a trans kid responds to this prompt rather sarcastically
you do not quite know what would qualify as the opposite of agender, but you believe this is the genderfluid experience; a rush of genders ranging from female to male to god-knows-what and you wonder if this is synonymous to living as a binary trans person. you are meant to be here, that is for sure. but, specifically here? encompassed by specifically this wave of identity? no, that’s bullshit. far too overwhelming in ways that you are quite not used to; absence of gender is fleeting, so what’s this? sinking? well, you’ve lived your life posing as a woman for so long. swallowing the she’s, the her’s; surely, this is not anymore complex. just suck it up, live for today, and you’ll have an opportunity to let your emotions flow at 3am in the queer groupchat. you’re fine.
you glance at the mirror as if something magical may happen. nope. you still wear a “female” body; you look an awful lot like your mom’s terrible freshman photo hung on the living room wall; lanky cropped and posed and something you can’t quite place but you know it’s in the eyes. like you’ve looked yesterday. oh, how humorous! appearance has never been indicative of gender in your life; why would some silly prompt change that?
How was my day? You wouldn’t believe me if I told you
I was appalled as I stared unblinking in the mirror. My husband kept biting his lips not to laugh, clearly unfazed and, unbelievably entertained.
“How can you laugh?” I asked in my new baritone. He burst out laughing again.
“How can you not laugh? This is priceless. All these years I’ve always said you were more like a guy than a woman and now, here we are.”
“Not funny! You were talking about my attitude not…not… this!” I shouted, cringing at the sound of my voice and the new appendage staring back at me in the mirror.
“But you bringin’ sexy back, yeah!” he started singing Timberlake’s old song and wiggling his hips.
“Are you nuts??? How are we going to explain this to people? What will we tell Tommy? Hey sweetie, Mom woke up a man this morning. But don’t worry, she’s…he’s…still your mom. What the heck? And what about my mom? She’s going to flip.”
“Tommy will be fine. You know him. He takes everything in stride. And your mom doesn’t know who you are anyway any more so what difference does it make?"
“Wasn’t trying to be funny, babe. It’s the truth.” He put his arm around me. He was still bigger than me. I had a nice build, but I was a little guy. LOL. A little guy. “We’ll get through this. I mean, you woke up and boom, beard and balls. Maybe you’ll wake up tomorrow and it will be boom, boobs are back.” He tried not to laugh. Unsuccessfully.
“We can only hope,” I sighed. “In the meantime, what do we do?”
“Go with the flow, babe. Act like everything is normal.”
“I am NOT having sex with you!”
“Hahahahaha! You’re not my type, babe. Sorry. No offense.” He kissed my cheek. “I kind of get why you always want me to shave before I kiss you.” He started laughing again.
“Shut. Up.” I left the bathroom. “I’m going to the gym.”
“Hey,” he shouted as he turned on the shower. “Watch out for the women! You’re a real hottie. Fresh meat!”
I slammed the bedroom door.
And then I immediately opened it, running back to the bathroom.
“I can’t go to the gym! This body does not have a membership there.”
Hoots from behind the shower curtain.
“Give me a sec. I’ll bring you as a guest and then go to work from there. Okay?”
“Who am I? I have no ID as this, this…aaaaaah!” I ended on a groan.
“We’ll say you’re your brother and you were robbed while clubbing last night and don’t have any ID right now.”
“I don’t have a brother!”
“Babe, you’re also not a guy most of the time,” he cracked up laughing again.
“Maybe I’ll just stay home and try to sleep and see if I’m me again when I wake up.”
He turned off the water.
“Don’t give in to the invisible forces at work! Take the bull by the horns! Go out there and live it up as a guy!” He said as he toweled off. “Look at it as an opportunity to see how the other half lives. Haven’t you ever wondered what it would be like to be a guy?”
I rolled my eyes. “You wouldn’t be this chipper if you woke up as a woman.”
“Maybe, maybe not. But that’s not what we’re dealing with here.” He put his hands on my shoulder. “Don’t worry, babe. Everything will be fine.” Then he hugged me. My little guy woke up. Awkward!
“Oh my god!” I screeched (a baritone man screech), pushing my husband away.
“I’m sorry, hon,” he said practically crying from laughing so hard as he walked into our bedroom. “You’ll have to learn to control that.” More laughter. “Think about, puppies and kittens and babies or something.”
“I hate you!” I said.
“Clearly, you love me,” he replied, gagging on his laughter.
He got me into the gym no problem. Everyone at the front desk was really nice to my brother, telling me what a nice sister I have, always smiling and cheerful. It was pleasantly weird and then awkward when one said, “I thought Gabrielle was an only child?”
“Ha ha,” I respond, “she probably likes to think so, but, no such luck. She’s stuck with me.”
It got worse.
I have always prided myself on being able to appreciate both feminine and masculine beauty. I soon discovered that that may not be something you do when you’re new to being a man. Or ever as a man. Think adolescent boy in front of a class at school, his crush smiles at him and all of a sudden, his pants have a tent out front. Yep. The hottest woman at the gym walked by in what anyone else would consider lycra underwear, breasts spilling out of the top, hanging over a six pack belly. I smiled as she walked by and felt a little tingly down below. She looked at me like she ate something nasty and kept walking. At the same time, I realized the tingling was more like a rush…and I immediately put my gym bag in front of me, surely eight shades of purple at this point.
I walk/ran to the locker room, oops, sorry ladies, turned around and ran into the men’s locker room and sat on the nearest bench. Puppies, kittens, babies, puppies, kittens, babies.
“You okay, dude?”
I look up, and the sex god of the gym is standing in front of me. Naked. Well hung does not begin to describe what I was looking at. Directly in front of me. I dragged my eyes upward and said, “Yeah, thanks.”
“You sure? You look a little uptight. You need to relax some. I’m heading to the sauna. Want to come with?”
At which point I notice that he is GROWING right before my eyes. Sex god is gay?!?! Inside I squeal and think there would be some really disappointed women in the gym. At the same time, I grab my bag, scoot up and away from IT, and say, “Uh, no, but thanks, really. I’m not a fan of saunas. But, um, have a good time. Bye!” the last said as I ran out the door.
I managed to run ten miles on the treadmill, stretch and leave the gym without any more mishaps. Thank god.
As per my usual, I stopped at Starbucks on my way home.
“Hey, Chris!” I said to my favorite barista.
“Hey,” he replied politely to the stranger that was me. I forgot.
“I’ll have a grande hot chocolate, please.”
“Right away. That will be $4.57.”
I show him the app on my phone. He scans it. Then he looks at me suspiciously. “Whose phone is that?”
“Mine,” I say.
“I don’t think so,” he says a little menacingly.
Oh, right. “I should say, it’s my sister’s. She loaned it to me because, uh, I was robbed last night and I have no phone, no money or ID right now.”
“Gabrielle doesn’t have any siblings,” he says looking like he’s about to come around the counter and make me submit. (Note: Chris is a body builder when he’s not making diabetes-inducing coffee drinks). I think, jeez, have I told the whole world I am an only child?
I say, “It’s a long story. Forget the hot chocolate. Thanks, bye!” and run out of the store.
I hop in the car and drive to the supermarket. There’s a Starbucks in there and I can get my morning hot chocolate and pick up some groceries. Duh! I should have done that in the first place.
I grab a basket as I enter the store and saunter over to the Starbucks counter.
“May I help you?”
“Grande hot chocolate, please.”
I hold up my phone, think better of it and hand her a $5 bill.
“Here’s your change, sir,” she says, smiling sweetly. “I’ll have your drink ready in a moment.”
I look around for a guy and realize I am sir, smile and say, “Thanks, miss.”
I roam around the supermarket with my hot chocolate, picking up what I need. In the meat department, a pretty young woman smiles at me a little sultrily, sticks out her chest, licks her lips and asks me what’s the best cut of beef to grill.
“Uh, personally, I like skirt or hanger steak; but, I suspect most people prefer ribeye or porterhouse. Of course, you can’t go wrong with filet mignon.” By this time, she was way into my personal space.
“Thanks. My name is Lily.” She put out her hand for me to shake and held on as she continued. “I’m having some friends over tonight for a barbecue…I would love to have you…”
Tingling, I pulled my hand back and said, “Um, thanks? But, um, my hus…my spouse and I have plans. You have a great day, Lily!” I spun around and headed for check out.
Would this day never end?
At home, I put the groceries away, put the coffee on and then went to shower…where I discovered the only perk to being a guy. Just saying, I could get used to that.
Dressed and in front of my computer with my coffee, I responded to emails, rescheduled my 12:00 Zoom call for the following week (tomorrow might be too soon; I was hopeful that eventually I would be me again) and edited two reports.
Around 3:00, the doorbell rang. I debated not answering. I should have listened to that little voice. It was my neighbor, Jean.
“Hi, Jean,” I said.
“Um, hi. Who are you?” How stupid can I get?
“I’m Gabrielle’s broth- friend. She had to step out for a while. Can I help you?”
“Oh. I just wanted to see if I could borrow the lawn mower. My grass is out of control.”
“I’m sure that wouldn’t be a problem. Even better,” I continued, now excited about being a guy, “I can do it for you.”
“Oh, no, that’s fine. I’ll do it,” she replied, looking a little uncomfortable.
“I would love to! And I know Gabrielle and Evan would never forgive me if I didn’t help you out.”
She smiled, “Evan’s great. He always lends everyone on the block a hand.” She paused, looking in my eyes. “Okay, if you really don’t mind, thanks. I’m at 10 Kingsland – three houses down on the left.”
“I know. I mean, Okay, be there in five.”
It was a hot day, so I pulled an Evan and stripped off my shirt mid-mowing. I was dripping. I thought I looked pretty good with the sprinkling of hair on my chest, hard belly (albeit sans six-pack) and nicely muscled arms. I’m bringing sexy back, yeah!
When I finished, Jean came out with a tall glass of something cold. Had she changed her clothes? I didn’t remember seeing that much cleavage before. I wiped my sweaty face with my shirt.
“Hey, thanks so much,” she said as she handed me the glass. “Lemonade,” she continued, preempting my question. And then, “I realized, I don’t even know your name.”
“Thanks. Oh, um, My name. I have a name. And it’s a boy’s name.”
“Mulan,” she said, laughing.
“Haha, yeah. Tommy loved that movie growing up.”
“My girls, too. And what is your boy’s name?” she said with a smile.
“Oh, um, Steve. Steve, um, Smith. Yeah, Steve Smith.”
“Well, would you like to come sit on the porch for a bit, Steve Smith? It’s cooler there,” Jean asked with what I finally realized was a bit of a flirtatious voice. She touched my arm.
I tingled. Crap. I gulped down the lemonade. “Great lemonade, Jean! Thanks! Raincheck on the porch. Gotta go! Bye!” I said as I pushed the lawn mower down the street.
“Hope to see you again, Steve!” she said waving from her driveway.
Home again, I took another shower. There is more than one reason teenage boys take multiple showers a day.
When Evan came home, I briefed him on my day (to shouts of laughter) and suggested we cancel our reservations and just eat at home.
“C’mon babe. We’ve been looking forward to trying this new restaurant for weeks!”
“Evannnnnn,” I whined…whining doesn’t sound the same in baritone.
“It’ll be great. No one to recognize you and your lack of siblings, good food, good drinks, we come home, go to sleep and with any luck you wake up tomorrow and everything is back to normal.”
We actually did manage to have a delicious meal without meeting anyone we knew. The waitress flirted with both of us. I thought it was amusing. He got jealous. Seriously. Jealous.
“You know we’re still married, babe, right?” he whispered.
“What? Of course. Why would you even ask that?”
“You’re flirting with the waitress.”
I laughed out loud. “Uh, no. She’s flirting with me. And with you. You don’t see me getting all caveman on you, do you?”
“I’m not a caveman. I know what I know. Are you finished? Let’s get the check.”
“Wow! Are you serious? Evan, I am your wife. I am not flirting with the waitress.”
“Fine. Whatever. I’m tired. Let’s go home.”
Could this day be over? Please!
The waitress brought the check, we paid, we left.
We drove home in silence.
Getting ready for bed, I said, “I’m sorry you’re upset. I really wasn’t flirting.”
“It’s okay. It was just a weird evening, I think.”
“Ha, you should have been me all day. It was one for the books.”
“How do we do this?”
“What? Put your head on the pillow, close your eyes…”
“You know what I mean. We always cuddle…”
“Ah, well, I’m still your wife, despite the little guy.”
He laughed. “Yeah. Soooo weird. C’mere, babe.”
“We are not having sex,” I said.
“Yeah, no, we’re not. But we are going to cuddle.”
I turned out the light and he curved himself around me. Soon, we were both asleep.
In the morning, I looked down and I had breasts again and no little guy. As I turned over to face him, I said, “Evan! I’m back!” Then, I groaned, “Oh no. No no no no no no no no no no.”
Next to me was a beautiful woman.
Opposite of Nonbinary
Infinity. Every digit, fractorial, and irrational figure known to mankind.
Neon, tie-died, gammarays rocketing faster than an eye can register, making everything whole.
Taylor awoke with a grin. The infinite dreams were always their favorite. When everyone could appreciate the complexities of nature intertwined in a single breath, Taylor felt the most at home.
They stretched, threw on the clothes from the top of their dresser drawers, then hopped down the stairs for breakfast.
"Good morning!" called a voice from the kitchen. "Would you like milk or cereal?"
Taylor raised an eyebrow. "Um, both?"
A snort of laughter came in response. "Both! Taylor you have the best sense of humor. Not like those kids who take things seriously. You're a funny one!" A box of Corn Flakes dropped unceremoniously onto the table in front of Taylor. They gave it a hesitant glance.
"Parents can be weird," they thought to themself. "And it's early." Not wanting to make too big of a deal out of it, they poured a handful into a Ziploc baggie before dashing out to the bus.
On the bus, Taylor wedged into the seat next to their best friend, Brianna. "What are you wearing?" Bri asked, nose crinkling.
"Clothes?" Taylor replied honestly.
Brianne shook her long braids in disgust. "That combination, though?" She gestured at Taylor's black pants and white v-neck.
"We don't all dress like you," Taylor said, waving at Bri's usual get-up of black cargo pants, black suspenders, black crop top, and black hoodie, topped off with black eyeliner and black nails.
"Whatever," Bri shrugged. Taylor looked around the bus. A surprising number of their classmates were in fact dressed like Bri: black shirts, black pants. Even more surprising were the number of kids dressed in all white: white sneakers, white shorts, white polo shirts. Taylor never had anything against black or white. They assumed people always just wore whatever made them happy. This was... unusual.
As they entered the school, Taylor's mind felt foggy. They dug their class schedule out of their bag and blinked. For the entire day, there was only one word written: "Science."
"Bri, this doesn't look right," Taylor said, passing the book over to her.
"Of course it does," Bri responded with a glance. "You're on the science track. What else would it say?"
Taylor grabbed their planner back and vigorously started flipping through the pages. "Science, science, science, science, science" each day was the same. "What if I don't want to be a scientist, Bri?"
"You're on the science track, Tay. What else would would you be?" Taylor thought of art, literature, math, gym, history, music and all the possible futures they'd imagined pursuing in each of them. Tears started to well in Taylor's eyes. They felt as if their entire world had been stripped away. They didn't oppose science per say; it just felt as if they were stuffed into a tiny box that didn't fit. "Hey, I'm here, Tay," Brianna consoled as she saw Taylor's lip start to quiver. "I don't understand, but whatever is going on, I'll be there." She gripped Taylor's hands.
Taylor looked at the polish beginning to fleck away from Bri's nails then up at mass of black and white uniformed bodies in the halls. They nodded. Their stomach grumbled, and they reached into their bag for the crumbled bag of Corn Flakes. "Come on," they said. "We need to go to the cafeteria."
Fishing coins from hidden crevices in their bag (and Bri's giant pants pockets),Taylor slowly fed change into the vending machine and typed in their selection. Out popped a carton of 2% milk. "Watch this," they told Bri.
Carefully opening all four corners of the carton, Taylor unsnapped their Ziploc and poured the cereal into the milk. Bri giggled, eyes wide with fascination. "Now this," Taylor said, retrieving a spoon. They cautiously dunked the plastic spoon into the milky, cereal goodness and offered Bri the first bite.
"Wow," Bri breathed after a gulp. "That was --"
"Delicious?" Taylor asked.
Bri nodded. "It was crunchy and juicy, sweet and refreshing. It was like the milk and the cereal, combined, both made each other better."
"I like combinations," Taylor said.
Bri smiled, and Taylor grinned back. Taylor reached into their backpack and pulled out a long, multihued hoodie with iridescent stripes, kaleidoscopic spots, and a shimmering checkerboard underlay. They put it on over their white t-shirt and black pants.
"Ready?" Bri asked. Taylor nodded Then, hand-in-hand, they walked to the guidance counselor's office to talk about diversifying their schedule.
She walks into the bar, her long hair tied back in twenty-six different braids. Laughing, chatting, leaning over the drinks that keep being sent to her from lone men hoping to catch her eye. While she is percieved as calm and relaxed, her iceberg of emotions extends far beneath the water.
Nervousness floats near the surface, the kind of electrical anxiousness that occurs when you hear footsteps behind you in the last one-hundred meters of the race. The this has to work, there’s no way it won’t type of nervousness. But running through, around and under that electric current is a cloud of elation, the heady feeling of pulling off the impossible. It’s the feeling of a first kiss, or a perfect score. A rushing, wild joy that courses through her body like lightning. She crosses her legs and is amazed at the changes, immediately beset with an overwhelming and directionless gratitude that solidifies the cloud of elation.
At the very bottom of the emotional iceberg is a layer that in many other people would be decades old, shoring up the very foundations of their beings. Hers is new and thin, but it grows steadily every second she spends with her makeup, her scratchy, cheap bra, her high heels and her shaved legs. It’s a layer of satisfaction, of the absence of wrongness. It is her knowing that no matter what she will be comfortable in her own body.
She never found out what powers that be reached into her heart and found her true being, but the water in which the iceberg floats is determination, a vow that she will never have to hide who she is again.
Being a Man
I woke up, yawning, and noticed that I had quite a bit more hair on my arms. I thought that was unusual, so I strolled down to the bathroom to look in the mirror. I jolted. My reflection was that of a man with a short haircut staring back at me.
I figured I didn't have to worry about my looks anymore. It was about my personality, my intellect, and my wit, so I just threw on a t-shirt and jeans, then put on my socks and sneakers.
I thought I might go fishing this afternoon. Everyone would just assume I could cast, and no one would objectify me, so this really was a great opportunity. I wondered how long it would last.
The next day, I grabbed my gun and went hunting. Again, no one batted an eye. I shot a buck, came back home, and skinned it. I hung it up for four days, and, to my surprise, I was still a man when it was ready to cook.
I invited my friends over. My girlfriends were rather impressed and my guy friends kept ribbing me, saying I could do a better job but it was still pretty good. I figured they were probably just jealous.
Friday night, I decided to go to a party. I bought myself a suit and tie with my two guy friends, Mark and Lukas, and we made sexist jokes about getting laid the entire time we were shopping. They were much funnier when I wasn't a woman.
I went to the party and fucked three chicks. No one thought I was easy. No one thought I was a slut. The women all said I was quite handsome. Sarah got a bit attached and said that she thought I loved her and I apologized, saying maybe I would if we hung out more, but I just wasn't sure yet, which seemed to turn her on even more. Being a guy was so much easier.
My reputation was better instead of worse. No one judged me. In fact, the guys just congratulated me and bought me more drinks. I went to work at the firm and the lawyers I'd been working with forever, who were all men, suddenly thought that my ideas were absolutely brilliant, even though they'd simply dismissed my extremely similar ideas the week before when I was a woman. I was even up for a raise, and learned that women were indeed paid 80 cents to the dollar at this particular company. I was making significantly more than I used to. I wished that I could be a man forever.
Most mornings, I can feel the warm air wafting in through the window above my bed. Heat doesn’t bother me. Not anymore. I’ve spent my graduate summer at my parents, and my body’s got used to the high thirties weather.
This morning, I wake up sweltering. My face feels hairy and scratchy, pyjama bottoms tight. I know something is different the moment I open my eyes. There’s something warm and hard between my legs. When I move my arm back so I can sit up, I bang my elbow, hard, on the headboard.
‘Ow,’ I mutter, but my voice comes out like gravel. I wonder if I have a cold coming on, and experiment again.
‘Ow,’ I say, louder. Not my voice. It sounds a bit like my brother’s, but croakier. I sit up.
I feel lighter than usual. Where is the swing and weight of my breasts, coming down to settle stickily against my skin? My shoulders feel further away from me, too. My arms are hairy, my wrists thicker than I remember, with long square fingers. And there, sitting in my lap, is the infamous morning glory. I take a peek to make sure.
Dread mounting in the pit of my stomach. I look for a small hand mirror. Out of bed I stumble, I can’t remember my knees ever jutting out this much. I left the mirror lying on my desk when I checked my freshly plucked eyebrows last night.
My eyebrows are unrecognisable. My face is mine and not mine. I look a lot like my brother, but even more like myself. I recognise the nose from pictures of my father when he was young. Beneath the nose is a very bushy, unkempt, caveman beard.
I rack my brain for some explanation. Some reason for this Freaky Friday calamity. I can’t think of anyone I’ve been particularly mean to, nor can I remember an instance in which I’ve made any kind of wish in the past week which could have led to this. I haven’t even listened to the song ‘If I was a boy’ in years. I have a non-binary sibling, who I infinitely respect, I really do, so I can’t imagine that they could have cursed me with this, could they? Could they?
Everyone knows I love being a woman. I love the women I know, the companionship, the will you come to the bathroom with me?-you’re amazing friendships. The support, the kindness, the freedom and respect with which we treat each other.
The never being too threatening, playing with other people’s (adorable) kids without it ever being weirdo, the welcome and trust you get from people you’ve just met.
I love the dressing up, the dresses, the lack of judgement from your peers whenever you feel like being a different kind of woman. I love being the same gender as Virginia Woolf and Mother Theresa and Rosa Parks, and countless womxn I have met, who invited me into their homes and taught me so much, trusting me in a way they didn’t trust men, simply because I was a woman.
And, controversial—I even like being condescended to, the endless rambles of old men, because I can smile and be polite and learn a lot more, make a great impression with minimal effort, than if they’d allowed me to dominate the conversation. I love exceeding expectations, choosing to be kind over being right. I love my envelope of flesh, too, the hands with which I can caress women and children’s hair in trusted circles, the legs that take me places.
So what am I supposed to do now? Who am I, if I’m not my gender? I desperately want to shed a tear or two, but the tears won’t come out. Weird. Must be some biological tear duct thing.
I rummage through my wardrobe for clothes. The wardrobe feels as small as the ceiling is low. Everything in my room looks smaller, even my king-sized bed.
I throw a lot of my clothes on the floor, all the skirts and tank tops. I can’t find anything I can wear without looking like I’m making a political statement. The last thing I want is to draw attention to myself. I give up and take a towel to the shower room.
I decide to shave. I trim the beard first, and then I take the razor and shaving cream I normally use on my legs. I still cut myself in several places, but I manage a clean-shaven look and pat down admiringly. I slip into my brother’s room and steal a t-shirt and boxers and a pair of shorts. As a woman, I can steal any of my seventeen-year-old brother’s clothes. The t-shirt’s a little tight on my twenty-three-year-old frame.
I go downstairs. I can’t help but notice how loud my footsteps are. I try to walk lightly, on my toes.
‘Is anyone there?’ I call. No response. Thank my days.
I go into the kitchen and pour some cereal into a bowl. When I’ve finished eating, my stomach roars at me in protest. I make myself some coffee, and try to think what else I can eat. I settle for three slices of peanut butter on toast. I’m never this hungry in the mornings.
Finally, I go to inspect myself in the mirror. As a woman, I’m halfway between 5′ 6, and 5′7, or 169 cm. I get my height and broad shoulders from my mother’s side, whose father was a giant. My Grandma likes big men.
As a man, I’m huge. My shoulders are big enough to face down any rugby player, my gorilla-like arms, hanging out of my brother’s t-shirt, are the length of a short woman’s legs. For once, I’m grateful I don’t have a job to go to, or people to see. I’m not quite sure what my mother will do.
I send her a text to warn her that I’ve woken up as a man and don’t know why. She’ll think it’s a joke. I wish it were. I make some coffee while I wait, and sit back down at the kitchen table. I never noticed how small and hard these chairs were.
I’m sipping my coffee when I hear the car pull in. My mum and brother are chatting, gaily, unaware, as they start carrying groceries in. When they see me Mum stops, and my brother Simon starts laughing. He bends over and comes round to slap my shoulder.
“Did Lily put you up to this? Genius. Where is that woman?”
“No. It’s me, Lily,” I say.
“Yeah, yeah, very funny. She did a really good job on finding you though, you look almost exactly like a male version of her. Guess that’s why she did it.”
“No, no. It really is me.”
Mum is staring hard at me while Simon continues to laugh. I frown, and scratch my head. Mum puts the groceries down.
“Oh, baby,” she says, “what happened?”
“Mum, you’re not actually going to fall for this? It’s a great but it’s just a prank,” Simon says fondly.
“I don’t know. I woke up and instead of being me, I was... this.”
“Oh, honey,” she shakes her head.
“Mum this is ridiculous, he’s an actor.”
“Okay. Simon, ask me something. Something only I–Lily would know.”
“Very clever on the I/Lily there. And I’m guessing she briefed you on all of her secrets if you’re offering that.”
“Something she wouldn’t have told me, then. Ask me anything. I promise it’s me. I’m hoping I’ll have switched back by tomorrow. I don’t know.”
“Okay, what’s the one habit Mum and I find really annoying, that Lily does all the time?”
“I leave half-drunk cups of coffee and tea everywhere in the house and I forget to put lids back on.”
“Correct. Um. What’s Grandma’s maiden name?”
“Atherton,” I say.
“What’s our secret code?”
“Cookies and milk,”
“Lily could have told you that, though.” Simon purses his lips, unconvinced. But I can tell Mum knows. I can tell she knew from the minute I started moving around. She’s seen through me.
“Simon, look how much he looks like Lily. It’s Lily. He’s got your father’s nose, he looks like you. It’s Lily. I’ll bet you we could ask Lily anything and she’d answer the way Lily would. Because it’s Lily.”
I wasn’t expecting this to be this easy. After all. I am a woman. That’s one of my defining features. That, and the fact I’m a feminist, which ties into being a woman anyway. What causes am I meant to share on social media if I’m not a woman anymore? I mean. I know there’s the environment but—
“Okay. So maybe you’re Lily. What are you going to do now?” Simon interrupts my thinking.
I shake my head. Now would be a really great time to cry. Simon rolls his eyes.
“Well. First things first. I’m going to have to teach you how to be a man, because you’re obviously terrible at it. Don’t scrunch up your face like that, it looks weird when you’ve got that massive honker.”
“Rude,” I say.
We go upstairs, and Simon hands me a bigger t-shirt, so you don’t look stupid, he says. He asks about all the cuts on my face and laughs when I describe the beard I woke up with. When we go back downstairs, Mum has re-heated last night’s lasagne. She gives me a normal portion, and I wolf it down. I make up the rest of my meal with another three slices of peanut butter toast. Mum’s frowning and I can tell she wants to hug me, but doesn’t want to embarrass me. Now I’m a man. Simon has told her multiple times that she can’t cuddle him now he’s a man.
Simon’s adapted to the situation already. He’s taken it in his stride:
“When you and I go out, do you want me to say you’re my cousin or my friend? I don’t think anyone will believe me if I say you’re my sister,”
“Cousin’s more believable, you look too similar, it’s obvious you’re family,” Mum says.
“Sure. Cousin, then,” I say, heart sinking, “how long do you think this is going to last?”
“Well. We’ll stand by you whatever you choose to be and whoever you want to be,” says Mum.
“Thanks.. but.. I want to be a woman.”
“Then you can have a sex change,” Mum says.
“Not like that, I want it to be painless, without surgery, without drugs. I want it like magic.”
“Maybe it will happen then, but for now you’re a man and you’re going to have to get used to it.”
When my sibling first came out as non-binary, Mum and Dad opposed drugs.
Mum’s changed her tune since then. She’s decided that her kids are smart enough to know the risks involved with anything we do.
“Do you think it’s a curse?” I ask.
“It could be a blessing,” Mum says, and squeezes my hand.
Simon decides to take me to the park. I can tell, he’s almost enjoying this. The novelty of having an older brother. He’s mildly disappointed to find out I’m still me. I don’t really like ball games, have no interest in going to his basket ball game next week. But he soon recovers and we resume our usual chatter. As we turn into the park, we’re talking about astronomy and whether Elon Musk is a good man.
“It’s funny. You look a bit different and sound a bit different. But you haven’t changed, you’re still just Lily, you’re still just you. The more I look at you the more I see it,”
“Shocking. Maybe gender doesn’t define us and we really are just individual people after all.”
“Except you eat more, now,”
I launch into a ramble about how crazy hungry I am, when we bump into Margo. Margo is one of my closest friends, she lives about five minutes away from us, but I don’t see her much what with university and having lives. I want to squeal and ask when she got back, but Simon jumps in first.
“Hey Margo,” he says.
“Oh, hi,” she smiles. She nods politely in my direction.
“How you doing? This is my cousin, Logan.”
“Oh, hi, nice to meet you. I’m Margo,” she says.
“Hi, Margo, you live round here?”
“Not anymore. I’m working for some solicitors in M–– but I’ve just popped down for a few days, spend some time with the ’rents. How about you, where’s home for you?”
“Lyon,” I say. I couldn’t think of any names of places.
“Oh? Are you French?” she asks.
“No, no, I’m just working there as a surfing instructor,” I say.
“Oh, I didn’t know they surfed in Lyon?”
“Well, well, when I say Lyon, I really work by some lakes in the Alps, Lyon’s just the closest town and they move me around a lot to teach all aqua sports. But my favourite is surfing. So, that’s why I said surfing.”
“Oh, cool, cool. Well, I’ve got to go, but Simon tell your sister I say hi, okay?”
“Okay, nice talking to you,” Simon says, and waits until she’s out of earshot before saying “surfing in Lyon, ey?”
“Logan? Why did you have to call me Logan? There are so many names and you went for Logan?”
“You look like a Logan,”
“What does that even mean?”
We head towards the trees in the park for some shade, and Simon pulls out some weed. Simon never shared his drugs with me before. Privileges of gender, I guess. He starts grinding and rolls us a joint.
“You’ve had a stressful day. I think you could probably use some of this.”
He’s kind of right. So we smoke and talk as the light dances in the shadows of leaves. My mind stops feeling as tight and my guts unclench. I let out a breath I didn’t know I’d been holding. I tell Simon about morning glory, and he giggles at all of the discoveries I’ve made of male anatomy. I moan about missing being a woman.
“Why?” Simon seems genuinely puzzled, “being a guy is great. Sure being female must have its pros, but it has its cons, too. For starters, it’s way cheaper being a guy. Haircuts cost less, clothes and shoes are usually comfier. It’s also way easier getting dressed, because the minute you wear a clean shirt, people act like you’ve dressed up. As a guy, you won’t have periods anymore.
I’ve never had to deal with the kind of mood swings you had. And remember all those bathroom queues you stood in? Not a problem for me, bathrooms are usually empty. Even when there aren’t bathrooms, you can wee standing up, you can wee almost whenever you feel like it. I’ve never really been worried about walking around on my own, nor do Mum and Dad. It’s usually quite nice heading off to the pub by myself, whereas you always walk with friends to anywhere you go.”
“I like having friends,” I say.
“Yeah, so do I, but I don’t need support groups, and I’m five years younger,”
“They’re not support groups, we just like hanging out,”
“Fine. But trust me. I’m not even full man yet and I can tell it’s going to be great. I’m excited, to be a man, face the world. You’re taller and better looking than me as a guy, so you should be even more excited,”
“You think I’m good looking?” I ask.
″Great looking guy.”
Simon slaps my back. He says that’s how guys hug. We walk home and Mum looks worried, then pleased. I tell her I have accepted my fate. I go upstairs.
I browse holiday resort jobs to teach aqua sports. Then I tell myself not to be silly, that I need to get into the real world. I modify my CV, changing my came to Logan and updating my picture. I send it off to some of the three same engineering companies I’ve applied to before. About an hour and a half later, I get invitations to interview from two of them. I go downstairs feeling pleased with myself, and make a blueberry crumble for dessert.
Mum makes shepherd’s pie for the three of us, because Dad’s away on business. I ask her not to tell him just yet. She nods and gives me a huge portion. Big enough that I might have protested once, but now I tuck in happily. I tell them about the jobs and Simon winks.
“Told you being a man is just as good,” he smiles.
We talk about how I’m going to plan this, whether I tell people I’ve had a sex change or go by a different name, cousin Logan. They compliment me on being a man who can cook, and I think how many of the things which are just normal for Lily are impressive for Logan. Things he can boast about, his sensitivity, his empathy, being a great cook.
“You make such a lovely man,” Mum says fondly, and, finally, hugs me. I hug her back tight, and makes a suffocating sound. I can’t people as tight now. I go upstairs, to my now much smaller room. I text my sibling a picture of myself, and tell them what has happened. They call me, to make sure I’m okay.
They’re working for a University in Vienna, Austria, so we barely see them anymore. I thank them, and I can hear the smile in their voice. Because they know I understand, now, the messiness of looking like a gender you don’t relate to. I’m not sure I’ll ever be a man, not inside of my mind. And pretending my entire life would just be exhausting. I ask about their transition, compliment them on their bravery. I’m still petrified of anyone seeing me, this me.
“Life isn’t who you are, it’s what you make of it,” they say, “try to be happy.”
Houston - We Have A Problem
"Hey lady, I need your help!"
"Yes, and what I can I do for you, miss?"
"That's part of my problem, because I ain't a miss! I went to sleep last night and don't ask me how, but I woke up to my boobs crunched to the bed. I have boobs! You hear what I'm saying? Yesterday, I had a regular, normal chest. Now, I got boobs. How do you women deal with these things?"
"This is rather odd, but you are the third person today in the same situation as you. But here is what I can do for you. Let me measure your bust size so we can get you the right sized bra first. Then, we can measure the rest of you to get you the right sized clothes to wear."
"Wait! There are more like me? What is going on. Don't get me wrong. I like women. In fact, I love women. But I don't like the idea of being a woman! I mean, what if some guy took to the idea of wanting to rape me or something?"
"I wouldn't worry about that too much if I were you."
"Well, you look to be about 6'5" and about 220, and you have a beard."
Falling Out of Love With My Body-- Or, a Coming Out Poem
Falling out of love with my body
and then all at once.
It was like,
loving my slurred speech
and my broad shoulders
and my wide ribcage,
and these monstrous feet.
And then, slowly,
you wake up one day, and.
It's like this:
my hips grew wide,
and my lashes long.
My breasts developed,
i bought my first thong.
I developed acne,
my hands stayed petite,
my height seemed stunted,
I ruined my new sheets.
I started to understand that i didn't love my body
the same way as other girls.
The things I loved most,
were considered my greatest flaws.
I kept growing,
kept hating this body,
put on 50 pounds,
Hated it more.
And one day,
I woke up.
Looked out my bedroom window--
knew, somehow, that I'd been wrong.
See, I don't need to imagine
waking up in the wrong body.
The wrong gender,
the wrong shape,
with the wrong voice and the wrong name and everything just being so
wrong, wrong, wrong.
It's like this:
I spent every moment of nineteen years waking up
in the wrong body.
Day and night.
i hope to write a poem
about waking up
in the right one.
There are certain things you don’t want to see and certain things you can’t unsee. What I saw on that cold November the 1st afternoon was both. Perhaps it all happened because of mother nature, no fault of her own, as she rightfully toyed with the idea of sending us yet another Nor’easter. It was my job, you see, to grind the feed out back for the hogs and the chickens, no easy task for a 19 year old young Maiden also in charge of the kitchen, but I was never one to complain or shy away from my obligations, believing idle hands are the devil’s workshop. Bad weather or not, chores had to be done.
Right after I buttoned up the coop and the pigsty, I felt somewhat dizzy, like I could faint, and I tried to push through the discomfort rationalizing that the weather elements were undoubtedly stifling; or could it have been the first wet flakes making their way down from the heavens freezing out my sensibility? As I stood not ten feet in front of the barn the northerly wind pulled my attention out towards the gray pasture as if it was calling my name. What I saw was all hazy at first, blurry, like my eyes were looking through a frosted picture window pane, but the blood red color and the shape of a human form was unmistakable and my curiosity, I supposed, held me from running. Every time I wiped my eyes I would see another and another, and if I was asked to guess what I was struggling to see, the hazy figures beyond me were of men, women and children; all of them varied in stature. It was then, to my horror, I began to hear a thunderous cacophony of moaning and the jarring thwack of multiple whips, blow after blow when I clearly heard a voice say, “No Master. I swear I didn’t do it.” But there were no slaves round these parts for miles and miles. Certainly not on our farm. What exactly was I witnessing? Had I gone mad?
The macabre scene sparked a fury inside of me, rising up into my throat. With all my being I wanted to run towards them, crying out to God for help. I wanted to save them. I wanted to set them all free but I was as weak and disabled as a slave in chains. I could not move even a pinky finger or an eyelid and then poof, they were all gone, as if the storm had blown them away and what happened before my eyes had just been a day nightmare. And I prayed like the dickens that it was.
The storm increased in intensity and it might have been a squall that enveloped me next; I am not sure since I was still faint and dazed by repugnance as I began to spin and spin like a top until I was spit out right near the back porch. Crawling away from the weather up the steps, something about my person felt quite different, like I had four hands instead of two and I was quite grateful to experience strength after my state of paralysis.
Drenched and shivering, I knew it was necessary to undress; to remove my leggings, my skirt, my corset and my pantalets; all of my garments felt soaked through. Making my way towards my dressing room, it seemed strange that my feet felt so heavy, as if I had instantly gained weight, but perhaps it was just the weight of wet clothing. Alas what I saw next when I looked down was not as repulsive as what I saw outside but as every bit perplexing, since as I moved to remove my skirt, there was no skirt, but trousers, to be removed, and as I did so, horror of horrors, between my legs was a member unknown to me, a snake that I had never seen before and would not know how to handle.
There was only one mirror in the house in the parlor, as we were not vain, but we did believe in checking it once on Sunday mornings before leaving the house for service. Unsure of how to cloak myself, I grabbed the blanket off my bed and wrapped it around my naked body tightly for cover, making my way over to the parlor.
How all of this had happened I cannot say, but as a person of faith, I knew not what to do other than to surrender. As I looked in the mirror, the face looking back at me was no longer mine, no longer that of a young woman but that of a man with a full beard, a handsome young man that looked much like my only surviving immediate relative, my older brother, who was out helping settle things for our recently widowed Aunt.
My predicament may have had everything to do with the nightmare I was stuck in; a continuation of what had happened outside, so it was then I thought to reach for the family bible on the desk where I was sure the proof would be marked that my name is Alexandra B. Johnson and the next time I would look in the mirror, my smooth face and genitalia would be repossessed and I would wake up to the day as it had started.
But no. How could it be? Documents do not lie. After opening up the front cover, there I was written in my deceased mother’s hand, right under the name of my brother Cyrus, Alexander Bartholomew Johnson, born September 3, 1841. Me. Not female. Male.
And right beside the family bible was something that caught my eye next. A newspaper clipping cut out and left by my brother catching all my attention as a clue, suddenly making the whole day not only conceivable but desirable.
November 6th, 1860:
Abraham Lincoln, Hannibal Hamlin, Republican
John C. Breckenridge, Joseph Lane, Southern Democrat
Was it not in my reflection or out by the barn in my surrender that God had answered my prayer?
It was Alexandra that would sit home on election day as a female unable to vote.
Alexander, me, by the grace of God was ready, willing and able to cast a ballot with the utmost pride to help end the abhorrence of slavery.
There are moments in time when we should not question, we should just accept our fate as ordained. This was my moment. I relinquished the memory of my womanhood without apprehension thinking,
“By the power vested in me, dear fine Sir Abraham Lincoln, I, Alexander B. Johnson will see you next Tuesday, November 6th at the ballot box.”
It feels like the weight on my chest has sloughed off. That it has migrated to my thighs, wrapped around my wrist, clung to my jaw, settled between my legs.
I’ve felt heavy from lack of sleep before, but this is a whole new level. Seriously, did someone replace my bones with sticks of lead while I was sleeping?
I amble across the hallway’s fuzzy carpet, my foot steps sinking into fluff. I bang my head on the bathroom doorway, and pain inches through my skull. Hands on my head, I pull my gaze to the wall-sized mirror. I expect to see mascara smears under my eyes, frizzy ponytail, a greasy face.
Instead I see...
What the hell?
I must be dreaming, I must be dreaming, I must be dreaming.
Digging my nails into my skin, leaving sharp creases there, I will myself to wake up.
This has to be a figment of my imagination, a dark thought come to life. Reality can't be bent this way, can't be altered for no reason.
If the mirror is speaking the truth, I'm a boy.
My sugar, spice, and everything nice has been ripped from me, replaced with snips and snails and puppy dog tails.
My entire being suddenly feels foreign.
I look at the mirror, listen to the ugly, screeching tune that it's singing.
My coily hair has been sucked into my skull, my strands only taking a few lazy loops before being severed. My arms and legs look like they're filled with liquid, pushing against my skin. I have whispers of a mustache, a beard. When things used to be round, they are now square, curves morphed into sharp angles.
I stumble out of the bathroom, desparate to blink away what I've just seen. My footsteps on the stairs shake the whole house, down to its sparse wooden structure.
My mother is making a smoothie, her fingers attacking the wide, gray buttons on the blender's control panel. Blobs of kale are flung against the clear sides as the blades frantically rotate. The sound is agonizing, like there's gravel in there instead of leafy greens.
Like the blender, my throat is filled with gravel that isn't exactly there. "Um, Mom. I'm a boy."
Her attention is laser focused on making her breakfast. "That's nice."
"No, Mom. Really. Look at me."
She swivels her head. Looks calm. But the second she registers that I'm not joking, she lets out a scream.
"Oh my god. What happened? Are you okay? Does anything hurt?"
She fires question after question, none that I can answer. My mind is a weather machine. Flurries of snow, acid rain. Scorching winds, ashy clouds. I can't see, not my surroundings and certainly not my inner self.
She stops, her eyes tearing up. "I need to make some calls. Go lie down. Read a book or something. Relax."
Up the stairs again, threatning to splinter. I lay back on my mattress, my eyes drift to the ceiling, lime green painted over with white.
I've always thought of myself as a fighter, warring against the stage whispers of sexism. I had more weight to pull, but that made my success sweeter.
Now that I had been given the 'advantage', where did I stand?
That thought is too heavy. I'm too weak to deal with it. I need a distraction.
I find a half-finished and most likely overdue paperback from the library on the floor. I lose myself in it, attempting to forget that I've changed.
I'm only allowed to leave my room to go to the bathroom. Which is weird, and as much as I hate to admit it, much easier now.
Whenever my mother comes in to check on me, she gives me the same demand.
"Wait. Just wait."
The day crawls by, and so do four novels. Everything's dull, empty.
Twilight descends, night appears. My lids grow heavy with exhaustion. I slip away from the truth, anxious and grateful all at once.
The next morning, I wake up as light as a feather. Only two things remain heavy. My chest and my memory.