In June, 2010, I was in New York for Pride, like I am just about every year. The parade was over and I was in my hotel room, sprawled on the bed, resting for a bit before the evening’s festivities began. As is the custom in my family, I called my mum to check in with her, let her know where I was going, and to say good night since I knew I’d be late getting back. We got to talking about the day.
Mum asked me about the parade, and whether I’d marched. Yes, I said, I’d marched. But won’t people think you’re like that (yes, “like that”) if you march with them?, she asked. I said, no, people won’t think that, and explained the concept of allies to her. Besides, I said, what do I care what people think? Quickly, I veered off on a tangent. Guess what, Mum? Guess who I saw today? I don’t know, she said; tell me. I saw R, can you believe it? R is an old family friend. He’s known me for over 30 years and was like a big brother to me. When our fathers had a falling out, we lost touch. There was a pause.
There was some clearing of the throat. Oh, really, Mum asked, and how is he? It’s been so many years, did he recognise you? And there, for a brief moment, I thought I’d managed to move the conversation right over the rocky bits. Then, Is he gay? Yes, he is. Oh. Another pause, a longer one. And then, hesitantly, Are you?
I could’ve lied, I suppose, but that’s not the type of relationship I have with my mother. And so I came out. I’m lucky, very lucky. The conversation could have gone so differently. But it didn’t, it went the way it did, with Mum mortified that I’d burst into tears and doing her best to reassure me that her feelings for me hadn’t changed. In spite of how well things went, all things considered, I was a mess. I felt a mixture of dread and relief, mostly the latter. It was one of the hardest things I’d done, and now that I’d come out as a lesbian, I could go to the party, get stinking drunk, really celebrate Pride, and—most important to me—get hugged by my friends.
I thought I was done. I came out, I did my bit, all good, right? Wrong. Little did I know that although I’d taken a big step, it was only the first one.
Have you ever heard of Poppy Z. Brite? Horror author. Some good stuff. Anyway, I followed Brite on Twitter, as one does. Over the next several days and weeks, through his tweets, I learned the phrase, “gender dysphoria.” I had no idea what it meant, so I looked it up. And my safe, comfortable, sheltered, relatively conservative universe imploded.
On one hand, I was relieved: suddenly, feelings felt my whole life made sense. Plus, you know, validation. I wasn’t alone! Forget alone, it’s a Thing. There’s a Name for it! On the other hand, I was terrified: well, crap, now that it’s been identified, I’m going to have to do something about it. And thus began my second big step: Doing Something About It.
In January, 2011, I changed my name to Nik1 and told my people to start using the male pronoun when referring to me. Those closest to me have had over two years to get used to the change, and I’m grateful for the love and support I’ve received from them. Over the past two years, I’ve met some amazing people who have become my friends and my family, who have helped me recapture my sense of self. Thanks to them, I have the strength to tell a part of my story.
Hi, I’m Nik.
To the rest of you, let me (re-)introduce myself. My name is Nik, and I’m a trans man. Nice to meet you.
Why Nik? Well, when I was born, my mum, clever thing that she is, wanted to give me a name that meant something in Hindi but also one that Americans wouldn’t mutilate. So. Nikki. And then my grandmother sent a list, from India, of names that she liked, with the name Gita circled. So my parents crossed off Nikki on the birth certificate and wrote in Gita. Now I get to take my name back.↩