THE BLOG

My Transgender Life - Modern Pen Pals

05/07/2015 05:47 pm ET | Updated May 06, 2016

You might say I am not one of those early adopters. You must know those people; the ones that camp out in front of the local Apple store days before the next iGadget comes out. No, never have been and probably never will.

There are some ideas it has taken me decades to catch on to. Having a Pen Pal is one of them. I remember way back in the 50's I had classmates who talked about writing to their pen pals. The told me they were in countries that at the time I never even heard of, let alone know where they were. This was back when most people who went on overseas vacation traveled by ocean liner. The world was very different then.

As you probably know by now, even way back then, there were parts of me in hiding and I could not even imagine writing about personal feeling to another person. I never was able to articulate what exactly was going on, but I knew that when I secretly would dress in my mom's clothes, that was not what all the other boys were doing. No! I never had a pen pal.

Until now!

I was a late adopter to social media. I really did not get involved until after I transitioned my gender in 2011 and no longer felt the need to hide. I am not sure when the word "friend" became a verb, as used on Facebook. "Friend Me" has seemed to replace "see you later" when you meet someone new. I hardly ever used the later, but I have learned to say "friend me."

Many, but not all of my FB "friends" are transgender. There is a large, and most interestingly diverse community that has at least one thing in common. This is that they have at the very least questioned or been confused that their gender assigned at birth does not consistently align with their psychological sense of who they are or how they want to express themselves. I am not sure if I have a lot of FB friends compared to other people, but it sure seems like it is so for me.

I have conversations, both public and private with many people who I suspect I will never meet. Welcome to the modern world! Sometimes there are multiple "chats" going on at the same time. When this occurs it can be really confusing as to what I am saying to whom. Although these are "friends, I suspect that I will never really meet most of them. I guess this is my modern version of having pen pals.

However, there are a few people who are both "friends" and friends. I am still not sure if I will ever meet them, but there does appear to more of that feeling...that feeling of..simpatico....sort of kindred spirits that somehow enhance a conversation, a friendship, even if it is distant and just written in the new virtual world. I think this is what my classmates were talking about over fifty years ago. That was how they described their pen pals. Yes, I am a late adopter, but as with so many other events in my life I have learned it is never too late for anything. I have a pen pal.

Jenny lives on the West Coast, and I am not quite sure how we got connected. Sometimes I just adore the mysterious way the universe works. We are in the same age group and both active in our local transgender communities. We both can seamlessly jump our conversations between the serious, the sublime and the various escapist worlds we both spend some time in. We reference old shows and musicals and have fun testing each other on our knowledge of 1950s TV shows. This has often gone on and on. Jenny is my pen pal in that old 1950s trivial sense too. We are not sure if we will ever meet, but we agree that if we do, we will probably be talking non-stop for a number of days until we both drop from exhaustion.

I got an email from Jenny, in which she apologized for what she thought was an offense to me (it wasn't) which was so beautiful, it inspired me to think about the fact that once I stopped hiding, I learned to have friends in many places.

Jenny wrote the following:

"And then a gentle Spring breeze came and blew through the bamboo garden of my mind last night, freeing it from all of the accumulated dead undergrowth. The feeling of lightness and peace after climbing back is tangible! To awaken this morning to the sun, to absorb it, to feel it, to know once again that sense of life coursing through me.."

When I chose to live my life as my true self, I did, as Jenny has said, "freed my mind of all the accumulated undergrowth." This made space for me to find friends, and be a friend. Living your truth may well be a Spring breeze.

This just may be a good time for a Spring-cleaning. Not just for me, perhaps for you too. It is never too late!

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Grace Stevens is a transgender woman who transitioned at the age of 64 and holds a Masters Degree in Counseling Psychology. She is a father of three, grandparent of two, athlete, advocate and author of No! Maybe? Yes! Living My Truth, an intimate memoir of her personal struggle to transition and live her true life authentically as a woman. For more information about Grace, her work and how Gender Variance Education and Training can help you, visit her website at: http://www.graceannestevens.com/. Follow Grace on Twitter: www.twitter.com/graceonboard .