Widgets Magazine


The Transitive Property: Notes From a Fourth-Year Freshman

As a freshman resident assistant (RA), I have the honor of taking part in people’s emotional development—watching them learn and grow, experiencing the first triumphs and disappointments, cheering with them, mourning with them. Although it’s only the third week of the quarter, I’m ready to admit that being an RA has perhaps been the most rewarding experience for me at Stanford so far.

But I do have a confession to make. I almost turned down the job.

Don’t get me wrong. I did want to become a frosh RA. I had wanted this job since I was a freshman, more than anything. I know how competitive the RA job application process is, and I am thankful that someone thought I’d do a good job. However, in the face of transitioning, I wasn’t sure if becoming an RA would be a good choice.

For a while, I debated whether or not I should turn down the RA gig if I decided to pursue hormone replacement therapy and my legal-name change. This would be my first full year at Stanford as Cristopher—I had not come out as trans until winter quarter sophomore year, and spent most of my junior year overseas—so in a way, I am as much a freshman as those I’d be looking after.

I figured it would be stressful enough to go through transitioning by myself. It would be even more stressful to do it by myself in front of all these people. I wasn’t sure if I was ready to commit, because if I failed—and I would be failing in front of 85 freshmen—I honestly wouldn’t know what to do. And having a failure for an RA probably would not be the best message in their first year of college, would it?

But after some deliberation, I decided that I was going to take the job. I knew that it probably was going to be difficult, but being an RA had been important to me for years, and I wasn’t going to let some stupid man issues get in the way.

That still didn’t keep me from feeling terrified of failure, though. When move-in day came, I was introduced to 85 residents. Although they had their own personalities, their likes, their dislikes, their aspirations, they all were like me. No, not with the whole hormone or legal-name change stuff (at least, not so far). But they all, like me, had their own deep-seated, almost paralyzing fears—fears of failure, of letting loved ones down, of not getting the most of the Stanford experience.

Yet regardless of those fears, my residents decided to come to Stanford anyway, to take everything head-on. It was surprising when I realized that I could learn something from my residents so early on in the term.

I learned it’s ok to be scared. It’s a matter of whether or not you run away.

I’m still finding myself, still figuring out which words apply to me, still figuring out how I will handle the rest of my transition and how far I plan to go. But despite the uncertainty, I take comfort in the fact that my residents and I are on the same journey. I am glad that out of all the people I would get stuck with for the year, I could not have thought of anyone better.

I know my freshmen will grow into good people, and it does not matter how they identify, what nouns or adjectives they use to describe themselves. What matters is that they care about the world, that they learn how to love and how to respect people. I’m not sure if they’re learning from me as much as I am learning from them.

So this column is for you, Serra. Thanks for showing me the epitome of Serra love by reading my column, listening to me and talking to me. As much as I am ashamed to say it, the Class of 2014 may actually become the next great class (following closely behind ’89 and ’11, of course). Thanks for making an old senior feel welcome again.

Share the freshman love. E-mail Cristopher Bautista at cmsb@stanford.edu.