Disclaimer: I have 19 drafts that are currently saved on my WordPress account — unpublished musings/material. I drafted this particular post yesterday evening, let it sit and simmer overnight, and then asked my partner (Christopher) to read over it this afternoon. “Just let me know what you think of it.”
He agreed, read over it, and then we continued on with our day. About twenty minutes ago, as the evening was winding down, I looked over at Chris from my seat on the couch and asked: “Well? What did you think of it?”
“The blog post?” He queried, standing up and grabbing two empty coffee mugs from off of the table.
“I mean, I always enjoy your writing,” he responded, beginning to walk away, towards the kitchen.
“Okay..” I began, “but what I want to know is, what was your general takeaway from reading it? What did it make you think of, or what kind of impact did it have, if any? Because if, after reading it, you don’t have some kind of summary, then it’s pointless.”
He paused, still holding both cups. “Welllllllllllll,” he exhaled deeply, “it made me think about how, sometimes, real life can be better than dream life… and that it’s surprising when that actually happens, because it’s usually the other way around.”
So, here you go, folks: Sometimes dreaming, sometimes awake.
If you’re already a “subscriber” to this blog, then you very well know – by now – that the ‘hot topic’ for the last 5 or so blog posts has been me coming out. And this post is no different. When I write, I process; when I share, I lose fear. It’s therapeutic and I love it. So thanks for coming along for the ride.
I came out as a transgender bisexual in July of 2015 and – nearly 4 months later, and after a few meltdowns, breakdowns and just general, lingering feelings of haziness and unease – I am (finally) in a good place. Dream worlds have helped move me to this place, and real life people have helped me get here, too, and opening myself up to loving and understanding myself — finally stopping and looking downward and inward and coaxing my soul out of its shell — it has also helped me to get here. And that’s what I’m going to talk about today.
But first, this interesting tidbit: I legally changed my name from Amber Rose to (simply) Jace last month. It’s funny; at birth, I was dubbed Amber Rose Roderick. When I married (at age 18), I became Amber Rose Yarbrough.. and today, I am Jace Yarbrough. Amber Rose Roderick and Jace Yarbrough literally share nothing in common, other than this: they are the exact same person, on opposite sides of the same fence, staring into each other and recognizing the eyes, the lips, the collarbone, the tone of voice.. but nothing else. My mind, my beliefs, my objectives, my theories — they are so radically different from what they were then. From what hers were. And I’m so totally okay with that.
Anyways, that’s not what I really wanted to talk about today. What I wanted to revisit, with you all, were two dreams and two real-life situations that touched my soul.. recently. They stirred me out of my sleep. They moved me to action. They made me feel accepted, and loved, and happy and okay, so they’re important.
The first thing I’d like to relate is a dream that I had about a week after coming out.
Dream 1: “I’ve got you.”
I was walking through a house that I knew, intuitively, should look familiar but did not. It contained rooms, hallways, and a main area. I gazed through doors, looked to the left and right, at walls, and tilted my head up towards the ceiling as I walked and weaved my way through the house, all of this until coming to a halt in the main area. It’s where I felt I should be, so, when I arrived there, I paused and.. waited. Shae, my best friend, suddenly (as if on cue) walked out from a room that was within my view and approached me in the “main area” (where I was still standing).
“I’ve found proof,” she said, meeting my eyes, and then she immediately turned around and returned to the room. It was curious. I knew – again, intuitively – what she was saying, and what she meant by it; that she had found papers – documents of some kind – that “proved” who I was: a transgender bisexual. She didn’t come back to me again during the dream, but I was already able to, somehow, see what she had found, and it was like a moving picture in my mind: me, age five or six, running around the living room in South Carolina and hearing my mother commenting (to a family member?) that she thought I was gay. I don’t know why? Maybe it was something I had said, or something that I had done — whistling as an image of Heather Locklear crossed our television screen, perhaps? That did happen in real life when I was a child, but this memory – this dream memory – was of a different kind; it wasn’t based off of fact.. it was constructed out of perception. It was fiction. But Shae had called it proof. I stopped to consider it.
And then the moving picture ended. I was again standing in the main room, and now, everyone else was there, too; namely, my mom, my dad, and my grandmother. They began speaking all at once, and my mind started racing as each word that they spoke crossed the room and landed beside my ear, rattling me, to the core, like a bomb or a gunshot would have.
“I can’t believe you’re gay. Why now? Why would it take so long for you to figure this out?” Beats me.
“I really didn’t expect this from you, Rose.” Neither did I. Do you really think that I chose this?
“You need help. I think God can change you back.” I don’t want help, I don’t need help, and I do not want to “go back.”
I was feeling hot, panicky, confused, frenzied and dizzy. My mind was spinning as my eyes quickly scanned over the room; I couldn’t see an out. People were everywhere. I felt cornered. Trapped. I was so incredibly overwhelmed. Suddenly, my brother, Bobby – who passed away in May of 2012 – appeared from underneath the dim ceiling fan lighting and walked over to me. He put his arms over my shoulders and pulled me close to him. I fell into his arms with all of my weight, with complete abandon. “It’s okay, sister babe,” he whispered so, so quietly into my ear while I cried on his shoulder. “I’ve got you,” he said firmly to the rest of the room.
I woke up in such.. anguish. There is just no other word.
What I wouldn’t give to have my brother here, I thought to myself. I know that he would still love me.. he would love and accept me no matter what.
**Important Disclaimer: My family has been very loving and accepting towards me. It came as a considerable shock to them when I first came out, sure, and things were, undoubtedly, incredibly rough for a while. We are all on good terms. I have nothing but love for them and for myself.
Dream 2 came sashaying along about a month later when I realized that I wanted to legally change my name but had (softly, and definitely without enough consideration) decided not to, consoling myself that I could be Amber to some people and remain Rose to the majority – thereby keeping the masses happy and comfortable – and could still just enjoy knowing and recognizing my identity on a personal, secret level. Yeah. Right.
Dream 2: “It suits you.”
I was in a store of some kind. The backdrop of the scene, a wall, was painted stark white, and the only other “feature” of the room was a counter with a computer screen and cash register situated on top of it and a lady attending to the station. That’s it. As I started checking out, she asked for my name. “That’s slightly unusual,” I remember thinking to myself (when does a clothing, grocery or department store employee ask for your name at checkout?), but I was happy to supply her with my name (totally nbd). “It’s Jace,” I answered her, feeling so.. content. Confident. Proud.
“Thank you. I’ll just need to see your ID, please.”
My heart sank. In my dream, I thought — “oh no. It isn’t.. true. My name isn’t Jace; I thought it was, I believed it was, I could have SWORN that it was — and.. I know that it is. But this woman is going to think that I’m lying to her when she sees this stupid freaking license — that I’m.. confused, or fraudulent, or just freaking crazy.”
I remember stuttering.. grasping for and stumbling over words as I reached into my pocketbook and retrieved my driver’s license. I handed it to her from the other side of the counter and could already foresee her look of disbelief, of judgment. I had even begun to imagine being escorted out of the store.
All of the sudden, I stopped trying to speak, because had she looked down at the license and then back up at me with such.. calmness.
“Jace suits you,” she said simply, handing the license back to me and proceeding to complete my transaction.
I woke up.. smiled.. and then broke down, crying. Of course, you’re thinking to yourself; all you ever seem to do these days is cry.
I can’t keep doing this, I realized that morning. And that was when I officially made my decision. On a subconscious level, I had already known that I couldn’t, with a sound mind, toggle between two different identities, and now, at the very forefront of my consciousness, I was being presented with the fact that my mental and emotional health were actually at stake, and that I was going to have to make the difficult, involved, and slightly scary choice in order to stabilize my world; that I had to legally change my name and then share it with the world.
Now.. like I told you earlier, I did, and the whole process of undergoing a name change took a surprisingly short length of time. I applied for my legal name change on 9/11/15 and – 43 days later – I have the decree, updated social security card and updated driver’s license in my possession, as well as new plastic cards and updated records with all of my utility bill companies. I’ve updated my voicemail, my Facebook and Gmail accounts, and I’ve introduced myself to each new person (aka stranger) that I’ve encountered as Jace with the strongest surge of.. confidence. Of joy. They say that (and this clearly isn’t verbatim) there’s no sound that is quite as sweet as hearing your own name — and it’s so true. It feels so good to be recognized. I’d like to say this also: changing my name wasn’t a mere matter of desire or even of preference — it is a matter of identity. And I’m so close to being whole now. I would say that I’m perfectly whole, but that would seem to imply that I’m done searching and questioning and considering and improving. And I’m not.
Now.. I also wanted to share 2 real life experiences that impacted me. So let’s do that.
Numero uno: “It’s a great name.”
Last week, as I was wrapping up the “icing on the cake” portion of this whole name change business, I contacted Discover to have my credit card reissued (reflecting my new – aka actual slash real slash soul – name). The dude representative who took the call was very professional and kind. I introduced myself and my case, on the phone line, as I had with every other credit card, utility and bill pay company that I had contacted earlier that morning:
“Hey there! Yes,” (in answer to his question), “the name showing on this account will most likely be either Amber or Rose Yarbrough, and I’m actually calling because my name has changed to Jace. My FIRST name, that is.. not my last. Weird, right? I know that that’s highly unusual, sooooooo I’m just wondering what you’ll need from me in order to update your account records and my card.”
“Sure thing, Jace. I’ll be happy to help you with this.” I smiled into the phone. Well alrighty then.
He laid out their requirements very simply, provided me with multiple avenues of submitting documentation to the company, and then asked if there was anything else that he could assist me with that day.
“Nope, but I really appreciate you making this process so simple — I honestly wasn’t sure how involved it would be, so this came as a nice surprise.. again, thank you.”
“It was truly my pleasure. And I just have to say..” he paused. Then: “I really like that name; Jace. It’s a really great name.”
There was silence.
I could feel that he wanted to say more – maybe that he understood? or maybe he wanted to ask questions – but I just smiled back at him and thanked him again. It was such a nice conversation.
#reallifeexperience numero DOS: “It’s such a beautiful name.”
Chris and I had a gig in Homewood today (playing music outdoors for an arts and crafts show). About half-way through our 3-hour set, an older-looking gentleman settled himself onto a picnic table in front of where we were set up with our instruments, amps and mic, and he listened on as we continued playing through our set list. He caught my eye several times, nodding and smiling enthusiastically. This man, who – a few songs in – walked over to us, shook our hands and introduced himself as Rick, had long, brown hair, speckled with gray and pulled back into a ponytail, and was wearing a button-up plaid shirt that he had tucked down into his denim blue jeans. His eyes were small and brown, and he had wrinkles around his lips and eyes.
He continued sitting there for about 40 minutes — at one point, requesting that we cover a second Steely Dan song (which request we honored) — and then he moseyed off. After we had finished out the third hour and packed/lugged all of our gear back into Chris’s car, the gentleman reappeared, just as we were about to leave.
“Your music was truly a pleasure to listen to,” he extended his hand for the second time (we had already introduced ourselves during the set). “And what was your name again?” he nodded towards me, hand outstretched.
I took his hand. “My name is Jace,” I responded with a smile.
“Jace?” he repeated back to me, tilting his head to the side and maintaining his grip on my hand. I nodded. “Can you spell that?”
“Yes; J – A – C – E.”
“Jace.” He thought on it for a few seconds, staring at me, finally releasing my hand. “You know, I’ve never heard that name before. And it is such a beautiful name.”
And you, sir, are such a kind man.
And that’s all, really. Dreams have showed me parts of myself that I needed help recognizing: that people would accept me and that I had to, first, accept and be myself. And real life experiences have, in their respect, comforted me, and have reminded me that people really can surprise you with their kindness, their openness, and their love.
I hope that, whoever you are, reading this blog post, that you feel accepted and loved. If I met you, I would accept and love you. I’m sure of it. I know it. I hope that you’re happy. I hope that you’re choosing to love yourself and to be happy. Pay attention to your dreams. Pay attention to the world surrounding you. Notice the nice and beautiful things, and take time to feel them and understand them, and to really realize their impact. Realize the impact that you have.. understand the feelings that you cause, and be aware of the experiences that you engineer. You are so beautiful, so powerful, and you are totally irreplaceable.