Baseball, Old Friends, and Gender Transition
It is the beginning of baseball season. For me, it is a time that brings back many childhood memories. It is also time of renewal and hope. Everyone starts off at number one, and as the season plays out, we find out who will be the year’s best and win the World Series. With opening day approaching, it reminds me that spring is here and summer is just around the corner. I would be lying if I said I didn’t always look forward to the start of a new season.
My fondness for baseball comes from my father. In truth, it was the only way I could get him to pay attention to me. I would sit and watch the games with him when I was little, and he would teach me about how everything worked. In no time I was a fan, in one part of our favorite team and the other of spending time with my dad. Looking back, it was probably the only thing that people associate with any sort of masculinity that I had possessed while growing up. Other than our shared love for baseball, my dad was always trying to “man” me up or prepare me to be one. Obviously that never really panned out, but at least we had baseball.
My love for this game would end up extending to my best of friends as a kid. We were this sort of “rat pack” and all we did was play baseball. You name it, baseball, whiffle ball, softball, stickball... if it meant hitting some kind of ball with a bat, we were doing it. From dawn until dark we played the game until our mother’s yelled for us to come home. My dad had even coached my little league team and he would always take my brother and I to see a ball game. I was pretty good at baseball too, that was until eventually when most of the kids I had known hit puberty. It seemed as though everyone I knew all of a sudden got big, tall, and hairy. Not me though. I was still this scrawny kid with a high voice.
The first time I was ever “catcalled” by a group of guys was on the baseball field. There was me with my long hair and hairless body, and from far away I guess this group of boys thought I was some cute girl playing baseball with a bunch of friends. Though I acted like I was angry about it at the time, deep down it made me feel really good. I guess some kind of early validation in a misogynistic ritual. It wasn’t the first time in my life that I was mistaken for a little girl, that happened often as I was growing up, but it is certainly the first time someone was attracted to me as a female even if it were under poor circumstances.
“THESE WERE THE TYPE OF FRIENDS WHERE 10 YEARS COULD GO BY WITHOUT SEEING EACH OTHER AND IT WOULD STILL BE LIKE WE SAW EACH OTHER THE DAY BEFORE.”
As all the other kids got bigger and stronger, eventually the subject of organized baseball became a thing of the past for me. There was still my rat pack though, we would get together every year for a fantasy baseball league we had started and would play a game of stickball from time to time. We would all eventually get a little older, get married, and start our own families, but still we would get together for our fantasy baseball league every year. These were the type of friends where 10 years could go by without seeing each other and it would still be like we saw each other the day before. Getting together for fantasy baseball was our yearly ritual. We were all still the best of friends, but I was going to test those friendships the day I came out as transgender.
In the beginning, everyone seemed okay about the news, but no one had really seen me as myself yet. I was so scared of how they would react once they had seen me. I was at the beginning of my transition and I wondered how everything might change. Would I still even care about baseball in a few years from now? There were so many questions, none of which I had the answers to. I was worried I would be rejected or in like so many other cases in my life, my friends would just conveniently lose touch over time. There was so much that could go wrong, yet I had to see things through.
The first time we were all together was a little awkward, but that was probably mostly me and my own insecurity. In little to no time we all settled into things as if nothing had changed. If my friends were uncomfortable with me, they did a good job of not letting me see it. Looking back, I am not sure it could have gone any better. We were back to our usual joking and chiding each other while laughing like it were old times. I was truly lucky.
In spite of all that went well however, I was still worried about the future. I didn’t know how the prospect of transition and hormones would change me, or if they would at all. Of all the things that I knew that might change, my relationship with my rat pack was one that I hoped would not. I had no way of knowing what the future would hold.
“AND JUST LIKE MY FATHER AND I ALWAYS HAD, MY FRIENDS AND I WILL ALWAYS HAVE BASEBALL.”
In the years to come things would indeed change a bit, but mostly for the better. Each time we would get together I would notice my friends’ perspective towards me change in subtle ways. Everyone was just a little gentler with me. Hugs hello and goodbye were just a tad longer and seemed easier to be given from both sides. I also felt safer and protected being in their presence. There was no more awkwardness. Other than my gender and a few of these subtle things, nothing else really has changed. The jokes still fly between us. The laughs and smiles still come. And just like my father and I always had, my friends and I will always have baseball.
Over the years I can say at least with this group of friends, we have all settled in to the fact that I have transitioned. And though my gender presentation is different, everything else has remained pretty much the same. I can say of all the things I have failed at, I did a pretty good job with this group of my greatest friends. I have realized that though much will change in my journey to being the real me, the things who make me who I am don’t necessarily have to. Baseball is a part of who I am, it was a gift given to me by my father and carried on between my friends and to our own kids.
Though admittedly some of my perspectives on baseball have changed over the years, it still takes me back to my childhood. I also realized that gendering something such as baseball is a bunch of bull. Every year, my wife and I still make sure we take our daughters to a ball game. It has become a family tradition, and we are five women having a blast at the ball game.
My father has been gone for a few years now, but every opening day I still think of him. I think of all the time we spent together taking about this great game and the bond we had over it. I still feel that hope and have that sense of spring in the air. Deep down I hope one day he will give me a sign that he is watching over me by helping our favorite team to finally win a World Series. Now that would be something to see. It would truly be some kind of a miracle.