I have loved 7 men in my life, not counting my father and uncle, and while I do not have a biological brother, there is no doubt that these 7 men are my brothers. [I can add another one or two to a hybrid category called big brother, who, while not as intense as these relationships, has been nonetheless critical in my life — I’ll do that elsewhere.] These relationships were/are deep, trusting, emotional, adventuresome, and intellectual. If, according to my post about the women I’ve loved, I wanted to be those women, then I equally wanted to be the men who make up my band of brothers. In order of my meeting them, here’s the roster:

Slade, 1966, elementary school
Zuboff, 1978, college
Clarke, 1978, college
Michael, 1978, Gail’s (my first marriage) brother
Gerald, 1983, graduate school
Will, 1985, graduate school
Milo, 2000, colleague

In reflecting on these men, I think we were all similar in many respects. We loved to play — I just don’t spend time with people who don’t have a highly developed sense of play (verbal, intellectual, and physical). We loved to take chances, skydiving, camping, rock climbing, being pilots, starting businesses, setting out on a road trip with no destinations. We all loved music and loved listening to it together in apartments or driving around in cars. We all liked hard work — we fixed cars, built fence, balanced financial and accounting books, sold goods and services. I think each of us found in each other a little strength to try new things, to express new or quirky ideas, to share stories about our past that had never been told, to lower our masculine guard because we trusted each other–with our lives, our ideas, and our hearts.

Not all of these relationships are still active. Some are still there, but dormant, while others have been severed through death, distance, or lack of interest.

Michael killed himself in Northern California with carbon monoxide, the victim of a broken heart and no coping skills. His suicide in 1985 still haunts me. I hated him, pitied him, mourned for him, stammered out explanations for him, fell helpless again the onslaught of despair brought on by his karma. We were brothers who shared all those ideals, above. Just when I had begun to get used to learning to love, he abandoned me.

Clarke made a Faustian bargain and dropped out of my circle. I’ve written about this in a story called “All the Secrets in the World”: perhaps I’ll post it here for your enjoyment. His mysterious vanishing in 1988 was crushing. He told me he had a chance to learn all the secrets of the cold war, but if he took the job, he would have to forget his past. We talked about it for days during a visit he paid me, and when he left I felt we had arrived at the right solution, namely, that he’s stay my friend. I never heard from him again.

Dormant, but still filled with potential and constant thoughts, are the following:

Zuboff, tortured wandering soul who stuck with me through all sorts of travails and adventures, but could not adapt to my marriage to Mary Jo and the birth of my children. I guess our relationship was, to him, one of happy bachelors. We talk from time to time, and I wish him well, hoping he finds some place (mental or physical) of peace.

Will and I spent so much time together in the firm that we created that we often didn’t have to talk, although he was always the talker of our duo. Fast-talking east coast worldly sophistication against my western bumpkin drawl, we made an odd couple. We moved apart in order to support our families, but can drop right into the same spot we left off last time.

Gerald, perhaps the wisest of the bunch, was part mentor, part friend, part brother, part guide. He called on me to help him out and I did the same — when Michael killed himself, it was Gerald who drove the motorcycle the 500 miles to be with us. I miss his wit, his musical talents, and his philosophy, and am overjoyed that we are re-building connections right now.

The last two are active.

Slade, the most conservative of the bunch on the face of it, but the most willing to take large risks. He’s the one who throws himself on the grenade to save me, and I him. We survived grade school, junior high, high school together. We have kept in contact through college, graduate school, jobs. We were at each other’s weddings and will be at each other’s funerals. Slade is my big brother, my protector, my deepest love.

Milo entered my life a colleague at a time when I thought the era of brotherly love had ended. I had put away childish things in order to be a professor, to raise children, to be a good husband. Milo instantly broke through — it was as if we had known each other for decades. Not that we had the same paths to these current jobs, but that we found so many similar things fascinating. We are drawn to maps, devices, systems, parts. We love to pun and muse and brainstorm. We are skeptical of blowhards who don’t realize how they come across. We both probably strike a stance that is more humble than is warranted. We love teaching and researching. We love adventure of all sorts.

Telling these men about my trans-ness is the hardest part next to telling my family. I need their approval and fear their rejection. So far I have told Milo and Gerald, and they have been nothing but accepting. I pray that Slade and William, who are on my schedule to tell in a couple of weeks, will be equally accepting. I wrote Clarke a Christmas card to an address I tried to dig up for his city, but nothing ever happened. Zuboff will be ok, I think, but will be concerned that I’m buying in to conventional conceptions of beauty and femininity, and perhaps he’s right.

I don’t know if I’ll ever love another man like I have these seven. I don’t know if my transition will forever alter these relationships, possibly in harmful ways. This situation of mine, like so many of our collective other adventures, simply requires deep love and trust and a leap of faith that everything will turn out all right. It’s worked before, so maybe it’ll work this time.

[See also “To All the Girls I’ve Loved Before“]