Last Friday I had to take my senior portraits. I was excited since these would be my first school photos as Cristopher. In elementary school I would feel jealous of the boys in my class because they got to wear ties. At 21, in my last year of school, I finally had my chance. I spent a good time looking through my closet, and after much deliberation I settled on a pinkish red shirt with a maroon tie. Sexy.
However, I realized the portrait people had sent me the e-mail and used my legal name. I found that there was no way to change my name at all. When I showed up, they would look me up under my legal name. I would be outed. This realization paralyzed me.
I couldn’t sleep that night. I felt scared, anxious. I wasn’t in the mood to educate people. I was just a regular guy who wanted his picture taken. When I come out, I want it to be on my terms. When I write this column, I speak about my experience to the extent that I’m comfortable. If someone outs me, or if I find myself trapped in a position in which I have to explain my situation, I feel humiliated. Coming out once is stressful enough. I swear, if I had a dollar every time I had to come out, I’d probably collect enough money for surgery.
That morning I headed over to Old Union. A man sat at a table outside the room where the portraits were being taken.
“What’s your last name?” he asked.
“Bautista,” I said.
He looked through the files for a long while. He paused, scratched his head in confusion and looked through the files again.
“You don’t seem to be on here, sir. The only Bautista I have on here is Cristina—“
“Yeah, that’s me,” I muttered. I could barely form the words.
“Oh!” he laughed, awkwardly. “All right, Cristina,” he said, handing me some paperwork that was already filled out with my legal name and gender. “You just need to sign a couple things and we’ll let you know when we’ll take your picture.” He then said a couple other things I don’t remember—I just remember how he kept calling me by my legal name, as if to try to compensate for his earlier blunder. Every time he said that name it chipped away at my sanity, bit by bit. When someone outs me, I get into a mode of rather learned helplessness where I just kind of zone out and I don’t listen to what anyone says. I emotionally shut down. I get quiet. I don’t pay attention to things. And that was me at that moment. I just wanted to run away. But I didn’t.
“Can I correct my name if it’s spelled wrong?” I asked.
“Of course.” He probably figured I just wanted to correct a letter or two.
I ended up crossing out my legal name in a thick, dark line and writing “Cristopher Marc” in huge letters. I scratched out the letter “F” under my gender marker and replaced it with an “M.” I wrote with such a vengeance that an observer would wonder how a simple piece of paper could offend someone so much.
There were other guys waiting their turn. When the picture guy called out my name—my legal name, first and last—those waiting looked around, a bit confused. I answered, feeling humiliated, and handed him the corrected paperwork. He looked surprised, scoured over it several times, alternating between looking at me and then back at the papers.
“I’ll change your name in the database,” he said, embarrassed.
At that point I was tired and a bit fed up. “Thanks,” I muttered.
“No problem,” he said. He was apologetic the rest of the session, but I just wanted to leave. When it was over, I grabbed my jacket and walked out as fast as I could.
He learned from his mistake, I’m sure, and will keep this sort of thing in mind in the future. In retrospect, I’m glad about that. But I was forced to out myself, forced to correct my name and gender to a man I didn’t know, just so I could get my stupid picture taken. The experience was so emotionally exhausting I got depressed and ended up locking myself in my room that night hoping that if I quarantined myself the sadness would go away. I don’t want to be Cristopher the trans guy all the time. Sometimes I just want to be Cristopher. But it’s probably too much to ask in a world like this.
Funny how a day can be ruined because of a name. Maybe this week will be better. Maybe.
Cross your fingers something good will happen to Cristopher this week so he will stop writing depressing columns. E-mail him at [email protected].