Thursday, 26 October 2017

An Open Letter To...

We were friends. From the first moment I saw your profile online I thought you were amazing. You were interested in amazing things. And our interests overlapped – Star Trek, Anglo Saxon, the Celts – but they weren’t identical. We liked the same things, but not exactly the same things about them. You were an artist and a writer and so was I. Your art got better day by day. Your writing was amazing. When you were obsessed with U2 I shared your obsession, got into music I had never imagined liking. I read your amazing novel. I dedicated a novel to you. We collaborated on a story which linked your novel to mine.
We became facebook friends. We interacted daily, exchanging banter, laughter, support. I spoke to you on the phone – and anyone who knows me knows how scared I am of talking on the phone. You watched my children grow up. I watched you turn from a sixteen year old schoolgirl to an adult with a focus. We exchanged letters, art, handmade gifts.
We even met up. You were from California, I was from Wales. How far apart could we be? But when you came to Dublin I overcame all sorts of fears and took the ferry, and we met outside Trinity College. I walked around Dublin all day with your siblings, visiting the sites important to U2. We hugged, we said goodbye, we both came home.
You disappeared from Facebook because of reasons, but we were still friends. We saw each other on Tumblr. You went to art school, and got into punk and feminism. When you started to experience gender dysphoria I thought perhaps it was because you were so deeply involved with extreme feminism. But pretty quickly it was obvious it was more than that. I supported you. We exchanged so many messages about your fears and hopes, and about the practicalities of becoming another gender. I was experiencing my own journey of discovery, realising I was autistic. It felt like something else that we shared – self discovery, self-advocacy, finding our places in the world. You started wearing a binder, using gender-neutral pronouns. You were afraid of coming out to your family, but you knew the path you wanted to take.
Eventually you got your top surgery, you were taking T, you were transforming to the body you belonged in. You changed your name. You changed your pronouns to he, his, him. And I was your friend. I was always friends with your mind. Perhaps I was in love with your mind. How often do I really gel with someone?
And then you stopped talking to me. I messaged you a few times, because I missed you, and your replies got shorter, and then stopped entirely. Your tumblr account vanished. You blocked me from Instagram. You disappeared. As an autistic person I found this so incredibly hard. I become intensely loyal to my friends. I would give you a home if you were homeless. I would talk to you at any time if you needed me. I would do all I can. If you came back now I would only be glad.
For an autistic person, communication and friendships are incredibly hard. They’re minefields. I question every utterance, every message, in case I’ve said or done the wrong thing. So what did I do wrong with you? I’m afraid I pressured you at the wrong time. By saying I missed you I drove you away. I think this is the closest I’ve ever had to a breakup. I’ve never lost a friend who mattered so much before. I told you I missed you, and you turned off.
But I do miss you. I will always miss you.