I Don’t Understand, But I’m With You

I’ve had a few conversations this month about understanding. Two with my sisters, both spending awesome amounts of time outside the US. (Jealous much? Why yes, yes I am.)

The other was with my husband. I’ll start there:

We’ve both been confused about all the transgender talk lately, with the military stuff happening. I don’t really get it.

Neither of us really find ourselves on one side or the other and it’s left us feeling incredibly insecure.

This post is not about transgender, right or wrong or whatever, it’s about relationships–more specifically understanding the people in our lives.

So here’s the deal. I don’t understand. I don’t get how gender or sexuality can be so much a part of a person’s identity that they feel secluded, hurt, broken to the point they think they need to be different or change. I’ve never felt that way, so…

I don’t get it. I want to understand you, but I don’t. That kind of hurts me–not to make this about myself. What I want to say is: I don’t want it to be that way.

I WANT to understand you.


Photo by Death to Stock

I want to empathize and I want you to feel loved and accepted. I just don’t get it.

And, this may be asking a lot… but I want that to be okay between us.

James and I had a very broken conversation about how we want to sit down with someone who faces this transgender thing and just love on them. I want to hear your story and try my best to understand and empathize and at the end of the day, just be your friend. Because the truth is, I’ll never really understand, but that doesn’t mean I won’t love you for being you.

My littlest sister found herself in a really challenging spot when she first arrived in Australia this month. And I mean a physically challenging, fight for your life, maybe don’t make it, challenging spot.

She did make it, thank God, but when it was finally over and she knew she was safe, she still didn’t feel ok. She’d almost lost her life. But the people around her wanted her to feel ok.

She said that one of her mentors, who had been in a similar life-or-death situation, pulled her aside when they asked if she was ok and she answered “no”.

He said, “I’m so glad you were honest. It’s easy to just say, ‘Yeah, I’m fine now’ even when you’re really not and it’s okay for this to take some time to process through. Journal, talk to people who’ve been there, like me, they’ll get it.

“But I’m also letting you know, a lot of people won’t get it. They won’t understand why you’re taking the time to process it when it’s already over. They don’t know how hard and scary it was, they don’t know how those fears can linger. It’s also okay that they don’t know. God didn’t give them that story to live through.

“But it is yours and you get to work through it.”

That really moved me. It’s been hard for me when people try to push me past a hurt that I’ve endured. I just want them to understand how bad it was and there have been times I’ve tried to make them feel as badly as I did, so they’ll understand me. But then I just feel bad for trying to make someone feel bad.

They’ll never understand until the day they do.

I had one friend who was infinitely there for me after my miscarriage, always checking on me and letting me have bad days. She didn’t understand, but she was with me. Then one day she understood. She had a miscarriage, too, and she knew I’d stand with her. She knew I understood when no one else around her did and I let her have bad days.

My “middlest” sister got back from spending a year in the Philippines a few months ago and just this weekend got to spend time debriefing with others who went with her. She told me she’s been able to process through a lot of feelings she didn’t realize were still there. They say that culture shock when you come home can be worse than culture shock when you leave home, but people who haven’t gone anywhere can never understand either. But the people who were there, gone from home for a year, they can really get what she’s experiencing.

I can listen and imagine, but I can’t understand. I can compare to a situation I’ve been in and make an analogy. When someone talks about what they’re feeling, I can usually understand and think of times I’ve felt that, too, but it will still be different than their situation.

So today, I’m telling myself, “It’s okay.”

It’s okay that I don’t understand transgenderism–that’s not my story. If it’s your story, I’d love to hear and empathize. I’m sure there will be feelings I can relate to and we can find a connection in that, but I still probably won’t really understand.

But if you’ll let me, I’ll be with you. I’ll be your friend.
And I hope you’ll be with me, too. Because I could use more friends.


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