Last month a brand spanking new semester of college started up for me, hot of the presses and ripe with possibility. Despite far too many of my classes being scheduled at 9 am, they seem interesting and come with a generous amount of queer content. And as a second semester junior, I’m officially more than halfway done with my college education. In theory, it should be a nice downward coast toward graduation. (I’m not counting on that, but it’s nice to dream.)

This semester is an interesting one for me, in large part because it’s the first time I’ve really felt like I’m at a place of knowing who I am and having a tentative idea of where I’m going. Last fall was the big time of self discovery, when I stopped avoiding the hard questions I needed to ask about myself and looked those bastards square in the face. I came out on the other end with this new word, trans, attached to my identity. Because of this, it’s also the first semester where I could actually stop and take some time to think about who I wanted to be.

The night before school started, I found myself sitting in my dorm in my underwear, labeling my notebooks, sorting through my folders, and idly wondering what I was going to wear on the first day. (Yes, I am the kid who plans outfits the night before.) And I had this strange moment of realizing that in twelve hours I would be walking into my first classes where the professors had never had me before and the students didn’t know me. I had a chance to present myself however I wanted.

In a sense, it’s a little bit of a dumb realization because I’ve done small reinventions every semester as my interests and self-perception changed. But, then again, realizing that that monkey on my back all these years is being trans is a little more fundamentally changing than deciding a new favorite band.

I believe that first impressions very often leave an indelible mark on everything else. I’ve had long conversations with friends and, hell, even my mom, about how “you never get a second chance at a first impression,” is a lot truer than I think most people would like to believe, because it doesn’t leave a whole lot of room for human error, mistakes, or even simple bad days. But for college at least, in classes of six to forty-five people, first impressions are that important. They dictate which people I’ll end up chatting with before class, which people I’ll never remember, and how a professor’s going to treat me from now till they punch in the final grade.

Deciding who I wanted to be this semester (and how much of myself I wanted to put out there for wider consumption) became a balancing act between the awesome freedom of knowing who I am and fear tickling at the back of my mind warning that not every is going to like that. It sucks and it’s one of the more unfortunate truths of society, but we all know just what kind of flak gender variant people can pull, to say nothing of potential for violence.

It’s a nice, cheerful counterpoint to the elation of having found my place.

The funny thing is, when I looked in my closet, hanging next to each other were my favorite purple fall dress and the awesome argyle sweater vests I got for Christmas. I know that both pieces of clothing have a place in the complicated and amorphous thing that I call my identity, but I also know that identities are passed on in a glance. If I wear the dress, then I’m a hipster girl. If I wear the sweater vest, then I’m a dyke. The rub being that they’re both identities I’ve had on the past, ones that I was very proud to wear, but neither of them are me anymore. It’s a little bit odd to realize that the person you are isn’t someone others will see.

A first day probably isn’t really enough to spur this kind of existential semi-crisis, but I’ve never tended to do things small. I’ve figured out who I am on the inside, this boy-ish human, but the packaging is still very female. And I’ve reconciled myself to that as a temporary situation that I am lucky enough to likely be able to do something about. But until that happens, I’m left wondering whether it’s better to dress to match my brain or my body?

The moral of the story ended up that it poured rain on the first day of school, so I ended up in my jeans and rain boots. But the next day, I rocked my sweater vest in the two queer classes I have this semester. And the day after that, I shimmied myself into tights and wore the hell out of my favorite dress. In some sense, I feel like I’m two different people this semester. But hey, I’m having fun.

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