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This story includes one of the main characters’ journey with understanding their gender identity.
If reading about someone’s experience with their identity can be triggering for you because of your own journey and you would like more specific trigger warnings, please reach out to me directly via the feedback option on my profile or on Twitter – LeeJamesBryant1
After agonizing over the email they’d written and rewritten at least twenty times, Max Grant hovered the pointer over the send button and they took a deep breath.
Happy New Year! I had hoped to share this with you all at Christmas, but honestly I just chickened out. I think the best thing for me is to do this all at once rather than have individual conversations with each of you. I also don’t want to put any of you in a position where you have to react the way you think you should react without having time to process it on your own.
As I think many of us did, I spent a lot of time stuck at home (either by mandate during COVID lockdowns or by choice in fear of getting COVID in crowded places) over the last couple of years. That time allowed me to focus on my mental health and figure out who I am. I’ve always felt like there was a mismatch between who I am and who I feel like I’m supposed to be.
Today’s email is not to announce the end of my journey to understand myself, but rather the beginning. I do not yet know how I identify, but I know that I do not identify as a woman. I would like to use they/them as my pronouns and I would like it if you all could start calling me Max.
I know it will take time for you to get used to using a name and pronouns for me that are different from what you have used for the last 30 years. If you make a mistake, all I ask is that you recognize it and correct yourself without making a big deal of it.
I will be sharing my identity with my friends shortly after I send this email and I’ll be telling my colleagues on Monday. After Monday, I am ok with you sharing this with other people. In fact, I’d rather not have to come out many more times, so I’d prefer it.
I am grateful that my family and friends have created an environment where, while I may be nervous to be sharing this, I feel comfortable and confident that my relationships with each of you will not change.
Thank you for your support. I love you all very much.
As the air slowly left their lungs, they pressed the button on their mouse and held it for a few moments before releasing it and sending their truth into the inboxes of their close family members. Their parents, brother, aunts, uncles, and cousins were included and they were relying on them to share it with extended family so they didn’t have to. They’d have to come out over and over again, likely for the rest of their life, but if they could reduce that by a dozen or so, it would make at least a small difference.
Coming out at work a couple of days later would probably be the toughest, but they weren’t the first person in their office to come out as identifying outside of the gender binary. A few years earlier, Sam Barnes had come out as genderqueer and created a blueprint for trans and gender-diverse associates who wanted to share their identity with their coworkers. Unfortunately, Sam had since left the company, but the legacy they’d left behind remained.
Max had met with their Human Resources partner, Harold, the day before and mapped out a plan for them to come out to their coworkers on Monday. Only a few people at the company besides Harold knew yet – just a couple of people in IT who would make sure that their email switched over to “Max” as soon as their coworkers were informed.
They were grateful to have been given the option not to be in the room when their colleagues found out because they knew they would have been looking around the room for a bad reaction. Despite having dropped their Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion department after the public stopped tracking which companies were investing in equity, their office was generally an inclusive space. They had no reason to worry about their coworkers reacting poorly.
But Max did worry. Because what people said they believed and what they felt deep down didn’t always align. They didn’t know how things might change once they were out. Would it take a long time for people to adjust? Would anyone refuse to use Max’s name and pronouns properly? Would they have to endure being dead-named regularly? Would their colleagues pretend to be supportive while talking about them behind their back?
Max took a deep breath and shook themself from their spiral. Four seconds in, hold it for seven seconds, release for eighth seconds. They repeated the exercise a second time before switching to a different browser tab to give their second email draft a final review, this one intended for their friends. They quickly hit the send button this time, though. Demetevler Escort They weren’t as worried about phrasing everything perfectly to their friends – they would all understand. The only reason they hadn’t sent the email to their friends first was because they thought their family should be the first to know. Besides Bailey, of course.
Bailey was Max’s roommate and he’d been on his own journey with his gender identity for the last five years. He was the first person Max opened up to when they started to question their identity and he’d been a great friend to have close by when they needed someone to talk to who could relate to what they were going through. Max really only had a few close friends, but Bailey was their closest. He was their platonic soulmate.
Max silenced email alerts on their phone in anticipation of receiving a few quick replies that they didn’t want to read right away. Switching apps, they scrolled through the photos they’d saved and eliminated two more possible haircuts. It was time to say goodbye to the pixie cut that had recently been making them feel almost as uncomfortable as they’d felt when they’d had long hair.
“I did it, Bay. I sent the emails,” Max called out triumphantly as they pulled the door to their bedroom shut. They made their way to the opposite end of the couch where Bailey was concentrating on something he was building in Minecraft.
“You know it confuses people when you call me that,” Bailey replied without looking away from his game. “But,” he continued, pausing the game and turning to look at Max. “I am proud of you.”
“Bay as in Bailey. B-a-y, not b-a-e,” Max clarified even though they didn’t need to. Bailey knew what they meant. “And there’s no one else here anyway.”
Bailey shrugged and picked up his controller again. The two had most of their conversations while one or both of them were gaming. It’s not that they had to distract themselves from their feelings, it was just that they were both pretty constantly playing video games and talking. If they focused on just one activity, they wouldn’t get nearly enough of the other.
“Want to help me narrow down the list more?” Max asked, passing their phone to Bailey.
“You know I’m going to pick one randomly, so just do it yourself. Close your eyes and tap the screen. Whatever you pick, you get,” Bailey said.
“And you know I can’t do that. Pleeeeeease,” Max begged. They’d picked their current haircut and that wasn’t working out too well. They didn’t trust themself to pick another without supervision.
“Fine,” Bailey groaned as he set his controller down again. “Let’s do this ‘Guess Who’ style.” He grabbed the phone from Max’s hand and looked over the four remaining candidates. “I’m going to ask you questions about what you want and use your answers to eliminate some. You ready?”
“Yeah,” Max nodded. “Let’s pick me a new haircut.”
“Okay, here we go. Do you want the barber to use just scissors, or do you want some of your hair buzzed?” Bailey asked.
“Some buzzed,” Max replied confidently.
Bailey tapped the screen twice. “That’s one gone, three to go. Do you want that buzz to be the same length or do you want it faded?”
“Trick question, they’re all fades,” Max said. “I’ve been studying those pictures for weeks.” After years of trying to force themself to only look at short women’s haircuts, they changed their search to include androgynous haircuts and men’s haircuts. Recently, they’d found themself returning to the same handful of styles, all modeled on masculine-presenting people.
Bailey smirked. “Just making sure. Sometimes what you think you want isn’t what you want.” He knew Max almost too well. “Okay, next question,” he said, turning the phone to Max. “What the fuck is even different about these haircuts? They’re the same, just styled slightly differently.”
“No they aren’t,” Max said, snatching the phone back.
“They definitely are, Maxxie,” Bailey teased.
Max shook their head. “Nope, don’t like that.”
“Noted,” Bailey said seriously. The roommates’ sarcasm levels were matched only by each other, but they both knew when to be clear that they understood when the other wasn’t joking. “Take these three pictures to DK and show him. He’ll tell you that they’re the same.”
Max’s brows pulled together. “Wait, aren’t you coming with me?” They were going to Bailey’s barber and they couldn’t handle the idea of both getting a new, drastically different haircut and meeting someone new all by themself.
“If you still want me to. But I don’t want to insert myself if you want to do some of this stuff alone,” Bailey explained. “This is your journey, I don’t want to influence it.”
“Shut up and put your shoes on.”
“What even are the differences between these certifications, anyway?” Olivia Wood asked her co-worker, Brielle, and closed the magazine Otele gelen escort she’d been reading.
“It’s kind of like picking a college. They’re all decent but people tend to gravitate towards hiring people from their alma mater. So it pays to be certified by the same organizations that whoever you want to hire you is certified by,” Brielle explained. “Here, we’re all NASM-certified but we have a bunch of random certifications for different programs. Whatever is popular, we have to get it because clients will expect it.”
Olivia had been more seriously considering becoming a certified personal trainer over the last couple of months. She left work every day with a smile on her face and with no thoughts of looking for another job, but she was getting tired of working the desk at the front. It was better than serving smoothies, in her opinion, but she wanted more. She also wanted to move into her own place, eventually.
It wasn’t that Jess was a bad roommate by any means. Far from it. But Olivia would be turning thirty in a couple of months and she figured it was time to take the next step as an adult. She didn’t want to leave her neighborhood, though, so she needed a job that paid more than reception paid. Not that it was all about the money, but the money played a big role, just as it did in almost anyone’s career goals.
Olivia liked watching people leave the gym feeling good about themselves. She liked seeing someone who had walked in with their back in a slump and fatigue in their eyes walk out standing tall and glowing with confidence. She’d listened to chatty members talk about why they started working out and how their goals changed as they learned more about what they really wanted out of an exercise routine. People who had set weight loss goals but adjusted to endurance goals once they discovered what would make them feel best. It often wasn’t about appearance at all; it was about how being fit made people feel about themselves.
Olivia wanted to be a bigger part of that if she could.
Olivia looked up from the magazine she’d re-opened after her dramatic display earlier. “Sorry,” she greeted the beautiful woman standing in front of her. “How can I help you?”
“I’m in town for a few days and I was hoping to get a weekly pass or something,” the woman replied.
“Absolutely. My name is Olivia, by the way, I can set you up with a five day pass. Are you a member at one of our other locations?” Olivia asked.
“I didn’t know you had others, so sadly no,” the woman said.
“What’s your zip? If you live near one of our other locations, I can give you a free week,” Olivia explained. She could sell the woman a weekly pass, but the company actually preferred that they give out the free weeks. A membership was ultimately worth more than the occasional weekly pass.
“It’s 98101. Unless you have locations in Seattle, I think I’m out of luck,” the woman said, shrugging.
“Yeah, that’s a little out of our area,” Olivia laughed. “Five-day passes are twenty bucks, but a monthly membership is also twenty bucks. The difference is that the monthly has a twenty dollar initiation fee, but you get one free smoothie a month. But also the monthly has a free first month and there’s no cancellation period. So basically if you think you’ll be back in town next month, get a monthly membership and you’ll net two smoothies out of the deal.”
“Good sales pitch,” the stranger replied as she handed Olivia her driver’s license and credit card. “I’ll do the monthly membership. I’m sure I’ll be back at least once. Are you one of the salespeople?”
“No,” Olivia said, shaking her head.
“Working on your certifications?” the woman asked, nodding to the magazine on the counter.
“Oh,” Olivia said as she started entering the woman’s information – Lily Duval from Seattle, Washington. “Yeah, I’m thinking about it.”
“What would hold you back?” Lily asked. “If you don’t mind me asking. I don’t mean to pry.”
“I don’t mind,” Olivia shrugged. “There’s really nothing holding me back. I just need to pick a program, sign up, study, and take a test.”
Cold air rushed in, followed by a familiar, yet different face. Olivia had been admiring Max since the first time they’d walked through the door a few months ago. Their new haircut suited them very well and made Olivia’s interest escalate from “would go on a date, if asked” to “would ask, if given the opportunity” very quickly.
Unfortunately, Olivia mistakenly greeted them by their former name before they corrected her and asked her to change their name in the system. She was embarrassed and apologized enough to hopefully show Max how sorry she was but also not burden them with the responsibility of comforting her for her mistake. Olivia’s mistake was hers, not Max’s, and she didn’t want them to tell her that it was okay. She hoped that what she knew to be visible Balgat Escort anxiety didn’t give Max the impression that she wasn’t supportive of their identity. She was nervous, but it wasn’t because of Max’s identity, it was because the energy that walked in the door with them had her feeling disoriented.
Max looked more confident than Olivia had remembered. They stood taller and they had a new glow about them. The corners of their eyes seemed to tilt a little more towards content than the concerned look they used to wear.
“You handled that well,” Lily said as Max walked out of listening distance. “My partner is agender and they can’t stand it when people apologize over and over and over again expecting them to say it’s okay.” She leaned in closer and whispered, “And considering that you were clearly a little flustered already, you didn’t show it. I think they walked in here expecting a lot worse.”
“Thanks,” Olivia said as she handed Lily’s license and credit card back to her. “I want to be a good ally and I like to think I am.”
“I think you were,” Lily reassured Olivia. “And I don’t blame you for being distracted and a little flustered. I assume that’s a new look for them?” she asked.
“It is,” Olivia confirmed. She’d liked Max’s pixie cut, but their new fringe undercut look fit their features better. And it looked fresh, like they’d just gotten it done earlier that day or maybe the day before. Olivia knew one thing about herself for sure – she was attracted to people with undercuts. To her, there was nothing better than the feeling the prickly little hairs created when they scratched across her fingers.
“Well, it definitely works for them,” Lily said. “Have a great day, Olivia. Thanks for your help.”
“Enjoy your workout, Lily,” Olivia said with a smile.
Whether it was the haircut itself or the way it made Max carry themself, it worked. Olivia had to concentrate really hard not to watch them for the entire hour they were there.
She did sneak in a few glances when she hoped they weren’t looking, though. She was only human.
Somewhat out of character for Max, they found themself at a bar on a Monday night. In the Winter, no less. Typically, they would have been curled up under a warm blanket with an Xbox controller in hand. They and their roommate, Bailey, had just started a new campaign in Borderlands 3, which they were replaying for at least the tenth time.
Coming out to their coworkers that day had been a little tough and Max had been a bit distracted when they started playing. They’d paused the game several times to talk more seriously with Bailey about the ups and downs of the day. After a few too many pauses, Bailey saved the game and grabbed a couple of beers from the fridge so they could focus on talking instead of trying to multi-task.
A couple of beers turned into a trip to the beer distributor, which turned into a trip to the bar instead when Bailey remembered that the NCAA Football Championship game was on that night. The high energy environment provided the distraction that Max needed in order to get control of their own thoughts. They could choose to recall the memories as needed to talk about it with Bailey, rather than having the memories pop into their mind randomly.
There were plenty of people at the bar watching the game, but there weren’t many that looked like long-term fans of either team. Except one pair of women occupying the lounge area near the front door that had its own television. They had more food than Max thought the two could eat alone and had brought some decorations in with them. Including what looked to be an old, stuffed bulldog that they’d fussed with quite a bit to make sure it was facing the screen. Max could spot a sports superstition when they saw one – that stuffed bulldog was going to be the reason Georgia won that night.
However, they probably didn’t need that good luck charm. Neither Bailey nor Max were huge football fans, but they knew the game and the history well enough to know that TCU would likely get the snot kicked out of them by Georgia. Max wasn’t a gambler, but they would have bet a high sum of money on Georgia to beat the thirteen point spread.
At the end of the first quarter, the woman who worked the front desk at Max’s gym came rushing through the door, greeted by the two very excited women dressed head to toe in Georgia football gear in the lounge area. Max had long admired Olivia, but they had no idea if she was even queer. They had a hunch that she was, but they didn’t know for sure. Until a few days ago, they hadn’t said much more than “hello” and “goodbye” to her.
Max had braced themself for an uncomfortable interaction before they’d walked through the door to the gym that day. They didn’t know who would be working the desk and what to expect, but they’d prepared themself for the worst. They imagined a large crowd of people gathering behind them, waiting for the person at the desk to change their name in the system while asking a series of invasive questions about their identity. They imagined being questioned or challenged about their pronouns. They imagined a discussion about which locker room they were able to use or even a restriction from using the locker rooms because they identified as neither a man nor a woman.
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