Normally I write about all of the things that have happened over the year in a year-end summary, but this year I am going to write about change. Since the New Year is about new beginnings.
After I went to my first support group meeting my whole life changed. All my life I had the same friends since high school, I always went out to the same bar to hang out with town folk that I knew growing up. Sometimes I went over to friend’s home to have a beer and smoke a joint and watch the Red Socks game (which I never really enjoyed, but that was the “man” thing to do). I never went to a play or a movie or traveled, my world revolved around the town. I could probably count on one hand the number of times that I went to New Haven or Hartford in my whole life. The only time I went to a restaurant was with the family, not counting Burger King or McDonald. I worked for 28 years in the next town over and the only time that I lived out of state was when I went to college in Rochester NY from ’71 to ‘74.
The day I set foot in the meeting hall where the support group met, it opened the world up to me and gave me life. I went to plays, I went out to restaurants, I went to visit friends around the state, and I went to conferences in other states… I was doing things with my life! When I came out to my brother, he was able to identify the date when I first started going to the support group because for the first time in fifty years, when he called me, I wasn’t home! At a party with my high school friends, I commented that I was going to trade my 3 year old car in, a friend asked why and I replied that I had driven it 65,000 miles already. He quipped that I must have driven back and forth to work a lot (work was only 4 miles from my house) and everyone chuckled. Little did they know that I was driving to friends’ houses in New London, Springfield, Glastonbury, Waterbury, or that I went to Provincetown every spring and Boston every winter. Nor did they know that I had driven down to Washington DC to lobby for the Hate Crime and Employment Non-Discrimination Act legislations.
Also around that time, I started to speak publicly at colleges and universities all around the state as part of a speaker bureau and testify at public hearings in favor of the anti-discrimination bill here in Connecticut. I had never spoken in public before, yes, I gave presentations at work, but I have never before talked to an audience of 200 people. In addition, I went back to college to get my master’s degree after 40 years and I am taking part in student activities, something that I never did before.
Not only has change affected me, but it also affects my whole family. They all now have to deal with the fact that I am now a sister or aunt to them. My brother had to tell his friends about me and one of them had a hard time adjusting to my change. At my nephew’s wedding, he was there and he came up to me and we talked for a while, he said he was having the problem accepting me as Diana, but he recognized that it was his problem, not mine. A friend of my sister-in-law came up to me at the wedding, we also had a long talk, she was very supportive and for Christmas she gave all the women in the family homemade Christmas tree earrings. I think they will be one of my cherished possessions, because of the thought behind them.
Yes, there has been change in my life and change for those around me, but I think it is for the better. I have broken out of my shell and seen the world anew.