by: Rebecca Kling
March 1998, from March 2012
Can I call you Rebecca? I know you haven’t told many people that name. It’s one of the names mom and dad chose for you before you were born, one you’ve been using in your head since mom mentioned it while working on that genealogy project with you. I know it’s a private name for you right now, but things change. I promise they do.
This letter is coming from the year 2012, fourteen years in the future. You’re thirteen, I’m twenty-seven. You’re exploring your identity on the Internet, trying to figure out what “transgender” means and whether it applies to you. I’m writing about my identity on the Internet, trying to explain to others what “transgender” means and how it applies to me. And, from that perspective, I wanted to write you this letter.
Don’t let anyone tell you who you are. You know who you are. You know what you are. Doctors and therapists and family can help with that journey, but that can’t decide it for you. They also can’t do it for you. I know you’re dying for someone to step in and take the lead, to transition for you, to tell you what to do. And you’ll find doctors and therapists who will help along the way. But no one does it for you.
Put another way: it doesn’t get better. But you will make it better.
You won’t magically transform overnight. You won’t wake up one day and be the girl you want to be, the girl we both know you are. But you’ll get there anyway. You’ll get there by standing firm and standing tall and saying, “I know who I am.”
A few pieces of advice.
First, stand up for yourself. There will be lots of people who question your decisions – either out of love or out of ignorance or a combination of the two – but you know better than them. Don’t let their volume win over your identity.
Second, try not to care what other people think. This isn’t because there aren’t important people whose opinions you should value. Rather, it’s because the things you’re now worrying about — being perceived as a “real girl” and transitioning and all that extremely scary stuff — isn’t as scary as you think it will be. People are too wrapped up in their own shit to fret about you. It’ll all turn out OK.
Lastly, trust your allies to help you. You have some awesome friends and family, and some more awesome friends are around the corner in high school. Take advantage of them. Try stuff out, even if you’re not sure about it. It’s always better to say, “Well, that didn’t turn out the way I hoped” rather than, “Boy, I wish I’d done something tonight instead of sitting at home alone.”
Our positions have flipped over the years. When I was your age — when I was you — I imagined this otherworldly Rebecca, from another plane of existence, who was living this perfect, unimaginable life. Now I am Rebecca, and let me tell you: The Rebecca you construct in your mind has some good advice for you, but she also spouts some bullshit. What she says about transitioning? Listen to that. What she says about killing yourself because you’re not good enough to do it? Tell her to shut the fuck up.
Life isn’t easy, but it’s too much fun to end by killing yourself. Laughter and tears and orgasms and friendships and relationships and so many other things I wish I could be there to show you. So take a deep breath. Cry a few tears when you need to; that’s always OK. And get ready to blossom. Because, let me tell you, you’re gonna be amazing.
P.S. The video games in 2012 are so great! Can’t wait to play them with you.
Rebecca Kling is a Chicago-based transgender artist interested in exploring the performance of identity. She has performed her material around the Midwest where it has received praise from numerous publications including The Chicago Tribune and TimeOut Chicago. Rebecca regularly speaks at high schools and universities, conducting educational workshops on gender and identity. Rebecca’s writing has been published at Jezebel, in Chicago, Bodies of Work, the Center for Classic Theatre Review, and elsewhere. For upcoming performances and appearances, visit www.rebeccakling.com. For a behind-the-scenes look at her writing process, check out her blog at