Alan Brain has been a close friend for about thirty years. We met at the wargaming group that used to meet at Lindfield. We've shared many interests and activities – wargaming, role playing games, science fiction, a general interest in science and technology, history especially military history. We shared some computer science classes at Sydney Uni. I was there at his and Carmel's wedding. When I lived in Canberra we were frequent visitors to each other's houses.
A bit over two months ago I heard some boggling news from him. Alan was undergoing a spontaneous terrifyingly rapid sex change. The speed of the change was greater than that of any similar change recorded in the literature. The cause was unknown and still is. The known possible causes that were examined were found to be false. There was for while fear that a cancer might be involved. The mood swings associated with this change were unpleasant to put it mildly.
Most of us think of our sex and the sex of those around us as a fundamental part of our identities. We also think of the sex of someone as being clear cut – male or female. The biologist in me knew that sexes were fuzzy sets (no sharp boundaries) but this seemed to be something with little bearing on the life of me or anyone around me. Well this wasn't so.
Fortunately Alan is adjusting to this as well as anyone possibly could -certainly far better than I could have. I found that he always had been slightly intersexed and would have slightly preferred to have been a girl. His sexual identity was not as central a part of his identity as it is with most people. He decided to see the transition as an adventure to look forward to. He believes that he will come out of this feeling better about himself than before. At least once the uncomfortable intermediate stages are passed.
Zoe now thinks of herself as a woman. She is the same person as Alan was but just looks different and dresses differently. Every time we talk it's obvious that the real person hasn't changed. So far I'm still confused and unsettled of course. There is a voice saying "This can't be real." But of course it is.
It has become impossible to conceal the changes so she recently revealed them on her blog and started dressing differently. There has been massive support from her friends. This is going to continue. She is on a difficult but unavoidable path and we're all there to help her. Narrow minded and insensitive dissenters have been savaged. (Attack dogs Tex and Ninme, I congratulate you.)
And then there are the people who are strongly affected by these events but who I haven't mentioned so far. I am referring to Alan's wife Carmel and son Andrew. It is hard for me to imagine what is going on with them. We just have to give them our support too.
Nothing about our friendship has changed. It's been a good and interesting thirty years. I look forward to at least that period further. It will be interesting.