On May 11, 2013, Darcy Corbitt was born at 21 years of age.
With her friends gone for the summer, Corbitt moved a couch, three bookshelves and more than 350 books into an apartment to start her new life.
She had $70 in her checking account. It was the day before her birthday.
The Auburn University senior no longer wanted to go by her birth name, David Hall. She wanted to start again as Darcy.
“When I was really little, 3, 4, I thought I was a girl,” Corbitt said. “I went by a girl’s name in my mind, but I never told anyone because I knew it was socially unacceptable.”
Corbitt struggled with such feelings throughout her childhood and said despite being born biologically male, she never felt like a man.
“I tried to be that person for 18 years and it didn’t fit me,” Corbitt said.
With help from her friends, she began exploring the idea of living as a woman.
Bonnie Wilson in the Women’s Initiatives Office said she recalled a poignant conversation about gender identity with Corbitt when she still went by David.
“I asked her, ‘if there weren’t any barriers, what would you be?’” Wilson said. “And (Corbitt) said, ‘a woman.’ And I said, ‘then that’s what you are.’”
“My whole life, all the decisions I’ve ever made, I’ve made for love.”
Corbitt said she also credits Spectrum, Auburn’s Gay-Straight Alliance, with helping her come to understand her identity.
“If I didn’t have the GSA, I don’t know what I would have done,” Corbitt said. “I’d have probably killed myself.”
When she still used the name David, Corbitt said she came within seconds of committing suicide after being outed as someone attracted to men.
“The only thing stopping me was I couldn’t break the razor blade out of my razor,” Corbitt said.
“I just kind of thought that was funny. I laughed, and I thought, ‘I can’t really kill myself. I’ve got so much I can do in the world.’”
Corbitt fully accepted being Darcy last May, on her 21st birthday.
The transition hasn’t been easy. Some friends offered minimal support for her new public identity.
Corbitt said her best friend from high school, a girl who drove three hours from the University of Montevallo to see her during their freshman year, unfriended her on Facebook last summer.
“You post a lot of gay stuff,” Corbitt said the friend told her.
Corbitt said she recently ran into her former best friend. When Corbitt tried to start a conversation, the friend showed little pleasure in seeing her.
Other groups have reacted differently to the news.
Corbitt sent an email to every professor she’s worked with in the past to let them know about the change.
The faculty responded with immediate and overwhelming support.
“The University was really classy about it,” Corbitt said.
Today, Corbitt said she embraces her identity as a woman. She dresses in a women’s suit with thick-frame glasses, a red-and-orange scarf and a purple shirt to match her purple wristwatch.
Silver eye shadow and lipstick adorn her face. Her fingernails bear pink Ballet Slippers nail polish, which she said she fidgets with when nervous.
Her friends admire the change, citing its positive effects.
“I saw how it truly made her happy to do that,” said Alyssa Patterson, a junior who shared English classes with Corbitt. “She’s so much more confident in who she is.”
In conversation, Corbitt appears confident. She laughs easily and jokes about blasting “Dancing Queen” by ABBA, her favorite song, at annoying neighbors.
In her new life, the senior majoring in English and psychology serves as director of social affairs for Spectrum, an advocacy group for lesbian, bisexual, gay and transgender (LBGT) students.
Corbitt said she hopes to attend graduate school to become a therapist for LBGT teens.
Her friends spoke highly of her academic work.
“She’s a good G–d— student,” said Kelly Tsaltas, senior in psychology.
Corbitt’s peers said they also admire her intelligence.
“She’s really smart and cognizant in how people think and feel and express themselves,” Wilson said.
Corbitt said she would prefer to remain at Auburn for graduate school, but thinks she’ll probably attend another institution.
Until she leaves, she also wants to stay close to her parents. They declined to comment for this story.
Corbitt said she understands her transition has been difficult for her mother and father, but she would have been unhappy any other way.
“My whole life, all the decisions I’ve ever made, I’ve made for love,” Corbitt said. “I came out for myself, the second time because I wanted to be happy.”
Why it’s a highlight:
This is the best story I’ve ever written. The characterization, the material, everything just works.
The Plainsman editor at the time, Kelsey Davis, made a bold choice and put this on the front page, above the fold. Remember, this was fall 2013. Most people couldn’t tell you what “transgender” meant if you asked, and Auburn is still a conservative school in a conservative town.
The story was a huge hit and got picked up by AL.com. Apparently it made one of our photographers cry.
It was also responsible for passing transgender protections into university law at Auburn. The Gay-Straight Alliance had been trying to get protections for trans people passed for three years. They got the bill all the way to President Jay Gouge’s desk and there it sat for a year. Four days after we published Darcy’s story, Gouge signed the bill.