She finds it curious but fitting—how the light that sneaks through the shutters guarding her bedroom windows creeps across the dresses and blouses hanging inside a closet without a door, as the sun sets behind her newly purchased house on a tract of land "in the middle of nowhere" between Raleigh and Durham.
For Grace Young, seeing the colors come to life as the sunlight hits the fabric is cathartic—and symbolic of her reluctant, ongoing journey out of the shadows.
"My other closet, William's closet, is in the guest room," she says. "It's the most depressing room in the house, doesn't even have a window. I didn't really plan it that way, but fuck if it isn't perfect, right?"
- Illustration by Steve Oliva
When you sit across a table from her, or walk through the rooms she has meticulously furnished with rustic farmhouse décor, you would never know Grace was born William—that the long, vibrant hair pouring out from under a trendy trucker hat isn't hers, and that she hasn't yet undergone the many surgeries she feels she needs to complete her transition.
"Go ahead and say it," she prods. "You can't believe I don't already have boobs. Let's just say I bought these ladies online. Isn't that crazy? They look great, right?"
Truth be told, everything about Grace is beautiful. Her hip-hugging designer jeans sit perfectly atop a pair of stilettos. She wears makeup but doesn't overdo it. You can tell she's carefully crafted her look, but that she's done so with a certain ease.
"I try to go for the Katie Holmes vibe," she says. "You know, without the whole Scientology drama."
Grace snickers, and then quickly points out that even the way she laughs is feminine. "There is nothing about me that doesn't scream 'I'm a woman,' right? Well, except for the whole I-was-born-with-a-penis thing."
Perhaps that's why, on the rare occasion when she feels comfortable going out on the town as a woman, she is bombarded with free drinks, subtle phone number slips, and compliments from women who have no idea she wears a suit and tie to the office—or that only a handful of people know who she really is.
"There is no way to put into words how depressing that can be," Grace says. "A part of you feels like you're on top of the world. I am finally being me and people are accepting it. But let's be honest. If they really knew what was under all this—I mean, this is still North Carolina. I'm ready—I have been ready for a long time—but I don't think this place is ready yet."