One of the most enviable things about being trans is having the chance to rename yourself — just ask any Bertha, Blue Ivy or Elmer. But Temple grad student AJ Young was robbed of his opportunity when destiny decided to swoop in and do the job for him. The name “Andrew James” was always in the back of his mind, because that’s what his parents were going to name him if he “came out of the womb looking like a boy,” but he didn’t want to settle for the first thing to pop into his mind. It had to be right.
In a coffee shop one afternoon, the Chicago native decided to look up the definitions of the names “Andrew” and “James.” His first query revealed that “Andrew” means “man or warrior.” OK. Good start. But get this: James means “one who takes the place of.” Put the two together and you’ve got “a man or warrior who takes the place of.” Crazy, huh? “It was one of those moments when everything went a little quiet,” he says. “The universe just said ‘this is right.’”
Fittingly enough, A Man Who Takes the Place Of is also the name of a new documentary web series that chronicles Young’s transformation from woman to man. Created and directed by Temple filmmaker Samuel Angus Campbell, the series begins with Young — who, at the time, is a smooth-skinned lady named Catherine — contemplating his change before going in for his first shot of testosterone. The second episode zooms forward in time six months, where we find Young with facial hair and speaking in a much deeper voice. “That was a crazy six months. There were days and weeks when nothing happened, then all of a sudden my voice dropped. I felt like I was a teenage boy going through puberty.”
So far there are two episodes available (both can be seen below) and at least three more in the works. Upcoming offerings will catch up with AJ during a visit from his sister and will even follow him to his chest surgery scheduled at the end of May. The crew also hopes to fly to Chicago to interview Young’s family, an element the series’ star hopes will add a more-personal angle everyone can connect with. “The biggest thing that I want [the series] to be is something that people can watch and relate to,” he says. “A lot of stuff I’m going through is specific to being trans, but it’s also about being a person.”
The crew of A Man Who Takes the Place Of is currently hosting a fund drive to help pay for their tickets to Chicago. Anything left over will go to Young for his chest surgery. To help them out, visit their Indiegogo profile. You can also follow Young on his blog or via Twitter. He encourages anyone to reach out with questions about trans email@example.com.