When story creators try to create the trans-experience, a lot of them run into a major road block. Creating the trans-experience and not being transgender themselves, it leaves a lot to the imagination. This can be evident is several movies, and or books. This past week, Being Emily, was released, telling the story of a 16 year old girl from rural Minnesota named Emily. Emily isn’t the average girl though; she, despite knowing she is a girl, was born as Christopher. Rachel Gold takes us through the turning point in Emily’s life where she can no longer bear trying to act like a boy, and become the young lady she is.
Now, as previously mentioned, someone who isn’t transgender trying to create the trans-experience has to leave something to the imagination. Or, in Gold’s case, you can take insight from people whom lived the same situation and imagine from there. Let me say that, Gold’s method of creating this story was dead on. The book starts in the dead of winter early one Minnesota morning, where Emily starts another day. It was a morning where, she could imagine her body to some degree, matching her internal image. She, though not physically at this point, starts to get ready for school and the last swim meet of her junior year. On her way through another school day, an assignment given in psych class turns her world upside down, and now the desire to be herself becomes nearly unbearable.
In Being Emily, we experience her reaching out through online communities, coming out to her girlfriend, making a friend with another girl further into the journey. Other parts of the story, we go with as Emily goes out into the world as herself for the first time, going to the women’s restroom (and getting caught!), having a girls night/slumber party, seeing a conservative doctor. All of these come from Emily’s point of view, so relating to her and feeling what she feels can easily be done.
In so many ways Being Emily hit so close to home, of course there is the gender dysphoria Emily experiences through out the book which is so much like my own. I remember several times laying on my bed wishing I could grow up and be female. Much like how Emily talks about wishing how she could grow up to being a woman.
After knowing that nature by itself would change her in ways that we wouldn’t want, Emily started to have an automated response system, for a lack of better terms, to blend in as ‘a guy.’ The book represented this as a simple computer program running in MS DOS. I found these automated responses rather amusing it seems so much like a method I had used to do the same thing. But the idea is that these systems that are developed by some trans people to try and blend in as the gender they were born as and not let on to people what exactly what’s going on, on the inside.
So many chapters in which you read through the eyes of Emily, Gold conveys so much emotion, I could not help but feel those emotions with Emily, the times of triumph, being scared for her in times of first time exploration, and unbelievably happy with how her journey turned out. As a transgirl myself, who grew up an hour outside the twin cities (just like Emily), the challenges and everything else about the beginning of the trans experience seemed so much like my own. The difference is this girl was so much braver and I can not help but admire it. I never enjoyed shedding tears as much as I did with the ending of this book, I reiterate this point as it inspires other trans people m2f and f2m to be true to themselves and things work out. Even now as I say that and think of the end of the book, I can feel my eyes well up to the amazement of the story that is Emily Haase.
Being Emily gets a 4.75/5 in my opinion, I feel that perfect is near impossible to get, but near perfect is certainly attainable if done properly. This is not earth shattering for anyone going through this themselves, but it’s a great story or overcoming obstacles and inspires people to be themselves. For cisgender folks, this book brings you into the minds of some of us and hopefully provides a little clearer idea of what exactly occurs in our minds.