The following is a formal letter I wrote to the parents of my best friend of twelve years in light of his mother having an issue with me attending his wedding as a woman. I wrote the entirety of this on my cell phone while commuting from work over the course of a month or so. I completed it a few weeks ago, printed it out, and gave it to my friend to present to his parents.
All that I have edited from this letter are the names of his parents and his name. Other than that, this is the original as I wrote and intended for it to be read.
Dear S and S,
Thank you for opening this letter, knowing the person that it’s from. Writing this letter is not an easy thing for me, especially due to the motivation behind it. I sincerely hope you will find it in your heart to read to the end. If I may make one additional request: Please read this together if you can.
This letter is the first time I am formally acknowledging both of you by your first names. I had to ask M what they were because for the decade I have been best friends with him, I never had the opportunity to learn them. Both of you are diligent, hard-working adults that always exuded such an intense presence; I was afraid to speak to either of you for any extended period of time, which kept us permanently on formal terms. As we grew up, that formality (and my uncertainty of whether it was alright for me, a non-Circassian, to ever be casual with you) remained as I became on a first name basis with my other friends’ parents. You two were always the exception because I often felt that I was an exception that was allowed to be friends with your son. We are all adults now, so I hope you do not mind me breaking that exception in this letter. Thank you for always being so kind and welcoming to me in your home nevertheless.
Speaking of M, I would like to make this fact clear. M has absolutely no connection with this letter and its contents. Also, M has not read one word of this letter – he only provided me with your first names. He did not suggest this idea in any way and is only the one delivering it to you on my behalf. If anything in this letter pushes you to respond in some way, please do not direct your emotions at him. He has enough to deal with. This is between you two and me only. I am more than willing to speak with both of you at a later date if you wish.
So…my closest, most trusted friend – your son – is getting married. For years, him and I have talked about this happening one day to one of us. All the things that we thought would be fun to have happen at such an important, life-changing event. Behind all that talk, however, I was dealing with my own personal issues that had nothing to do with him. A few months after he proposed, I had my own life-changing experience.
I told my mother and older sister that I have been struggling for years with my gender identity. I needed to make a change to live honestly for my own sake and no one else’s – I had been adapting to everyone’s else’s hopes & expectations for all the wrong reasons. I gently explained to them how I arrived at this very scary but necessary conclusion to really start my life and kindly asked for their support and understanding, but that, of course, did not come easily. Half a year later, my sister and my few friends are the only ones openly supportive of me as I go through one of the most difficult & exciting transitions of my life to live honestly, for the first time, as a female.
I have not come out publicly about this yet, but here I am telling both of you my best kept secret. Why am I doing this? My reasons are specific and deep.
Both of you are aware that I have been, and always will be, a kind, motivated individual that has taken your son’s artistic ability to a greater level. I understand you have apprehensions regarding those coming to the wedding, but I feel like your opinion of me has changed. If anyone should be apprehensive about people being put off by me, it should be me. But I am not because it has nothing to do with them. No matter what I look like on the outside, I am still the same person I always have been. If anything, I am more complete and capable because I’m less tortured by living as someone I forced myself to be okay with for the sake of everyone but myself. I would like to not lie to you or anyone else, including myself, anymore.
M’s wedding was intended to be the first wedding that I could be out and open about my identity. We were excited about the possibilities. There will be many people there who know about M’s black best friend, but don’t have a clue about who I am as a person. I was already prepared to be honest with anyone who asked. I am the one at most risk of being offended or uncomfortable, not anyone else who can choose to avoid me if that will make them feel better.
M, with regret, told me that I should attend the wedding dressed as a man. However, I am now working and living as a female daily. I hope that I am clear when I say that enforcing this on me – that I must attend my best friend’s wedding as a gender I’m not, and never identified with, will guarantee that I will be miserable on a day I should be happy for my two close friends. Also, I will surely draw more unwanted attention to myself than not because of recent changes to my appearance.
I have included a photo of how I look on a good day in public. If you were under the impression that I am a “man in a dress” as general society tends to believe, I hope this photo changes your mind of what everyone would be seeing at the wedding. Again, I’m not a man and never wanted to be. So I do not belong in a tuxedo.
l believe M was given that answer was because of an assumption of what it means to be transgender. If I can share a brief explanation…There are thousands of people of all races, lifestyles, and countries who have been tied down to a birth gender that does not agree with their brain. These people, ranging from as young as 5 to middle-aged, have determined that their identity is worth more than what a doctor, their friends & family, and society has told them to be. For each of these people, including myself, this is difficult for many around us to accept because everyone has become so comfortable with what is “male”/”female”. I do not “choose” this nor is this connected to sexual preference like being gay. We determine that this is the only way to be free and happier with ourselves, apart from continued misery or worse, suicide. Religious doctrine also doesn’t make it any easier, which causes many transgender people to live most of the lives in fear of ridicule, violence, harassment, and sometimes murder. It gets even worse for people of color like me – black transwomen are murdered most often.
So far, I have been exceedingly fortunate to have amazing, open-minded, understanding friends, like your son, who haven’t turned their back on me. Like my parents & extended family, I don’t expect you (or anyone who already knows me) to adjust immediately. I’m also not asking for you to pretend to accept me either. If I am no longer worthy of being spoken to in your eyes because of who I am, I will accept that and never step foot in your home again. This letter represents my hope that we can avoid that and peacefully understand one another.
What I am respectfully requesting is the freedom as an adult to choose whether my reputation with you and your extended family is more important than being shunned by you. Any expected wedding plans you have will not be affected by me; I wouldn’t dream of causing any problems for you or your guests. I know this may sound selfish of me, but rather than ignoring your decision outright, I am writing this out of honest respect for you and M, hoping that a positive change will occur in your hearts.
I am sure your son’s marriage is a very emotional matter for you. Please understand that this is a very emotional and personal matter for me also. M is like family to me. There is no way I will be able to properly express my happiness if I keep nodding and smiling whenever someone believes my gender presentation as female will somehow be problematic at an event that has nothing to do with me and everything to do with your son who respects me for who I am. He would be devastated if I dropped out of the wedding altogether, just as I’m sure he would if his parents decided not to be there.
Once again, please do not allow my presentation as female to cause everything you have seen & heard about my character and honor after all these years to be tossed out the window. This is my fight & I will take responsibility for those who do not understand. Please let me be who I am – just another human being – at my best friend’s wedding.
Thank you truly for your time. I will be waiting as patiently as possible for your reply.
I found out on Sunday that though she read my letter, she did not tell her husband about it. Her personal reputation to not subject herself, her husband, her status, and any of her relatives to my presence and existence that was once acceptable trumps all sense of logic, compassion, and kindness. Her answer was akin to what should be my own fears of what people might think or say. In other words, she deems that she has the right to speak for me and my feelings to the point of telling my best friend that he could only associate with me discreetly if I were to merely attend as anything but a man.
She is the perfect example of everything that is wrong with how society discriminates and dismisses transgender & LGBTQ individuals as something other than human beings. She is also the first person who has turned their back on me since I’ve come out.
And so, after all the talk and excitement of being able to be a part of the ceremony of my two close friends being wed. I have decided not to attend at all thanks to unabashed bigotry. I was supposed to be the Best [Wo]man, and now I get to miss the one and only wedding I have ever truly looked forward to because someone can’t see past their ego and self-interest. I refuse to play her game, and thankfully, M isn’t too broken up about it.
In a 100% supportive of me kind of way.