I don’t really go on a lot of rants. Seriously, it’s not my thing. So I’m not going to. I will say, though, that sometimes people do and say things that are hurtful even if they don’t mean them to be. When that happens, it’s often the part of the injured party to ‘rise above it’ and ‘not let it hurt them.’

You know what? Bullshit. If someone hurts you, even inadvertently, it’s okay to feel that way. It’s even okay to (calmly) tell that person who said it that they hurt you and why. It’s even okay to expect an apology, although you may not get one.

So here, I’m going to go into some personal stuff. Not because I think I owe to anyone, but because if someone comes along and reads this and gains some insight from it, it might help someone else out in the future.

Someone I know, who I consider a friend, asked me the other day, “So have you talked to your therapist about your gender issue?”

At the time my response was vague and inarticulate, because while I might be coherent online, in person I tend to get very shy and self-conscious when attention is focused on me. I’m pretty anxious in social situations and don’t really do well formulating snap-answers. I’m always the one who has an epiphany five hours later – ‘Aha! THAT’S what I should have said.’

So hearing that question was actually a little hurtful, and a little annoying. But rather than be angry about it, I’m going to try to turn it into a learning opportunity.

For one – why must you automatically assume I see a therapist?

For another – I don’t actually have any issues with my gender. YOU seem to have issues with it. So, have you spoken to YOUR therapist about my gender issue? Because it seems like you might want to.

When I first realized I was different, I was maybe in my teens. I had no idea HOW I was different, though, because no one in our community or my family talked about things like gender and sexuality. I didn’t know anyone like me, and none of my friends in high school or college indicated they were anything but cisgender and either straight or gay. Had I know there were other options on the menu, I might have reached this epiphany earlier in life. I wish I had.

But as it happens, I got through all my schooling without having this super self-exploration. As a result I never really felt like I’d gone through whatever process it is young people go through to learn WHO they really are. My friends all seemed to have this idea of themselves as a whole person. I didn’t. Not for quite a while.

The revelation that I was, indeed, different didn’t come until I learned words like ‘transgender’ and ‘genderfluid.’ I started reading, and reading, and reading, while boxes were being checkmarked all over the map of my brain and lightbulbs were flipping on everywhere. And then – I cried. I cried my eyeballs out. With relief, because I had a name for what I felt inside and I wasn’t alone or crazy. With fear, because I didn’t know how to handle it and I wasn’t sure I’d ever find acceptance.

As I continue on this journey, I know I’m going to run into all kinds of hate (I have – but I expect more). I get all kinds of questions like the one from above, even from people who claim to want to be my friends.

So, folks, your take-away is this:

No person’s journey is the same as anyone else’s. My adventure in discovering and being comfortable in my skin will not be the same as the next person’s, even if we eventually fall under the same labels and feel comfortable there. We all get there by different roads. Some of us got there faster. Some of us got there slower. Some of us are still picking our way over potholes.

No matter the person, no matter the relationship, treat them with respect. Treat them the way you’d want to be treated yourself. Me, I’m still on my journey. I’m actually happy to talk about it – but when your conversation opener is the one above, you’re immediately coloring the exchange by placing the person you’re talking to in a position of assumed inferiority by implying there’s something wrong with them. Who would actually want to open up and discuss it in that situation? Not many.

If you have friends or family members and you want to support them, demonstrate that not by asking them invasive questions, but by making sure they are SAFE first and foremost and then educating yourself. Let them know you’d love to talk to them about it. Ask them if there’s a website you might be able to read to learn more about whatever it is they’re going through – a lot of sites I’ve seen out there have some very good tips on how to discuss these topics (I’ll try to come up with a list later, but work is calling).

Open a conversation politely and respectfully. If you don’t know how to do that, ask your therapist. Because that seems like a bigger issue, to me, than whether or not I’ve discussed my gender ‘issue.’