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  • I was the only girl in the fraternity.

    Well, I wasn't actually IN the fraternity, but I was friends with all the guys, got drunk at their rush events with them, acted as one of their token lesbians, the whole deal. My circle of friends had been drawn into orbit around Delta Lambda Phi (the gay, bisexual, and progressive men's fraternity) in our freshman year by Grant at first, and then by the tangle of relationships woven between new friends, boyfriends, and exes. Now we were in our second year, and the new rush season, as fall quarter started and the freshmen arrived. I enjoyed going to rush and being part of the excitement, but I was also jealous - I wanted to truly take part in it, and I felt keenly the unfairness of my body and its exclusion. I knew I could not change this.

    DLP was hosting a rush party on the top floor of Woodstock's Pizza - only a tiny area but the stairs are cordoned off and we look down upon the riff-raff below from our lofty royal box. It was our space for the night, and we arranged the furniture to our liking, into a long banquet table. I was sitting next to a person I had met before. I knew her as Becca and I thought she was cute. I started trying to impress her by acting gallant - I poured water for her, asked her if she'd like another slice before I took one for myself. She seemed flattered but also slightly uncomfortable by this, but I bulled onwards, hoping she would understand that I am being genuine, and just never had the opportunity to learn a decent set of social skills as a teenager. And then she told me she was rushing.

    "You mean LDL, right?" Lambda Delta Lambda is the queer women's sorority.

    "No," she says, "DLP."

    And I, with all the social grace of an ox, say "What? But you're a girl!"

    It got sort of quiet at our end of the table. I could sense people's eyes twitching - back and forth, between me and the person at the end of the table whose name I thought was Becca, between the floor and oh god anywhere but here.

    The person I had been trying so hard to impress squares his shoulder and says, "Not anymore."

    'Oh," I say, and look down at my plate with a half-eaten slice on it. "Okay." I fiddle with a napkin, pick up my pizza and put it back down. I glance at him and say quietly, "I don't get it, but if you say so."

    He smiles encouragingly, "It's okay, it happens a lot. My name is Beck now." I put the pizza in my mouth and hoped I wouldn't say any other stupid things for the rest of the night.

    ~~~~~~~~

    The party's over, and everyone is leaving. I have been in a perpetual state of confusion the whole night. I feel bad for embarrassing Beck, but intensely curious about what he meant - but how can I ask him after putting my foot so solidly in my mouth? I can taste my socks. But I have to at least apologize to him, I know that much. I may not know how to flirt with someone, but my mother made sure to pound manners into our heads. He is heading out the door, and I bolt after him, catching him up halfway down the block.

    "Hey Beck, listen - I'm sorry. I didn't know and I just - I'm sorry." I fumble to a stop and hope once more that he can sense that I mean what I say.

    He's nice about it. He accepts my apology and then starts educating me. He offers me books to borrow, his own books, to answer my questions. I, as a true bibliophile, feel honored by this offer - I don't loan my books out to anyone, and here Becks trusts me with his even after what I said. In one night, in one 5 minute conversation, he opens my eyes and for the first time I see the dim outline of a future for myself. I stopped being a girl the instant I knew that it was possible for me to be a man.

    The first step of coming out is always saying it to yourself. I had not known what I was until Beck told me. I had known that there were surgeries and procedures for turning a man's body into a woman's, but the idea that it was possible to go the other way - it never occurred to me at all. That, possibly, was what cemented my certainty more than anything else, even more than the sensation inside me as everything in my heart and head suddenly went click-click-click and fell into place. The fact that I'd never thought of it before, never let myself wonder "if you can go one way, why not the other?", when it was such an obvious question to ask told me emphatically that I had been hiding this from myself. That I had been afraid to look too closely and ask too much, because I might not be ready for what I found out about myself.

    I had been living with a blank, gray wall where my plans for my future should have been. I could not imagine a future me who was happy, no matter what circumstances, however ideal, I pictured for that future me. I was going to college because that was the next step I was supposed to take, not because I wanted anything in particular out of it or had a grand vision or a life plan. I was going through the motions without truly being alive. In telling me what I could become, Beck added just a touch of color to that wall, and let me paint a whole new world for myself.

    Thank you, Beck.
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