One of my biggest lessons of late has been the importance of boundaries in friendship. It’s easy to cut our “friends” some slack regarding our personal boundaries. I have come to the opinion that if they are truly friends, then they will have no issues with respecting our personal boundaries. If they object to our boundaries then they are not friends and should not be a part of our inner circle.
Let me explain what I mean.
Anyone who follows me on Instagram or has been reading my blog will know that I identify as “gender queer” and LGBTQ. Gender queer basically means that I don’t identify as either male or female even though I happen to have a female body.
I came out a couple of weeks ago on Instagram after hearing a great podcast episode about gender identity. I’ve also been working through some of my own issues of belonging and not belonging. Both of these events (along with others) encouraged me to come out and be who I really am.
It’s no longer acceptable for me to make myself small because other people are uncomfortable.
I will not hide parts of myself. Either you accept me fully, or I will walk away from the friendship.
When I was working through my gender issues I had a local friend in my life who I knew that I could never discuss my gender issues with. They voted “no” on the gay marriage vote in Australia, which they told me they would do. I objected and had a few choice words to say about that. It’s not a topic that we ever discussed after that. They were so closed to anything that was culturally or sexually different to their white straightness.
So, why did I allow this person to stay in my life even though that meant me making myself small?
They were literally my only local friend.
I was afraid of being on my own, of being lonely. Facing yourself can be a scary prospect. It means embracing yourself fully, including all of your darkness.
So I have fought myself internally for some time over whether to leave them in my life or not. Today I decided no. And it’s not just the LGBTQ and gender issues that bother me. There’s so much more to this.
The other night I made the decisions to cut cords with them and set them free. Our friendship can’t continue because it isn’t a friendship. Friendship isn’t conditional.
What is a good friend?
A good friend is someone who loves and accepts you just as you are. They are not put off if you come out as gay. Rather, they will ask how they can help and support you. They will also do a bit of research on their own so they can start to understand a little bit about what you are going through.
You know you have a good friend when they correct other people who will not use your personal pronouns.
In other words, they treat you as human rather than some freak that’s escaped from a zoo (which is a bit how my now ex-friend made me feel).
How boundaries help
Setting boundaries helps others to understand how to treat you and what sort of behaviour you accept. Some people will push at those boundaries, or ignore them all together. How firmly you stand your ground will determine how long they continue to disrespect your boundaries.
Sometimes we are our own worst enemy. We set boundaries, but we break them ourselves. This shows others that we are not serious and this is not an important issue for us so they will break those boundaries.
I gave myself space over the last few days to really think about what I’ll accept and won’t accept in a friend. Some things I won’t accept are:
- having my LGBTQ and gender identity ignored
- having a bucket of ice cold water dumped over me because things are going well for me and not for them
- no public support for me or my posts on IG – that means liking but not reading or commenting – when my friends post I try to comment, at the very least I do read and like
- weeks of no contact, then a sudden need to get together for coffee to “catch up” which really means dumping all their sh*t on me
I expect my friends to support me in the same way that I want to support them, especially my local friends. When they don’t I do distance myself.
It’s no longer acceptable for me to have friends who are not supportive of LGBTQ people and who won’t educate themselves. Ignorance is not excuse.
What I’m doing about it
I announced on my personal FB this morning that I would be removing people from my friends list who I know are queer unfriendly. I refuse to have those sort of people in my life anymore.
This is a huge step for me. It means that I currently have no local friends to connect with at this point.
But, I also know that it makes room for new better people to come into my life. And this is what this little exercise is all about. I want people in my life who I can chat about anything with and who won’t look at me like I’ve got some contagious disease.
Their greatest gift to me
In amongst the darkness and hurt there is always a gift, some lesson to be grateful for.
They helped me realise my strength is in what they perceived as a weakness, and they helped me to find my voice and speak out on things that matter to me.
My strength is my “queerness”. No one can take that away from me. It really does colour everything I do. Being “gender non-conforming” gives me a unique view of the world. I don’t see things as binary as most people do. I see things in their unity with the whole. And honestly, I don’t know of anyone else who sees the world the same way I do.
This means that I DO have a valuable contribution to make to the conversations around paganism and queerness. It means that I can create and write characters and stories from a unique point of view.
By trying to make me stay small, they have shown me how big and awesome I really am, and what a huge contribution that I have to make.