The emotions behind coming out, transitioning, and changing your name are complex. The process is intensely personal but inescapably public. The multifaceted emotions behind this process can not be told in justice linearly. So, each title below is a vignette, a snapshot into a specific event and emotion. Transport yourself and be part of the scene. By the last vignette you will have gained a small peak into my experiences as a trans person. I am giving you important memories, welcoming you to join me, so please handle them with care.
The mound is yours.
You're on the same baseball team that your older brother was on when he was your age. You're good, really good. Sometimes you pitch, but you get anxious and rush yourself. Your coach calls a time-out and talks to you. "Take your time. Breathe. Look around. You're the pitcher, Roberts. You're in charge. The mound is yours."
You're the only girl to play in Little League, let alone pitch. You make Allstars. The boys don't know what to do with you. You're part of the team, you're one of the best on the team, you belong on the team, but something is wrong. You feel alone in the dugout. You usually warm up with the coach because the boys never want to be your partner. You don't know how to interact with them, how to join their secret club. You feel a gaping hole telling you to prove your worth. During your last game, you hit two home runs.
You age out of baseball and play softball instead. You're good, really good. Most of the time you're the catcher. The girls love you because you're friendly. You have a crush. You have lots of crushes. Girls sit on your lap and you wear their sweaters. You can never tell whether or not they're flirting. You come to the conclusion that they just like how you treat them. You're fine with that.
But when the girls aren't talking to you, you feel stranded. You don't know how to join their secret club either, so you just focus on the game. You've mastered base-running: that's your favorite part. You always steal the bases. Your coaches tell you that you played a good game. You miss being called by your last name.
You're in high school. You walk to class and there's a substitute. She starts calling names off the roster and a name gets called that isn't yours. Everyone is staring at you, not knowing how you'll respond. Hearing that ghost- the name that follows you- makes your gut drop. As per routine, you say, "Actually, it's Emerson. I'm right here."
Some substitutes apologize profusely, stumbling over their words. Others argue with you until your friends step in or you get angry enough to leave the room. The best substitutes just keep going, or make an affirming comment. "Oh, okay. Emerson." The next name is called.
You remember nervously asking your band teacher to call you Emerson. He was the first teacher you came out to. Without looking up from what he was doing, he said, "Okay. A name is a name. I don't really care what your name is. Just play your instrument well." He hugged you at the end of class, and that was it. Your name was your name. You just had to play your instrument well. His lack of reaction was exactly what you needed.
The boy's section.
You're in first grade. The girl across from you is wearing a camouflage t-shirt. In the front it says, "I'd rather have a bad day hunting with Dad than a good day shopping with Mom."
You never knew you were allowed to wear boy clothes. You go home and ask for hand-me-downs. In Kohls you go to the boy's section. You refuse to go in the girl's section. Sometimes you cry in the store because of the girl's section. You just don't like it in there. It makes you uncomfortable and you don't know why.
When you're older, you need your mom to pick out your bras for you. If you step foot in the bra section, you have a panic attack.
You're in 12th grade. You still haven't let yourself admit to being trans. You go on the Senior Cruise and all the girls compliment you. They all say the same thing. "Wow, you make a better boy than the actual boys! You look better than they do! I love you in a suit!"
You love the attention and you love the suit. You start wearing button-downs to school.
You're worn out. You wish a huge sign with neon lights would follow you around and have the conversations for you. The sign would go something like this:
I AM A BOY. PLEASE ADDRESS ME AS EMERSON AND USE HE/HIM/HIS PRONOUNS WHEN REFERRING TO ME. IN RESPONSE TO WHAT YOU MIGHT BE THINKING:
I KNOW YOU WILL MAKE MISTAKES AND THAT YOU ARE TRYING YOUR BEST. JUST PLEASE DON'T MAKE A HUGE DEAL OF IT. THIS IS NOT ABOUT YOU, SO DON'T MAKE IT. SIMPLY APOLOGIZE, CORRECT YOURSELF, AND MOVE ON.
YES, I AM TAKING TESTOSTERONE. I TAKE A SHOT WEEKLY. I AM PLANNING ON HAVING TOP SURGERY. BUT DON'T EVER ASK A TRANS PERSON ABOUT THEIR TRANSITION UNLESS YOU PREFACE IT AND HAVE THEIR PERMISSION. YOU JUST LUCKED OUT THAT I'M AN OPEN BOOK.
YOU AREN'T LOSING ME OR THE PERSON YOU KNEW. SAYING YOU'RE LOSING ME IS INCREDIBLY HURTFUL. YOU ARE SEEING ME BLOSSOM INTO MYSELF AND I WILL BE MORE VIBRANT THAN EVER.
I'M POSITIVE THIS ISN'T A PHASE. I'VE KNOWN, AND SUPPRESSED IT, SINCE ELEMENTARY SCHOOL. DO NOT START LISTING THE REASONS WHY YOU DON'T BELIEVE ME.
JUST BECAUSE I'M A BOY DOESN'T MEAN I CAN'T WEAR MY FAVORITE FLOWER EARRINGS.
I PROMISE THIS IS A LOT HARDER FOR ME THAN IT IS FOR YOU.
New York City.
You're walking in the city with your mom. You have a close relationship with her; you two live alone together. You pass a homeless man on the street. You make eye contact and smile. You always make sure to make eye contact, even if you have nothing to give.
Half a block later, you tell your mom that we have to go back to the man and give him our leftovers and talk to him. You don't know why, but it's something you have to do. So you go back to him and give him your leftovers. Your mom follows in a few minutes. By then you are having a conversation with the man, Jon.
Jon asks you, "Emerson is such a beautiful name. How did you get it?" You look at your mom and you say, "My mother gave it to me." You know she is surprised. He turns to your mom and asks where she got the name from. She tells him that she got it from Ralph Waldo Emerson, because he's one of her favorite authors. Jon tells us the bible stories relating to his name.
Your mother did not name you Emerson. You named yourself Emerson. But once you said she named you, it became true. You named yourself, and she named you too. You cry tears of joy at Port Authority.
Nothing fits. Nothing fits. Nothing fits. You punch the walls. Your shirts don't fit. Your pants don't fit. You don't understand why your outfits look so cute on your bed and so awkward when you put them on. You punch the walls a lot. You pace. You're going to be late. You are so angry. It feels like something is boiling in your chest. When you decide on an outfit you don't look in the mirror.
Eventually you learn how to hide in your clothes. You layer. You wear shirts and flannels and a denim jacket all at once no matter how hot it is. You wear hats. When you can, you wear hoods over your hats. You wear sunglasses. You wear a facade.
You're in court. Your hair is green and that makes you feel unprofessional.
You swear to tell the truth.
"Yes, sir. No, sir. No. Yes. Here's the paperwork, sir. Thank you."
The judge is friendly. He knows how important the day is for you.
"I'm glad to have the honor, of being the first person to congratulate you for officially becoming Emerson."
Your mom is the second to congratulate you.
You still have to submit another legal notice in the newspaper, and you can't change your documents until a month from then. The legal notice is expensive. The whole process is expensive. You put your hand outside the car and let it flow up and down.
You can't stop smiling. Your partner is knocking on the bathroom door profusely.
"Come on, Em! Let me see! It's mine anyway. Come on!"
Smiling, dumbfounded, you tell them to "wait, I'm not ready to show anyone yet."
You're wearing their binder. It's the first time you've ever worn a binder. You can't believe how flat your chest is. You realize why you're angry every morning when you try on shirts, why nothing ever fits right. You open the door. You're beaming. They hug you. They run their hands up and down your chest. When they leave, you have to take it off and give it back. Your ribs hurt a little bit.
You're looking through your baby pictures. You're making two piles. One pile looks like you. The other pile looks like a girl you have come to love profusely. You are forever proud of her, grateful for her, and intertwined with her. She was fierce and unstoppable. There are a lot more pictures of her than you. You tell your friends to cherish their baby pictures.
You hold your new license next to your old one. Your name and gender marker are different. You are different. You feel every emotion all at once. Nothing to prove, nothing to hide. You feel like yourself. You feel like you're allowed to wear flowers.