Back in the dark ages when I was a child, the only person I ever knew of who was transgender was Christine Jorgensen an American GI who underwent what was then called "sex-change" surgery in 1952. Christine was a media sensation in the 1950's and was often the brunt of off-color jokes in the press and on TV.
Later in my "disco days" I met several drag queens who were actually transgender. At the time that term was unknown and the unfortunate "she-male" was the monicker used. It didn't take long before I was friends with several male-to female transgender folk. By that time the word was starting to gain traction and "transexual" and "transgender" entered my vocabulary.
I didn't know any female to male trans folk, or at least I thought I didn't. I did know quite a few very butch dykes, and several who preferred to be addressed as "sir". The leather community at that time was still developing some of the traditions we hold today, so few people were called "Sir" unless they were from the Renaissance Fair.
Later I met a good friend who was a cute butch dyke. She always gave off a masculine vibe, even to the point that when she was at the local leather bar, she got hit on my guys who didn't know her true sex. I soon learned that she had decided to transition, and my education into gender really began.
Now, I know dozens of transgender people both transmen and transwomen and each has a different story to tell about their transition. All have fascinating stories to tell of their journey and how they finally made peace with their gender identity.
I urge you to not be afraid to ask your friends who are transgender to tell you their story. You will learn a great deal about the resilience of the human spirit and how it affected their lives. If they are like many of my trans friends, there will be both heartache and happiness in their tale. It is a struggle much like the one gay and lesbian people go through when we realize our sexuality is different from many of our peers. It is a story you need to hear.
So on this day when we remember the hundreds of transgender people who are killed every year as a result of prejudice, hatred and misunderstanding, hearing the stories of your friends struggles will give you a better perspective.