Both Sides Now By Cora Treoir Duncan: Lessons in Love, Loss and Letting Go

Like many transgender women and men, my early transition was marked by loss: loss of my life partner, loss being part of a financial unit, loss of my dog, loss of my physical home, loss of friends and more. My losses did NOT include my job, my biological family, nor my larger musical community. I was extremely fortunate compared to many of my trans sisters and brothers who often lose so much.

Perhaps the deepest loss I experienced was that of my spouse. We had found each other 20 years after first meeting and watched life orbits cross but never converge until a year before our marriage. It seemed like this was love, destiny, kismet and very romantic. Each of us felt that pull and excitement. We both had been married twice and figured the third time would be the charm, and it would be until death. We believed we had both learned our lessons from the first two unions; we would not repeat those mistakes.

I know now I was repeating the same routine I had used with my previous marriages. I had one major flaw (of many) that I brought to the relationship. I didn’t know what love was. Not. A. Clue.

I THOUGHT I did, but what I practiced was based on NEED. All my relationships were shams. If I had been capable of being honest, the first thing I would have asked would have been “Will you take care of me?” Instead I did everything to satisfy, distract and emulate what I thought love was, to guarantee my partners would let me stay around them. It was a house of cards that would eventually fall. Without a doubt, my gender confusion was complicit as was my ADHD, as I now understand. However I lay the majority of blame on my distorted, ill-informed and delusional perception of love. All my relationships were doomed to crash; the timeline for each was the only difference. I hadn’t taken lovers; I had taken hostages.

It may have been the best thing, considering where I’ve ended up. However, the universe was not about to let me escape the lesson it had in store for me.

My Ex and I dissolved our 12-year union six months after our mutual agreement to part and five months after my diagnosis of Gender Dysphoria. Not a week after the divorce became final, I met a young trans woman at a local support group. I was 63, she was 23. Despite the age gap, I was totally smitten and all my default mechanisms of romancing, entrapment and capture ignited to full effect. Such arrogance! I was sure my life experience, received wisdom and well-developed personality would operate as they always did to acquire the prize! Imagine my dismay, frustration and fear when my practiced routine was dismissed despite my obvious enthusiasm for her.

About this time I started HRT. Eight weeks later the hormones hit blood saturation level and I felt like I was riding a cyclone, dripping with every feeling and emotion possible. In the midst of my emotional Ground Zero, I realized that I had reached my limit with my young friend. I was NOT doing myself any favors by succumbing to my obsession and neither was my over protective approach winning any plaudits from her.

I wrote a five page letter I didn’t send, then ended up reading it to her on the phone. I was done. I told her that my expectations were that our relationship would proceed and exist with a certain protocol or it would cease. Three days later we unexpectedly ran into each other and she pulled me aside privately and said she didn’t want to lose me and agreed much of what I said was true. She was willing to come halfway. I told her what I expected.

Her reply made my heart stop, and would prove to be a life changing turning point for me. When I told her my “rules” she countered by saying “Oh, you mean your love has conditions.” Suddenly I knew… I KNEW what I had been doing wrong all my adult life. For all my wisdom, this 23-year-old proved to be the wiser soul. She cut me to the quick.

During this last year I watched as my obsession diminished to a loving, respectful friendship. I ceased expecting her to meet my emotional needs as I was beginning to see how important it was for me to do it for myself, as a part of Self Care and Self Love. In therapy I focused on addressing this every week until it had began to truly be a part of my life. I still cared about her, but now I could see and accept the obvious age factor AND my unrealistic demands. I also began to see her flaws that, as usual, I had minimized and realized that I could love her anyway – UNCONDITIONALLY. Within months, our relationship was a friendship, which has only strengthened as I let go.

I also began seeing my friendship with another trans woman evolve. We both had struggled with virtually the same situation with different details. We began actively support each other emotionally, commiserating, sharing wisdom and spending time together exploring our new world together. Our relationship is based on strong respect for each other. We are closer in age. She has joined me in getting out and visible, matching me in ferocity and fearlessness.

We have found we enjoy time shared, that each has interests that the other enjoys and are cognizant of our fundamental differences What has happened is that we have quietly moved in a relationship, though neither of us is eager to name it as such. Perhaps it is too early to spend time worrying about this. We do agree that it doesn’t matter that we call each other anything but girlfriends at present. In many respects, we are avoiding cliched labeling that would pin possessive descriptions to us. We are friends that unconditionally love each other and like each other’s company. Isn’t that enough?

So I believe I have arrived at the door to a new understanding of Love. I would be foolish to state that all my questions, presuppositions, malingering habits and idealistic fantasies are dispelled. Hardly; but the urgency of Insatiable Need no longer dominates my every waking hour and colors my emotional life. It has allowed me to say “ I don’t care; it doesn’t matter” and mean it. THAT goes a long way to give me peace of mind when it comes to Loss, Love and Letting Go.



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