My name is Tyler Ford, and I’m a queer, transgender writer and advocate. Ever since I came out as trans on national television on “The Glee Project” three years ago, I’ve received tons of questions and calls for advice about being LGBTQA (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Questioning, Asexual)-identified, and about life in general. I’ve carved out a space here to share my life experience with you, and to discuss any fears, feelings and curiosities you may not feel comfortable talking about with anyone else.
So let's get started with the questions!
Any tips on maintaining trans/cis or queer/non-queer friendships? One of my dearest friends is queer and for a long time we were very close. Lately, though, she's found her "tribe" and has been hanging out with a lot of other wonderful queer people. Mostly I'm really happy for her, but I'm also sad that I can't relate to her in all the ways her new friends can -- and I feel us drifting apart. Is there any way I can relate to her better? Any stories of your own cis or non-queer friends? Thanks!
Ooh, this can be tough. Finding a community and feeling a sense of belonging -- especially after struggling with queer identity and/or a lack of resources for years -- can be life-changing. When I first found a queer community, I went out of my way to go to every social event –- even though I dislike parties –- just to be surrounded by “my people.” Your relationship with your friend is going to be different from her relationships with other queer people due to the nature of the bonds of shared struggles, but that doesn’t make the ways in which you can relate to each other irrelevant or less worthy.
The straight and/or cis friends of mine who are closest to me are the ones who have actively listened to me with the intention of understanding my story and my life. And I do the same with them. They read the articles I write, they research and educate themselves on queer and trans issues on their own time, and they are willing to acknowledge, challenge and change their oppressive attitudes and behaviors. These relationships (and all relationships) thrive on communication.
Tyler chilling with their good friend, Miley Cyrus.
If you’re worried that you might have said or done something that made her uncomfortable, start an open dialogue and be willing to analyze your own behaviors and assumptions. Sometimes, my straight cis friends will say something offensive without realizing why it’s offensive or how it affects people like me. These seemingly “small,” “insignificant” or “passing” comments are microaggressions that build up, exhaust me, and tear me down over time. Every time I hear one of these microaggressions (ex: hearing a friend criticize people who don’t adhere to gender norms) from a straight cis friend, I feel less and less safe around them. How I continue to interact with these friends depends on the person, the situation, and how they respond when I discuss these issues with them. Some once distant friends and I have become closer through simply talking about issues like these and working toward becoming more open and understanding.
Of course, while you are opening yourself up to ways in which you can become more understanding to your friend, she should give you the space to air your feelings and concerns as well. Let her know that you’re happy she has so many new great friends, but that you’re worried about the state of your friendship. Maybe she hasn’t realized how you feel, or maybe she has similar feelings but doesn’t know how to bring them up to you. Either way, you will both have more knowledge about where you currently stand and about the future of your friendship after you spend time communicating openly.
Once you have discussed your feelings and experiences: What are some activities you’ve typically done or interests you have pursued together? Maybe you can plan and set aside a hangout time and activity just for the two of you. Do you both love scary movies? Propose a weekly scary movie night. What feels unique to your friendship? Even if you just want to sit on the couch and catch up for a while, actually planning to get together in advance is sometimes necessary when one or both parties have busy schedules. It can sometimes feel disappointing or sad to have to schedule time with a friend you used to spend time with regularly, but at the same time, it gives you the time and space to plan really fun activities together!
Friendships shift and change and grow with time, and though you may feel you are growing apart, you can totally find ways to grow together. Even if you aren’t falling into the same friendship patterns or routines lately, I hope you can find new ways of maintaining your friendship that feel comfortable for both of you.
Thanks you for trusting me with your questions! If you have questions or need advice, send your concerns to me via Twitter and Instagram @tywrent. Tag your questions with #heytyler! For longer or more private questions and concerns, you can message me at facebook.com/heytylerford. Your questions will be posted anonymously.