A few years ago, if you had asked me about the day I met J.K. Rowling, I probably would have mumbled something about how I told heard I liked to read just like Hermione and how much I loved this story. But that bit of history would have been slightly revisionist. I did say those things, but as I have finally grown up enough that I understand that the past is often embarrassing, especially when you’re talking teenaged years, but it happened, and that’s what makes it so hilarious. Okay, I guess I should start from the beginning.
The year was 1999. To put it in more significant chronological terms, this was the time just before the release of Goblet of Fire, and before the books had been made into movies. The mania, as well as my own super-fanaticism, had not yet fully hit. The place was
When my aunt and I arrived at the signing, Jo was already conversing with the audience. The small auditorium was filled to the brim and children and adults alike were clutching their Potter novels, unaware that these books were soon to become some of the last that Jo would be able to sign at an event this size. I approached the table, my nerves buzzing through my body. Jo has always been friendly with fans, but there is nothing that can cloud the distinct aura that emanates from her person. I have met several famous people by now (I lived in
I pushed my copies of Sorcerer’s Stone and Chamber of Secrets towards her, babbling about Hermione, when Jo caught sight of the heart-shaped necklace I was wearing. “Is that your family?” she said. I blushed profusely, wishing indeed it was my family, because that seemed like an idea almost from the books themselves. “Uh, no, it’s the Backstreet Boys, I really like them…” I trailed off. “Oh,” she nodded, clearly a bit disappointed in my answer. “No! She thinks I’m a loser!” I screamed in my head. The line was moving along and it was the next person’s turn. I wanted to say something about the Mirror of Erised. Potions. Quidditch. But I was down the steps of the stage and out the door before the horror and amazement had washed over me.
The Backstreet Boys used to be my favorite band and even after all these years, I still enjoy their songs. In fact, at that time, when I was 14, I would say that my fanaticism for them was nearly what it is for Harry Potter, today. As I grew up and discovered different kinds of music, I became increasingly embarrassed about what a big fan I’d been. When I was a senior in high school, I had a new group of friends who introduced me to punk and garage rock, and I lived in fear of being outed by my junior high friends, who I knew had not forgotten the days when I’d decorated my locker with a shirtless poster of AJ McLean. Not only that, but at the time, I lived as a female and had come out to all my friends as a lesbian and my attraction to men was something I had not even begun to understand and, at the time, could not accept within myself. It took years to reconcile the fact that my gender identity and my sexual identity had nothing to do with each other, to understand that I could be a boy born in a female body and be attracted to another boy. A few months ago, I related the story of the day I met Jo to one of my bosses. I gave her the unedited version: Backstreet Boys, Adidas bucket hat, and all. I said I wished I could have met her later, when I lived and breathed Potter, when I’d read the books a zillion times. She agreed, saying, “You were like a completely different person…I mean, the Backstreet Boys…” I asked why that surprised her, since she knew of my affinity for pop music. “Well, you must have looked a lot different, you know…” Oh. This is always a little uncomfortable. When I refer to my childhood, I always say, “when I was a kid…” not “when I was a little boy…” because to me, I was never a little boy. I don’t keep it a secret that I went to an all-girls school, but I do get embarrassed mentioning it. I try to be honest without putting myself through too much. But I think it’s the idea that sometimes people think that just because I played softball in high school instead of baseball, that I had somehow been someone else. My transition has always been not so much about change, but more about staying the same. I just want to be who I’ve always been. And I want to be honest about the way my life has been without feeling this totally pointless shame. There are some things that are sacred. For instance, unless you absolutely need to know, I don’t like anyone to know my birth name. I have this fear that once people know it, their perception of me will change. That’s not fair, and I hope that one day it won’t be such a big deal to me. But there are other things that I am proud to say now, freely. For instance: My name is Jon and when I met J.K. Rowling, we talked about the Backstreet Boys. There, that felt good.