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Background

I've been out of college for about 4 years now, and during that time I've lost contact with one of my best friends. After I graduated college, I took a job in another city and moved about 1000 miles away. My friend and I kept in touch for about a year via text messages and Facebook. After we lost touch, a few things happened.

  • My friend took a lengthy break from social media
  • After about a year of silence, they came back online and announced that they are going through a gender transition
  • We have run into each other at a few weddings of mutual friends (and our conversations were a little awkward - not due to their transition, but just because we'd fallen out of touch)
  • My friend tried reaching out to me a few months ago via text message (I intended to respond, but couldn't find the right words and eventually forgot to return and finish the message I was drafting)

My Goals

I would like to restart my conversation with this friend and accomplish the following things

  • Resume our friendship - we used to be very close, and I'd like to regain some of that closeness
  • Be supportive of them - I know through some mutual friends that they've had a rough time due to people in their life not being supportive of their transition
  • Apologize for not responding
  • Make it clear that their transition is not the reason for my silence to this point

How can I restart a conversation from such a long distance with these goals in mind?

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    Hello network visitors! Please note that IPS is fairly strict about using comments as intended. Comments are only for clarifying and improving the question. Partial answers or general thoughts about the situation may be deleted without notice. If you'd like to write an answer, make sure to check out our posts on How do I write a good answer? and citation expectations first. Thanks! – Ælis Nov 1 at 6:11
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I had a "falling-out" with a close friend due to distance/life as well. We used to hangout and talk often, and we were even getting groceries and dinner together every Wednesday for a few months! But they moved and stopped responding as often to me until eventually I stopped hearing from them.

I'm on your friend's side of things though. While the few messages I sent over the years were ignored, they reached out to me a few months ago. And the message that got us to start talking again?

Hey scohe001! I was talking to Anne and she was showing me pictures of your new pet. When on earth did you get him?!

The conversation started slow, but eventually we fell back into our old friendly banter. Before long it turned to "Oh btw, what ever happened with..." and long conversations of catching up.

I'd suggest doing the same here. Be honest with them. Assuming you saw some of their posts online and that's what triggered you wanting to get in touch again (and asking this question), I'd send them a simple text:

Hey [friend9273]! I saw one of your posts about XYZ yesterday. When did that happen?? (or some other conversation starting question that applies to the post you saw)

It doesn't have to be anything crazy, just enough to let them know that you saw something that made you think of them and that you're trying to start a conversation.

The key here is to let things flow naturally. If the conversation gets going and you begin catching up and they bring up their transition, then let them know how much you support them. But if they never bring it up, I'd leave it be (as that would signal it's not something they want to/are comfortable enough talking about yet).

But (imo) the best way you can show support is by being their friend. They know that you know about the transition (as you've seen them since then). So if you reach out and catch up, you'll be speaking louder with your actions than you could with your words.

For me, I wasn't really bothered by the fact that my texts were ignored. I know this friend in particular tends to keep a pretty busy lifestyle. And I know how easy it is to miss the few day window to reply to a text (like you did here). As such, I'm not sure an apology is necessary here. But if you feel you need to, I'd wait until the conversation gets going to bring it up.

With my friend, the key was to simply open a line of communication. Once we had a conversation going, we started catching up and getting back into the groove of things in no time. I'd suggest the same for you.

6

I don't really have experience with reconnecting with friends, so my answer won't really be complete. However, I am non-binary and I also do have experience with unexpectedly reaching out to someone in order to bring them joy.

I write about such a reach out in another answer here so my post will partially be based on that (and another reach-out that I also did in the past).


As I said, I don't have experience with resuming friendship, so instead, I'm gonna talk about bringing happiness to this person. Hopefully, this will be enough to allow you to resume the friendship.

As a trans/non-binary person, here is what brings joy to me regarding this topic:

  • When someone use my choosen name even though I didn't explicitly asked them to do that.

  • When someone use my chosen pronouns even if I was (supposedly) not around to see it.

    You have to know that, when you are transgender, a lot of people will use your chosen pronouns when you are here but, as soon as you aren't, they will revert back to pronouns you no longer use.

Those two things could appear very small, but it always makes me unexpectedly and amazingly happy.

When people do that, it shows me that they accept me fully and it's an incredible feeling.

Saying to someone "I accept you as transgender" can be nice but isn't necessarily enough. A lot of people say that but don't really mean it and/or still have really awful ideas about what being transgender actually means.

When I meet new people, I'm often on my guard, but it's really reassuring if I see that they arlready know a lot about the trans community (then, I might feel safe enough to tell them that I'm transgender).

So, if you want your friend to feel safe with you as a transgender person, you have to show/prove them that knowledge. Only then, you will be able to support them (because, from experience, the support of someone you do not trust isn't really meaningful).

One quick way I found to differentiate someone who knows about the trans community and someone who doesn't is to check if they know the transgender flag.

So, when reaching out to your friend, you may want to show them a nice drawing involving the transgender flag (or other transgender symbols).

For example, you could say:

Hey, I saw this amazing drawing the other day and it made me think about you.

(If your friend is more into "cuteness" than "badass", you could use a drawing like this one instead).


4: So, by doing that, I think you will accomplish your latest goal: "Make it clear that their transition is not the reason for [your] silence". I know that, if I meet someone with enough knowledge of the trans community, I probably won't expect them to be transphobic. In fact, I am way more likely to believe the opposite and trust them more quickly.

2: It will also bring you closer to accomplish your second goal: "Be supportive of them". Since they will know now that they can trust you, they will accept your support more easily (at least, that's what I tend to do).

1: Also, it might also help resume your friendship (goal number one). At least, it will probably make them happy that you thought about them enough to 1) send them a message and 2) send them a nice picture with it.

I know that I'm always happy when I learn that someone is thinking (positively) about me and I also know that, to me, receiving a picture is like receiving a gift. If your friend is at least a bit like me, they will probably appreciate the attention too.

3: As for the apologizing part (goal number three), I don't have any advice except one: Do apologize. People don't like it when you hurt their feeling and don't apologize. It makes them feel like you don't care about their feelings at all, so apologizing is always something one should be prepared to do.


Note: a lot of "newbie mistake" that people make when talking to someone transgender is to ask them about their genitals or other physical transformation they may have done/may want to do.

Don't do that. Those are very personal questions and you should never ask them to a transgender person unless 1) you are very close or 2) they bring it up themselves.

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+100

I encourage something simple, without excuses. Something like:

Hi [their correct name*]. Sorry about my rather slow reply. How are you?

Just take it from there, and basically act as you normally would (i.e., be the same person). I remember when I transitioned, people would be afraid of saying the "wrong thing", and for this reason avoided me; it felt rather alienating. Two points:

  • If you change your personality to tip-toe around transgender topics, it will feel fake, as if they're talking to someone else. If you were good friends previously, they probably contacted you because they want that same friend.

  • If they still want to be friends, that's also partly their decision.

You mention you want to support them. This is both good and problematic: it's good you want to help, but you also seem to be assuming they need your support. They might do, they might not. Instead of focusing on their problems, I encourage focusing on what you like about that person. Do fun things, crack jokes, talk about pleasant memories, enjoy yourself.

  • Being transgender is not a pleasant ride, and sometimes it's hard to have a moment's respite from being reminded about how complicated things are. A lot of the time, I just want to have fun.

  • When everyone goes out of their way to support you, it's easy to feel as if you're a burden. It feels like people are not your genuine friends, but instead feel socially obligated to show support. In my mind, it's more important to convey the idea that you genuinely enjoy spending time with them, rather than be some transgender ally or something.

Make it clear that their transition is not the reason for my silence to this point

This goal rings an alarm bell for me. Your post makes it seem like it indeed was your initial reason (i.e., "couldn't find the right words").

In my experience, a lot of people do this: after transitioning, they would avoid me in some way to circumvent saying something wrong or reacting inappropriately. Then afterwards they would overcompensate and become over-the-top overtly accepting. Then after that, they started acting normal again. (Perhaps they finally realized that I don't care that they're not a flag-waving transgender ally.)

  • I fear you are seeking a cover story. I encourage just saying "sorry" and moving on. People do all sorts of things behind transgender people's backs, and it's hard to know who to trust. (You can see it in Ælis's post, where they write "as soon as you aren't [around], they will revert back to pronouns you no longer use.") If you try to make excuses, I expect it will sound fishy.

  • Before transitioning, someone told me "say goodbye to 2/3-rds of your friends". You are likely not the only person to drop contact for an extended period of time, and subsequently reconnect and claim that "it's not because you're transgender". It's not a believable story that all of them simultaneously dropped contact shortly after transitioning, but it was not because of transitioning.


* By correct name I mean whatever they say their name is; other names should be regarded as “incorrect”. If their name has changed as a result of transitioning, the former name is often referred to as their “dead name”, and it’s typically considered offensive to use it.

1

If a friend of mine does not answer a message, I assume they're not really interested to get in touch at that particular moment.

If after a certain time they just write to me I would be happy to hear from them. I think this should be as simple as that.

Tell them you are sorry, and then invite them to resume the contact with a face to face meeting.

My message would be:

Hey! Sorry about being so lazy to respond. Long-time no see! Would you like to have a beer with me? I'm ready when you are. Thursdays are my new Fridays, but any day would work. :)

You can invite them for a coffee, a meal, whatever you used to enjoy back then. It should not sound like a compromise, generic invitation like "let's meet soon"

Give it a certain "as soon as possible = I really want it" intention, yet keep it open enough so they do not feel they are rejecting you if they cannot make it a particular day.

If the gender transition really isn't a problem, do not even mention it on any message or phone conversation. It will either come up naturally or your friend may bring the discussion to the table -eventually.

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    Unfortunately, I can't invite my friend to dinner as we live roughly 1000 miles away from each other – Rainbacon Nov 14 at 20:52

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