Immediately grateful that he shared such a personal thing with me, I hugged him and told him that I’d have his (her) back through the entire process. It seems to be a stressful thing to endure once the transition starts, and I’m very scared for him! He is deathly afraid to tell his family — something I’m a little worried about, too. They aren’t exactly the most accepting of people all the time, and I don’t want this to be more stressful for him than it already will be. But I don’t want to pressure him to tell them if he truly doesn’t want to.
Please help me. I just want to be a good friend and make sure he gets the body she deserves, so she can truly feel like herself. What should I do? — A Confused Friend
You already ARE being a good friend just by listening and accepting and loving. That your friend felt enough confidence in you and your relationship to share with you what she hasn’t felt safe enough to share with anyone else speaks volumes about your character and the bond you have together. Just keep being there for her and accepting her for who she is. She has a long journey ahead to match her outside with who she is on the inside, and she will likely be faced with plenty of opposition and judgment along the way — sometimes from people who are supposed to love her unconditionally.
You can’t help how anyone else reacts to her or even how she handles the challenges she’ll be faced with. But you are in full control with your own behavior, and that’s what you should focus on. Let your friend know how much you care about her and how you’ve got her back and that, no matter what happens, she has your support. That will mean more to her than you probably realize.
As far as your friend telling her family, you need to let her decide when and how to do that. This is, above all, her journey. She may invite you along for some of it, but you have to respect that she is in the driver’s seat just as you are the driver on the path you’re traveling. Let your friend decide whom to tell and when and how, and just be there for her to support her however you can.
Your friend WILL get through this. Thousands and thousands of people undergo sex changes in various forms all the time and go on to have wonderful, fulfilling lives with partners and families and careers and everything anyone else may have or want. Whether your friend has her family’s support or not, she’s going to get through this. Obviously, it’s much easier and less lonely to have the support of loved ones, but, if your friend isn’t lucky enough to get that, at least she has you. And she will find other support too. On the TransEquality website, I found a list of support groups for transgendered people, as well as healthcare links and resources for legal support.
Your friend does not have to be alone through this process and you do not have to be her sole support system (nor should you take on that responsibility). There are people who have the wisdom and experience to help guide your friend through the various choices she’ll need to make. And on your end, it’s important to remember that your friend is, indeed, going through a process and she’s only at the very beginning of it. She may make some decisions now that she’ll change her mind about later on. And that’s OK. As teenagers, you BOTH will be growing and changing in different ways, and you BOTH are figuring out who you are, what your identity is. Be gentle and compassionate with each other, and understand that there will be times when it’s YOU who needs support. Don’t be afraid to ask for it from your friend. Over the course of a long journey, friendship is a two-way street… even if one side of the road has more obstacles at various times than the other.
If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at firstname.lastname@example.org.