What if we just pretend nothing happened

A few weeks ago, I came out to an old friend from college. He had wanted to meet and catch up, an offer I rejected because he didn’t know about my transition (for more detail: Is educating cis people worth it?). His immediate reaction to my coming out was to get very religious, challenging me on the theology of my transition. After a thorough rebuttal, our conversation returned to normal, with him seeming to just pretend that my coming out never happened. This was followed by two weeks of radio silence, which I interpreted as the end of our relationship. Except he showed up today, asking me to meet up with him and his wife for coffee. An offer I accepted, perhaps foolishly.

In all honesty, I assumed that I was walking into a trap going to meet this guy. I half-expected to be met by a group of people trying to stage an intervention. So I was pleasantly surprised and also slightly confused when he was alone. His wife (who I have known for years) was not present. She had apparently decided at the last minute that she didn’t want to see me because she was literally in the shop next door. This was a bit disappointing, but not entirely unsurprising. I knew that both of them were transphobic when I came out to them, I am honestly surprised at least one of them showed up.

The encounter itself was odd. He acted as if my coming out to him had never happened. He never mentioned it or anything about my transition. He didn’t even acknowledge the significant changes in my appearance. He didn’t misgender me though, in fact, he went out of his way not to gender or name me at all, to the point it was obvious. This led to some incredibly stilted sentences where it was clear he had intended to use my dead name but stopped at the last second. Despite how awkward the whole thing was, it was still good catching up with him. I think it is a positive sign that he is still willing to meet with me.

My friend’s attempt to just ignore my coming out and transition was certainly odd, but it is a surprisingly uncommon response. A few other people I have come out to before have reacted similarly, interests I have only seen this from cis men. They respond neutrally to my coming out, ask very few questions, and then pretend that it didn’t happen for a few weeks. During this time they avoid naming or gendering me in any way, which I can only assume to be an odd personal compromise. They seem to need time to let the transition sink in because they eventually acknowledge the transition and start using my name and pronouns. However, it takes a few weeks to get to that point. I don’t quite understand the thought process that results in this behavior, but it has happened to me 3 times now, so it can’t be too unusual.

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