Life as a woman had always been Ming's wish—but there were aspects for which she was unprepared. "You just have these great and crazy experiences," she says. Shortly after Baxter was born, Ming was pushing him in a stroller past a tennis court in her neighborhood where two men were swatting a ball back and forth. "And I hear from behind me, 'Hey, Mom, the goods are lookin' good!' I wanted to turn around and just kick that guy right in the..." Ming laughs. "But I couldn't, because I couldn't get the smile off my face. I thought, 'Oh, finally! Finally I've been objectified!' It was gross, yes, but it had its own wonderfulness."
Then came a more subtle, and more significant, moment in Ming's journey to sisterhood. "I was walking down the street and this woman was holding her baby while trying to open a stroller. I said, 'Can I help you open the stroller?' And she said, 'Oh, thank you so much.' And she hands me the baby." As she tells this story, Ming's beaming expression is laced with incredulity.
But though Ming went through her transition with the support of most of her family and colleagues, and though it spelled the end of her depression and insomnia and sense of dislocation, and though she had the unflagging encouragement of her wife, and though the experience represents the culmination of every deeply held wish Evan ever had—because, as transition stories go, Ming's is "a fairy tale," her sister says—she hastens to stress just how difficult the process was for her, for her family, for Norma. "If my son came to me years from now," Ming says, "and told me, 'I'm gay,' I'd say, 'That's wonderful, I'm so glad you know who you are.' But if he said, 'I want to be a woman,' I would say, 'Ahhh. This is gonna be hard. Let's get started.' Because it doesn't matter that that's where happiness lies—it's on the other side of a lot of struggle."
If Evan Smith hadn't gone through his own struggle to reach the happiness on the other side, and if circumstances hadn't aligned to guide him toward his highest potential, his life would have ended up in a very different place. But he was up to the fight, and his circumstances did align, and because of that, each day Vivienne Ming wakes up grateful that the coin toss landed in her favor, that fate and science and her conviction conspired to give her the life she deserved.
And then she goes to work.
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