Imagine for a moment that for your final year in college you come back with a new name, different pronouns and new circumstances that change every social interaction and every campus activity you participate in, both old and new. That hypothetical has been my reality this semester and will be from now on.
My name is Lucy Fields, and for the past seven months, only two of which were public, I have been living as a transgender woman. That is to say, I was assigned male at birth. After a lifetime of not fitting in with my male peers, hating who I saw in the mirror and generally disdaining my expected social role, I realized that I am actually a woman and never knew it until recently.
In hindsight, I find it funny that for my last opinion editorial while I was an editor on The Reflector, I described my drag performance as it related to my—then—nonbinary identity. I expressed how I felt my most authentic self in drag. I closed that article with these words: “My only hope going forward is that I can find other outlets to feel that amazing as often as I can.” Little did I know at the time that my answer for how to feel “that amazing” would come so soon.
When I decided to come out fully at the beginning of this semester, I had my fair share of concerns. Would I not be accepted or respected by any of my peers and faculty members? As a theatre major, would I still be expected to play male roles, regardless of my comfortability? Would I feel comfortable in campus spaces with resources for trans and other LGBTQ+ students? Fortunately, I can say that my experience this semester has been better than I ever could have hoped.
Overall, my interactions with friends, peers, faculty members and university employees alike have been immensely positive and affirming. Virtually no one has called me by my deadname, including those who have known me by that name for the past three years. And while there have been some issues with pronouns, those individuals almost always correct themselves before I even say anything. Furthermore, I was able to get my nametag at University Event Services changed, print a new campus ID, including a new photo, and get my chosen name printed on nearly all university websites and documents where it is allowed to be by law.
Beyond that, however, none of my interpersonal relationships have changed negatively. If anything, they have only improved. It probably goes without saying that living as my happiest, truest self has resulted in being happier in my relationships. Furthermore, I am now accepted in female-dominant spaces where I previously thought I did not belong. For example, a friend of mine who graduated from the university last semester reached out to me and offered to give me makeup tips or even a makeover, which I accepted. This was a friend who, before I transitioned, I would always think to myself, “In another life, if I were a woman, I know I would be ‘girl best friends’ with this person.” Sure enough, I have since confided in this friend and have hung out with them on multiple occasions, and our friendship has been everything I hoped it would be and more. Oh, and the makeover was a huge confidence boost.
In terms of the theatre department, my fears of not being accepted as a woman in theatrical spaces were assuaged immediately. Within my first week, I auditioned for two university productions. And while I did put on my audition form that I would accept both male and female roles out of perceived obligation, I was cast as Katherina in “The Taming of the Shrew” and Rose Hoffman in “Working,” two female roles for two different shows. For that I could not be happier.
As for LGBTQ, trans-specific spaces and resources, I have nothing but positive words as well. To start, UIndy Pride was a no-brainer in terms of acceptance. Not only had I been accepted there and formed strong friendships as a “cisgender-heterosexual ally,” but this past semester I was elected UIndy Pride Treasurer for this school year. So I knew I would be both accepted and, as a board member, a valuable resource for fellow trans students within the organization. I also have found immense support for my daily challenges through the UIndy Counseling Center LGBTQ support group Rainbow Pack. We meet once a week and are given space to talk through our struggles as a group, and that has been invaluable. As for the Transgender and Nonbinary BelongSpace events founded this semester, while I have not been able to attend the events thus far, I have heard only positive things and look forward to attending in the near future.
While I have found immense happiness and acceptance as a trans student, I would be remiss not to mention some areas that have not been so positive. As safe as I often feel on campus, that sense of safety can only go so far. A few weeks ago, someone dismantled and stole the sign for the gender neutral restroom in Schwitzer Student Center and, as of the time I am writing this article, the sign has not been replaced. While this is ultimately a minor, unfortunate circumstance, it has served as a reminder to me that there will always be anonymous people out there who do not accept queer and trans people.
If I could go back in time to those seven months before I began my transition, and show my past self what my present looks like, I think she would be shocked and elated in every sense of those words. I would have saved myself so much heartache and uncertainty, not to mention all the times I brought extra outfits to change in and out of and make light of my identity as though it were a punchline. Looking back, I now recognize those choices as results of my own internalized transphobia.
My experiences at the University of Indianapolis have morphed my entire understanding of what it means to be not only trans, but unapologetic and celebratory about that fact. I told myself, “If my school has standards that high for me, then I should have those same standards for myself, if not higher.”
For my senior capstone, I will be writing and performing an original play, with me in the lead role. My purpose in that, much like my purpose in telling my story here, is to show the trans community on this campus and beyond that we can and do have happy endings. Too often our portrayal in the media, especially in theater, is about our suffering and ridicule. The truth is that trans people often need to see happy endings in fiction before they can believe they’ll find happy endings for themselves, myself included. If I can accomplish that in my project, or even in this article you are reading, then that will be a success in my heart.