I was watching the TV show The Middle one day, and there was a character named Brad who I felt embodied my spirit animal. Earlier in my transition, I was navigating my identity as both male and gay. Although the character Brad might not have been groundbreaking in the community, he provided me with a general direction to be who I am.

Having a name that matches how I feel is important. It gives substance to my transition. In the past, any time I couldn’t “cover up” my birth name, it made my chosen name seem less official or recognized. When I would get my report card with my old name on it, I would lie it face down under papers. I was proud of my grades, so it should have been a happy experience. But it wasn’t.

It’s been so helpful having my mom, who has dealt with school administrators, doctors, and other people who might not know my name is Brad. I couldn’t have gotten as far as I have without her. She had to adapt in a lot of ways, like using different pronouns and a different name. The most difficult questions to answer were the ones she asked before I came out. At that point, most of the answers were things I was just figuring out myself.  I taught her mostly by explaining what I needed in order to be emotionally stable. After coming out to her, our communication has been very open. I don’t remember any time since I have felt uncomfortable answering any of her questions. I learned how important it is to support other people.

I had a chance to take a summer law program at Yale University, and I was put in a male dorm. Although this correctly aligned with my identity, it came with some risks. But I was able to overcome some of my fears. Having my chosen name as my legal name helped a great deal. Since I had it changed, I have less to hide.