I’m a very social person. My friends (and my kids, and my partner) all joke that I’ll talk to almost anyone. I collect friends with relative ease and find people utterly fascinating.

But along with this gender questioning, and the changes so far (mostly how I look, maybe some about how I act and interact), has brought a new social awkwardness. My name and pronouns, in the vast bulk of my life, remain the same as before. There is a new name. Gail and two of our closest friends are piloting it, along with masculine pronouns, but only when it’s just us, and only when the kids aren’t around (ours or theirs), which really isn’t all that much time. And so far, that name doesn’t even really feel like piloting. It just feels like my name. I wish I had it all the time. (And to those who might say just rip off the bandaid, please be aware that the kids complicate this. As soon as the kids know, I have to be OK being out everywhere, because they don’t allow you the luxury of any kind of closet, and I’m just not there yet).

But now, even the most mundane of social interactions, seems suddenly fraught. I’m so used to just striking up a conversation, asking where someone is from, the ages of their kids, the weather. Lots of times people start conversations with me, because I often ride a striking child-hauling bicycle. But any conversation inevitably involves an exchange of names, and now I see every potential new contact or friend as just another person I may have to change my identity with. Better not to make anymore friends right now. Better not to be seen as someone I’m not, even if I’m not yet who I hope to be. Which means I’m much less likely to talk to people. Much less likely to reach out. And that just really isn’t like me.

And I love the new name. I feel awkward when I say the old one. I wonder if I’m lying every time I say it. I’ve stopped signing my e-mails, even though my given name is glaring on the “from” line anyway. I wonder who these other people see. When I’m in queer spaces, especially ones that include other gender-aware and gender-variant people, I feel like I miss an opportunity to out myself. As soon as I say my extremely girly (though unique and pretty cool, even if it doesn’t really fit anymore) name, I assume they just think, “OK. Lesbian.” I want to add an asterisk to my introduction, something like, “Hi I’m ____* but probably not for long, I’m one of you!”

But even if I can avoid a name directly, I can’t always avoid gendering myself at all. And in some spaces, I know people will be waiting for a cue (I know this, because I wait for those cues). Even if I don’t offer a cue, my kids probably will when they say “Mama.”

So I’m not sure where this leaves me. I’m making an effort not to cut myself off from people. To still say hello when I would normally say hello. I’m forcing myself to see my friends (I haven’t even touched on the awkwardness of existing friends, a whole other, arguably much more important, ballgame), even though what I’d really like to do is stay home until this all blows over. To just magically emerge as whoever it is I’m becoming, without losing people along the way, or losing myself in the process.

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