Being Emily

by Rachel Gold

They say that whoever you are it’s okay, you were born that way. Those words don’t comfort Emily, because she was born Christopher and her insides know that her outsides are all wrong.

They say that it gets better, be who you are and it’ll be fine. For Emily, telling her parents who she really is means a therapist who insists Christopher is normal and Emily is sick. Telling her girlfriend means lectures about how God doesn’t make that kind of mistake.

Emily desperately wants high school in her small Minnesota town to get better. She wants to be the woman she knows is inside, but it’s not until a substitute therapist and a girl named Natalie come into her life that she believes she has a chance of actually Being Emily.

A story for anyone who has ever felt that the inside and outside don’t match and no one else will understand…

“Powerful and empowering, with an optimistic message that we all need more of in our lives. I’m thrilled to see this book is out in the world.”—Kate Bornstein, author of Gender Outlaw and A Queer and Pleasant Danger




Earn up to 1 Bella Bucks Points.



Genre LGBT Young Adult
Length 210
Publication Date June 15, 2012
Publisher Bella Books
ISBN 9781594932830e
Editor Katherine V. Forrest
Cover Designer Kristin Smith and Judith Fellows


  • Rachel Gold's long ties to the LGBT Community of Minneapolis inspired her to write this novel for young adults. It is the kind of novel that saves lives.
  • No matter how someone identifies their gender, many of us in the LGBT family know that feeling of the person on the inside not (yet) showing on the outside.
  • Read the appetizer! Click to open a PDF in a new window.


GCLS Goldie Awards
Being Emily
, Dramatic/General Fiction.

  Moonbeam Children's Awards
Being Emily
Gold Medal
, Young Adult - Mature Issues.

Lambda Literary Awards
Being Emily — Finalist!

Young Adult Services Library Association
Being Emily 2013 Collection Recommendation

The Magpie Librarian
Speaking as a teen librarian, Miss Ingrid writes, "Gold, however, is incredibly adept at making the reader understand what life is like for Emily,who is navigating the world in a body that just doesn’t feel like it’s hers. She’s got some allies, like her girlfriend, but has so many more obstacles preventing her from being comfortable, let alone happy and fulfilled."

I couldn't put it down... It’s not a sad or angst-ridden story at all. Instead it feels incredibly honest, and there are moments of joy, anger, and sorrow, laced together in a way that will make you cry and laugh along with the characters. It doesn’t shy away from the hardship but it also doesn’t make the claim that this hard stuff is all a trans person’s life is ever... All in all, I think this is an excellent book that captures an honest, painful, but ultimately hopeful and joyful story of a young trans teen.

I'm With Geek
It is filled with raw courage and emotion, and it is a genuine page-turner that will have you gripped until the very last word... Teenage life is hard enough as it is, but through reading Gold's work, you forget your own experiences and become inexplicably in tune with Emily and how pained every day is for her to portray herself as a teenage boy. To not be able to look in a mirror, to be unable to be free. -- Olivia Grey

Lambda Literary Review
Engrossed...Enchanted... Rachel Gold has crafted an extraordinarily poignant novel in Being Emily... The unique mechanism of depicting Emily’s speech as computer code is striking, defining the character distinctively. The careful and deliberate spacing of Claire’s chapters are extraordinary; resulting is a pacing of action that is gripping. There is definitely gold to be found in this well-constructed novel.

It's rare to read a novel that's involving, tender, thought-provoking and informative... What's impressive is Gold's delicacy in handling the physicality of Emily's story. She smoothly navigates the more intimate parts of Emily's transformation. And the author can bring you to tears as you read about Emily's struggle with gender identity.

My Life in Neon
...Rather than being a rehashing of tired tropes with no resemblance to actual experience, Emily’s story is instead too familiar to the journey so many of us embark upon to make for a comfortable read... Gold’s storytelling dances deftly along my rawest nerves, which tells me she took the time to really learn more than just the superficial fluff that often characterizes stories about trans people. If it were comfortable to read a story so eerily similar to my own, then I don’t think I could have enjoyed it as much as I did.

Frivolous Views
The back of the book lists Being Emily as “Fiction: LGBT/Young Adult.” I agree that this is a fantastic YA novel – for the Emilys of the world and for the Claires of the world. But, more than that, it’s a book for parents. It’s a book for teachers. It’s a book for peers. It’s a tool for teaching or it’s a tool for self discovery.

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