9. I'm so glad to read this post. Having friends who help you be more YOU is the most important thing.

    Of course, I've made so many friends through blogging. Ally, you've been so good to me. I've actually 'known' you when you were still on another site and it took me a long time to realize I'd read your posts there, too.

    Meghan has become one of my best friends ever, and has stuck with me through some truly trying times, especially with the loss of my mother and my job. She's been there, every step of the way, on the phone and skype with me off and on for days at a time.

    Spouses are always great, but sometimes you need a good girlfriend in your life (or several!).

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  10. It's wonderful to see you blossoming in the warmth of people like Jenn and her family, who have the clarity of vision to see the strong, brave and beautiful person who is the real you. And, yes, it's agreed that beauty should be more than skin-deep, but that doesn't mean one should overlook that wonderful lip color that emphasizes your sweet smile!

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  11. I am so glad you have such a wonderful friend. She sounds fantastic.

    You look amazing!

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  12. Ally, this post is wonderful and I am so glad you have such a wonderful friend who helped you to overcome your fears. Your post did a lot to help my understand why you went to visit other blogging friends in male attire which surprised me as I thought you'd wear your true attire. Your makeup really does look Amazing. I always think you Di a good job though. I am hopeless at makeup!!! I do hope you come to London some time!!!x

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    1. I'd love to meet you in person, Kezzie. You're so sweet.

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  13. It is an amazing treat in life to find someone where you can be "YOU" without any pretenses. I am so happy that you have found that in Jen and that you got to spend time with her and that that time was nurturing to your soul.

    I soooooo wish I lived closer to you as your have taught me so much in the time we have been friends ... your openness about who you are and how that feels has been an education that I could not have gotten anywhere else.

    You are a special human being Ally and I am forever grateful for having met you (albeit in cyber space!!!). You are welcome to Sisters Dinner any time!!!!

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    1. Thanks, Lynn. You are special too and I'm going to show up at one of those dinners!

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  14. Ally, this post is such so eloquently written and does an extremely wonderful job of instantly transmitting to us what a caring, understanding, giving, fantastic woman Jen is. I'm truly happy that you have one another in your lives - friendships like that, if not once in a lifetime (if one's fortunate), are exceedingly rare and worth more than all the riches in the world.

    ♥ Jessica

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  15. Ally, should we ever have the pleasure to meet in person, I'll gladly let you do my makeup, because I really suck at this, and I would certainly get to learn something here.

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  16. Oh Ally, this is so wonderful. Jen did such a fantastic job with your makeup, I hardly recognized you! (Kidding). I hope you took copious notes. I'm not good at makeup either and my BFF Leslie helps me in that realm.
    Jen is one of your angels, for sure. I love what she wrote about your visit, this especially: "Watching her entire face and posture and the way she carried herself change as soon as she was donning a dress was so amazing and made me want that for her 24-7 even more. It was a visceral, dramatic transformation, even though all I ever see when I look at her is a woman, regardless of how she is dressed, whether she has a wig on, and what name she chooses to introduce herself with to various people. Again, it wasn’t that she “became” more female by putting on the dress. It’s that seeing her relax into herself was nothing short of beautiful, as was (is) she, inside and out."
    I am SO looking forward to meeting you in July!

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    1. Me too, Anne. Getting to meet you is one of the big reasons I'm going.

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  17. Comments are now enabled on my post about our visit! I don't know why it defaulted to not allow them. Grr!

    A Special Visit With Ally

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  18. What a beautiful friendship between two beautiful people. Jen did an amazing job on your makeup. I really love your hair length and style here too. Loveliness just exudes from your being, Ally. I think your heart rivals your legs as your greatest asset. ;)

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  19. This is so beautiful. It makes me appreciate the friends in my life who know me better than I know myself sometimes. People who have stuck around during the down times and help lift me back up. Those who have shared their vulnerabilities and trusted me. I'm going to go read Jen's post now. Thanks for sharing your trip!

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  20. This was a really beautiful and heartwarming post. Jen seems like a really amazing friend, and I am so glad that she has given you the support and confidence that you display now. It's strange that you mentioned that you weren't confident before, because you have always struck me as a warm and outgoing person through our interactions online.

    I really like when you do posts like this one. One thing in particular that you said struck out to me--

    "Some well-intentioned friends have suggested that if I present myself in public as female, I become female and they imply that if I don't, I am not. This thinking reflects a fundamental misunderstanding. I am female, whether dressed in pants or a skirt. I am female, regardless of perceptions by an observer."

    I feel a bit ashamed that I never thought of it that way. That is definitely something I need to be more sensitive towards. It's easy to think of gender as fluid and performative when you have friends who go back and forth between women's and men's clothing. However, it's important to remember that clothes are just clothes-- a person's gender is a lifestyle choice.

    Hope you had a great weekend!

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    1. Thank you, buddy, for caring. If it helps, imagine yourself in pants and ponder if that would make you a man. Of course not.

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  21. She's amazing, and so are you. And I love that song!

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  22. And, Ally - seriously - I love the shorter hair.

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  23. As a friend of Jen's, I can vouch for her absolute amazing-ness... and knowing how she gushes about YOU, Ally, I can also vouch for YOURS! What a gorgeous spirit you have, inside and out. Beautiful blog post!

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    1. Thank you, Keely. How sweet of you to say.

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  24. Ally - Thank you so much for writing this. I consider myself to be a liberal, accepting person, but when I read this I realize there is much to learn. How to learn? From a woman like you, who has the courage to pour herself into her words and share them with others. I wish you the best as you continue your journey. Remember - "we're only dancing on this earth for a short while", so it has to count.

    Nanette

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    1. Thank you, Nanette. And is that a lyric from Cat Stevens/Yusuf Islam?!

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  25. This is a beautiful story Ally! It makes me feel better about the world to know that there are people like Jen in it. I worry about my son and his wonderful boyfriend sometimes when I think about how harsh the world can be. Any time I hear someone make a negative comment in regard to sexuality I'm all over it like a mama bear, but unfortunately not everyone gets it. It's good to know there are kind and open-minded people to be found.
    Debbie
    www.fashionfairydust.com

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  26. Jen sounds like an amazing person. She did a fantastic job on the makeup - you look comfortable, confident, and happy.

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  27. i am so glad you got to experience your true self down in atl. btw i love you listened to little feat! my dad used to have their record, so that was a nice reminder of him today.

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  28. Oh what a wonderful friend you have found in Jen! So often we hear about & focus on the bad in this world, the unaccepting, the mean. Jen & people like her give me hope...hope that there's more good in this world than not. To have such a supportive, loving friend is a true gift that not everyone is fortunate enough to have. You seem to know this as your gratitude is so apparent.

    The sentiment you ended your post with really made me think. Specifically: "Some well-intentioned friends have suggested that if I present myself in public as female, I become female and they imply that if I don't, I am not. This thinking reflects a fundamental misunderstanding. I am female, whether dressed in pants or a skirt. I am female, regardless of perceptions by an observer."

    Such a powerful point that I think gets lost sometimes. Thank you so much for sharing.

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