Classic trans young adult novel updated for 2018

By Rachel Gold
Special to

Young Adult transgender classic Being Emily comes out in an expanded, anniversary edition on May 15. In addition to updated language and science, there are new scenes, a new intro and author’s note. Get a preview of the new material with this excerpt from one of the added scenes:

“Saturday, I went over to Claire’s early, picking up donuts and coffee on the way. Her mom worked all day every Saturday, since it was a big sales day. I rang the bell anyway, in case her mom was late leaving. I didn’t want to tip her off that I had a key. Claire opened the door, pulled one of the coffees from the holder and went back to the couch where she’d been curled up with a book. She was in loose black pants and a black sweatshirt, her goth loungewear.”

I put the donut box and napkins on the coffee table and dropped my duffel by her bedroom door.

“Tell me you’re not cheerful,” she said. “It’s too early.”

“Motivated,” I told her. “I’m going to come out to Mom and Dad at Dr. Mendel’s in June.”

Claire sputtered, grabbed a napkin and pressed it to her nose. “Holy…what? Your parents? June of this year?”

“It’s months away.”

“What are you going to do if they freak out?” she asked. At least she hadn’t said: when they freak out.

“Duck behind Dr. Mendel’s chair and let her explain it all.”

Claire sipped at her coffee and snagged a chocolate-frosted chocolate donut from the box.

“That’s not the worst plan,” she admitted.

“I need help setting it up,” I told Claire. She was chewing and nodding at me, so I went on talking. “I’m kind of sucking in school right now. Not English, but everything else is around the C level and I need to look like the best kid in the world before I come out.”

“How are you getting Cs?” Claire asked. “You’re smarter than ninety-nine percent of the school.”

“I thought I was bored but it’s more than that. It’s not that I don’t care about school, it’s like I can’t care. I’m paying attention all the time to a million things and I don’t have any brain left for homework. I have to remember how I’m supposed to act. I have to make myself forget that I feel like a girl. People treat me in ways that don’t make sense; I have to think about what they’re doing and why and how I’m expected to respond.”

“Like what?” she asked.

Tearing my donut in two I put one half on the napkin and took a sip of coffee.

I told her, “After lunch when I’ve been sitting with the swim guys, I get to class and I don’t hear anything the teacher says. My brain’s spinning back over everything to make sure I did it right. And that’s when I finally get the joke that Ramon made, that I had to fake-laugh about—and realize I didn’t get it when he told it because it was based on the idea that we’re all guys together—then I’m freaking out that I laughed wrong and they’re going to know. By the time I try to do whatever assignment I missed the instructions for, all that comes up again and I don’t want to think about it, so I go as fast as I can to get it done. And then half the time I forget to turn it in.”

I bit into the top of my donut, where it was mostly sugar, and washed that down with more coffee. I explained, “When I get up in the middle of the night and put on girl clothes, it’s a lot easier to do homework. All that other noise isn’t there. But I can’t keep that up. I need more sleep.”

“Okay, so?”

“I want to do homework at your house,” I said.

“You want to be a girl here all the time when my mom’s not here so you can do your homework?” The end of Claire’s sentence rose in disbelief.


She started laughing hard, bending forward, shaking. I grabbed her coffee cup so it wouldn’t spill. She wrapped her other hand around mine and held on tight. Good thing or I’d have thought she was laughing at me.

When she’d recovered, she said, “You know in-game when guys are playing girl characters and they’re always like ‘if I were a girl, I’d spend the whole weekend playing with my boobs?’”

“Uh, yeah.” I’d heard that too.

“Homework,” she said, smirk-grinning. “You just want to be a girl so you can do that stupid social studies assignment and maybe some math.”

“And psychology, definitely need to pull my grade up in that,” I told her, grinning back.

“It’s on. Go change. Mom’s gone until after dinner.”

I took my duffel into her bedroom, still smiling.

She yelled after me, “And you’d better stop sucking at math. The world needs more math girls!”

About Rachel Gold
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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