The first thing I remember thinking this morning is, There’s so many possibilities for a girl like me on her day off! I can walk to the café, read comic books and play games, catch up on podcasts and just relax.

I got hung up on part of the ideal day I had envisioned: very few of my family and friends think or speak of me the way I so naturally thought of myself—as a girl. I realized I’m not taking the day off, I’m pouring my heart and soul into a message for everyone who loves me, so that every day off can be better.

I lived last year (as I was assigned to) with seven masculine male roommates in a two-floor college dorm suite. My experiences there crystallized my understandings of myself in ways I can no longer keep private. I came to school expecting movie and game nights, a close support network, empathy and compassion with the new friends I’d be sharing my home with. What I found of those within my own apartment was shallow, but I found them in spades (hearts?) across the hall, where I longed to live with my real new friends in an all-girl suite.

They bought the biggest stuffed bear for their common room where groups of 5 or 6 people could squish together and watch Spirited Away, Clue: The Movie, A Town Called Panic! and Bromance (a Taiwanese drama following a woman disguised as a man for the first 25 years of her life, falling in “gay” love with a straight guy). I felt comfortable telling them before anyone else that I was queer and not cisgender. They encouraged me to shock our friends by wearing dresses to class (my first experience doing so in a semi-public space) and never once imposed masculine norms on me. They gave me an equal voice in conversations about femininity, and were always there for the supportive, passionate moments I needed.

(Paddington the Bear lives with me and my parents while the gal pals are home for the summer, and one of them is at the Missionary Training Center.)

At times on campus I would see my reflection, and it wasn’t dressed how I was. The other me usually wore a beautiful blue dress. This is not a metaphor. I saw that. Sometimes at work I find myself speaking in some adorable new voice using words and mannerisms my younger self never would have. I never felt confident in my masculine attractiveness, but when I see my muscled shoulders in a tank-top, I feel like Wonder Woman with a Y chromosome. (Speaking of which, the way Cliff Chiang draws her long, perfect hair gives me the warmest possible feeling of cuteness.) These things about me may have played out in the way my only positive romantic experiences were with bisexual women and nonbinary people. Does all of it make me a transgender woman? Maybe. Maybe it makes me gender fluid, genderqueer, or something else. I haven’t figured that out. The label is not my top priority.

That said, here are the things I’m doing and some things you can do to help me:

  1. I’m changing my name to Nat Quayle Nelson because I want to carry on my mom’s maiden name, and I never liked the extra syllables of my first name. Please call me Nat, and help me correct others, if you can.
  2. Send me verbal support, not for coming out or transitioning or being brave. Read my writing, play my games, keep in touch, and if you like me or my work as a person, let me know!
  3. Eventually these “he” pronouns will need to go. I don’t have the strongest opposition to being called “he” if that’s what you’re used to, but it sounds more and more strange to me. Don’t beat yourself up if you keep doing it, but prepare yourself for my pronouns to change. If you’re ready to call me “she” or “they,” go for it, and I’ll play along. I don’t yet know which pronouns I prefer. Here is a handy guide on how to use “they” as a gender-neutral pronoun.
  4. Don’t call me a man. Avoid describing me in gendered terms unless we’re close and I tell you otherwise. Think of me as a person.
  5. I know this is hard for you, too. You may have known me my whole life, and it’s a lot to take in. I’ll do my best to share links and resources on how you can learn more. Go easy on yourself, because I expect you to make mistakes. I have a thick skin. But don’t burden me by telling me how hard this is for you. Talk about your own struggles with someone else. I don’t care who else you tell about me or share this post with. There may be words in this post that you’ve never heard before. Google them, do not ask me.
  6. If you can spare $1/month to help me buy new clothes, a purse, legally change my name, and keep doing my best creative work, please visit my Patreon page and make a pledge.
  7. I am still the Nat you know and/or love. I like horror movies, good books, Quentin Tarantino, and just about everything else. This moment may seem to you like a complete transformation in and of itself, but to me it is a single step on a journey that started forever ago.
  8. Do not react to this post with the :O emoji. I’ve done that in response to the wrong news before, and it doesn’t end well.
  9. More than anything, don’t expect the things I say today to remain perfect or permanent reflections of who I am. Leave me room to explore my complexity. That’s what I need the most right now.
  10. If you want to keep reading about my personal experiences and self-discovery, I’m making a daily story game that will go into the painful details. If you’re still hopelessly confused, join me.