a short story
“Oh god, not again!” she sobbed into her pillow as her hand squeezed the nasty thing protruding from between her legs, hoping to choke the life out of it.
She got out of bed, sniffing her tears back into her eyes, and stumbled to the bathroom with both hands cupped over the embarrassing creature poking from her pajama bottoms. She sat to pee, bending forward as though to tie her shoe to keep the stiff thing aimed in the bowl.
She flushed and walked over to the sink. She turned the water on and washed her hands and face. Water splashed about the sink and dripped from her chin down the front of her night shirt. She looked back up to the mirror and stared into her brown, bloodshot eyes. She leaned closely into the mirror and then pretended to apply makeup over the darkened half-moons beneath her eyes, dipping her right index finger into an imaginary well in the palm of her left hand, then bringing it back up and smearing the pretend stuff carefully – like she’d seen Mom do on occasion.
Everything she did up to this point in her life was either pretend or done in absolute secrecy…but not after this day. The time had come for her to take control of her own destiny.
It was the first day of May. She wasn’t sure why she picked it, but it was the date she arbitrarily chose to tell her parents that she wasn’t a boy…that she was a transgender girl. She picked the day back in March, not too long after her school did a presentation on the book, I Am Jazz, by transgender teen Jazz Jennings. She always knew there was something different about her, that she always felt like a girl on the inside, but after reading and discussing the book in school…there was no doubt left in her mind. She’s a girl.
She commenced with her morning routine, preparing for both the mundane of another day in the seventh grade and the terror that awaited her later that afternoon. After carefully tucking her semi-stiff boy junk between her legs, she slipped into her favorite jeans. They were boys’ jeans, but a size too small, so a little tight-fitting. She liked the way she looked down there, with her boy parts hidden from sight. She pretended they were girls’ jeans, as she pretended everything of hers was girls’. Her t-shirt was also a size too small, which was cute, she thought, especially when she stuffed the two halves of a small Nerf basketball on her chest under it…something she only dare do on the rare occasion she had the house to herself. She slipped into her sneakers and went downstairs where breakfast was always waiting.
“Good morning, Dusty,” Mom said as her only child entered the kitchen and sat at the table. “You look like you didn’t sleep very well again. Is everything okay, honey?”
“Yeah, I’m okay,” she replied only semi-convincingly, with a forced smile, as Mom poured milk into her cereal bowl.
“We could see the doctor and try another sleep aid if you’re…”
“I’m fine, Mom,” she quietly interrupted. “I think I’m just having some allergies.” She sniffed as if to feign nasal congestion.
“Okay,” she conceded, bending down and kissing her child on the head.
No, it’s actually not okay, Mom! She thought to herself. She was just 8 hours or so from telling her parents that she was not a he. It was far from okay. She was terrified. How would they react? She remembered Dad and his buddies making jokes and ugly remarks about Caitlyn Jenner. Why would a world-famous sports icon want to become a woman of all things? What the hell is he thinking? It made her want to cry to hear such things, but she pretended to laugh to fit in.
She pretended to like lots of things to stay close to her Daddy…sports, guns, dirt bikes, and video games, to name a few. Daddy loved his little boy…his little man. How was he going to react when she told him who she really was? Would he make similar comments about her as with Caitlyn? Why the hell would my only son want to become a girl of all things? What the hell are you thinking, boy? The thought of his disapproval, or any amount of distancing between the two, scared her tremendously. But she had no choice. Living the lie that was Dustin Prescott was simply no longer an option.
She was good at putting on happy faces. Smiling and appearing happy all the time is the best way to avoid unwanted attention. Her parents were attentive, especially Mom, who worked from home. Mom wasn’t easily fooled, so Dusty had to develop convincing acting skills to keep the depression she suffered as a result of her gender dysphoria to herself. Had Mom thought something was wrong, she might have taken her to a shrink or something, which is probably what she needed, but not at all what she wanted. She was a quiet kid who wasn’t comfortable being the center of attention, and knowing that she was about to command lots of it was horrifying.
“Have a nice day, honey,” Mom said as she headed outside to catch the school bus.
She got onto the bus and took her usual seat toward the back amidst the noisy chaos that was a typical ride to and from school. She settled in and dug into her backpack for her cell phone, a gift for her 13th birthday. She wanted the pink one so badly, but was happy to settle for the black one. She took it out and thumbed the following text to her mom and dad: theres something i have to tell you today after school.
She stared at the composed text for a moment, reluctant to hit send. She couldn’t stop dwelling on all the worst-case scenarios continuously flying through her mind. She was depressed and miserable, sure, but what if coming out only makes things worse? What if she has to go see counselors and talk to therapists and do who-knows-what – all of which seemed almost as bad as simply remaining in the closet. Worst of all, what will Daddy think? She was his little man since the day she was born. Will he laugh at her, disown her or say ugly things to her – perhaps even get angry and hit her? Whatever the end result, she felt as though she’d reached the point of no return.
Finally, with both great trepidation and a wonderful sense of relief, she hit send on the phone and took a deep breath. It was done, and now there could no turning back.
She stumbled off the school bus and started down the block towards her house. The fears she felt all day were boiling to a head, along with the tears that were becoming increasingly harder to suppress. Each step grew a little heavier, as though she was marching across a dry beach. The afternoon was sunny and warm, with flowers blooming throughout the suburban neighborhood. Everything was as it always was, yet it all felt a little different. The girl inside her was being permitted to surface and see the world through her own eyes, and not those of unhappy Dusty. Amidst the anxiety and bubbling fear, a smile of contentment and reassurance overtook her thin-lipped frown…briefly.
She went inside the house where she immediately saw both her parents sitting on the living room sofa. “Hi Mom. Dad.” She said nervously, setting her backpack on the floor by the stairs.
“We got your text, honey,” Mom said with that warm motherly smile of hers.
“What’s up, son?” Dad asked casually, setting his new issue of Sports Illustrated on the coffee table before him.
Oh god, here it is! She thought to herself as the bucket of tears was just about to spill. She walked slowly and somberly, dragging her feet with each step, to the love seat opposite the sofa and sat with an expression that looked as though she was about to confess some major crime. Her eyes met Dad’s. She lost it and tears began flowing.
Mom quickly rose from the sofa and walked over to her, sitting beside her. “What is it, baby?” she asked, reaching up and gently stroking her child’s short hair.
She tried to stop crying but couldn’t. She looked over at her dad, who was giving a look as if to say what the hell did you do, boy? Her tears flowed more heavily. She was gasping to breathe, nearing the point of hyperventilation.
Mom looked over at Dad, and both shrugged, with curiosity and anticipation in their eyes.
“I have to say something,” she managed to utter between sniffles and sobs, “but I don’t think I can.”
“Baby, you can tell us anything,” Mom tried to reassure.
“C’mon, son, what’s going on?” Dad asked, seeming to become a little irritated.
Hearing him call her son just made it that much harder for her to say the words. But she knew she had to do it. There was no turning back now. Her sobs became deeper, burying her face into the palms of her hands.
“You can tell us anything and you know we’ll always love you.”
She finally looked up at her mother with her soggy eyes, completely distraught, barely able to utter a complete thought, and said in a meek whimper, “I’m not a boy, Mom. I’m transgender. I’m a girl!”
Mom embraced her sobbing child warmly while looking over and smiling at her husband, who was smiling back and nodding with a strange look of relief on his face. The child was bawling uncontrollably, as though she was in some kind of major trouble.
“Shh,” Mom said comfortingly, gently petting her head. “It’s okay, baby. We know.”
She looked up at her mom, confused, then over to her dad who was smiling back warmly.
“We know,” he added with assurance.
Dad reached beneath the coffee table and took out two books, one of which was I Am Jazz, and set them on the table.
“We’re so sorry you’ve been suffering with this, baby,” Mom said. “We just didn’t know. But now we do, and you don’t have to be afraid anymore.” She wiped the tears from her daughter’s eyes. “Daddy and I will always love and cherish our baby girl, just as much as we did when we thought you were our son.”
“But how come you never said…”
“Because you needed to make the decision for yourself,” Mom interjected kindly. “Only you know who you really are. We can’t make those choices for you, even if we wanted to.”
She looked over at her dad, who was smiling gently with misty eyes. She gave her mom a quick hug, and then sprung up and hopped into her Daddy’s lap, sobbing into his chest. He hugged her and stroked her head for a moment, while Mom watched endearingly.
“We can still watch football and play Call of Duty: Black Ops and stuff, right Daddy?” she asked between sniffles.
“Of course we can, s…, I mean…” He paused for a moment, unsure what to call her.
“Destiny, Daddy.” She looked up at him, then over at her mother. “Can I be Destiny?”
“That’s a beautiful name, sweetheart, of course you can,” Mom confirmed, smiling, as a tear dripped from her eye. “You can be whoever you wanna be.”
“We will always love you,” Dad said, hugging her tightly. “We just want you to be who you really are, not who people think you should be.”
Mom went back to the sofa and sat next to Destiny, leaning in for a sort of group hug as she and her husband sandwiched Destiny between them. “You’ll never be alone again, baby, I promise. Daddy and I will be with you, loving you and supporting you, every step of the way.”