Cross-Country - Part 1 of 7

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I stole a girl’s dress. It was the worst thing I’d ever done—and the best!

Cross-Country, by Karin Bishop

Part 1

Chapter 1: Discovered

Tuesday started out like every other school day. Mom had already left for work, so the alarm woke me. I made some instant oatmeal for breakfast, pulled on some jeans and a plaid shirt, ran a brush once through my long hair, tied it back in a low ponytail with a rubber band and headed off to school on my bike. My parents had been divorced for a few years, and this was my routine—getting up alone and going to school. I’d walked to my elementary school; now I rode my bike to junior high. Eighth grade, so riding a bike wasn’t too uncool, but I didn’t do it to be cool; I knew I’d never be cool. I just liked having control over my time, when I left home, arrived at or left school, stops along the way.

It was one of the few areas of my life that I felt I had any control over; everything else just felt like a mess.

When I got to school, the bus was unloading. The first person I noticed was Dawn Boyer, a sleepy‑eyed blonde wearing a tight white sweater with horizontal brown stripes, a brown leather miniskirt and boots. God, how I envied her. I’d known her since second grade, and she was sweet but not very smart. She was no brighter now than she was then, but her body had certainly improved. I would have given anything to have that body for my own.

Then I saw Jane Harrington; also developing beautifully. She and some other girls were laughing as they got off the bus, and I wished with all my heart that I could have been one of them. Sometimes I would get irrationally mad at my father giving me a ‘Y’ chromosome, since I should have been a girl. That was my absolute, bedrock belief; I should have been born a girl.

The rest of the school day went like that; everywhere I looked I saw teenaged girls developing around me. The boys, by contrast, were a bunch of lumps, with voices breaking, wisps of whiskers starting, and zits flourishing. Maybe I was being unfair to my sex, but that’s how I felt. Even the change from boy to man wasn’t half as thrilling and as evident as the change from girl to woman, and that’s where I longed to be.

I went to my locker during lunch, and Chantal Dorat was at her locker, which was above mine and over one. She was a knockout, with the shortest miniskirts in school, long straight black hair, and an exotic French accent. I loved watching her, studying her clothes and movement and style, and I loved looking in her locker when she opened it, because she always had clothing items and makeup stuffed in. She never could remember her locker combination, though; she had it written on her binder and said the numbers aloud as she dialed. I had memorized the numbers—even learned the French names.

School ended as boringly as it began; I hadn’t done well in a math test because I was distracted by Sue Bergman’s stockings. They had a shimmer to them and were so pretty and I wondered how they felt to wear. I went home, had a bowl of cereal, did my homework, and watched TV. It was my alone time so I could watch the afternoon Disney and Nick shows that had teen girls. I loved watching their friendships and clothing, even if the acting was so overblown and fake. Some days, though, it was just too painful to watch them; the tears would come and I’d find something else to do. Today was one of those days; Sue’s stockings were on my mind, how I’d want to be her girlfriend and we’d shop for those stockings, and so I made my decision. I’d been thinking of something for awhile, planning and chickening out, but the pain was just mounting and I had to try something. So it would be as soon as possible …and then Mom came home and said that her bridge game had been rescheduled and she was heading right out again. So it was tonight! I waited a half‑hour after she left, then rode my bike to the school.

It felt creepy being there alone at night, but I acted like I was just going to my locker to get something I’d forgotten. Instead I went to Chantal’s locker, of course, and the combination worked the first time. Inside I found a purple minidress, a skirt, two blouses, a purse, various mascara and lipsticks, and one book. I took the minidress and one lipstick. I knew she wouldn’t miss them; she was always absent‑minded about what she had in her locker, and maybe I could get the dress back without her knowing it. But I just had to wear a real girl’s dress!

I felt terribly guilty and thought everyone was looking at me as I rode home—every car, the windows of every house. I jumped into my routine: I put on lingerie and stockings from my mother’s top drawer, and into the bathroom to do my hair. I undid the ponytail and flipped forward, brushing it out and then straightening up. It fell marvelously and my breath caught at the thought of walking through school with my hair loose and flowing like that. I wouldn’t have made it to the first bell before something awful happened. But I brushed it a bit and had a barrette that I clipped on the side to keep it off my face. It changed my face; I knew that. I’d found some software online that let girls try different hairstyles; they just had to upload a photo. I’d used an anonymizer and fake name and a photo I’d taken with my hair pulled tightly back and makeup on, to make me look as much like a normal girl. The software worked; I cried with joy at seeing how I could look, and I knew how to quickly style my hair like a girl.

Then I put on ‘my’ makeup, which was Mom’s foundation and a little eyeshadow—that she’d tossed and I’d retrieved from the wastebasket—and, trembling, I put on Chantal’s lipstick. Then I could breathe easier; I was becoming the real me. At least Mom let me wear my hair long; it now reached to the middle of my collar, but of course, was in a typical boy’s cut grown out. I was lucky to have thick, wavy brown hair; the grandmother of family friends once said, ‘He has such lovely hair, what a shame he wasn’t a girl’ and she had no idea how elated and yet devastated I was by that comment. I walked into my room and very carefully pulled on the purple minidress. It was even shorter on me, since I was an inch taller than Chantal, but it felt fantastic! Everything I did walking, sitting, bending over I now did as a girl in a cute dress. I was in heaven; I was in hell, but I was home.

All too soon I had to remove everything. It had gotten too late to ride back to school, so I stashed the dress in the back of my closet and put everything else away, washed my face and then went to sleep dreaming my girlhood ‘What if’ dreams, as I called them.

The next morning I overslept and was rushing out the door when I remembered the minidress. It was too late to do anything about it now; I could probably retrieve it after I came home from school and get it back to Chantal’s locker—it probably wouldn't be wise or even possible to do it during school hours anyway—so off I went to school.

It was a day like any other; all I wanted was to be one of the girls. I knew that I thought like them; if they were talking about a color or clothing or a hairstyle, I thought my own opinion only to hear one or more of the girls echo it out loud. I was a little uncomfortable when they began to discuss rock stars, movie stars, and especially boys in our class, because I hadn’t really thought out how I would relate to boys if I were a girl. Obviously, it was something I would have to think about but I did know that I wasn’t typically gay, since the important thing to me was to be rid of my penis, and to relate to the world—and to boys—as a normal girl.

I don’t remember what I studied in class that day, but I do remember walking into my room after I rode home. My mother was sitting there, waiting for me. She held the purple minidress.

“Do you want to explain this?” she said quietly.

All the guilt and misery in the world flooded into me. My face was burning hot from my shame. I could taste sour bile and my jaw tightened and it felt like my cheeks, my entire face, was being pulled by gravity and I was sagging. My stomach was concrete; my mind felt like mush. I had the same feeling as a deer caught in headlights, waiting for the car to smash it into oblivion. My silence condemned me.

“I don’t know what you’ve been up to, Bobby, but I’ve got to know now.”

Suddenly I could see my life go in two directions: One way, I denied and lied and continued to live in misery and shame. And Mom would have known that I’d lied and would never trust me. The other way, I told my mother the truth and maybe I’d have misery and shame, but at least I would have told the truth. I swallowed and took the biggest leap of my life.

“Mom, I …okay. That dress belongs to a girl in my class. I took it from her locker and was going to return it tonight—”

“You mean to tell me you stole—”

“Mom, please, let me keep going. You have to know the truth. All my life …all my life I’ve felt uncomfortable as a boy. Inside …I’m a girl.” She kept quiet and stared at me. “I don’t mean I pretend to be a girl, or that I’m just curious about girls, or that I think girls are really neat, or anything like that. I mean that inside my head, all my thoughts, my feelings, everything …are female. As near as I can tell.”

“As near as you can tell?” she said slowly.

“I’ve read everything I could find on gender identity.”

“Gender …identity?”

“Like being a transsexual, being transgendered?”

“Transsexual? Like Christine Jorgensen? But that’s for homosexuals!”

“No, no, you’re wrong—sorry; I mean you’re misinformed. If I can remember the phrase, it was that, um …that homosexuals are perfectly happy in their outward physical gender, as males, and have emotional and sexual relationships with others of their own physical gender. Inside their head, they are men loving men. With men who love them as men. They don’t want to lose their manhood, and want to have their relationships as men. In their mind, they just don’t relate to women as heterosexuals do.”

“You’re talking an awful lot about sex, Bobby “

”That was the article I was telling you about. But you know what? It’s really not important—the sex part, I mean. What is important is how people feel inside, how they feel they relate to the rest of the world. That’s gender, and it’s different than sex. In my heart and soul, I’m a girl. I’ve just got this …this thing between my legs that caused a doctor to say I was male. But the doctor didn’t know what my mind was, because I was a baby. Well, I’m growing up and I’ve learned my own mind—and it’s female! I’m sure of it!”

She sat quietly for a moment, thinking. I’d obviously rocked her with the news, but I was feeling strangely better than I ever thought I would.

“Bobby, how do you ‘know’ you’re a girl?”

“Mom, how do you know you are?”

“Don’t be disrespectful!”

“I’m sorry, Mom, I didn’t mean to be disrespectful. You asked me an honest question, and the best way I can answer it is if you answer it first. So, how do you know that you’re a girl? A woman, I mean?”

“That’s silly! Because I just know it, that’s all there is to it. I’ve always known it “

”Me, too,” I said quietly.

Mom’s mouth was frozen open for a moment like a cartoon. She closed it and to my amazement, smiled.

“Good point. A very good point. But I was raised as a girl.”

“Yes, and I was a girl that was raised as a boy.”

“Nonsense! I never did anything to make you think you were a girl!”

“I know that, Mom. That’s what I’m saying. You didn’t have to do anything to make me think I was a girl, because I was! I mean, I am!

“This is all a bit …” She shook her head.

“Mom, try looking at it this way. What if your parents had raised you as a boy?”

“Why would my parents do that, for goodness sakes?”

“Hypothetically, let’s just say, ‘what if’. What if they had given you a boy’s name—say, Steven—and bought you trucks and kept your hair cut short and were sent to Cub Scouts and everything …would you be a boy?”

“Of course not. Because I’m not a boy.”

“You’re a girl? And how would you know, if you had a boy’s name, a boy’s haircut, a boy’s clothes, and were only allowed to play with boys?”

“I just would know. It’s my inner …” She broke off, realizing where it was going. “Oh, my.”

I nodded solemnly. “Yes, Mom. Oh, my.”

“So you’re using the analogy, reversed, and …” She nodded. “I see. Well, we’ll be discussing that at length. But about this dress; you stole it?”

“Technically, yes, borrowed, really; I knew it was wrong and I’m sorry and ashamed. But I always intended to return it today. It was just for the overnight.”

“But how did you get it?”

“Her locker’s near mine and I overheard her combination. She’s a sweet girl but kind of a space cadet and has all sorts of clothes in there …I just had to try on a real girl’s dress, Mom! Okay, I’m really embarrassed to tell you this, but I’ve tried on some of your things, too, and I just felt too awful going behind your back. So I’ve had on female clothing before, but never from a girl my own age. I’m sorry for everything and can’t tell you how awful I feel.”

“I need to think about this for a while. You were going to return this?” I nodded. “Then do it. Then come right back home.”

She handed the dress back to me. I went to my room to get the lipstick and my backpack, and came back out, took the dress from Mom, folded it and stuck it in the backpack, went and got my bike and rode to school. The whole time I was thinking, “Fool, why did you tell her?” And I realized that I couldn’t not tell her. I loved my mother and didn’t want to hurt her, but this ‘being a girl’ thing was getting out of hand if it was leading me to steal. It was already affecting my school work. But actually stealing … I knew that I hadn’t planned to really ‘steal’ it, but after wearing it, I honestly didn’t know if I could have parted with the dress if I hadn’t been ordered to return it.

I made it to my locker area; it was dusk and nobody was around. Quickly and quietly I opened Chantal’s locker, put the dress and lipstick in, just about where and how I’d found them amidst the clutter, closed the door and left. I did notice that nothing in her locker had been moved; either she hadn’t gone to her locker all day or was absent. Even when she was in school she didn’t always go to it; she certainly didn’t go there for books! Either way, I hoped that I’d really skated on the deal and immediately felt better. As I got closer to home my mood clouded over as I thought about how badly my mom would punish me.

She surprised me again; she was still quiet and thoughtful but had made some decisions. “Do your homework while I get dinner ready, then go to bed. I started researching the subject on the internet, and I’ll be reading long into the night. Meanwhile, I made some phone calls while you were away. Tomorrow we’ll drop off your homework at school, then you’ll be excused from classes. We’re going to see a specialist in your condition and see what we can find out. Now, let’s not talk about it until we’re at the appointment tomorrow.”


Chapter 2: The Specialist

The next morning, my stomach was upset with nerves. I knew that the events of last night had irrevocably changed my life as well as my relationship with my mother. I also knew that my appointment today might determine the course of the rest of my life. I was incredibly nervous! I dressed better than for school, but not like I was ‘dressed up’; I had a pair of khaki Dockers, a nice dark blue polo shirt and sweater, and leather shoes. I was dressed pretty well for a boy, but I didn’t feel like a boy or a girl or anything else …I just felt in limbo.

We didn’t talk much on the way down to University Hospital. Once we’d parked, found the elevator and were walking down the corridor to the office, Mom laughed uncertainly.

“I’ve been trying to pretend I’m not nervous. How about you?”

“I’m not pretending. I really am nervous! Oh, Mom, I’m sorry this happened. If I could do anything to take it back, I would.”

“Well, I’ve been thinking about that. Before we see what the doctor has to say, I wanted to tell you that no matter what happened or what will happen, I love you. Is that clear?”

I immediately felt better. “Oh, I love you, too, Mom.” It was funny; I realized that we hardly ever said that anymore. If nothing else, this situation had gotten us talking to each other.

Mom smiled at what I’d said, and then sighed. “I’ve had a whole night to think about things—and my eyes are bleary from my computer screen!—and I want you to tell the doctor the absolute truth—in fact, the whole truth and nothing but the truth—because this is your life. I mean, it may determine the rest of your life, so be absolutely honest. Don’t tell him what you think he wants to hear, or what you think would sound good to me. Don’t leave anything out. Don’t shade things or skew their meaning. Pure, unvarnished truth, and all of it. No matter how painful, no matter how embarrassing, it’s absolutely vital that you tell the doctor exactly how you feel and think. Promise?”

“I promise. On the drive over I was thinking about how today could set my whole life in one direction or another, so if I’m going to live with myself, I’d better darned well be honest.”

That earned me a reassuring smile and a gentle pat on my thigh from my mother.

We entered the office of Dr. Lee Livingstone; mercifully, there was no one else waiting. It was a typical waiting room with old magazines. As we sat and thumbed through them, I realized with a chuckle that for the first time I didn’t have to hide my interest in the women’s and teen’s magazines from my mother. I whispered that to her, holding up a Seventeen, and she gave me a slight smile and a raised eyebrow.

“Have you read them before?” she whispered back.

“Every chance I get. I read them at the library, stuck inside other magazines,” I explained quietly.

“Really?” she asked, then frowned. “You’ve had …this whole other life I never knew about. A secret life.”

“My real life,” I whispered back as fiercely as you can whisper.

There was a stunned pause, and then she nodded. “I had no idea …” Then, to lighten things, she said, “So you can read that.” She nodded to the Seventeen.

“Actually, I already did!” I grinned. “There’s a really cute dress, um …” I thumbed through the pages to find it. “Here. And this article, on how to be a BFF? I learn about girls from these. I learn about girls from listening to them around me, and that’s one of the ways I know that I think just like a girl. And Idon’t think like the boys, based on what I hear and see.”

Mom slowly took in a deep breath; I knew it was her way of taking something in, digesting it. There should be a head nod after …and there it was! I knew she was reassessing her son, even as we waited to be assessed …

Finally the receptionist called us; the door was opened by a white-coated nurse. As we passed her, I noticed that she was not a nurse, but in fact was Dr. Livingstone.

“Oh, Dr. Livingstone, hi. I’m Robert Mason.” I smiled as politely as I could. I hated that name.

Mom turned around abruptly. “Oh, doctor, I’m sorry, I thought ...”

“I know, it’s the ‘Lee’ that throws people. Don’t worry; I’m used to it.” She smiled and first shook my hand and then Mom’s, while I studied her. She was an attractive woman in her fifties, I’d guess, blonde hair going slightly gray in a French braid, tasteful (and expensive‑looking) gold jewelry, and gray heels. The rest of her was hidden by the impersonal white doctor’s coat.

She led us to her office and waved a hand at some chairs. I sat across her desk from her, and my mom took the chair a little to the side. I realized with a nervous start that everything we did and said—even which chairs we sat in—probably had a meaning to the doctor and could be ‘read’. I took a moment to check out her diplomas and degrees, and even to a teenager they were impressive: Northwestern, Mass Gen, Johns Hopkins, Stanford. From my reading on the subject, I also recognized the last two as centers for gender studies.

She began simply by saying that most of the ‘interview’ would be with me, and we began with biographical and general health data. Occasionally my mom helped out with an answer, but I knew most of the answers. Then she got to the nitty‑gritty.

“Now, what do you feel like inside?”

I was surprised by the brevity of the question, so I mentally took a deep breath and dived in the deep end. “I feel like a total outsider in the world. I feel like I don’t belong anywhere. I know that’s a typical teenager thing to say, but I recognize the normal teenaged angst and I have that, too …but this is something different. And it is with me every second of every day.”

“And what is ‘it’?”

“The feeling that I should have been born a girl. The feeling that I am a girl inside. I don’t mean medically, although that would be great; I mean that as near as I can tell—going by everybody I’ve talked with and everything I’ve read and everything I’ve felt—as near as I can tell, I think and feel like a girl thinks and feels.”

“Do you think you should have been a girl to please your mother?”

I looked over at Mom. “I honestly don’t know if she—if they—wanted a boy or a girl. It’s funny, but we never talked about anything like that. In fact,” I said sheepishly, “it wasn’t until yesterday that we really began talking. About personal things, I mean.”

Dr. Livingstone held up a hand and looked at my mom. “Mrs. Mason, please don’t tell me right now what your feelings or preferences were, if any, okay?”

Mom nodded, and then said to me, “Bobby, tell Dr. Livingstone, uh, what you told me last night about ...” She was embarrassed, but continued. “Well, your words were about ‘between your legs’. Do you remember?”

I turned back to the doctor, who looked at me neutrally. “Oh. Well, I said that ‘I’ve got this thing between my legs’ …I mean my penis, of course.”

I glanced nervously over to Mom; she smiled reassuringly at me and nodded, so I felt better about continuing. “Dr. Livingstone, I just know that I should have been born a girl. I want to dress and live as the girl that I feel inside. To be the girl I am inside. I don’t …relate, I guess is the right word, to my penis like boys do. I’ve heard them talk about theirs for years and none of it makes sense to me. I mean, I understand what they’re saying, the words, I mean; but it doesn’t make sense. In my mind it doesn’t relate to me …to my body. I don’t even like to say ‘my penis’. There are times that I look at it and it seems like a foreign object. Like a third leg or something. My penis is a constant reminder that I’m not physically a girl, and that as long as it’s there, society will not let me be a girl. The girl I could be. The girl I am.” I ran out of steam. I was also trembling a little.

The doctor studied me carefully, then made some quick notes as she began talking. “Okay, you got right to the heart of the matter. How long have you had this feeling?”

“Ever since I can remember. I mean, probably since birth. The first kids I remember playing with were girls, and I felt like a girl with them. You know, just …one of them; no big deal. We shared the same games, skipped rope, played with dolls, and talked about the same things and giggled together and one day a new girl moved in and said I couldn’t play with them because I was a boy. I know it sounds weird, but I hadn’t ever thought of it that way. So I had to go over to the boys’ side of the playground, and didn’t understand their games or the things they talked about. I mean, yes, I understood, but like I said before, I couldn’t relate. I mean, chasing a kid and pushing him down—what’s the deal with that? I could understand a ball toss, sharing the fun of that, but they did it hard and to hurt instead of to share and to chat. I liked jump-rope better because we could all join in. And the boys always talked about …” I looked at Mom, shrugged sheepishly, and continued. “The boys always talked about snot, and farts, and poop, and burping, and when they got older they talked about their penises all the time, with silly pet names and stuff …”

Both ladies were silent. I sighed deeply.

Dr. Livingstone said, “Just out of curiosity, since you mentioned ‘names’ … you just told us that you played with girls. Do you remember any of them? Their names, or things about them?”

“Um, well, yeah. And some of them are in my classes now.”

“That makes sense, in a neighborhood the size of yours. Can you tell me who you played with?”

“Well, Donna and Marcie and Becca and Jane—she’s in my English class—and Kendra and Rachel. Well, not Kendra anymore; her parents moved away last year. Oh, and Bonnie and Carol. Julie, but she was kind of mean—”

“I’m sure she was,” Dr. Livingstone said with a smile and held up her hand again.“Thank you for the names. So who were the boys?”

I shrugged. “Just boys. You know.”

She smiled indulgently. “No, I don’t know. You told me some names of the girls; who were the boys you had to be with?”

“They were …” I drew a blank. “I can see them, kind of. But they …” I looked at the doctor. “They didn’t really let me play with them, even if I’d wanted to. They called me names and stuff.”

“What kind of names?”

I caught a look flash between the doctor and Mom, but went on, shrugging. “The usual, you know. Fag, fairy, princess, queer, fruit …Same things I’ve always heard.” I shrugged.

Mom gasped. “You’ve never told me any of that, honey!”

I looked at her. “What good would it have done, Mom? They weren’t going to stop calling me names, and they never did. I just tuned them out.”

Dr. Livingstone said, “Children can be amazingly cruel. So, there wasn’t any boy you remember playing with?”

“I remember one boy, but not because I played with him. Bobby Saunders. He was the first to call me names; I think it was ‘pansy’. He threw wood chips at me. A year later he was throwing rocks.”

“He threw rocks at you?” Mom cried out, horrified.

The doctor held up a hand. “Mrs. Mason, please. And you remember him because he was cruel to you?”

“Well, yeah, but mainly because he lived with his grandmother, and she’d yell out for him—her voice was really loud: ‘Bobby …Bobby Saunders!’ and he’d tell the boys he had to go and then tell me I was just lucky that he had to get home or I’d really be in trouble. So, whenever I heard, ‘Bobby …Bobby Saunders!’ I knew that at least some of the hassle would go home.”

“Any other boys?”

“I don’t know what you mean—other boys that called me names, or just boys in general?”

“Boys in general.”

“Um …Eddie Kendall—no; Kemble. Um … Paul …something.” I frowned. “Oh, and Marcie Dunstan’s brother Steve. Supposed to be twins but he wasn’t anything like her. Liked to spit.”

Both the doctor and Mom snickered at that.

“There’s some others …I guess …”

Dr. Livingstone smiled and shook her head. “No, that was fine. Let me make a note here,” she said even as she was jotting. “Alright. Back to the girls for a moment. You must be aware that you just named more girls than boys.” She looked at me intently.

I shrugged. “Well, they were my friends. Why not?”

She smiled again. “Why not, indeed. Do you remember anything else about them?”

“Well, last names, like?”

“Sure, if you remember. But I mean …things they liked or did or wore …whatever you remember, if anything?”

I took a deep breath again, looked at the ceiling, and sent my mind back to those happy days. “Donna Pennington. Lived in the dark blue house two doors down from us. Short black hair in a bob—Dora the Explorer now looks like she did. She had a great doll house but no dolls; the movers lost ‘em. She wore overalls a lot, usually light green corduroy. Um …Marcie Dunstan I mentioned, because her brother spit at me. They were on the street behind our house and one over. Red-head, freckles, the works. Loved horses; was into ‘My Little Pony’ and had the whole set. Wore pinafores sometimes; usually jumpers and white leggings that were usually dirty. We sat on the sidewalk or somebody’s front porch a lot. I learned to draw horses from her, but I’m not very good at it. Becca Borland lived next to Donna; that’s kind of why they were best friends. Straight, straight blonde hair that didn’t seem to move in the wind. Very skinny; I remember blue veins at her wrists. Held her fingers straight when she drank, so when we had tea parties we’d copy her because it was kind of regal and funny. Jane Harrington …”

Dr. Livingstone held up that hand. “That’s enough, thanks. I just wanted to note your ability to recall past events.” She made some notes and asked, “And the new girl? The one that said you were a boy?”

“Christine Upshaw. I went to school with her until sixth grade and she moved away, thank goodness.”

“Why ‘thank goodness’? Did you think that when she was gone your problems would end?”

“No, I’d …been told I had to stand over there, to go play with the boys. Or …well, try to. But Christine liked to …play people off on one another. Like the time she got Donna and Becca to fight, and they were the closest of all of us, but after Christine was done they were barely speaking. Marcie and Jane began to squabble, and although Marcie always was kind of whiny, that wouldn’t have happened. I think I said ‘thank goodness’ because with Christine gone, friendships could get restored. It just tore me up that those girls fought among themselves.”

“Did you think that with Christine gone, you’d become one of the girls again?”

“No. That would have been fantastic, but they’d spent too many years calling me a boy.”

Dr. Livingstone pursed her lips and studied me for a moment. Then she turned a notebook page and said, “Let’s go back for a moment—the last time, I promise you!—to when Christine arrived and said you couldn’t play with them anymore. You said,” she flipped the page and checked her notes and flipped back again, “when she said that, your words were, ‘So I had to go over to the boys’ side of the playground’. Remember?”

I nodded.

“Typical psychiatrist-type of question. How did that make you feel?”

I frowned. It still hurt, and I said so. “It still hurts. To be …cut out like that. To be separated from my friends …” I swallowed. “And then the boys were …” I looked at the ceiling. “We used to talk about them. Oh, I don’t mean like teen girls, how cute they are and all that, because they weren’t cute. They were …incomprehensible. Alien. I remember one time Marcie and I were sitting on her porch and her brother came flying out of the front door and jumped over us. I guess he misjudged how far to the ground because he kind of fell and rolled and shouted at us, ‘Pretty neat, huh! Scared ya, didn’t I?’ and ran off. Marcie and I rolled her eyes and she giggled and said, ‘He fell down, you know.’ I said, ‘Yeah, and tried to cover. Like ‘I meant to do that’ or something’ and Marcie said, ‘Boys!’ and I said, ‘I know!’ and we giggled.” I hunched my shoulder with the recall.

The memory was fresh and bittersweet. Mom must have felt some of it, because she said, “Oh, Bobby …”

“It’s okay, Mom,” I said. “I mean, it’s going to be okay, because we’re finally talking about it.” I took a breath and let it out. “So, I couldn’t sit and giggle with Marcie anymore, or talk about dancers on TV with Jane, or pretend there were dolls in Donna’s doll house …and I had to stand with but as far away as I could from the boys who spit and threw things at me and called me names and played stupid games.” I looked up at the doctor and felt so bleak at the memories.

 “That’s fine, thank you,” Dr. Livingstone. “Just wanted to check your memories, like I said.” She nodded, made notes, and asked, “And you never felt at all like a boy? Maybe a stranger at first, but eventually adapt as one of them?”

I was glad to be off the subject of my childhood.“I’ve always felt—doctor, I don’t know if I can possibly put the feeling into words, but every atom, every cell, every ... every corpuscle in me screams ‘female’! The way things look to me, my choices in everything, how I feel about people; I mean it’s all so intangible, it’s not like saying ‘boys can jump this high, and girls can jump that high, so jump’ and then measuring. I walk down a school hallway and hear boys talking about ESPN and the Yankees and the …um …Cowboys and don’t have any interest. Further down I hear girls talking about Twilight or an episode of DeGrassi or Traveling Pants or the new dress they just saw at the mall and I want to join in and tell them what I thought about last night’s episode or the new book.” I blushed. “And I probably saw the dress, too.”

I paused and looked directly at Dr. Livingstone. I was frustrated and recklessly decided to get right to the point. “Doctor, you’re female, but do you ever question it? How do you know you’re female?” I heard my mother gasp, but I pushed on. “Sure, you’ve got the physical body, so society tells you that you’re female, and you’ve got memories of growing up and everybody telling you that you were a little girl. But just internally, walking through the world, when you look at clothing, or colors; or when you meet people, when you hear music, when you’re alone reading a book, or just laying on a bed in a darkened room …what makes you think you’re female? You just know! Well, that’s me—except for the physical body and girlhood memories part. I know I’m female; I just know!

The doctor smiled at my outburst—thank goodness!—nodded to me (to put me at ease, I guess) and made some notes, closed her notepad and stood up.

“You mentioned tests like ‘jump’; I’ve got some things I’d like you to try.” She grinned at me. “Not jumping, though; that’s a new one to me!” She motioned to door, and we followed her into an adjoining room with charts, gadgets, and lots of spiral notebooks.

We spent the next hour doing strange things. One gadget was similar to the kind used in an eye exam; I was shown all sorts of pictures and later she told me it measured how my eye traveled over the picture—what I looked at first, second, third, and so on. The pictures ranged from family shots and holiday snaps to street scenes and famous paintings. The charts and notebooks contained a similar variety of pictures and I had to describe them; others I had to tell ‘what was happening in the picture, what happened before and what happened next’; and even old‑fashioned Rorschach tests.

We returned to her main office; I had no idea how I’d done and Mom looked bewildered. Dr. Livingstone asked me to go to the waiting room and she would have a brief chat with my mom. I was almost out of the office when the doctor stopped me.

“By the way, Bobby, do you think you’re gay?”

I was shocked at how casually she’d asked. I gulped a bit and leaned against the doorjamb, thought for a moment, and answered. “No, no, it’s not that …I mean, no, I don’t think so. There are a couple of boys at school that have come out as gay, and a couple others that everyone thinks are gay, but that doesn’t mean anything. But the boys who are out …I’ve heard them talking about it and it …it’s like the playground all over again. I don’t see myself in either position they talk about—” I blushed, realizing what I’d said. “Oh, God, doctor; I don’t mean …” I looked around and whispered, “I don’t mean sexual positions!”

She smiled gently. “I know what you mean.”

I relaxed a bit. “Good. Sorry! But it’s all kind of ...alien to me, what they say. It’s not like hearing girls talking; then I really understand what they’re talking about and want to jump in and join them—but I can’t, of course. But the gay guys …If I understand right, to be homosexual means to desire people of the same sex as me. To desire males as males wanting me as a male. All very …male.” I chuckled awkwardly.

“That’s a slightly unusual description, but perfectly accurate,” Dr. Livingstone assured me. “And you don’t feel all that male?”

I shook my head. “No. That’s kind of what I’ve picked up from listening to the gay guys; they’re glad they’re male. Even if they’re kinda …swishy …well, two of them are …but even they would never in a second think about losing their penis. Being male is, like everything to them. God; it’s like theyworship the penis.”

I paused and looked at Mom; she seemed impassive, letting the sex talk wash over her.

“Doctor, my body’s sex is male, but my mind’s sex is female, or at least I hope that’s what we’ve talked about here. I hope it’s what the tests would show so I know I’m not crazy. Right now, I’m really, really confused, because I want to be a normal girl, but if that meant dating boys, I couldn’t because I don’t desire a boy as a boy—I mean, me being the boy, you know? And if I understand, a gay boy would only want another boy, and a big part of being gay seems to be being proud of your penis. I certainly am not proud of my penis; I don’t hate my penis but I just don’t want the thing. It’s like it doesn’t belong there. I want my body to match my mind. But—” I braked to a halt.

Mom pretended to study a painting on the wall as the doctor subtly leaned towards me and very gently said, “Go on; please finish that thought. You said you want your body to match your mind, but …?”

I swallowed. “Doctor …” Then I thought about it and turned to include Mom. “Mom, too. You asked me for total, absolute honesty. So …” I took a deep breath. “If I’d been born a girl, it would be perfectly normal for me to be interested in boys, emotionally, sexually, all the ways girls can be interested in boys. Right?”

Nods from both. Mom had a neutral expression, and I went on. “My mind is just like theirs. I would be interested in boys if they were interested in me as a girl. If I had breasts and …a vagina, we wouldn’t even be having a conversation about whether I was interested in boys—of course I’d be interested in them. Doctor, to me, they are the opposite sex. But it’s not just boys. I’d also want to be included with the other girls, to be just another girl, and share life with them. I’m not looking to be a beauty queen or princess; I just want to be a regular, old-fashioned girl, my mother’s daughter—because that’s what’s going on in my head, and my heart …and in my soul.”

I couldn’t think of anything else to say; I’d probably said way too much, judging by the look on Mom’s face, so I closed the door and went to the waiting room. I sat and thought about what I could’ve said, what I should’ve said, and was even more nervous when they came out after twenty minutes. We all said goodbye; I couldn’t figure out what the doctor thought, and my mom didn’t give me any clue as we walked to the car.

We’d pulled into the street when I couldn’t stand it anymore. “Okay, what did she say? How badly did I blow it?”

She chuckled, but kept her eyes on the road. “Oh, you didn’t blow it. Exactly the opposite, in fact. She’s impressed by how intelligent you are.”

“Mom, I know I’m intelligent, but what about, oh, I don’t know …the reason we went there!?

She clearly enjoyed stringing me along.“Oh, she seemed to agree with you.”

I was stunned. “What about? I mean, all of it, part of it, what?”

“Let’s find someplace to eat first. I’m starving; how about the food court at the mall? Then we can talk.”

“If we’re going to talk about this, I think it should be more private, don’t you?”

“Well, then; let’s stop at Jack‑In‑The‑Box, then go park somewhere and talk.”

We did exactly that; while ordering she gave me a mysterious look and said, “I think you might want to change that burger to a salad.”

I did so—even though it was a kid’s size burger—and we drove to a park near the mall. The picnic tables were empty since it was the middle of the week. We spread out our meals and looked around.

“Pretty, here,” Mom said munching a French fry.

“Mom ...” I couldn’t stand the suspense! “Yes, it’s pretty here, but …” I slumped, defeated. She’d tell me when she was good and ready.

She dipped the fry into ketchup and bit a small piece. “She said it’s too early to make an official medical judgment; you’ll need to have more visits with her and another doctor but she says all the indications are you are genuinely transgendered.”

I was stunned. All sorts of feelings welled up inside me. “And ...?”

“And I don’t quite know how I feel about it; I’ve got to sort some things out. In fact, I’ve got to see her a few times, myself. But as for you,” she paused, her face unreadable, “the doctor thinks you should start living as a young lady.”

I stared at her, open‑mouthed. “You mean it?”

“Oh, yes—doctor’s orders!” she laughed. “Yes, I mean it. I’ve been doing nothing but think about this situation since yesterday. Well, in addition to all the years I’ve been wondering about you …but the recent developments …It’s still so new, and like I said I’ve got more to think about, but the doctor did recommend that I allow you to start dressing and acting like a girl at home, and along with more testing and interviews, we’ll see what develops from there.”

“Mom, I ... I ... I’m stunned. Overwhelmed. You can’t begin to know how long I’ve hoped for this. Finally I’ve got something to live for—” I saw her shocked look. “No, no; I never thought of suicide or running away, but I mean now the future seems positive. Oh, God, please let me be successful and become a girl for real.” It was my turn to laugh. “Oh, Mom, you can’t know how many nights I’ve prayed that!”

We ate a bit more, but I was too excited to focus on my food. Mom told me what the doctor had outlined: try living as a girl at home—meaning all girls’ clothes and the interaction between us as mother and daughter—and then eventually short, safe excursions out. In time we’d come to my interacting with other people, but that was probably at the doctor’s discretion.

In the meantime, we were going to go shopping!

For girl’s clothes!

For me!

End of Part One

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'If I had breasts and …a vagina, we wouldn’t even be having a conversation about whether I was interested in boys—of course I’d be interested in them.'

*Palm In Face*


A very nice start to a new

A very nice start to a new tale, Karin. You have captured the sentiments very nicely.