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Trans Girl Classic ‘Being Emily’ Gets Updated!

28 Apr Posted by in • Robin Lowey | Comments Off on Trans Girl Classic ‘Being Emily’ Gets Updated!
Trans Girl Classic ‘Being Emily’ Gets Updated!

This May a new edition of Being Emily, the young adult trans girl classic, arrives in bookstores. It features new scenes, an intro by Harvard professor and poet Stephanie Burt, a new note from the author and epilogue. The book has been updated to support a new generation of trans teens during the current political climate.

Get a preview of the new material with this excerpt from one of the added scenes:

“The Saturdays they spent together had been having an effect beyond bringing up Emily’s grades. Every Saturday morning, Claire saw the person she’d known as Chris show up with breakfast food and coffee, go into her bedroom, and come out as Emily.

Except that didn’t describe it. More and more, Claire could see Emily was there all the time, only most of the time it wasn’t safe for her to be seen. So she acted a role while wearing the most complete, and most permanent, Halloween costume of all time.

Much of the information online talked about transitions and transformation, like people turning into other people, and on the outside that made sense. This person did show up looking one way and then change to look another way. Emily put on a sweater that softened the shape of her shoulders, put on a bra and filled it with whatever Natalie had given her that looked pretty darned real. Makeup blurred the angles of her face, smoothed over the places she’d shaved, emphasized her expressive, dark eyes and downplayed the brow ridge above them.

But also Emily let herself be visible in a different way. She’d laugh more and let her voice be lighter and softer. She’d tuck her feet up on the couch, gesture fluently and beautifully with her hands, and do this peering-up-through-her-eyelashes thing that made Claire feel fluttery inside—and also like she wished she could steal that expression.

She wasn’t sure what to do about the fluttery. It was good, of course, kind of exciting, like she was getting to date a new person who was also the person she’d known all along.

Emily flirted with her like a girl. She’d never been girl-flirted with before. She’d done it, but it was so different being on the receiving end of all the little touches and questions and being paid attention to. Claire wasn’t sure if she liked it a lot or a whole lot.

But she didn’t know how she was supposed to respond. So she went with the feeling of envy first. Much simpler to understand.

“Why are you better at girl flirting than I am?” Claire asked on one of their study breaks. They were on the couch, each sitting against an arm, feet tangled together in the middle and Emily’s toes had been playing with hers in a very cute way.

Emily gazed up thoughtfully. “I practice at it more?”


“I’ve always watched women I want to grow up to be like. Don’t you?”

“I spend most of my time around a woman I want to grow up to be completely unlike,” Claire said. “But yeah, there are a lot of women writers, women theologians that I’m always paying attention to. I want to know how they think so that I can be like that. But how’d you get flirting?”

“TV. I have to remind myself to watch the guys too sometimes, so I know how people expect me to move.”

“You identify with the women?” Claire asked, voice small under the weight of that realization. Had Emily grown up the same way she had? Did Emily automatically watch the women around her and the women on TV to pick out the ones like her—or the ones she wanted to be like in some blurry, distant, imagined future?

The first time Claire had seen Abby on NCIS, all in black with tattoos and platform heels, she’d felt so electric. She’d had a sense of kinship and wonder, of wishing Abby were a real person and that Claire could raid her wardrobe. She felt the same way about religious scholar Karen Armstrong, except she was a real person and Claire wanted to raid her bookshelf.

She remembered being ten years old and going with her dad to visit his sister, who was a reporter in St. Cloud. Claire’s aunt had given them a tour of the newspaper, everything smelling of paper and ink. Claire thought her aunt was the most amazing person and wanted a job like that when she grew up. But not only the job: Claire had wanted to wear those kinds of no-nonsense slacks and shoes, carry a slender reporter’s notebook and a bunch of pens and a minicassette recorder, and wear intricate silver jewelry that looked pretty and serious at the same time.

As a kid it seemed natural to her that it all went together: being a woman and a writer and a thinker meant looking and moving in the world the same way her aunt did.

All this time, had it been the same for Emily? No, not at all the same. Emily could watch the women around her and pick out the ones who made her feel excited for her own future. But any time she tried to emulate them, she was punished. Emily had told her about the time her dad whipped her with his belt for trying on her mom’s dresses. And recently Claire had noticed the cutting looks Emily’s mom gave her whenever Emily, back in her role as Chris, gestured too soaringly with “his” hands or uttered “his” fingers instead of making karate chops or whatever guys did.

“Do I identify with the women?” Emily repeated Claire’s question while she thought about it. “It’s hard to say when I know intellectually that I don’t look that way. But yes. Sometimes it feels like ‘oh, that’s me’ and other times more like ‘I wish I could be that.’ I hate when I’m watching a show and I’ll think ‘that would look so good on me’ and then I realize even if it would t on this body, and look okay on this body, I wouldn’t be allowed to wear it.”

“You can wear it over here,” Claire said.

“That reminds me, can you help me find pants like this?”

Emily pulled a folded calendar page from her bag and scooted to the middle of the couch. Claire moved next to her and looked at the woman leaning against a low-riding muscle car. Emily’s shoulder touched hers. Emily’s fingers rested lightly on her thigh. Not the way I’m-being-a-guy-really Chris would’ve slung an arm over Claire’s shoulders, but she liked this too.

She wrapped her fingers around Emily’s and leaned closer.”

Rachel Gold

Rachel Gold was raised on world mythology, fantasy novels, comic books and magic, Rachel is the author of multiple queer & trans young adult novels, including the award-winning Being Emily—the first young adult novel to tell the story of a trans girl from her perspective. Rachel is a nonbinary lesbian, all around geek and avid gamer. She teaches at the Loft Literary Center an annual class/game for teens called, “I’m Gaming as I Write This.” For more information visit:

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