star tours feels or: a super secret sneak peek AT SOMETHING COOL

The World you have entered was created by The Walt Disney Company and is dedicated to Hollywood—not a place on a map, but a state of mind that exists wherever people dream and wonder and imagine, a place where illusion and reality are fused by technological magic. We welcome you to a Hollywood that never was—and always will be. – Michael Eisner, May 1 1989

Two terribly significant things- at least to me- happened in May of 1989. 30 days apart, Disney’s MGM Studios theme park opened to the public and Danielle Elise Herd was born into the world. Both fixated on the Golden Age of Hollywood, built on high highs and low lows, sun-drunk on a charade of fanciness baked into the hot Orlando asphalt… Today known as Disney’s Hollywood Studios, it is unexpectedly my favorite place to be in the entire world. My theme park twin. My darling of darlings. 

Hollywood Studios and I have something else in common, even more than our eventual need to rebrand, to re-create ourselves: We fucking love STAR WARS.

Star Wars.

I mean, is there anything better? Is there any greater feeling in the entire corporeal world than that hitch breath of wonder, of promise between “A Long Time Ago in A Galaxy Far, Far Away” and… STAR WARS? 

Funnily enough, I did not fall in love with Star Wars first in a cinema or even in a living room. I was not born to nerds. My mother had seen the original trilogy and enjoyed them well enough while my athletic father couldn’t pick Chewbacca out of a line-up. So, I wasn’t introduced to that vast world at first via VHS tape. No, instead my sporty little family- Mom, Dad, my little brother Matt, and myself- visited Disney World. And it was there, amid the Muppets and the ice cream cones and the Great Movie Ride (my original favorite), that Matt and I had our minds thoroughly and completely blown apart. 

(I met Captain Rex before I met Luke Skywalker, which, again, feels significant.)

Star Tours, originally opening at Disneyland in 1987 and then at Disney World in 1989, lit a spark in my brother and I. We didn’t know where we were or who we were with- had never heard of Endor or met C-3P0 before- but we felt that undeniable Star Wars promise for the very first time and we were hungry for more. When we returned from that trip, Matt was gifted the original trilogy for his birthday and I was more than happy to watch those tapes with him over and over again, transfixed by the film-nerd seriousness of those old Leonard Maltin introductions.

But also… Star Wars didn’t feel like it was supposed to be for me. I was a little girl and I liked Disney princesses and stuffed animals and picture books. I didn’t seem to have an obvious place in this world of laser swords and action figures, right?

I still watched Return of the Jedi over and over and swooned over Luke Skywalker’s bravery. With all due respect to a certain Little Mermaid, I wanted to be a part of that world. 

But, besides my supposed gender identity, I mean… Star Wars was over, right? Star Wars belonged to nerdy cis men who had come of age in the 1970’s and I was lucky that I had gotten to experience at all, whether in my family’s living room or on Star Tours.  

What’s it like to love a thing you feel you can never really, truly have?

Stay tuned for more… And May the Force Be With You.

on a tuesday evening: a self-portrait

Bitten down, chipped teal nails, shaking slightly (always) against the keys, against the Spotify app, against the mug of cocoa. (with the big marshmallows)

A set of long Muppet-arms, patchy and dry, because I do not fucking understand how to appropriately moisturize.

(A foul mouth, apparently. Fuck. Fucking fucking fuck. It’s just a satisfying angry string of consonants, okay?)

(A foul mouth, precisely, damp with the aforementioned cocoa. I made it with milk, because I am not so far gone yet. The marshmallow catches on my upper lip and fuck.)

Two wobbly blue-grey eyes, eternally set off by fetching purple circles. I look like a damn Tim Burton character. Tonight: highlighted by red. Dry, wrung out.

Sigh. Fuck, sure, okay: two breasts. Bigger than I’d like, not that I like them at all. Fucking hanging beneath this pajama top, which is some persnickety bullshit, if you ask me. I do my best to mush them away during the day, but it’s just us at night, so why fight?

A stomach that bears ample evidence of that time I was accused of “eye fucking all the pastries at Trader Joe’s.” There are fresh stretchmarks there, sort of red-violet stripes. It isn’t that I gave up. That isn’t how bellies grow. That isn’t how anything works.

A face. Those tired, worried eyes. A huge mouth. (I cannot shut it ever. You know that.) Some fresh acne, which I hope is the testosterone working, but maybe I’m just an oily mess.

The legs of which I think I am finally proud. They have carried me to the London Zoo, to the Museum of Natural History, to countless bus stops and interviews and auditions and afternoons walking around the park. They have carried me across stages. They have quaked and trembled while I told the world. While I told them everything.

(I will always tell you everything. I don’t know how to stop, but maybe I don’t want to stop? Maybe I don’t want to get “better,” because if I’m not a needy ball of guts, if I stand on my own, maybe your work here will be done and I already miss you, don’t you see?)

This heart. This heart that feels bigger than my ribs. This heart that feels like it is seeping out of me, leaking out of its container and dripping on to the kitchen floor like that time in middle school when Carman and I tried to make homemade bath bombs but substituted corn syrup for corn starch THEY ARE NOT THE SAME THING.

I listened to too many sad songs tonight and this is how I have arrived here. I was fine until I was sobbing and I suppose that’s just how it goes sometimes.

For unless they see the sky
But they can’t and that is why
They know not if it’s dark outside or light

I cannot see the sky tonight, Sir Elton, Mr. Bernie. Forgive me.

I thank the Lord for the people I have found

And so I do. From the bottom of my leaky, ruined heart.

then you say “go slow”

(I can’t.)

Lying in my bed, I hear the clock tick and think of you
Caught up in circles
Confusion is nothing new

I feel sometimes like I am running out of things to say:

(Hello again. My name is Dani, still, I think. You can also call me Daniel. I love Star Wars and I write Good Omens fanfiction and I do have bipolar II disorder, yes, but it’s okay. I am okay. I need you to believe me that I am okay.)

But I still want to come here. I still want to say something. I don’t want to stop.

(There’s nowhere else to go.)

What did you have for breakfast? (I am stalling, I know.) I made banana bread muffins last night, because, like all of us, I am bullshit at actually eating bananas in a timely fashion. So, I scarfed down a muffin this morning and I’m drinking my rapidly cooling coffee. It’s nice coffee. I got it from the Internet.

I feel like a stain. I am afraid to reach out and touch anyone anymore. I feel like I will just leave them sticky and worse for the exchange, you know? I feel like an emotion-bull in a china shop. I am too loud, too big, too messy. I will knock over your nicest plates and I will catch a glimpse of my monster-self in your mirror and I will run, because I just cannot contend with the reality of myself.

(I’m sorry about the plates.)

How many chances do we get? Because I am trying for this Big New One, you know. This grad school thing. I am trying to start over. I am trying to open the door to Playwriting 101 on that first day with fingers that do not tremble or wobble. I am trying to drive myself to Iowa, Rhode Island, New York, Illinois with a cat and a record player in the backseat.

Here is what happens: I wake up, increasingly achy and creaky (being 31 is dumb), and I put on my pink bathrobe to hide my body and I go fix some coffee and I let the caffeine and the hope wash through my veins and I just start APPLYING TO THINGS. I hunt for jobs, for programs, for grad school, for anyway to change. For any tangible thing willing to scoop me up and offer, “Yes, we will remake you. We will make you better. We will offer you structure and, in exchange, you will become who you are supposed to be.”

What would that be like?

(What’s your story? What’s your deal?)

After my picture fades and darkness has
Turned to gray
Watching through windows
You’re wondering if I’m okay

I mean… No. Not really no. Unraveling trauma is hard no matter how long it takes you to call something trauma. I blamed myself for Something for a decade and I am only now undoing that language in my brain and it is going to take some time and I am going to be not-okay for a minute longer. And I hate it. I feel guilt and shame. My programming still suggests that it was all My Fault. Maybe parts of it were. These things are messy and gross.

Hello again. My name is Dani. (Definitely Dani this time.) I am sad a lot. It’s just a thing. I’m working on it. (Always, I am.) I think sometimes I come here because I always feel like I need to explain it. Because maybe I didn’t explain it well enough in the past and I regret that a lot. I never want to keep a secret again. It hurts my stomach.

The narrative in my head says, “You ruined your own life. You don’t get another chance. You were bad and wrong, and that’s why you will always feel this way. You will always feel this way. It will always hurt.”

But I still wake up and sip at this now-cold coffee (it’s from the Internet, so I’m not throwing it away). So, there must be some healthy skepticism still, right? I haven’t totally given in to what my brain says.

But it hurts all the way down to my bones and sometimes I just want to tell someone that. I don’t mean to be dramatic or to make you worry. I just want to tell the truth.

If you’re lost, you can look and you will find me
Time after time
If you fall, I will catch you, I will be waiting
Time after time

(I will sure try. I promise that much.)

i am not throwing away my shots (i think)

Y’all, I’m going to be totally honest: I’m not convinced I did my shot correctly last week and I AM STRESSED ABOUT IT.

I’m looking forward to the day my hands don’t shake and my heart doesn’t race. When I don’t wince at all the fresh, red stretchmarks on my belly and just accept my body for the work-in-progress it definitely is. This is (I hope) Shot #3 and I still don’t notice anything and I know I won’t for a while still and I don’t know what is going to happen and I still don’t know if this was the right thing to do and I hate that I’m not just purely excited, you know?

Fuck.

Breathe, Daniel.

I got mail addressed to “Daniel” today. Fancy chocolates- chai and yuzu- from my fancy best friend Vandy in Boston. And I am looking forward to letting it melt on my trembling tongue, to letting the chocolate work its way through my system alongside the hormones.

Because I am not just my gender or my bloodstream, right? I am not the fat beneath the skin, poked and pierced as gently as I can manage. I am yuzu chocolate bars and I am Bernie Taupin lyrics and I am the whiskey gingers I used to drink before warbling my way through Write Club pieces and I am all the things I miss and all the things I have found.

I haven’t told everyone yet, is the thing. I’m scared. I’m scared of letting anyone down, I’m scared of making anyone sad. All I think I have to say is this (and I do not know that it is enough):

Hello.

I love you.

When my friends send chocolate bars to “Daniel,” it makes my heart feel sturdier than I think it ever has. Once a week I stick a little needle beneath my skin and eventually I will have a different face and a fuzzy upper lip, but my heart has always been mine. I am just growing strong, more confident. I will not be alone. Because I’m not alone right now. I know now (finally) that I have never been alone. I don’t have all the answers, only the truth of my heart.

I am going to be okay.

(Oh, shit, this chai chocolate is really good. Thank you, Vandy.)

I will not be alone because I am trans. If anything, I have monumental evidence that the people who love me are good and honest and they will love me no matter what my pronouns or my name or my fuzzy upper lip is doing.

(OH, SHIT, THE YUZU IS INCREDIBLE THIS IS DINNER NOW.)

It wasn’t a small thing- to choose to stick a needle in my skin once a week- but I do think it was a strangely quiet one. A cool, sunny breeze drifting in through a window to wrap itself around my chest and whisper, “You know who you are, my heart. Be brave and true and that will be enough.”

Could you have guessed? The voice was rather soft and English and angelic. What a surprise.

In other boy-news, my first StitchFix box came in the mail a few days ago and I spiraled a little bit. Nothing felt right and that made me worry that maybe nothing will? I am grateful to my sweet roommate who got drunk with me during Rocketman and took pictures of all of young Elton’s outfits for some future thrifting inspiration.

That’s the dream, you know? Kicking down the door the first day of grad school (DEAR GOD I HOPE) clad in a silk shirt and some bell bottoms and maybe a fucking cravat?! I DON’T KNOW. Introducing myself for the FIRST TIME instead of a re-introduction?!

HELLO FELLOW MFA PLAYWRIGHTS PLEASE ENJOY MY ROCKING BOY-PANTS AND MY SEXY, CRACKING VOICE AND MY MESSENGER BAG COVERED IN PRONOUN PINS WHO IS READY TO TALK ABOUT DRAMATIC STRUCTURE?!

For now. (Because now is only ever now.)

For now there is yuzu chocolate on my tongue and I feel something like okay.

on panic

No one ever told me how panic attacks can be quiet. How you can wake up in a beam of sunlight with a soft cat draped across your ankles and you can still feel a little like you’re dying.

I feel a little like I’m dying.

Nothing happened. Nothing new. I read the story again that makes me sad, that makes me feel all twisted up inside, that makes me think and think and remember and remember and feel like a fool.

And I should call someone, right? I should tell someone I’m not okay. But I’m a little cowardly so I come here instead and try to yank some pretty words out of myself, try to make it count. Try not to feel like such a waste of space.

5 things you can see: A stuffed dinosaur (his name is Spike), an empty mug, a half-empty (ha) cup of water, a stuffed penguin (Waddles, you’ve met), a lamp, turned on.

4 things you can touch: the cool keyboard, the flannel unicorn pillowcase, the fuzzy Spider-Man 2 blanket, Spike the soft dinosaur.

3 things you can hear: “Rhapsody in Blue” drifting from my phone, someone mowing their lawn outside, the weird buzz of the ceiling fan.

2 things you can smell: the memory of coffee, something in the air like vanilla and cinnamon (my candle game is strong).

1 thing you can taste: stale coffee breath. I should probably brush my fucking teeth.

(Did I do it? Am I okay now?)

I am not shaking or rattling, I am not fighting to suck down my own breath. But my insides feel on the verge of leaking out of my toenails but wait, how do I have any insides left I feel so fucking empty?

There is this ever present panic of What if I don’t get into grad school? Because I am out of other ideas. I don’t know what else to do. I don’t know how else to be proud of myself. I don’t know how else to not be a failure. I DO NOT HAVE A BACK-UP PLAN ANYMORE THIS WAS THE THOUSANDTH PLAN.

I scheme and I apply to things and I dare to dream, but I’m really tired today, so do I still have to? Do I always have to “keep moving forward,” Uncle Walt? Can I lie here in my bathrobe and get my wind back? I feel a little like I’m dying.

(Spider-Man wouldn’t talk to me this way, I know that.)

I feel a little like I’m dying. The world feels farther and farther away from my fingertips and I don’t know how I got here in the first place. I hide in my fluffy pink bathrobe all day because I do not want to look at my body, I do not want to contemplate the horrors of dressing it. Nothing fits, nothing feels right.

Nothing fits, nothing feels right.

I feel ugly. I feel like a creature, not a person. And if I am a person, I feel like a bad one.

It’s 2:10 in the afternoon and I am still in this bathrobe. And I logically know that I getting dressed and going for a walk would make me feel better, but maybe I don’t feel like I deserve to feel better, you know?

Didn’t I didn’t I didn’t I see you crying?

Feeling all alone without a friend, you know, you feel like dying

Oh, didn’t I didn’t didn’t I see you crying?

(Yeah, probably.)

january 2021 bi, bi, non-bi: stroll into the sunshine

Be forewarned: Parts of this are gross. Love y’all!

Happy January Halloween, everybody! Last Halloween was supposed to be my first ever expedition to Universal Studios’ famous Halloween Horror Nights, but, of course, that didn’t quite work out as intended. So, in honor of my dead and decaying dreams, here’s a bunch of nonsense about attractions at Universal, because this is my ultimate love language and I LOVE YOU. YES YOU:

Bi #1: Jurassic Park River Adventure

I feel… pretty okay right now. Like, I’m just sort of pleasantly floating along Hadrosaur Cove lately, you know what I mean? But I know my brain’s maintenance guys are total bullshit at their jobs, so we’re never more than a step away from careening wildly into the Raptor Paddock.

Jurassic Park is the best part of Islands of Adventure, right? Like, all offense to Hogsmeade and none to Marvel Superhero Island, but IT’S FUCKING JURASSIC PARK. You get to walk through the gates and hear the music and everything! You can eat a churro and pretend you’re just taking a little snack break before going to see a triceratops. 

I MISS THEME PARKS.

Again, though, I really do feel okay right now. It’s like when the ride stalls on you sometimes, you know? I feel just sort of suspended in this strange, quiet limbo where I am floating and am surrounded by animatronic dinosaurs and I do not feel at all that I am in peril. I know the ride will start moving again someday and I’ll have to confront that damn T-Rex, but for now… for now I just float. 

I think part of it is that I finally feel close to comfortable with myself, but we’ll get there. 

Also, I want to point out how hard I’ve worked to feel something like okay. I take my meds and I’m in, like, three different kinds of therapy right now. My point to that is this: if you’re on the fence about pursuing some assistance for your mental health, I really can’t recommend it more highly. Take your time and guard your heart, but please know: You deserve to feel good, you sweet baby iguanadons. 

Bi #2: Real quick: (I need y’all to know that, while writing this, I said OUT LOUD to myself, “What’s the horniest ride at Universal Studios?”)

The answer, of course, is: The Incredible Hulk: The Ride at Islands of Adventure. I mean, no offense intended to anyone I have had or may have sex with, but those first ten seconds of The Hulk are more powerful and meaningful than any orgasm I think I have ever had. There’s no time to think or worry or second guess yourself, there is just a roar and a blast of gamma radiation and then you ARE FUCKING FLYING.

I am tired of thinking and worrying and second guessing myself and I am lamenting my lost Coming Out year when I didn’t get to roar and gamma radiation my way through a bunch of gay bars and just fucking go for it, you know? I mourn this lost year as if I am actually brave and like I wouldn’t have just spent all of those nights at gay bars like I did the only time I actually did go to a gay bar: drunkenly crying on the porch of MSR with Adam and ignoring Vinnie’s attempts to get me to hit on the cute bartender.

I am tired of thinking and worrying and second guessing what I want, what I think might feel good. I touch myself at night a little like it is still a punishment and fucking fuck, I have got to got to try a little tenderness! But I touch and kiss a little like the Incredible Hulk: fast and hard, because if I take my time, you will see through all my cracks and you will notice how truly bad at this I probably am. I am not languid or sensual or any of those sexy words. Wrong superhero catchphrase, but it is ALWAYS clobberin’ time as far as my pussy is concerned. 

I have this fantasy of going to grad school and meeting another genderqueer person. They’re sweet and they’re wearing a flowy robe and I meet them at their gallery show. (My fantasies are extremely specific.) They will take pity on my thumping, gamma radiated heart and they will teach me how to take a fucking breath. They will teach me that we do not have to race in order to make it over the edge. 

I think about them a lot. 

Non-Bi: Mostly because I think it would piss her off, I’m gonna say Harry Potter & the Forbidden Journey for this one.

BECAUSE SHE WILL NOT TAKE UNIVERSAL STUDIOS AWAY FROM ME. YOU CAN PRY MY PUMPKIN JUICE FROM MY COLD, DEAD, GAY HANDS.

Anyway.

Also, because Forbidden Journey is sort of like Harry’s greatest hits for his first couple of years at Hogwarts and fuck, I am about to go through puberty AGAIN. I am two weeks into taking a low dose of testosterone (10 points to Hufflepuff!), and I am waiting with bated breath for anything, for everything.

I am ready for oily skin and a cracked voice and being hungry and horny all the time. All I do is read articles and watch YouTube videos about what to expect and so I am expecting fucking everything. Even though, of course, everyone is different! So, I can’t really predict specifically what is going to happen to me. Only that SOMETHING IS GOING TO HAPPEN.

AUGH.

(Side note: MAYBE something is going to happen to me. I’m not totally convinced I’m doing these injections correctly at all. It’s a huge-ass syringe and a tiny amount of medicine and when I stick myself it just feels… anti-climactic, I guess?)

It does feel a little like magic, having the ability in the palm of my own hand to change my destiny. Not to be a total dork, but that huge-ass syringe is like my magic wand and the testosterone is like the unicorn hair core, right? 

I am looking forward to the day I got to go ANYWHERE, but especially back to a theme park and especially as myself. I always agonize about what to wear to a theme park, because I want to take pictures and I want to look cute and happy. Maybe in the future it won’t feel so hard to put together the PERFECT OUTFIT, because maybe I’ll already just feel cute and happy, you know? 

If you’ll allow me just one more attraction reference, I am especially looking forward to The E.T. Adventure. Steven Spielberg tells me that E.T. needs MY HELP and Steven, I will die before I fail you. So, I give the ride attendant my name and they hand me an Interplanetary Passport and I board my bicycle with E.T in the basket and we take off to the Green Planet to save the fucking day.

And at the end of the adventure, E.T. thanks you for your help. He thanks you by name. I really can’t tell you how much I’m looking forward to hearing E.T. say thank you to “Daniel.” There I will sit in my easily-chosen t-shirt and shorts and I will probably cry my goofy eyes out.

And then I’ll stroll into the sunshine and get another churro.

The point is that I will stroll into the sunshine.

radical acceptance and spider-man

At my last full-time job, one of my dearest co-workers and I used to spend HOURS debating whom everyone on our goofy little staff was within the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

And guys, it mattered SO MUCH TO ME.

While my friend Andy was inarguably Iron Man from day one, my MCU role was always in a state of flux. Sometimes Groot, briefly Nebula, I think, momentarily Captain Marvel at the time of my departure from the company…

I knew who I wanted to be, but that’s not how the game works, right? You don’t get to pick your own character. It has to be bestowed upon you.

A not-so-brief interlude:

If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you know that I have this asshole voice living inside my head:

You worthless, useless loser. Oh, what, are you ordering delivery again because you’re too pathetic to go to the fucking grocery store? Everyone’s disappointed in you. You should just give up. Go fuck yourself, Dani.

I told my therapist about this voice and he, like most kind people in my life, immediately said, “Oh, I hate that voice.”

Later on in the same session, the conversation turned to Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark. (I don’t know how we got there, but damn, I love having a nerdy therapist.)

Already sniffling, I brokenly mentioned, “I like Spider-Man.”

AND I DO. OH MY GOD I LIKE SPIDER-MAN.

When I was a small girl-child, superheroes felt so inaccessible to me. I didn’t relate at all to the big strong men (and sometimes women) I saw on Saturday morning cartoons. I didn’t really know much about comic books at the time, so my superhero knowledge was limited to what I saw on TV and at the movies. And, like, Batman (my little brother’s FAVORITE) was super cool, don’t get me wrong, but… I don’t know. There wasn’t any connection there for me.

I was twelve years old when Spider-Man came out and I’m not even positive how I managed to get to see it in theatres. As I’ve mentioned before, I do not hail from nerds! But somehow, some way, I saw it. And WOW. Soft, geeky, yearning, mistake-making, “with great power comes great responsibility” SPIDER-MAN?! What else had I been missing out on?!

For a middle schooler obsessed with Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings and Language Arts class, Peter Parker was a revelation. Like a lot of us, I don’t think I’d ever seen a geek be a hero before. All these aspects of myself that felt so, well, lame suddenly seemed worthy and exciting and good.

“I like Spider-Man,” I warbled to my therapist just a few months ago, because I do. I really, really like Spider-Man.

(I stood outside in line for two hours in New York in JANUARY to see Turn Off the Dark. I REALLY LIKE SPIDER-MAN.)

(I am sitting wrapped up in a Spider-Man 2 fleece blanket AS I TYPE THIS. I REALLY, REALLY LIKE SPIDER-MAN.)

“Okay,” my therapist said. “Would Spider-Man think you were beyond saving?”

And Team, that little question took all the air out of my lungs.

Would Spider-Man think you were beyond saving?

Because… I mean, of course not. Spider-Man would never give up on me. And, if I want to be like Spider-Man, that means I can’t give up on myself. My therapist charged me that week with trying to replace the Asshole Voice in my head with Spider-Man’s voice and it really, really helped.

So, if that jams with you, try it out! Be your own Spider-Person! Nerd therapy is the best!

Last summer, months after I’d left my old job, I received a text from my Iron Man co-worker:

Hey. Re-watching Homecoming night and I’m making it official.

You’re Spider-Man.

(Andy, I know you’re probably not reading this, but I mostly wanted to be Peter Parker because you’re Tony Stark. I love you 3000.)

We know the characters that make us feel seen. As good as it feels to get that validation from a beloved outside source, I hope you know you can claim those good feelings for yourself whenever you want. You know who you are, you know who you want to be. I think you know more than you think you do.

Be your own superhero. You got this.

Thwip.

rey (ben), these are your first steps.

I am having all these dreams since the appointment.

Sometimes I have the opportunity to say out loud “I am transgender” to my late grandmother and she just hugs me. Sometimes my face contorts in the mirror before my eyes and I look as handsome as Adam Driver. Sometimes I am brave and truly wholly myself.

(This is like the day of a haircut times A THOUSAND.)

(… I need a haircut.)

Because this time my face is going to change, you know? Things ARE GOING TO CHANGE. And I need to talk about it today, because the waves of self-doubt and imposter syndrome are crashing over me again and my fucking stomach hurts about it.

So, I have to remember being a child who was so enraptured by the description of Ron Weasley- gangly and broad-shouldered- that I asked my mom in a McDonald’s drive-thru if I was gangly and broad-shouldered. I remember being privately delighted whenever my name and short hair in middle school got me mistaken for a boy at school, even when Eric Sutherland accused Chris Peckron and I looking like two boys kissing in the hallway. I remember how I have spent the past four Halloweens SO FUCKING HAPPY to be dressed as a vaguely-male-shaped-entity. (Hello, Bert Macklin, Pennywise, Owen Grady, Aziraphale, my darlings.)

(Fuck, why do I dress up like Chris Pratt all the time? I need some Hemsworth in my repertoire.)

(… I did re-watch Ragnarok over the holidays and maybe I’m going to start working out. Goddamn.)

I remember how happy it made me this past month to receive Christmas cards from my friends addressed to “Daniel.”

I am not making this up. I am not wrong about this thing I want. I need to keep saying it, because 31 years of not knowing I could make myself feel better is a long fucking time.

(It is not too late.)

I haven’t driven to the pharmacy yet. I’m so nervous, so I’m just sitting in bed still and eating my oatmeal. (Fuck chia seeds, by the way.) But it’s happening today. I watched all the videos the doctor sent me and I kind of think I know what I’m doing. I’m scared about it hurting. I’m scared about doing it wrong.

I’m scared of being wrong. I’m scared of the changes happening and of only hating myself anew.

But… and I’ve been reading about this A LOT… I don’t think it usually happens like that. I really, truly suspect deep down in my bones that this has been an unnamed source of pain in my heart for a really, really long time. I just didn’t think I could help myself in this way. And the only thing I want anymore, after an entire year of punishing myself, is to feel something like good. And all I can think is… well, why wouldn’t I try this?

“It’s enough that you want it.”

I want it.

(I mean, fuck, if only for the Halloween opportunities, right?)

I am fighting today, sort of like with haircuts, to remind myself this won’t change who I am, even if it does actually change the shape of my face. I was good before and I will be good after. I was enough before and I will be enough after. This is not to validate myself, because I was already valid. This is to feel something like a sort of joy that I never thought I could have. This is to, fingers crossed, walk into the first day of grad school in the fall and feel so explosively like myself that I can’t even handle it.

Becoming who you want to be shouldn’t be a practice that is only come to through years of suffering. Becoming who you want to be should be a playground. We should have the freedom to explore and to discover and to follow each unmarked trail in our hearts as far as we want to follow them. (PACK A SNACK.)

“No one’s ever really gone.”

I’m not going anywhere. I think maybe I’m finally showing up.

May the Force Be With Us.

leaving hogwarts, part III

(because the song is playing on my Wrapped playlist again and I never have the heart to skip it. thank you, mr. williams.)

Here is what no one can take away from me: (No, not those who actively seek to drain me nor those who just unknowingly leech my sparkle.)

I am a Hufflepuff. That was a fact that once meant very much to me. It mattered to me to see myself in a badger-clad group proud of their loyalty and their gentleness. I am no Gryffindor, but I will fight in the final battle, always. (I believe.)

It is silly, perhaps, but it meant something to me to walk around the corner of Diagon Alley in sunny Orlando, FL, my Hufflepuff headband proud and shining against my hair.

I am grown now. And I am not leaving behind headbands or stories or magic. But I am saying “no, thank you, fuck off” to bullies and to cowards. To those that crow their hatred loud and proud and to those that just look at me sadly because they do not want to take the time to understand me.

I am a Hufflepuff. I believe in justice and friendship and working hard.

I do not have a New Year’s resolution. What else is there to come up with when you feel like there’s something daily that needs to be fixed about you, you know? I do not have a New Year’s resolution.

But.

But.

If my Hufflepuff heart stays willing and brave and true, and if I remember the words I have written here, if I take the time to recall the tears I have shed… painful, hopeful, confused, angry, full of dreams… next week I will step outside of the body I have always known and walk towards something that feels better in my heart.

“It’s enough that you want it.”

I have been so eager to find my identity in nerd spheres over and over and over again, because I have never wanted to be myself. I have wanted to pretend to be Aziraphale, to be Peter Parker, to be anyone other than me.

I don’t know if this will change that feeling. I’m really scared. As I read back over my writing from last year, I see bravery and excitement, but I also read reluctance and fear. A hesitance to speak from my heart. Like there’s still some threat in saying the words out loud. For someone who rambles as much as I do, I have a hard time getting to the point. I have a hard time being simple and saying the words that matter the most.

I am a Hufflepuff. (She will not take that away from me.)

I am transgender. (No one will make me feel badly about it.)

I had an appointment on Monday. I can start testosterone next week. (It’s enough that you want it.)

My New Year’s resolution (fuck) is not to be stronger. It is not to hurt less. I am a soft, sensitive marshmallow creature and I will continue to cry over the beauty of whales for no other reason than I can. No, my resolution (fuck) is just to believe. In myself, in you, in the power of the magic we wield together.

It’s enough that you want it.

You are enough. I am enough. We are not broken or wrong. We cannot fail.

(It’s important to me that we both remember.)

Happy New Year, brave hearts.

christmas 2021: a fantasy

(just a moment to dream, thank you:)

I wake up not in a hotel in Beaverton, Oregon, but in a super-nerdily decorated apartment in Chicago, Iowa City, New York City, somewhere in Rhode Island… It will just be my apartment, for the first time. (Don’t ask me how I can afford it on a grad student salary, just go with me, okay?) Elton John is playing on the record player I now own and my sweet cat Clementine is curled up asleep on his kitty tower, his jangly little bow tie secure around his chonky neck. The walls are festooned with Star Wars and Good Omens and Jurassic Park and it is mine. The air smells like sweet vanilla sugar nonsense and my hands are warm around my coffee mug.

I’m not in class, because we’re on holiday break, but my hands still ache with all the writing I’ve done all semester. My brain is full of ideas, I have an outlet for them, I am surrounded by other writing nerds, I bake them cookies for our peer reviews, I invite them over to my apartment to write and to drink coffee and to listen to Elton John.

But it is a break today. And I am wearing my Christmas pajamas and sipping my own coffee and it is an hour before my family is coming to visit me. I have gotten them all something wonderful, because I have had the space in my heart to be ingenious about gift giving this year.

Upon the gifts underneath my tree (I’ll have a tree! Me!), it is scrawled: Love, Daniel.

And my face is less round, my hips less full, perhaps my belly still soft, treacherous in its love of each and every pastry imaginable. That would be okay, I think. My outfit is laid out for the day. My nice shirt and vest and tie. And this is no secret to anyone anymore. All the tears have come and gone and the explanations made, and I am just Daniel and everyone knows now.

They will call my name that first day of grad school. (Do they call role in grad school? I don’t know.)

“Danielle Elise?”

(They don’t call middle names in role. Stay with me.)

“Daniel Elton, please.”

And everyone will know. And it will be okay. And my voice will sound like I think I’ve always wanted it to sound and won’t that be a thing?

To Daniel Elton: Merry Christmas, we love you as you are.

It is 2020 today and I am sitting on a messy hotel bed in Beaverton, Oregon, and I am pretty okay. I’ve made it this far. (We’ve made it this far, you shining star.) And tonight I will see Christmas lights at an unfamiliar zoo, but next year I will have the capacity to welcome everyone into MY space. My space on a new bit of the Earth, my space where Daniel’s shiny boy-shoes clutter the front hallway.

I know I know I know that no ONE THING changes everything. But I am so full of dreams and hope today. I am so ready to be done with what I think perhaps might have been a low thrum of pain in my heart for a very long time. And there will be new thrums of pain, new heartaches and breaks and complications and sticky, stinking goblins clawing their way through my ill brain.

But.

But the presents under the tree all say Love, Daniel and everyone knows.

That, I think, would be enough.

Merry Christmas, sweet friends.

i don’t know. i was sad. (AGAIN)

CW: struggles with internalized transphobia and low body image.

I feel fucking exhausted. My stomach hurts and I feel fucking exhausted.

I know I said I wasn’t going to do this again for a little while, but when have I ever been the model of restraint? Things hurt today and I want to get it down. Want to work it out a little bit.

When I told my mom about Daniel last week, she was mostly super A+ about the entire conversation. (She’s Kittenfish, she’s perfect.) But she also teared up and confessed that she was worried I’ll be lonely.

That I’ll be alone.

I’m afraid of that too.

Because I’m thinking a lot of things lately, I’m considering a lot of changes. I am learning about hormone therapy, I am researching top surgery, and I feel excited, but also, the further I mentally drift away from this body I am currently in, the more I just feel like… No one? Like nothing. I look in the mirror and I am sad and disgusted.

I am thinking back to how I always used to hope that getting my haircut would change everything about me. Would change the shape of my face and the color of my eyes and just everything. Is this just an extension of that? What if I transition and I *still* don’t love myself?

I am tired of hating myself. I feel it in my guts today and it just hurts.

This whole thing feels like an extension of that stupid “Well, no one else can love you until you love yourself” platitude. How am I supposed to invite anyone to love me if I don’t even know what to call myself? If I don’t even know what I want my body to be?

I feel so disconnected. Clothes make me want to shrivel up and die. I gained a lot of weight this year. I know it doesn’t make me a bad person. A weak person. But nothing fits anymore. I am still shoving my unwelcome curves into too-small leggings and t-shirts and trying my best to hide the rest of me away with flannels that don’t button anymore and sweatshirts that don’t zip.

I know I said I’d never buy clothes from Target again, but FUCK. I don’t know how to drive anywhere else and I’m prepared to just roll up there today and buy some fucking clothes that fit. FUCK.

What if transitioning makes me worse? What if transitioning makes me hate myself even more? What if I feel uglier than I do now? I have handled a lot of pain and rejection from my own brain over the years, but I don’t know that I can make it through something that massive again.

I am afraid of being alone. I am afraid, whatever I do with this body, whatever I call it… Maybe it won’t make sense to someone else? Maybe it won’t be enough of one thing or the other to… I don’t know, count?

Some days I feel like I can stand it. This morning I really tried to talk myself into: “Okay, just buy some leggings and some sweaters and just be a girl for Christmas and it’s fine. It’s fine. Get some fucking earrings. I don’t know.”

And I just want to curl up and hide under the bed when I think thoughts like that.

I re-watched The Lord of the Rings over the weekend and I was struck by a lot of thoughts. 1) Damn, I just want to dress like a Hobbit. 2) I love these movies so much because of the care and consideration and affection that was taken to make them.

What would it be like to bestow that same care and consideration and affection on making me?

I think, in a way, this is grieving. I am sad for the girl I couldn’t keep being. I am sad for the boy I might be too afraid to become. I’m just sad.

And I am angry. Because it shouldn’t feel like this. It shouldn’t hurt like this.

Honestly, I might end up at Target today. I might end up panicking and buying some girl clothes to just get through the holidays. But I’m going to get there. (I hope, I believe.) I’m going to get to the day when my closet is filled up with vests and waistcoats and bowties and all many of handsome wonderfulness.

I will find peace with my body. It is good. It carried me to the coffee shop today to get a peppermint mocha. It sits here, hunched over on my bed, clacking away on this post. It has run half-marathons and it will get there again.

And now (thanks, Spotify) more Sir Elton, because of course:

Oh, oh, oh, I’m gonna love me again.

dani(el)

(This is the last time for a minute, I promise. I think we’re all ready for a bit of a break.)

I don’t know what happens next, but I sure thought about it a lot today. I let myself dream big and loud and happy. I swung for the fucking fences:

And now it’s time for Weekend Update with your host Daniel Herd!

(For example.)

Part of this second adolescence, I think, is the capacity for those big dreams again. Waiting around for a potential acceptance from grad school truly feels like the start of something new and exciting. I feel like I’m giving myself another chance to do this the way I really, really want to.

I had a great time in undergrad, don’t get me wrong. But I was so very sad. I have been so very sad.

And now maybe I’ve discovered part of the source of this low thrum of pain that’s been here for a really long time and now I can do something about it. I don’t know what that means for me yet, but I am learning and pondering and considering and it is really exciting.

Honestly, I still feel like I was a big screw up today, but here, tonight, sitting on the couch, surrounded by three little Christmas trees, I see this version of myself that is possible. I will be handsome and funny and kind and I will be good enough for the things I want. I will write plays, I will tell jokes, I will speak Shakespeare.

For this brief Christmas tree-lit moment, I am on my own side. I can do it. I can fucking do it. I am going to get into all the schools and I am going to get really good at what I do and then I am going to write for a living.

And, yeah, I’m gonna host fucking Weekend Update. I would be really good at that.

For a long time, I felt like I needed to apologize for my dreams. That I had to keep them little and neat and manageable. But my dreams are big and loud and messy and weird and I want them so very powerfully.

Someone in my trans support group said, “It’s enough that you want it.”

I want this. I want a body that matches my heart. I want the freedom to navigate the world without holding my breath. I want to fucking believe in myself. I want to be brave and good.

I want I want I want.

Dani is still cool, by the way. Dani is me. Dani is the first name, all the way back in 4th grade, that felt like it fit. Dani is the first name I chose. But it isn’t short for Danielle, not anymore. It isn’t spelled “the girl way.” It’s spelled the me way. You can still call me Dani. I probably still will!

But looking down at “Daniel” on the page…

It’s enough that I wanted it.

I don’t know what happens next. But I’m here for you, always. Whether I get to go to grad school far away or not. We’re not getting anywhere without each other.

Thank you for the gentle strength of your love and acceptance this year. I used to be too afraid to entertain something like grad school, because, if I left, you’d forget me, right? But that isn’t how friendship works. This bullshit fucking year has challenged me to cherish and nurture friendships near and far, new and old. I have had the opportunity to laugh and cry and share and create and nerd the fuck out as all my selves, as Dani, as Daniel, as Way.

I’m challenging myself to take a blog break after this. My heart needs the space. I need to step back and rediscover what this soft, nerdy spot of the Internet is. Thank you for reading this year. I have needed this outlet more than I can possibly say. But it’s been a year and I made it. I am stronger than I ever thought I was.

To quote the best angel, “We can’t give up now.”

Happy Holidays, dear reader. May the Force Be With You Always.