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Seeing both sides of the same coin

| Wednesday, October 10, 2018

The past year of my life has been incredibly exciting and eye-opening. In addition to expanding my academic horizon with every other student at Notre Dame, I have also taken medically prescribed hormones each day to physically transition into a woman. I am transgender and have finally been living as myself, a woman, for the first time in my life, and that has made it by far the happiest year of my life.

The past year has also been incredibly eye-opening and more stressful than I can describe. For the past few months, I have certainly passed as a woman (meaning that strangers immediately and only see me as a genetic female), which has simplified my life. Nowadays, there is no hesitation from myself or others when I introduce myself as Emma. There may even be some students who read this column and find out for the first time that I am transgender, a situation that I never even conceived to be possible until very recently.

On the other hand, I am finally dealing with both the welcome and unwelcome advances that women deal with their entire lives. This past weekend, it was especially noticeable as I photographed the Virginia Tech (VT) football game for The Observer. At the heart of my recent experience is the fact that guys are just way more willing to talk to female strangers than male strangers. This is something most people understand quite intuitively and is not inherently negative, but being transgender allows for a unique view by participating on both sides. I have been photographing football games for The Observer for five years now, but this is the first season that I am presenting as female while doing so. There are a handful of photographers that I have seen at every game, home or away. For all four years presenting as male, our conversations were limited to a passing “Hello” at best. This year was different. The VT game was my third game this year, yet many of these same photographers were suddenly beginning conversations by noting that I looked familiar. With ND photographers, the conversation was consistently well-mannered and professional, perhaps partially driven by just seeing another familiar face in the hostile VT fan-filled stadium. In this sense, I really appreciated the newfound opportunity to meet other photographers with whom I frequently share the sideline.

As for non-ND photographers, the increased attention was not always as welcome. Perhaps driven by the aggravation of VT’s performance, perhaps not, some of the conversations were so blatantly uncomfortable that a new ND photographer friend even offered to move to be a buffer between me and the opposing photographer.

This mild story is nothing of significance, but I still find it quite interesting. Many experiences that we have daily are products of our place in society; some can be rather impactful while others are incredibly negligible. Regardless, I have to say that it is quite intriguing to experience both sides of the coin.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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