Yesterday, on Transfiguration Sunday, my Episcopal parish included a renaming liturgy in their Eucharist and blessed my new name. This is a piece I wrote as a response to that moment, but it is actually a piece that is directed at everyone who has supported me and continues to support me and my family during my transition. Most likely, if you are reading this, it includes you, too.
The thing about transitioning is that it doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Transitioning is a very private thing that happens in public, and it can be a lonely thing, too. It is a lonely thing to be the only trans person in a lot of your spaces and not know if or how or when to talk about what is happening with you. It is a lonely thing to be demonized by people who don’t know you, or to be asked very personal questions by those who do because your body is suddenly no longer private but in the public domain. It is a lonely thing to suddenly find yourself the Other in a way you never were before, an outsider because of this thing that makes you different but also makes you you. Queer friends have told me it gets better, that you find your people and learn to tune out the hateful rhetoric, and I hope that’s true. I have, at least, learned to read headlines, skim articles, and to never read the comments on any think piece about trans rights–nothing good happens when you do.
For most of my life, I didn’t know that Mees could exist, that is, that I could exist. I didn’t know there could be more than the half life I had been living, that I didn’t have to live with crippling depression and dysphoria (or even that there was a name for what I felt!). And I still don’t know what Mees will look like–literally, I don’t know what my own face will look like when this transition is over, which is a very odd feeling, I can tell you–but also more metaphorically. I don’t know what it will be like to move through the world as a trans man, as a brother and a son and a husband where once I was seen as the opposite. Or to be our daughter’s father instead of her mother, even if I will also always cherish being the one who carried and birthed her. Mees is taking shape, but it’ll be a while before I can see him clearly, I think.
But the flip side is also true–the thing about transitioning is that it doesn’t happen in a vacuum, and that is also a blessing. It is a blessing because whether you knew it or not, you are all transitioning along with me. Every time you call me Mees, every time you say he or his, you are helping me imagine Mees into being. That is an incredible gift you are giving me, and I want you to know that. I felt all kinds of emotional when we wrote the renaming liturgy, because here was a church not just tolerating me, but loving all of me, even the parts I had always been told were wrong and shameful. I spent so much of my life hiding, and I don’t have to anymore; not even in church–especially not in church.
Transitioning means different things for different people, but for me a lot of it is about taking up space. That is part of the reason I chose the name Mees. Mees is a Dutch name, from the Biblical Bartimaeus, who you might recall is a blind man Jesus heals in the Gospels. But for me the story is less about healing and the restoring of sight and more about that before he heals him, Jesus asks Bartimaeus: what do you want me to do for you? I like to think that Jesus didn’t ask him that because he didn’t know, but because Jesus knew that something powerful happens when people are asked to name themselves and their needs.
I learned early on that the world is not kind to people who are different, and that was enough to keep me trapped for a long time. I wish I had known a long time ago that confronting this truth about myself would make me more whole, not less. I wish I could have spared myself all those years of trauma. But I know this truth now, and once I did, I also knew it would mean more than just a new name, it would mean taking up space as the entirety of myself, as Mees. You should know how much it means to me that I don’t have to do this alone, but that you are here to walk this path with me, and with us. Thank you.