Transgender Meh: Finishing Before I Was Done

Gender transition is a long process, although not for the reasons I thought.

Amethysta Herrick
Amethysta Herrick

A rather ordinary event occurred this week: I received an amended birth certificate from the State of California. It took almost five months, but I now possess a Certificate of Live Birth with the name Amethysta Selina Herrick and the date…er…never mind the date…on it.

Amending my birth certificate was the final task outstanding on the list of requests to effect my social transition. As I looked at the document, I made a mental note: my social transition is truly…actually…finally…complete.

In all legal and social regards, I am now and always will be Amethysta.

Also in my mental note: whoop-de-shit.

The underwhelming birth certificate

Receiving my amended birth certificate was…not exactly a letdown, but certainly not a case of proverbial “transgender joy.”

Instead, I found myself nit-picking the document itself. The layout is portrait when landscape would have looked so much better.

It was also sent folded. Say what?? This is important documentation of my existence! Couldn’t they have afforded a flat envelope?

They also enclosed a note that mentioned I needed both the old and new versions of my birth certificate to display a complete record, which seemed to contradict what I had read on the website six months ago.

It was nit-picking, and I did it when I probably should have been elated.

I looked at the new document — freshly printed on lovely, subtly-tinted paper; Seal of the State of California as a watermark; beautiful colors and details printed in raised ink. I saw the font used in a poorly-disguised attempt to emulate a typewriter and carbon paper (which is what we had back then in the Late Jurassic Period when I was born) that spelled out my authentic name.

I looked at it and realized it was a trapping of modern life. No doubt, a very important trapping — for my journey as well as my legal identity. But a trapping nonetheless.

To return to what I wrote above, I am now and always will be Amethysta. But this document — an amended birth certificate — is not the reason why.

I see now, after nine months of purposeful change and a lifetime of struggling against the identity bequeathed to me, I was always Amethysta. I have always been Amethysta. There was never any question on the matter — Amethysta was ready for me when I was ready to pick her up.

Meowing my existence

I don’t require other people to validate who I am. I am Amethysta: in previous lives; when I was born, misgendered, and poorly named; as I forced my way through a life of shame and guilt; as I applied my first estrogen patch; as I chose a new name and filed the appropriate paperwork to correct the errors made in…er…the year I was born; as I look at the final document to seal my social gender transition; in every future life.

I am Amethysta. I was. I am. I will be.

And I realized this — subconsciously at first — months ago. This journey of gender transition has not been to right the wrongs my parents made when I was born and as I grew up. This journey has been to right the wrong I committed in accepting — meekly at first — the person I was expected to be.

I am not so meek any longer. Now I fight with the tenacity of a kitten for who I am.

Meow, damnit!

Meow, I know who I am!

And if it kills me in the process?

Meow, I will die with the knowledge you know who I am, too!


The long road

I started this journey expecting many changes. Obviously, I wanted to present as a woman. I grew my hair out, endured long hours of bleaching and dyeing. I began laser hair removal and its less-forgiving, Dominican priest-like cousin: electrolysis.

I experimented with makeup again for the first time since the early 2000s. I worked with my body shape as it changed from hormone therapy to find clothes that accentuated what I needed to make me look feminine.

I took on legal and social challenges. I commanded people to refer to me as “she.” I found my new name and insisted people use it. I filled out endless documents, made endless phone calls, amended endless records of the erroneous view the world held of me.

But none of these changes was truly necessary. To be clear, I far prefer my life with these changes complete. I am happy I made the changes — pleased with the results. I looked at my reflection today and confirmed I am pretty. Yesterday, I was introduced as “my wife Amethysta” for the first time ever.

It feels fantastic — truly out of fantasy. I feel so fortunate, so excited to meet the world as Amethysta and to live out the rest of my life as the person I always knew I was.

And who was that again…?

But wait…did I know who I was this whole time? Of all the changes I made — physical, social, legal — the most fundamental change I made was mental.

I had to allow the kitten — hissing, spitting, yowling for so long — to come out of her cage. I locked her in there, and only I could let her out. I had to accept myself in spite of social pressure to reject myself. I had to love myself in spite of childhood experiences that taught me to hate myself.

Only I could make those changes. Of every other change, only I could realize at what point who I portrayed on the outside — who the world knew — matched who I am on the inside.

I knew there would be many challenges to completing social transition. The biggest challenge was allowing myself to begin it.

Transitioning inside

Beginning transition doesn’t mean coming to terms with the word “transgender.” It doesn’t mean making the decision to call a clinic, applying the first estrogen patch, changing my wardrobe. No, these are trappings. They are very important trappings — but trappings nonetheless.

I mean allowing the subtle change to take place inside my psyche not to accept another person’s definition of who I should be. It is possible to make many physical and social changes without beginning gender transition, without knowing who you are is who you are meant to be.

I can no longer be what makes some members of society comfortable.

Correction: I will not.

And when I reached that point, my social transition was complete. So I can look at this birth certificate and say “yes, of course.” I can be introduced as “my wife Amethysta” and think “yes, of course.”

My new birth certificate feels like the first sign heading South on the 405 in the morning when you’ve finally passed the 101. As soon as you see the Mulholland exit — 1/4 mile ahead — you know the traffic jam is over. Now you can speed up and get where you’re going after crawling two miles so slowly. But you know the jam is behind you.

Welcome to the world? I’ve been here the whole time. You just didn’t see me.

But I don’t blame you. Neither did I.


Amethysta Herrick

Ami is a transgender woman dedicated to exploring identity and gender. She is Editor-in-Chief of Purplepaw Publications, LLC.

The views and opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the offical policy or position of Purplepaw Publications, LLC. Please view the Disclaimer page for further information.