By Denise Shick
“My second dad, this guy that I’d grown up with, that raised me, was taken away from me.” Those harsh-but-sorrowful words from Khloe Kardashian to her stepfather-turned-stepmother summarize the essence of the innate reaction most family members and friends have to a loved one’s gender transition. The person I’ve known and loved is gone, taken away.
In a recent segment of Keeping Up with the Kardashians, Caitlyn Jenner, the former Olympic athlete/pitchman/reality TV star lamented her isolation: “Day after day, month after month, nobody calls, nobody checks in … just, ‘Hey, how are you doing?’ You can’t help but sit there and think, ‘Okay, is it because I transitioned [and] they don’t like me anymore?’”
Caitlyn needs to understand this key truth: The reason family members rarely call is not because they don’t like their beloved dad or former husband; it’s because they don’t know their loved one anymore. The person they’d known and loved for many years is gone. One can’t completely change one’s identity and expect his or her loved ones to go on with life—and with their relationship with that person—as if everything is the same.
That’s the huge-but-often-disregarded issue in this transgender phenomenon. One does not change one’s gender and enter a world of fantasies in utter isolation. The decision to transition cannot be yours alone, because the consequences do not touch you alone.
As Khloe sees it, the man who raised her—Bruce, the man she loved as her father—is gone. Khloe prefaced the statement noted above with this telling comment: “You’re all I remember—Bruce was—so not having you [Bruce] in my life is a huge blow.” At that comment, Caitlyn appears to be barely able to swallow the wine in her mouth. Her lips are pursed in contemplation, and her eyes reveal some level of acknowledgement, perhaps sorrow. It appears as if—perhaps for the first time—she is beginning to understand that her choice dramatically impacted others, people she really cares about.
Caitlyn had earlier tried to assure Khloe’s sister Kylie: “You can still call me Dad, Kylie. No matter what, I’m always going to be your father. That’s never going to change.” Really? He was a man—who had to shave daily, who had big masculine muscles and all the normal male parts—and now he appears as a female, wears dresses and make-up, and he’s telling his stepdaughter nothing has changed or will change? That’s fantasy. And deep down, as he really contemplates what he’s done, I suspect he knows it’s fantasy.
Fantasy now rules Caitlyn Jenner’s life. And, honestly, Jenner’s friends and family members don’t have time to indulge in the fantasy life Jenner is living. As Khloe said in that same TV segment, “For me, at the time, I just wasn’t at a place in my life where I could invest in new relationships. It’s really hard for me to experience a lot of new things so quickly … I was also like, this isn’t even my fight to fight anymore. I have my own s*** to deal with, so why don’t you guys figure that stuff out.”
Caitlyn wants everyone else—friends and family especially—to structure their relationships with her—and even much of their lives—on Jenner’s terms. Perhaps, though, Jenner is beginning to see now that they have their own lives to live, and it’s presumptuous to expect them to adjust those lives to accommodate to the desires of others’ to play in the fantasy world.
“It’s my life and I’ll do what I want,” transitioners say. Fine, do what you want, but understand that your friends and family also have their lives. Don’t expect them to transition with you from reality to fantasy. And don’t expect them to forever pretend they feel no pain at losing you to your fantasies.
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