The “Writer in the Closet” Edition

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S1: This ad free podcast is part of your Slate plus membership. Lucky you.

S2: You’re pretty your prudent given here, prudence, dear prudence here pretty. Do you think that I should contact him again? Help. Help. Thanks. Thank you.

S1: Hello and welcome back to The Dear Prudence Show once again, and as always, I am your host, Dear Prudence, also known as Daniel M. Laborie, with me in the studio this week as Kolby Gordon, an English professor at Bryn Mawr College, where he teaches weird gay poems. With me also in the studio this week is my super fixing my kitchen sink down at the other end of the apartment. So I’ve got a bunch of, like, doors and masks in between us. But if you occasionally hear the sound of someone fixing a kitchen sink or saying something like, I fixed your kitchen sink, that’s what it is. Welcome to the show. Oh, I’m so happy to be here. Thank you for having me. I’m so thrilled, especially because this is one of our first, like, almost exclusively themed episodes, which was not on purpose. I just I went into the mailbag this week and I was like, wow, there’s a lot of trans guys with problems. And so this is almost all trans masculinity all the time.

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S3: That’s exactly how we like it. They knew that I was coming to answer all of their questions and ancient trans man is here to tell them how to do their injections. And Elder. That’s right. That’s very, very much an elder.

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S1: So just lots of trans guys with problems this week. Love to help the community where we can.

S3: Absolutely. Just to hold their hands, tell them their beards will come in eventually and they should go ahead. And we like all the embarrassing bow ties and suspenders their little hearts desire. I am here to enable them.

S1: Listen, I don’t want to tell anyone how to express themselves, but I’m I feel comfortable saying, like, put a lid on it, like max out at four suspenders.

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S3: See, I’m the opposite. I’m like, do you have the ones that are rainbow? You should get those two wide. Then you should get all of them. Maybe a pocket watch.

S1: I don’t know what you can do with age as a young person in the Bay Area between 2004 and 2006. You understand I can’t take any more rainbow suspenders or bow ties. You know, if they bring you joy, like bless your journey, please don’t don’t bring that around me. The aesthetics come later. First, there should be mildly embarrassing joy. That is true. I do want I do want everyone to feel freedom to dress in a way that is just like idiosyncratically pleasurable, because I have often derived great joy out of wearing something that I know looks very weird, but that pleases me. And so there is there is value in that. But, you know, I think outside of the Rainbow Suspenders Box, because it’s been done, will come taste will come in time. Taste the rainbow in the meantime. All right. That’s right. It’s my turn to read the first letter. You wonderfully charming young man. And I will do so. The subject is writer in the closet. Dear Prudence. I am a writer at the beginning of my career and things are going well. I have written for some reputable publications and hope to publish a book. I am also a closet, a trans person. I’ve known this for a decade now. I’m in my mid 20s and I’m finally independent enough that transition is a viable option. The problem is that I am absolutely terrified by the prospect of being an openly trans person in the media. I have seen the way that trans writers or really any trans person with any kind of platform are treated with outright hostility, not only from the fringes but by the mainstream. I am afraid that publicly transitioning will sink my chances of achieving my goals as a writer and put a target on my back. I do not want to let the Andrew Sullivan’s and Abigail Shreyas of the world scare me, but they do. I feel like I must choose between transitioning and having a shot at the career I dream of. I honestly don’t think I could bear to be publicly out and subject to transphobia, mockery and abuse. I’ve tried to imagine a future in which I don’t transition for the sake of my career and I believe I could do it and still live a fulfilling life. What should I do? Oh, this one is heartbreaking. I feel a little brisk with this one. Oh, you do OK? I do. I do. You’re the only trans person in media. So from that perspective, well, I feel a little bit shirty. Rightly or wrongly, somebody writes me a letter and ends it by saying, I’ve decided this is what I have to do. You know, this is my only option. I’ve decided I can live without transitioning and I don’t think I could handle it if I transitioned and it was difficult. So that’s you know, that’s my stance. And it’s like, OK, so do that. You wouldn’t be writing to me if you really felt great about that. So part of me feels a little bit like you’re trying to get me to admit you’re right. Transition’s impossible. It’s just too hard. You would never be OK.

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S4: You would never experience any compensatory joys or pleasures from being out and trans and like self actualizing and becoming a part of a real community. And so you should just fucking suffer in the closet and we should feel really bad for you. And I realize that sounds pretty brusque. And I think part of that is also me talking to different versions of myself that I want to be bresch with. But as much love and sympathy as I have for this person suffering, I also know what it feels like to fall in love with your own suffering and feel like my suffering is the only thing I have and I cannot change. I cannot let go. And that has not served me well in my own life. And so I don’t want to encourage it.

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S5: In the letter writer, I agree. I don’t think you should encourage sort of wallowing.

S3: But when I read this, what I really got was a sense that this is a writer who wants permission to transition and to someone who is openly trans in the media with all that entails, saying, you know, actually you can live a perfectly fine life and it is and you will not be the first person to do this and you will not be the last person to do this. And it’s OK. And I think if that sort of handholding is helpful here, I at least I’m happy to do it. It’s it’s OK. You know, it’s difficult to be professionally trans. I am in in a different sphere, not in media, but in academia. I sort of transitioned late and everybody knew and that was just always how it was going to be. That being said, it doesn’t just close down possibilities for you. It opens up all kinds of different ways of being in the world and being in your career. And yes, there are many hacks and grifters like Avigail Shreyas and the Jessy’s singles, and you’re Thomas Chatterton, Williams and whoever. I guess they have a lot of influence. But also the only way that’s going to change is if there are more trans people in the media. And that is one path that you could follow.

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S4: Yeah, and I’m glad that you said all of that, because I can come down from my initial, like, tough love stance and be a gentler version, which is also to say, I get that you’re terrified. And that makes a lot of sense. I think, especially from the vantage point of the closet, especially a closet of a decade. You don’t mention letter writer whether you have any trans friends or any queer people in your life who know that you are closeted. But it sounds like that may be the case. And so you are speaking from a position of, I think, maximal isolation from your community. So a lot of I think what you see is I see the public transphobia, I see the general lack of, you know, high profile trans authors in my chosen field. And obviously, of course, you get scared. But there’s also as long as you don’t transition, you don’t experience the beautiful, restorative, invigorating, fun, delightful, sexy things about transitioning. You don’t get that either. And again, there’s there’s a lot of steps in between coming out publicly as a trans author and taking steps towards what transition looks like for you. So there are things that you could do, such as disclosing to one trusted friend or finding an online support group or changing, you know, some of your pronouns some of the time with people that you trust. See how that goes. Talk to your doctor about the possibility of future HRT and whether or not you want to give it a test drive, which again, I think like I definitely used to feel like obviously if I start to of any amount, I will immediately turn into Patrick Swayze and the jig will be up. And they don’t want to promise, like, no, don’t you ever notice. But like, it is possible to give it a shot for a couple of days. And if you are freaking out and you hate it, you can stop and you will not have irreparably changed your life.

S3: Your definition of irreparably may vary. All right. I don’t want to make big promises, but no, no, no. I mean, I think I think we should move away from the Abigael Trail Trier model of irreversible damage like. Transition is actually a really slow, gradual thing that can involve whatever you want it to involve, whatever kinds of physical changes you find attractive or desirable, you can sort of try them out, whatever kinds of social changes you might find, you know, enliven and you can try those out. So I think I think you’re absolutely right. Some sort of small steps might be the way to start and kind of see where it goes. And I think my other sort of thought is, you know, there’s no hesitation when this letter writer says, I am a trans person, this is who I am and it’s who I’ve been for at least a decade. I’ve known this since I was 15 or something like that. What kind of a life is it to just reject the possibility of pleasure and desire and self actualization so that you can, like, get invited to the French chateau with all these horrible trans phobic media people?

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S1: Like, is that actually a career that feels like it’s worth giving up everything about yourself for, especially when, like, media careers are already pretty evanescent, like the odds that you would do like sacrifice all this stuff or what would essentially amount to like a freelance career that didn’t ever quite pay the bills is like, you know, if you’re going to get like golden shackles, get better shackles. I think, like you should be asking for at least two hundred thousand dollars a year if it’s enshrined, you know, dream worse, but more if that makes sense.

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S4: Yeah. Go work for, like an oil company and just become like a fuckin millionaire. Like, really, really do it, you know.

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S5: Yeah. This is not the way to go. Yeah.

S4: I will just say, like seek out community and possibility. Even if you decide you don’t want to transition, I think it will help you to see a lot of different examples of people who have done it. So you don’t convince yourself you can’t even take one step in that direction. And then ultimately, if you decide you can’t do something that terrifies you, don’t do it, pursue a fulfilling life that satisfies you. You will not hurt anyone if you never transition. You are allowed never to transition. You have my full permission never to transition. If that’s what you want to do, do it.

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S3: And you have my permission to transition. And it’s actually find that to be clear.

S1: I’m just like, I’m not going to force you like I’m not going to force Maskew. I’m not going to, like, throw you in a frat house and, like, get you a hat.

S6: I think some people like that, and that’s fine, too. I’m happy to sort of talk people into transitioning if that’s what it takes. I’m here to serve my community. Kolby Gordon, top of ages.

S1: Would you read our next letter, please?

S7: I will. OK, subject house hunter Dear Prudence. Dan and I have been together for five years. We can’t get married because then I’d lose my benefits from my late husband. I am disabled and have two boys in elementary school. Dan has two grown daughters. Dan inherited his mother’s house years ago and our city is stupidly expensive. Dan had a health scare recently. It scared me badly. If he died, my sons and I could be out on the streets the next day. The house is in his name only and he will leave his will, leaves it to his daughters. At best. They are indifferent to me and my boys. Even if they let us rent from them, I could never afford it. My youngest has learning disabilities and this is the best school district for him. I have personally repainted every room, updated the fixtures, retile the bathroom and updated the kitchen twice. I talk to Dan repeatedly about my fears and how he needs to put us in the will. Dan tells me I am worrying too much and his house belongs to his girls. His mother had a gentleman friend for decades, but the house still came to him alone. We have repeatedly fought about this. He has snapped at me that I should thank my lucky stars, that he doesn’t ask me for any more help with the bills than groceries. I can’t afford any more than that. And he knows that I started to cry and Dan apologized. But the situation still makes me sick to my stomach. His daughters barely visit. They both got to go to college and have decent enough jobs. I am terrified something will happen to Dan and then that is it for me and my boys.

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S4: This one broke my fucking heart, as I said, larible, this one was devastating to read. I’m so sorry that the letter writer is in, I mean, several unbearable positions. The the whole thing about people with disabilities not being able to marry because they lose their disability benefits if they make over like a minuscule amount of money is just continually horrifying and one of the like. One of the greatest injustices that’s just like across the board a thing, do you feel like for this letter writer there is much to be gained by continuing to try to appeal to Dan, a sense of fairness, or do you think that she needs to look elsewhere?

S7: No, she has to get out. And I mean, Dan is a monster, is my sort of first feeling. And I think, you know, I think the letter writer is in such an impossible and unsustainable situation that Dan has been a sort of temporary solution. But it’s becoming clearer to her that this is not a long term viable solution at all. And even if this person were willing to marry the letter writer, that that house is not going to go to her or her children.

S4: I think he’s made it really clear he does not have any interest in ensuring that you have a place to stay after he dies.

S7: And it also seems clear that his that his kids don’t care either now and it does not bother him at all that she and her children will be homeless the second anything happens to him. He he does not appear to have any concern about that at all. She has made it very clear that that’s the situation. He has not taken a single step to address that, which means that it’s time to look for other solutions to the extent that they exist and are possible.

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S4: Right. And I I don’t want to say any of this to the letter writer saying, like, oh, you should tell Dan you’re like looking like keep this shit on lock. Don’t share this with Dan. Do what you have to do to keep things relatively peaceful between the two of you, including lying. Like, I just want to be really clear. Like, I think you should lie to Dan and say, no worries, I’m totally fine with this and then look as hard as you can for other options. You don’t say anything, letter writer, about whether or not you have friends or family who could even just, like, help you look for additional housing, much less like offer you some. So I don’t want to presume too much on your social networks there, but start asking. And then, you know, in in New York, for example, there’s the Disability Rights New York organization that you could contact. I don’t know what if you live near a big city, if there is a disability rights organization in your city, I would really encourage you to contact them and try to find out if there’s any help that they can offer you. There’s a general national organization called the DRÉ, which is the disability rights advocates. And I’m not saying, man, get in touch with them and they’re going to find you a place that you can move into in three weeks. But just any legal advice that you can get, any housing lists that you could possibly get, your name put on, any resources that they can put you in in in touch with? I would do that in addition to to canvassing friends and family.

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S6: Absolutely. And it might be the case that Dan has isolated this letter writer from a lot of those kinds of connections. Whether that’s the case or not, now is the time to start going back and trying to cultivate as many of those connections as possible, literally just for survival purposes. Right. And I think having some of those disability rights organizations and those were the ones that I was going to sort of point to contacting them, even if they can’t give you sort of immediate financial assistance, being able to sort of feed you into the kinds of networks of legal aid and things like that that might help that could provide some sort of medium term relief. Right.

S7: So I think pursuing those as much as possible, I would say in the meantime, stop fixing his house for him unless that becomes an issue where you have to do it or he’s going to sort of throw you out, spend your time and energies.

S6: Elsewhere in ways that will support and sustain you and your sons, because all of that is just like what a great situation for Dan that he’s got, you know, the ways he’s taking advantage of the letter writer are just.

S7: Hideous I am I am so furious on her behalf.

S4: I am, too, and I’m so sorry. Letter writer. Yeah, and I would say to that end, again, I offer this advice strategically, not because I think that this is the best. I wish I had a better answer, but yet do as little work as you can get away with around the house, but not so much. The dance starts to get suspicious, try to find a balance between not alerting him to a sudden change in you, and then do what you have to do on the side. This is a person who seems really comfortable with the idea of you and your children becoming homeless. And I just don’t you know, he’s told you that you should consider yourself lucky. He doesn’t charge you money like this is not a person you can trust. And so you should feel very free to do whatever you have to do to look out for yourself. One last awful last ditch possibility would be to have a friend help create and circulate a non identify and go fund me for you. Yes. Something that makes it clear like I’m a woman with disability. I have children with disabilities. I need help finding a safe living arrangement. I cannot trust my partner to keep me safe. And I’m at a real risk of homelessness if anything else happens to him. And it sounds like the recent health crisis is not necessarily just like a blip and done like this could very well happen. And so these are dispiriting options, but. I just want you to look out for yourself and to stop thinking maybe I can convince Dan to care about me. He knows he knows the precariousness of your position.

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S7: I do not think that that is possible or desirable. But he has been very clear with what he wants out of this relationship, and he’s getting it. And so now you need to think about yourself and your children.

S1: Yeah. I’m so sorry. Please write back if you’re able to and let us know how you’re doing, whether or not any of those options are possible for you. The subject of our next letter is classic, I guess the very specific kind of classic subject is one of my oldest friends is maybe turning into a turf.

S4: For for listeners who are not especially steeped in, I don’t know, the language of transphobia, Torv stands for trans exclusionary radical feminist, but it’s often used to describe just anyone who’s trans phobic and does not actually, you know, adhere to any of the principles of radical feminism. So sometimes it just means you hate trans people.

S7: Sometimes it means you’re also like a a radical feminist, but sometimes it gets weird applied like Andrew Sullivan’s not a term.

S1: He just hates trans people, just hates trans people. Not a fan of feminism either. No, not at all. Not a bit. Yeah. Yeah, he’s the bad he’s a bad gentleman. So dear Prudence, I have a close friend who is a lesbian.

S4: We usually share political views, but over the last few years she said a few things in passing that struck me as borderline trans phobic. I haven’t known how to address those comments in the moment. It’s confusing because it seems like a real shift for her. Plus, she’s friends and former lovers with a number of trans women, a non binary people, and it’s close, mutually respectful with them. She knows I’m non binary, too, and that my partner is trans. So I keep feeling like, you know, that’s me you’re talking about, right? How do I talk to her about how uncomfortable her statements are making me in a way she can hear while also protecting myself? I’m also wondering if mental health stuff might be part of this. She’s mentioned having increasing numbers of intrusive, paranoid thoughts during the pandemic, but I have no idea how to raise this without her blowing up at me. I will start by saying, if there is one thing that I could wish for, almost everyone who writes into this column, it is to not feel the need to use the phrase mental health stuff. Right, because it’s almost always used in the context of someone I’m close with has done something very hurtful. And I really would like to say this thing hurt me, but I’m afraid I shouldn’t because they might be struggling with mental health stuff. It’s always quite vague. It’s always just like they are part of the human condition of suffering. And it’s just one of those things that’s like, yep, maybe it doesn’t matter. Or rather, it doesn’t matter what you need to do, which is talk to them about it. If she is also depressed and saying trans phobic shit, I wish her help with her depression and for her to stop seeing transphobia shit and you can be depressed and not say trans phobic shit, as indeed most depressed people are able to avoid.

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S3: Right. And I think there is no scenario where you go up to someone and say you’ve been saying all of these trans phobic things lately. Are you having a psychotic break that will never end? Well, that will indeed accomplish nothing but permanently alienating them, which maybe is what this person wants. But I would just set that completely aside.

S4: The letter writer does not seem to be a licensed therapist, so don’t mention or discuss any of that when you talk to this person, especially because this is a habit of the last couple of years and the dynamic has only been going on in this country since about February, March of last year. So. You know, the math doesn’t check out, that can’t be the only thing if we’re keeping a calendar. Yeah, I think the letter writer said it beautifully here. And I think you should say to your friend, I’ve been a little nervous to say this because I love and care for you and we’re normally on the same page about this kind of stuff. And I also know you two have really close, mutually respectful personal relationships with trans people. But sometimes you say things that seem at odds with your values. And I want to ask you about them. And if you can remember one or two specific examples. Great. Trot them out and just say, those really surprised me. I didn’t know what to say in the moment. I wish I had said something in the moment. But even though it’s been a while, I wanted to ask you about them now because it troubles me.

S5: Yeah, I think that’s I think that’s exactly right. That’s a lovely script. I think you have the letter writer has to actually have a conversation with this person. If this were not a close friend, I you know, I have a zero tolerance policy for turfs in my life. I’m a trans person. My husband’s a trans person. Most of my friends are trans people. I just don’t put up with it. Right. But this person is a close friend that seems a little bit out of character. This has been kind of developing slowly. So I think it’s worth having a conversation about and finding out if this person really is going to go sort of mask off full turf. Because if that’s the case, then, you know, I think the path is clear. And and even even just to be able to say to all of those mutual friends and former trans partners, this person has taken a turn. Just be aware if they sort of come across your radar again. Mm hmm. Yeah. So to talk to her.

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S4: Yeah. And if it is not that bad and it is simply the case that. She loves and cares about the trans people in her life and occasionally says some borderline transphobia, stuff like that, is consistent with the human experience, which is to say it’s inconsistent, like people often behave in ways that are contradictory to their stated values. And one of the things that can be really useful about a close friend is they can say, I have noticed this pattern with you and it’s getting you know, it’s not like every day. It’s not the worst thing. But it’s like I’ve noticed it and I want to talk to you about it. That’s good. And it’s also just somebody can be friends with a certain population of people and also hold views that are less than complimentary towards like, again, don’t be like, how could this be? It’s like people can date like people can date CIS and trans women and be misogynists. People can date trans people and be sometimes trans phobic. It happens fill in the blank, you know, like. Right.

S3: Dating a particular group is no no cover against holding it like really horrible values with respect towards them. We know that right. From like history. So have a conversation, be very calm. Do not make any kinds of projections about their mental state. Mm hmm. And that will clarify things.

S1: It will. I mean, trans people can say trans phobic stuff, you know what I mean? Like, yeah, it’s yeah. We can all do it. We’re all capable of it. I don’t say that to mean like no big deal. Just roll with it. We’re all doing it. I just mean, like, don’t be shocked when you encounter it. It’s in the water, it’s all around. And the least surprising thing.

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S4: Yeah. Yeah. You just you brought it up beautifully here. And I think, you know, if your friend blows up at you, you can either say, Jesus Christ, I’m hanging up the phone, this is fucking wild. Or you can say it’s a really big response. I’d love to talk about this later. When you are able to not shout at me, let me know when that is like you don’t have to sit there and get yelled at either. Like if her response is really, really unreasonable, you can you can say, well, we’ll talk about this later.

S3: You can disengage and you can also leave that work to somebody else, somebody who is cis gender read like it is not your job to go around d radicalising people who actively and aggressively hate the category of people you belong to. So that’s fine. You know, it’s not your responsibility, but because it’s a close friend, check in, see how it goes.

S4: Yeah. Yeah. And I didn’t feel like this letter writer was worried about whether or not it was like an ethical responsibility. So I’m not worried about that on this front. But it is clearly like a question of can I continue this friendship the way that it is right now? And yeah, that’s always that’s always a sign. I think that it’s time to have a conversation. Even if it doesn’t go well, it’s better than having this bad feeling in the pit of your stomach.

S3: That’s right. That’s right. Oh, this next one is all over. This one, I think companion feels right because now it’s like, oh, there’s the flip side and I’ve been transferred back. Yeah. So the subject is regret over internalized transphobia. Dear Prudence, I’m thirty four and coming out as trans of the non binary variety and just starting to eat. The thing is I’ve been thinking about this since I was nineteen. One of my first queer relationships was with the trans guy. I could have created queer community in my city and I didn’t. After that queer relationship, I had some relationships with women where I was definitely the problematic one, an abusive relationship with a homophobic guy, a few with bisexual dudes. And now I’m with a wonderful bi woman who is cool with me being trans. What I can’t get past is one, the lack of support I gave trans and non binary folks in my life before I came out, and to the loneliness of being a queer trans person in a city where I could have had queer community, but I don’t. How do I get past this?

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S1: Oh, boy, a couple of different things, right, like it’s I have a lot of fun with this one, but you have to get past in very different ways from others. Where do you want to start with with this one? I know earlier you had a theory about who this might have been, and we probably don’t want to. I’m not going to say I’m not going to speculate, but it could be a lot of people I think is fair.

S3: I think that’s right. Yeah. And I think I think it’s important to start by saying congratulations to coming to this point in your life and having this realization that you’re going to live in a more authentic way. I, too, came out and transitioned late in life after a lot of emotional struggles, and I know how difficult that is. And so this is this is good. This is a beginning. That said, let’s talk about this internalized transphobia, because my question is, to what extent was the internalized transphobia being externalised? At, you know, like in public, on the record, ways that seem to have isolated you from the vibrant, vital, queer community where you live. Right.

S4: Like, I think it’s fair to say, internalized transphobia is perhaps one of the causes of, like, I wish I had come out sooner. But like, if you treated some women badly when you dated them, I don’t see how internalized anything was the problem there. And perhaps what the letter writer meant was because I felt bad about myself, I mistreated other people. Which again, reminds me a little bit of that earlier letter, which is like my friend might be having mental health problems. Maybe that’s why. And it’s just like it is a useful context that you hated yourself or were struggling to accept yourself. But that’s not the reason why you mistreated those women and saying, I’m sorry I mistreated you. I was feeling really bad at the time, is not the kind of apology that I think many people are going to think, wow, you’ve really reckoned with this one. I really feel moved.

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S3: Right. And, you know, there is at least one example of being trans phobic to other trans people in this letter, which is the when when the writer says, I can’t get past the lack of support I gave trans and non binary folks in my life before I came out, like what what does this lack of support look like? It’s not an absence of throwing parties and parades for the trans people in your life is I have a hard time imagining what that means other than people came to you just existing as trans people or maybe told you that they were going to transition. And then what you said a bunch of turkey shit to them. Like, what do you mean lack of support?

S1: I really didn’t feel like I could make a call there because I didn’t know if it was the sort of thing was like there were people who transition to my life. And I mostly kept my distance and I wish I hadn’t. I regret not forming deeper connections or I was unsupportive. And that’s what lack of support means.

S3: Right. And I don’t I don’t ask these things to sort of kick this person while they’re down, you know, and feeling bad. I think it is actually materially relevant to the question they pose, which is how do I get past this? And I think, you know, the way you get past this is by making some amends. If you were harming other people or being trans phobic or, you know, even if you were sort of working out your own self-loathing and jealousy on other people, you were still doing it with them. Right. It still impacts them. And I think there are ways that you can start to have some accountability for that. But do not censure you and your transition and your ego, right?

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S1: Yeah. Yeah. And I would say to that end, you can you can really get specific and write some of the stuff down. And again, this first step is just exploratory. You’re just doing information gathering. But, you know, who did I not support? Who did I treat, quote unquote, problematically? What did problematic mean?

S4: Like, do you mean I was kind of avoidant? Do you mean I was like mean as hell? Do you mean that I, like, ghosted someone I’d been with for five years, like get specific. What was the harm that you believe that you caused? How do you think it affected that other person? And then once you’ve spent some time thinking about, you know, the difference between kind of garden variety, like breakups are hard versus I really let this person down or I really, like, did something shitty, then you can start to maybe share it with somebody whose judgment you trust. Maybe that’s a therapist, maybe that’s a close friend, maybe something else. And to start to think about, like, do I think that this person wants to hear from me? Do I think that the kindest thing I can do is leave them alone and try to do better in future relationships? And again, to think really carefully, like, am I trying to get in touch with someone who’s made it pretty clear they don’t want to hear from me because I want to feel better, in which case I think probably a good indicator not to do or if you can reach out and say, I think I owe you a serious apology for a way that I hurt you, are you open to hearing it? And they you know, they’ll either, like, not respond, at which point you leave them alone or they’ll say, like. Interesting and again, like, don’t don’t do any of this just like on a whim or in the middle of the night or something like run it past again, somebody whose advice you trust, make sure you build in some time, like beforehand, to figure out both what you want to apologize for and also how you can leave room to say, like, if there’s more that you want to share with me, I’m open to hearing it and think about how will I handle hearing it, even if it hurts and like, am I really doing this because I want to try to change my life and make amends that I can? Or am I going into this because I need this person to like me and say that I’m good? So all of that obviously is like long, ongoing, complicated. None of it needs to happen in the next two weeks. But that, I think, is one real different thing from I regret not transitioning when I was 19. I regret not being friends with other trans people in my 20s, which is that I have a lot of patience and sympathy for. Of course, that’s hard.

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S8: Yeah, I think we all regret sort of the time that we did not transition. I feel that a lot. But I think my other question is like, what do you want? Yeah. What do you want? What how do I get past this? Like the sort of vague do you want trans and queer community. Is that what you’re looking for. Like because if it is, you know, right now I think you can. And if you I mean, if you have sort of fully alienated everybody, that’s going to be a kind of different situation. But, you know, like one thing you can do as you’re doing some, I think, real accounting for yourself and the possible the harms that you may have done is really not to make it all about you. Right. So like you say that you live in a city where there’s queer community, where there’s trans community, like, one thing that you could do is, you know, there are definitely different kinds of mutual aid networks or support groups or, you know, like housing collectives and ways that, like you can find ways to contribute to a community that you were perhaps damaging with your earlier behaviors. That doesn’t make it just all about you all the time. And I know that early transition is a very self-involved moment. Of course it is. But maybe you should if you want to be in community with other people, you should start thinking about them and not just you.

S4: Yeah. And again, just because some of the stuff here is open ended or vague enough that I don’t want to I don’t want to air too far on either direction of assuming either like you have left like a wake of damage in your path and you really need to, like, change your life or, you know, you’re really, really being hard on yourself. And and a lot of this stuff is like garden variety, human frailty. So I also want to say, as you do this accounting and as you consider whether or not there are ways that you need to try to make things right with other people or simply acknowledge the fact that you can’t and that all you can do is commit yourself to not repeating that bad behavior again in the future. You also you know, you’re here now. You have a right to be a part of a queer community. That doesn’t mean every queer trans person is going to like you or has to be your friend or has to forgive you if you’ve hurt them. But you have a right to pursue that community with other new people. You have a right to want to be with people who have also transitioned. You have a right to want companionship and support. You deserve all of that even if you have hurt people in the past. So you’re also, you know, you’re entitled to that, too. It’s hard when you look back and you think that’s 15 years, I could have had a different kind of life. I also, you know, I really get that. And I feel you and you will not be alone in that. I promise, if you start looking for other queer and trans people, especially like you will meet a lot of people who will say something like, I’m really mourning the possibility that I could have or should have transitioned fifteen years ago.

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S7: And, you know, I think I think that is one of the most common sort of affective states. The trans people share, you know, there are a lot of reasons that most of us are not able to transition when we wanted to. So you’re not alone in that. And, you know, I think that’s right. As you sort of move into a space where you have this kind of community and you begin the work of transition. I think the future will start to take over a little bit of excitement for what comes next. And that’s great. It’s not going to make up for time that you lost, but you can stop sort of focusing on it the same way.

S4: Yeah, yeah. You’ll never get back that time, no matter how much time you spend obsessing over it. That’s right. And so I don’t I don’t think that to be like just get over it, but like. A little bit, you can both mourn it and also accept that this time I don’t get back, I will never get it back. There’s no amount of mental energy that I can exert that will get it back. And what do I want to do with my life in the meantime? I think that’s enough time on that particular question. Our last letter. Is, I believe our letter writer needs a rap on the knuckles, just a little one, but around the knuckles. Yeah, you know the answer to this question. Letter writer subject is found my friend’s fanfic Tumblr. First of all, rude to send that question to two transman, we that’s where I come from fanfic. I know that the letter writer couldn’t possibly have known that you would be my guest today. But I take it personally, Dear Prudence, my friend has always talked about her Tumblr and how it was somewhat popular, but she refused to tell me anything more about it. She recently gave me just enough information that I was able to sleuth out her Tumblr. A It’s quite popular. B it’s quite popular with a very specific Tumblr fandom. Nothing beyond the pale, just Dorcy. See, it’s full of her original fan fiction. She didn’t want me to know about this, but I keep bursting into giggles, thinking about it and God love her. I want to tease her so bad it’s not even bad fan fiction. I just never saw her in that light. Do I tell her that I found her Tumblr and risk embarrassing her or like stumbling across a cache of weapons in an empty warehouse? Do I simply walk away and keep my secrets? I have never walked across a cache of anything in an empty warehouse.

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S1: I’m not 100 percent sure that my reaction would just be like, welp, we’ve all these little grenades here and hope for the best that these surface to air missiles. I’m just, you know, never mind letter writer. You know damn well that your friend doesn’t want to be teased about this. This is exactly why she didn’t tell you more about it. And you fucking know, it’s not a risk of embarrassing her. You would be doing it on purpose to embarrass her because you want to embarrass her. Yep, that’s exactly it. You know, the answer to this, my friend, is I want to be embarrassed, but I want to embarrass her. What do I do? Don’t fucking embarrass her. Don’t go back and, like, look through her Tumblr. Don’t familiarize yourself with all of her fan fiction and then, like, drop it in conversation. Don’t start like. Having this, like, secondary relationship with her that she don’t don’t you’ve got mail her, you know, leave it the fuck alone.

S7: There’s there’s nothing for it. And this is your punishment, your punishment for poking around and finding a tumbler. You knew that your friend did not want you to know about is that now you get to live with the knowledge that you are best friends with the person who wrote My Immortal, and you can never say anything about it for the rest of your life. That’s your punishment.

S4: Yeah. If you were frustrated earlier with the coyness, like you could have absolutely said, like, hey, it’s weird for me to hear about your Tumblr, but also for you to keep it at arm’s length, I would rather either we can talk about it or, you know, talk about it with somebody else who knows the the you are l but like, I don’t I don’t like this. You you would have had every reason to say something on your own behalf there, and you didn’t. And I mean, at this point I guess you could say to your friend, I just want you to know I was able to to space the last thing you told me, I’m not going to read it again. And I’m sorry that I snooped, but I want you to know so that you didn’t keep telling me stuff about it. I want you to have the information that I have. I could maybe see grounds for that if you believe it. You would otherwise like at some point let it slip or if it would make you feel really uncomfortable to keep hearing about the tumbler, knowing about it. But I’m not sure that that’s.

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S7: No, I think even I think if you acknowledge that you have found this Tumblr, that that in itself is embarrassing enough that I would I think the letter writer should not say anything and should be very polite.

S4: And disengage, yeah, I mean, I guess, yeah, the only way I could see this forward would be if you wanted to admit it to your friend, not make fun of her, and then say either, like, do you want to talk about this or should we just, like, stop talking about Tumblr entirely? That would be the only way I could imagine you talking to your friend about this. And that would be for the purpose of like I don’t want to keep having half conversations about something. I want to either discuss it or not discuss it. That would be fair. But if you don’t think you can do it without communicating directly or indirectly that you think it’s a little like whatever, don’t fucking do it. You hurt your friends feelings and you know you’re going to hurt her feelings.

S7: That’s right. And that’s why she didn’t tell you in the first place.

S1: Yeah. I mean, people who are coy about their fanfiction, I think you can safely assume feel sensitive about their fanfiction, like it’s not rocket science and they’re like other things.

S6: You can probably gently tease this person about that are you know, they have not specifically made clear they do not want to be teased about.

S1: Yeah. You know, just don’t do that. Yeah, I know. I know. Certainly when I was a younger person, I sometimes thought, like, it’s very funny to tease someone about stuff that they are sensitive about. And boy, do you know what? I was really wrong. And when that shit people fucking hated it and they would get mad at me and I’d be like, but I’m so fun and whimsical. And I’d be like, no, you were being an asshole. And I, you know, I didn’t enjoy the consequences of those choices. And I hope that you can learn from my example and don’t do it.

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S7: Forget you ever saw the Tumblr. Erase your browser history. Never go back there. Do not mention it.

S1: Yeah, leave it alone. Colby, I am so glad that we got to end an episode that was mostly about self actualization with like, put a lid on it, put it back. Don’t think repress it. Yeah, that’s nice. We got some of the repressively today. Yeah. I love it when that’s my job. Yeah. You’re such a wonderful person to have around and I’m so glad that today you were a part of my job.

S7: It was wonderful to be here. Thank you for sharing your most trans letter bag yet.

S4: Oh my gosh. Yeah. Let’s see if we can top that in the future. Thank you again so much. Have a great day.

S9: Thanks for listening to Dear Prudence, our producer is Phil Cercas. Our theme music was composed by Robin Hilton. Don’t miss an episode of the show had to slate dotcom. Dear Prudence, to subscribe and remember, you can always hear more prudence by joining Slate. Plus go to Slate Dotcom Prudy Pod to sign up. If you want me to answer your question, call me and leave a message for zero one three seven one dear. That’s three three two seven. And you might hear your answer on an episode of the show. You don’t have to use your real name or location and at your request we can even alter the sound of your voice. Keep it short. Thirty seconds a minute, tops. Thanks for listening.

S1: And here’s a preview of our Slate Plus episode coming this Friday. I think sometimes, like we get so penalized for like talking about this is something that I associate with, like gender euphoria and it’s meaningful and fun to me. And people are like, oh, so you think only men can hold cigars? And it’s like, no, we don’t think that. We’re, like, allowing ourselves to express something that we have previously repressed. And there’s joy and freedom in that. Even if it doesn’t mean I’m going to buy a damn motorcycle. Like it was fun to be butch for a minute. To listen to the rest of that conversation, join Slate plus now at Slate dot com forward slash Prudy pod.