I wasn't sure I'd be okay if I left him. We shared everything that mattered for more than four years: a home, friends, finances, cats. Deep down, I couldn't imagine building that much familiarity and rapport with someone else. I had somewhere to go, and I wouldn't starve, but that was it; leaving would mean starting my adult life over from scratch.
(I told him I loved him, and I walked away.)
I wasn't sure it was a good idea to go back to college. After dropping out of high school, I'd taken a few scattered classes, but mostly got bored and abandoned them. If I actually pursued a degree, there would be serious money on the line. Fucking this up would have consequences for the rest of my life.
(I borrowed enough to buy books before financial aid came in.)
I wasn't sure it was wise to change my gender label. Acceptance for even binary trans* people is sluggish, and nonbinary folks (neither male nor female) are all but invisible. I didn't want to explain myself all the time. I didn't want to fight to be recognized. I didn't want to wince at the wrong pronoun or turn off people who might have found a gendered me appealing.
(I thought, I cried, I wrote. Eventually I came out.)
I wasn't sure moving was the right choice. Transferring to an out-of-state university would mean more expensive tuition and fewer grant opportunities. It was also a less familiar institution, with no reputation to speak of, and it was far away from my safety net. Moving would mean leaving behind almost everyone I cared about, for more risk and much more expense.
(I packed my life into a rental car and spent all night riding north on the 5.)
I wasn't sure I was ready to change my name. It was so expensive, and I'd be dealing with the paperwork for months. I'd only had the new one in mind for a little while, and wasn't even used to hearing it yet. Making it legal would be a statement of certainty and finality that I had still not begun to feel, and changing my mind would mean paying the costs all over again, financial and otherwise.
(I waited a month for one minute in front of a judge.)
I'm not sure this is the right message to send to you all. I've read a lot of boring Listserve posts, but a few wonderful ones, and I aspire to contribute to the latter. There are so many things I want to say to you, and so little time to say any of them just right. I'd like it to be personal, but also memorable and unique. If I miss the mark I'll never get another chance.
... but if there's one thing I've learned, it's that I can't wait to be sure. I'll never have all the information about any decision that matters to me. I have wasted a lot of time being afraid of change and stagnating; it's only when I'm brave, and take chances, that I grow.
Thanks for listening. Feel free to write; it would be fun to hear from you. Please pardon me if I'm slow to reply, though. This degree's not earning itself, and finals are coming up.
Finn Rose Ellis
Portland, OR, USA