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"A Symbiotic Friendship"

Karen Patrick

The words sear through softened layers of protective shell burning hollow my spirit. A simple sentence lay waste an evening of joy. In a fleeting moment a gender confidant openly perceives me as man. "I see you as a supportive male"... her words silence my self esteem wrenching open a lifetime wound. An hour later I lay on a bed bursting tears from deep within.

It is not said in malice but the voice maintains its echo. My emotions are fragile and crumble in despair. Years of projected image designed for societal survival remain etched on the surface. It has not yet faded enough. Perhaps a year ago I could have disregarded my feelings...I no longer can.

Joining a gender support group has placed me on a winding path of discovery and destruction, friendship and pain. It is a delicate link to renewed hope of fulfillment. It is a place which has allowed me to uncompress a feminine essence and expose a vulnerable core. It has left me emotionally defenceless and in need of reassurance.

That night I cried into the phone for an hour. The sympathetic person on the other end helped patch up my life. She has done it for me before and will again ... she is my best friend.

I first met Sharon at the group's annual BBQ. We had few opportunities to talk amid the rumble of the day but we exchanged phone numbers and I hoped to talk to her soon. That night I met my first encounter with the reality of open femininity. Feeling unrestricted and emotional, I vented years of loneliness by falling into a momentary interlude with the wrong member. By morning I was hurt and alone again. I called Sharon's number and for the first time in my life found true support and compassion. We talked for two hours, then again the following night for four more. Our phone calls have never stopped and we meet almost daily. She is my link to self- understanding.

Through this friendship I am learning better how to touch my innercore. I have come to lean on her, her on me ... we support each other in trouble and triumph.

Through this support group I am meeting a microcosm of the real world through the eyes of a woman. It is filled with a spectrum of pain and joy. There is only one constant within, a friendship as deep as I have ever experienced with one who feels what I feel and sees beneath the exterior layers.

So many fears have been overcome one tiny step at a time with her help. The origins of transition commence with release of the mind. I have someone now with whom I can share this experience in kaleidoscopic detail. I have someone who shares with me her innermost thoughts. She is both a guide and a dependent. It is a symbiotic relationship in a rarefied culture.

I feel fortunate. I feel released. I am slowly becoming Karen and know I can not accomplish this journey alone. This group has opened a new pathway of hope, a new honesty. It contains a precious friend who is helping me bond with others and overcome adversity. I can no longer imagine how it was a year ago when I was truly alone.

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