Cross-Country - Part 3 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 3

Chapter 6: The Check‑Up

On my second visit to Dr. Livingstone, she told me the results of tests we’d done. Blood, fluids, genes, chromosomes all indicated a normal boy. I was despondent. Then she went on; everything indicated I should be some sort of happy‑go‑lucky Tom Sawyer, when the truth was I wanted to be Becky Thatcher. I was devastated. Oh, my God, that’s it, then, they’re going to force me to be a boy. Then Dr. Livingstone completely blew me away.

“So that’s all good news for you. If there was a somatic, physiological condition here, we would be ethically and legally forced to attempt to correct it with medication. The absence of a physical condition gives proof to your statement that ‘inside, you feel like a girl.’ As a psychological condition, it’s a whole new ball game, and I’m given more leeway in treatment. However, your Mom will have to check out your insurance for complications.”

So I wasn’t going to be turned out on the street as a boy, was I? I wasn’t sure what the future held for me.

“As we all discussed in our first meeting, and other conversations I’ve had with your mother, the plan is to offer you the chance to decide on your own, whether to proceed as male or female, correct?”

“Well, she let me start dressing as a girl, if that’s what you mean.” I was still coming to the appointments dressed as Bobby.

“Right. Well, the average teenager …not that you’re average,” she said with a smile, “is a chemical soup of hormones. You know we all start out the same, as eggs in our mother. Some people have said that female is the embryonic ‘default’ status, insofar as the egg is female, with an X chromosome. It awaits another X and will go on its way making a girl. It’s only the presence of a Y chromosome starts the body developing as a male. In many ways, little boys and girls are relatively neuter and very similar until about age twelve. When puberty hits, secondary sexual characteristics start developing, as well as intense psychological conditioning towards a specific gender, which is also stimulated by the burst of hormones. With me, so far?”

“Sure. I read somewhere that a twelve‑year old boy and a twelve‑year old girl have far more in common than they ever will again. It gave me hope there was a way to ‘cross over’ to being a girl while there was still time.”

“That’s exactly where I’m headed with this. You already have the psychological state of a young girl, largely; the earlier tests we ran proved that. It’s your body that disagrees. Right now your body is getting ready to develop as a normal male, which will be agony for you. I truly don’t believe that male hormones will help you right now; I think they will only clash with your inner state and cause great anxiety and depression.”

“Tell me about it! Every day I think I’m getting more male and I get more depressed!”

“And the androgens will further mess up your mind, to put it bluntly. I know you’ve got your heart set on female hormones.”

My heart leaped; God how I wanted those hormones! But I knew from her tone that it was not going to happen.

“Don’t be so down, Bobby. Here it is: I can’t start you right off with female hormones; there are legal and medical ethics issues there, as well. But we are going to start with an androgen inhibitor. This will effectively block any further male development, and kind of put you in a holding pattern chemically. Every man—even he-men like Schwarzenegger and Stallone—produces estrogen as well as androgen; it’s just the ratio that determines the physicality. Anyway, the small amount of estrogen you already produce will probably have a calming effect on you, and you might—might, mind you—have some degree of secondary development.”

“Oh, thank you, Dr. Livingstone! It’s a start in the right direction, I think.”

“I think so, too. If at some time, after further sessions and testing if I feel it warrants it, we will proceed to female hormone medication. What we’re doing here is actually the first step in the process called Hormone Replacement Therapy, or HRT for short. It is a strictly-watched set of guidelines and protocols, and that’s why we have to start with the androgen blockers before hormones. Alright? It’s standard procedure and not anything to do with your individual case, so relax—as much as you can, because I know you want this so much! So, we’ll begin with an injection; then I’ll write you a prescription for a daily dosage that starts tomorrow. Do you understand?”

I did, and was overjoyed. She wrote the prescription and handed it to me, then indicated that I should drop my pants for the injection. While I was never a fan of injections, I was longing for this one! After swabbing and injecting me, she put everything away and went to a large chair while I got my pants and stuff together. She indicated that I should take the chair opposite her.

“Bobby, I’m going to say something now that is not official medical practice. It’s not voodoo or anything,” she laughed, “it’s just not in the books but it’s something I’ve learned from patients. I will tell you what other patients have done and you can take it from there. Understand?”

“I think so.” Obviously she wanted to tell me something but not as the doctor behind the desk, but as a friend, I hoped.

“I don’t know what you do with your penis when you dress as a girl,” she held up a hand. “Don’t tell me right now; I’ll find out, of course, but let me talk. Many patients ‘tuck’ their penis between their legs to give the outward appearance of a vagina. Some pull it way back with strong rubber bands. Tucking is fine, but don’t use something to pull it back; pulling with an elastic band can cause damage. In those patients who go on to have SRS sexual reassignment surgery sometimes they’d damaged themselves so badly that parts of the penis and urethra that are normally used to construct a vagina couldn’t be used. Do you understand? They should tuck but don’t pull.”

I nodded.

 “Now, the testicles can be painfully crushed. As a developing boy, testicles stored in the pubic cavity descend. You know about the saying ‘his balls dropped’, I’m sure. Well, they can be replaced in the cavity, pushed back in so they’re safe and there’s no pain when tucked. This is a technique that Sumo wrestlers in Japan use; they do it so there’s no pain when they wrestle. But an added advantage for you is that there often is a further reduction in the secretion of androgen and testosterone. Clear so far?” I nodded again. “Okay. This can be painful to accomplish on your own; if it’s difficult or hurts too much, I’ve been told that long hot baths help before massaging them in. Many patients have found that it’s better to have a professional do it.”

“Doctor, if I understand you correctly ...This is a fascinating …story you’re telling me, and I’m very interested in what you say. By any chance could you show me what you mean they were telling you?”

She grinned; I’d guessed exactly what she was hinting at. I had to ask her in this manner to relieve her of ethical problems recommending that I get my testicles up and tuck my penis. I stood up and dropped my pants again, and she gently felt around and showed my fingers where the holes were. Then I lay down on the examining table, she moved things around, and suddenly there was a huge lump in my throat and twinge in my groin, followed by another. She moved my penis between my legs and told me that her patients usually kept their knees together when they pulled up their panties. I did so (even though they were boys’ briefs), and it worked! I looked down and there was no evidence of boyhood—only the smooth mound of a girl!

I thanked the doctor and went out to the parking garage to wait for Mom to pick me up. I couldn’t wait to get back home; I was dying to see how beautiful I would look in my panties and leotard once I got back home!

Chapter 7: The Blue Shell

One evening I’d come home to find a note that Mom was out shopping; dinner was in the oven, and so on. I took a quick shower and dressed in an oversized pink sleep shirt with some fairies printed on it. I loved it for lounging around after a bath, because the wide V‑neck fit easily over my wet hair, which I would wrap in a towel. I did my homework like that, then took the towel off, grabbed a brush and a Seventeen and flopped on the couch, my legs tucked under me. It had become my normal way of sitting on the couch, now that the ‘boy bits’ were tucked in and up. I’d kept everything that way all the time except for PE; I had to open my legs and let myself dangle when dressing, and go in a restroom stall to tuck properly for the rest of the day. But my testicles had not been allowed to ‘drop’ since Dr. Livingstone put them back inside me, and they were going to stay up there. Sitting and crossing my legs at the knees was perfectly natural for me, as it was on the couch as I sat, brushing my hair and examining for split ends, reading the magazine, when Mom came home. I could hear her put packages down in the kitchen as she came in to hang up her coat in the hall closet.

“Hi, honey. I’ve got a surprise for you!” She went back to the kitchen and returned with a large Macy’s bag. “Did you finish your homework?”

“Yes, Mom, and I took a shower. Thanks for dinner, by the way.”

She pulled a smaller bag out of the large Macy’s bag. “I was picking up something for Donna and I saw this. Isn’t it marvelous?” She gently pulled out a sky‑blue crepe shell. “I thought, with her eyes and skin, Ann will look so pretty in this!”

I jumped off the couch, knees together, and took it from her, and held the beautiful shell up against my sleep shirt, spreading the sleeves out. “It’s gorgeous! What do you think, Mom?”

“It is gorgeous! You have such a pretty—” she was suddenly confused. “I mean, you can look so—”

My smile faded and I kind of folded up inside. “What is it, Mom? Did I do something wrong?”

“No, nothing wrong,” she chuckled awkwardly. “It’s just that …I just realized—oh, this is so strange!—I just realized that from the moment I saw that top at Macy’s, until just this instant, I thought of you as my daughter. I mean, I just thought ‘Ann’ and ‘she’ and ‘her’. All the time forgetting that you’re my son.”

I started to tear up. “I’m sorry, Mom, it’s just that I feel so much more comfortable as a girl, and happier being with you, and—”

She reached out and held me as I started to cry. “Honey, honey! You misunderstand me. I don’t know how you’ll feel about this, so the best thing is to just come out with it: I suddenly realized that you really and truly should have been born female, and that you really are female, at least your brain. Your heart and soul, I guess. I realized that, well, I’m just so used to my daughter, now; I don’t even think of having a son. I hope it doesn’t …upset you …” She watched me anxiously.

“Are you kidding?” I almost shouted. “No! I’m not upset at all! Are you upset that I don’t want to be your son—anybody’s son, I mean? But I want you for my mother!”

“Oh, my sweet Ann! I’m so happy to have you as my daughter!”

Now we were both crying, and we suddenly pulled apart from the hug at the same time as we realized we were crushing—and crying on—the blue shell. We both broke out with happy laughs through the tears at what we’d done.

She found some tissues on the end table, handed me one and began drying her eyes while still laughing. “Now, isn’t that just like a girl worrying about getting her pretty new top wrinkled!”

“Oh, Mom,” I said through my laughs and tears, “You’ve made me so happy, and I’ll be the best daughter you could ever imagine. And, Mom, there’s something else.”

“What, Ann?” she continued dabbing at her eyes.

“Remember when I told you how I felt about being a girl, and we started it like a masquerade, being a girl on weekends? Things have changed. Trying to be a boy is now the masquerade, and I don’t want to be a tomboy! The truth is, it’s getting harder and harder to not slip at school.”

She nodded, frowning, as she considered. “I don’t know; things are complicated enough as it is ...”

“I know it, and I love you for everything you’ve done so far, but I wouldn’t bring this up if it wasn’t important. I’m really risking it going to PE every day. I don’t know how much more I can stand it. I feel so ... so alien there, and I’m worried that someone’s going to pick up on it. If they do, they’ll spread it all over school; some of the crazies …they’ll beat me up, maybe kill me, even. Even if they don’t, I just don’t fit there anymore.”

“You want to quit PE, is that what you’re saying?”

“I want to quit Boys’ PE, and since I’m not able to take Girls’ PE yet, yes, that’s what I’m saying.”

“Is there any other reason?”

“Well, yeah two other reasons, actually. Any true feelings I may or may not have about boys and girls are getting warped there. All those boys do is talk about girls’ bodies and sex with girls, and I’m revolted and excited and embarrassed and turned on all at the same time, and I’d rather avoid all that and focus on the future.”

“Honey, I’ve got to ask, like a Devil’s Advocate or something …you said ‘revolted and excited’ and other things. I know this is something you talk about with Dr. Livingstone, but …” She left it hanging.

I nodded. “It is, and I do, but there’s no reason I shouldn’t tell you. I mean, yeah, it’s embarrassing, but I’m kind of used to being embarrassed.”

“Poor baby,” Mom said and rubbed my arm. She really meant those words, not condescending or anything.

“It’s …the locker room is …” Suddenly my cheeks flamed.

Mom noticed. “You don’t have to tell me—”

“No, I do, I do; it’s really important. Um …give me a second,” I said, frowning, and then nodded to myself and let it all come out in a rush. “Mom, I never had any sexual thoughts—about boys or girls, I mean—because it was just too painful and I was all alone and so messed up. And then we found Dr. Livingstone and I’m Ann and I know it and …really, that’s what’s the important thing to remember. We all three know that I’m Ann—I mean, really, really know it—and always will be. Right?”

She nodded and then tilted her head slightly. “Yes, but …oh, honey, don’t be so worried! Yes, yes, I am convinced that you are my daughter Ann. And that you always will be. And I’m pretty sure Dr. Livingstone feels the same way. But she has those regulations and protocols she told us about; she’s a professional and she’s obligated to …well, to keep asking you ‘Are you sure?’ and probing and I know you think she doubts you but honey, that’s not it.”

“It’s her job,” I nodded.

“It’s her job, exactly.” She nodded with me and there was a moment of silence.

And then I dove in. “Alright, Mom. So I’m your daughter Ann and I’m female.” I looked her directly in the eyes as I paused, almost challenging, until she nodded her confirmation of those two facts.

“Forever,” she said.

“Forever,” I smiled, feeling relief. It made the next part easier. “The thing is …I never dared think about sex—the opposite sex, whoever it might be—because I was so miserable and alone and …and scared. And felt terrible about myself.”

Mom reached over and squeezed my hand. I squeezed back and smiled as I continued.

“Since I was allowed to become Ann—everywhere except at school, I mean—the masquerade thing I was just talking about? That’s the key. Bobby is the mask and Ann’s the girl holding the boy-mask up. Does that make sense?”

“Perfect sense, honey.”

I nodded. “Good. So now, imagine …well, this might be easier. Imagine you, either now or maybe back when you were my age. Imagine yourself in the boys’ locker room. They’re naked and wet and changing—”

I broke off because after a moment her face did a twisty thing and she swallowed. I realized in that instant that she understood.

“Mom, I’m sorry if this is embarrassing or weird for you. But that’s what I meant about all the things swirling through me. I’m a girl now and allowed to always be a girl. When I’m dressed as Bobby, sitting at Bobby’s desk in Bobby’s class, I’m still Ann in my head. And I’m Ann in the locker room, now. And the things I never thought about before …they’re really making their presence known!”

Mom’s mouth twitched. “Are we delicately saying that you’re interested in boys?”

“Yes! Yes!” I actually bounced in place. “And it’s so weird and I can’t do anything about it and then they talk so disgustingly about girls and I want to defend us and it’s so horrible and Mom, I’ve got to get out of there! Please? If there’s any way at all? I’ve got to drop Boys PE!” I released my tension. “Plus I want to shave my legs.”

“Aha! I think that may be the real reason!” she laughed, lightening the mood.

“It’s a real reason, and a big one, too, but not the only one. Mom, remember when you worked for the police department?” She nodded. “Remember when you came home and told me that you’d heard cops in the building laughing about beating up black kids? Remember how you felt?”

She nodded, her face a mix or anger and sadness. “I felt sickened, and saddened, and ashamed that I didn’t stand up for the kids and tell the cops what I really thought of them. Instead, I just ducked my head and tried to ignore it.”

“And could you ignore it?”

“No, you’re right. That’s the main reason I transferred out of the office—”

“You quit the office because you couldn’t stand listening to the talk, right? Now imagine that you had been black and overheard that talk, or make it really weird and imagine you’re a black cop, so you’re one of them but you’re also one of the ones they’re talking about.”

“Oh, my God, you’re right. That would be very upsetting. I understand. I certainly remember how I felt around those …officers. And I certainly remember how I felt when you just had me imagine myself in my high school locker room …with the boys.” Was there a tiny blush? Maybe to cover up; but she nodded once, decisively. “Well, it’s close to the end of school anyway; I’ll talk to Dr. Livingstone about getting a doctor’s note to excuse you from PE for the rest of the year, if possible. Would that make you happy?”

“Oh, yes. And when I’m out of PE—”

“Yes, honey, once you’re done with PE, you can shave your legs, arms, whatever,” she laughed. “Besides, I don’t know how you’ve been standing it, wearing tights with unshaven legs. Yuck!”

“Thank you! You’re the greatest! Okay, one more thing ...”

She pretended to make a big sigh. “I knew it. What else, honey?”

I took a deep breath. “Full‑time? Please? As soon as possible, I want to start living full-time as a girl, take the hormones Dr. Livingstone talked about, and go to a new school. I want to have the surgery. I want everyone to know that I’m really a girl!”

That stopped her laugh. “Do you mean it? Because it’s a tremendous step. It’ll mean some sacrifice, because I don’t even know how our insurance would handle it. And at this point, we’re supposed to be experimenting; to see how you do. As far as living life as a female, you’ve only put your toe in the bathwater, so to speak. There’s so much to consider: School would have to be changed, your records, getting a job, falling in love, marriage, children ...we’ve got an awful lot to talk about and you’ve got an awful lot to learn about first.”

“Yes, but isn’t that true with any girl? I mean, every girl knows that in her life there will be school, job, friends, love, marriage, children, taxes and death, right?” Mom laughed and nodded; heartened by this, I went on. “So it’s not really different from any other girl growing up; the future is unknown and I’ll live it day by day. But as Ann. I know that already, from the very depth of my soul. I can’t imagine going back to Bobby full‑time. Ever. And I want to be Ann all the time as soon as possible. It’s …it’s just who I am.”

“I can tell how strongly you feel about this. Well, we’ve gotten started in the right direction. We’ll talk with Dr. Livingstone and the other doctors, but I’m sure you’ll have to wait until school lets out to be Ann full‑time. To tell you the truth, I really like having her around! I love you, of course, whether you are a boy or a girl or a wombat.”

“Boy wombat or girl wombat?” I asked with a serious expression.

She laughed. “Any kind of wombat, because you’re my wombat! But don’t think everything’s going to be as easy as it’s been so far; don’t think you’ll just slip into Ann and no one will notice. And how will you tell everybody? Won’t it be embarrassing?”

“Mom, let me ask you this: Would you be embarrassed to walk up to a room full of people and say, ‘Hello, I’m a woman?’”

“Of course not.”

“Then, if I’m really going to be a woman or at least a girl I’ve got to be equally brave and equally confident.”

“Oh, Annie, you make me so proud!” she said as she hugged me.

 

Chapter 8: Meeting Jane

I was standing at the jewelry counter at Macy’s, after school and therefore dressed as Bobby, of course, in a sweater and jeans. Mom had told me to pick out a watch for Ann to wear, under $50, even better around $25. There were lots to choose from, and I intently studied them all, unable to try them on but trying to mentally match them with outfits I had. Suddenly I heard a familiar voice.

“Any closer and you’ll fog the glass!”

I turned to see Jane Harrington, a classmate I’d known since second grade. She was wearing a tight ribbed long‑sleeved white t‑shirt with thin blue lines and a dark brown leather skirt, brown stockings, and high brown boots. She was one of the most stunning girls in my class.

We’d been pretty friendly when we were younger, but drifted apart as boys and girls will do when we’d gotten older. I often thought that if I was 100% boy, I’d want Jane for my girlfriend. She was smart with a high IQ, and her body was developing into a knockout. She had long straight honey‑blonde hair, peaches ‘n cream complexion, green eyes, and a slight British accent—although we’d grown up two blocks from each other—because she’d been born in England and her parents still had major accents. But as she got older, I’d noticed that she didn’t seem to have too many friends; finally it dawned on me—with some helpful insight from Mom—that she was way too pretty for other girls to feel comfortable around, and way too intelligent for boys to be around. People always wanted to get to know her because of her beauty or intelligence, but the intelligence or beauty also scared them away.

“Hi, Jane. I’m, uh, trying to pick out a watch for my mom.”

“I know your Mom. Aren’t these a little too ...hip for your Mom?”

“No, no, I’m trying to find a watch that my mom will charge and send to my cousin Susan.” It sounded truthful and lame at the same time.

“What kind of girl is she?”

“Well, she’s ... Jane, no offense, but we’ve passed each other in the mall for years and never said ‘hi’ to one another, just nodded. How come you came up to say ‘hi’?”

She never got a chance to answer. The sales clerk, who’d been missing for a while, suddenly stood in front of us.

“May I help you, girls?”

Time slowed; there was this odd sense of slow motion like when you change the direction of a ceiling fan, there’s a point where it slows, stops, and starts up the other direction. Jane and I looked at each other; I could feel my cheeks start to burn red and saw her eyes make the intuitive leap, putting it all together at once—darn her intelligence! I realized that the clerk had made a reasonable judgment; while I’d been waiting, I’d unconsciously gripped the cuffs of my oversized sweater the way girls do, and was standing with my legs straight together. Add in my size, fair skin, and long hair, and it was obvious.

“I’m, uh, ... not a ...” I stammered. “I’m looking ... for something for Mom.”

“And I’m just helping,” Jane added, surprising me by coming to my aid—and not using a pronoun. “We’ve got to go meet her and we’ll be back. Come on, Bobby.” She turned and I followed, stunned, and the clerk just shrugged and walked away.

We’d gotten about twenty feet down the aisle when Jane turned to me, almost bouncing with excitement. “Bobby, I want to talk with you. This is incredible!  Food court? No, too many others we might know. This is amazing!  We’ve got to talk!”

“What’s amazing?” I was confused by her excitement. “Talk about what? The watch?”

“Don’t play dumb. Although I guess I’ve been dumb. And blind! This is incredible!” she said again. Lowering her voice, she said, “How long have you been changing?”

Oh, God, I thought, she knows! Damn, she’s smart! I tried to evade, desperately, “Changing?”

“Please, Bobby, I’ve known you since, well, just about our whole lives. Wait, are you here with your Mom or by yourself?”

“By myself.”

“Were you going to head home from the mall? Do you have anything else to do, any shopping?”

“No, not really. I mean, yes, I’m on the way home.”

“Why don’t we walk home together?”

“Jane, there’s probably a line of boys dying to walk you home,” I laughed, and it seemed to break the tension.

She laughed, too. “No, no. You know that’s not true.”

“And why is that?” I asked, genuinely interested but also hoping to get off the subject of me. I noticed that we were already walking side by side in the general direction of the mall exit. It just felt natural chatting with her.

“I don’t know,” she said quietly. Then, with more force, “Yes, I do. I guess I scare the boys off. Too smart, my mom says. ‘Boys like girls that dress smart; they don’t like girls that are smart’,” she said, imitating her mother and her veddy British accent.

“Unfortunately, that’s somewhat true.”

Mostly true; I’ve just got to find the one decent boy that isn’t challenged by intelligence.” She flicked her head, tossing her hair over her shoulder, and looked over at me. “What about you?”

“I’m not scared off by your intelligence. I think it’s great! Always have!”

“That’s not what I mean and you know it. Bobby, I don’t want to hurt your feelings, but we’ve been friends—well, sort-of-friends—for a long time and I’ve just got to tell you flat out ... you’re really feminine.”

I couldn’t think of something to say right away. The ‘Ann’ part of me wanted to say ‘thank you!’ and of course the ‘Bobby’ part wanted to shout ‘no way!’

Jane put her hand on my arm. “And I mean that in a nice way. I don’t mean ‘you act really sissy’; I mean ‘you’re really feminine.’ Like a regular girl, not a boy at all. And not like a boy trying to act like a girl. There’s no acting that I can see.”

All the burden of the secret, and lying, and living the lie just seemed too heavy to continue, so I made my choice, starting with a deep sigh. “Thank you, Jane. You don’t know how much that means to me.”

“Okay, so?”

“So, what?”

“So, silly, how did that happen? Is it a medical condition, a choice, or what?”

We’d walked to the intersection and waited for the light to change. I knew I could cop out and just claim it was a temporary condition, but I felt I had to tell the truth, and Jane was smart enough and friend enough and girl enough that I hoped she’d understand.

“Not a condition and definitely not a choice.” I sighed. “Jane, my whole life—as long as you’ve known me and longer—I’ve felt like a girl. Inside, my feelings, my thoughts, everything always seemed like a girl’s.”

“That’s called being transgendered, Bobby. It’s like the mind of one sex trapped in—”

I interrupted her by laughing. “Oh, Jane, I know what it’s called; I’m just glad that you know. It makes this all so much easier. Jane, yes, I am transgendered. There, I’ve said it!”

“Wow! I remember when I read about it, I thought how weird it would be, how really disorienting.”

“Oh, it’s that and more. It means lying to the world every single day. And lying to myself.”

“But you don’t actively lie; I mean, you don’t pretend to be macho or anything.”

“Yeah, I always tried to blend into the background.”

Jane was silent for a moment. “You know, reading that article, I tried to imagine what it would be like. I mean, I tried to think about ‘a girl’s mind in a boy’s body, or a boy’s mind in a girl’s body’, and I just couldn’t really relate to it.”

I searched around for a way to explain it to her. “It’s like this, Jane—stand here on the sidewalk, hold onto that newspaper stand for balance, and close your eyes.”

“Okay, they’re closed. So?”

“Standing there, eyes closed, are you a boy or a girl?”

“A girl, of course!”

“But how do you know if you’re a boy or a girl?”

She laughed. “That’s silly! I know I’m a girl, because, well, I’m a girl.”

“But how do you know?”

“I just do!”

“The same for me.”

She opened her eyes and looked at me seriously and questioningly.

I knew she was beginning to get it, so I tried something else to drive it home. “Okay, try this; still holding on, close your eyes again. Now, tell me what makes you think you’re a girl. No fair saying, “I just am;  describe ‘girl’ to me.”

“That’s easy! Being a girl means ... well, it’s always being ...” Her head snapped back and her eyes opened, startled. “Oh, God …you’re right; that’s a tough one! Okay, I’ll take another run at it; give me a second.”

She closed her eyes again, holding the newsstand. I could study her closely; I looked at her legs and skirt and breasts and makeup and the hair swirling around her face and felt a shameful rush of envy. She was everything I wanted to be in a girl; everything I would try to be if I got the chance.

“Okay,” she said, “here goes. When I look at people, I look at their faces, but also their clothes and the fabrics and the design. I love little children and want to cuddle babies. And I like to be cuddled. Sometimes I’m happy for no reason, sometimes I cry for no reason. Sometimes I want to dance; sometimes I want to tuck myself up in a little ball and hide in bed. I love to see pretty things, flowers and birds and ...I like to look pretty, and I love for people to see me and tell me I look pretty. I want to grow up and meet a strong, handsome man I love, he loves me, and I want to feel safe and protected and—”

Her eyes popped open again. “Oh, my! That was embarrassing. Everything sounded so trite and trivial. Like some lame Hallmark card. And that last part sounded like every little girl’s cliché ... Bobby, I’ll stick with my first statement. I just know I’m a girl!”

“And I’ll stick with what I said: Exactly the same for me. That’s exactly how I feel. Now, imagine standing there with your eyes closed, feeling with every atom and every bit of your soul that you’re a girl, just like you were saying—wanting to cuddle babies and wanting people to tell you that you look pretty and all that—and then imagine opening your eyes and your body is a boy’s. Jockeys, Levi’s, no skirt, no lingerie. No breasts, and you’ve got a penis. And the world keeps telling you that you gotta be a man. Don’t walk, swagger. Brag. Avoid talking about emotions. Avoid babies. Don’t talk or feel anything about ‘pretty things’. Don’t feel. Don’t cry, gotta be tough. And all the time the world telling you that’s the way you’re supposed to be. For your entire life.”

“Oh my God, that would be so weird! That would be horrible!” Her eyes widened. “Is that what it’s been like for you?”

Solemnly, I nodded. “Every day. Every single day. And every night I pray ‘please let it end; let me wake up tomorrow and be a girl’. I’m just like you, a girl opening her eyes each morning and ‘trapped in this boy body’. It’s the ‘trapped’ part that leads to suicide, you know.”

“Yeah, I’ve read that. Oh, Bobby,” she put her hand on my arm again. “You poor thing! What your life must be like! How do you stand it?”

“I didn’t stand it; it was hell and maybe I was getting close to being one of those suicides. But I confessed to Mom; we’ve found medical help, and finally it’s beginning to look like I have a future. I mean, a future as a girl. Jane, you’ve got to promise me that everything we say is confidential. I know it’s probably too late for that; I can’t believe I’m only asking you now.”

“Oh, absolutely. Geez, Bobby—we’re friends!  I wouldn’t tell a soul, honestly.” She nodded, eyes wide.

“I hope that’s true. I’m going to trust in your honesty, your intelligence and our friendship, okay?”

“Why, thank you; that’s actually a nice thing to say. Yes, of course I promise that no one will know from me without your okay. Because eventually other people are going to notice. Let’s face it, Bobby, that sales clerk saw two girls. I saw ‘Bobby’ because I’ve known you so long and any changes were gradual. But strangers, like that clerk, will see a girl. Your secret will come out, but I absolutely promise it won’t come out from me.”

“Thank you, Jane. You’re a real friend, and a great person, and that reminds me—why haven’t we been better friends before?”

“That’s obvious; we were good friends when we were little. And then …” She frowned.

“Christine Upshaw,” I said quietly.

“Christine Upshaw,” she nodded. “God, she made me so mad!”

“Broke up some friendships. It hurt to watch all the girls start fighting.”

She looked at me with new eyes. “That’s right; I’d forgotten that …” Her face lit up. “You were one of us! I mean, when we were little! Before Christine came and messed everything up …you were one of us!”

I nodded. “Just another little girl.”

She reached out and put her hand on my arm. “Aw, I never …God, poor you!” She sighed. “You’re right; we should have been better friends. Even after Christine moved …And now …because at our age boys and girls can’t be real friends anymore unless there’s some romance involved, and let’s face it ... you’re not exactly romantic material for a girl!”

We’d come to the block where she lived. I lived two blocks further in a different direction. We hesitated on the corner. Jane reached out and gently grabbed my hand by the fingertips.

“Unless you’ve got to get right home, why don’t you come to my house and we can talk some more? Glen’s gone camping, and my folks won’t be back until late tonight. I was just going to hang out at the mall until I was really bored, then come home and just watch TV. Come on, come over.”

I didn’t even hesitate. “Okay. Wow! That’s great; you can’t begin to know how relieved I feel to finally tell somebody what’s going on, and not be afraid they’d laugh at me or beat me up.”

“Well, I’m not promising I won’t beat you up!”

We both laughed and turned towards her house.

Her house was just like mine; different layout but the same construction, built at the same time. She dropped her purse and keys inside the front door, and we headed to the kitchen. Then, armed with Diet Cokes in tall glasses, we headed for her bedroom.

“Uh …” I said, frozen at the base of the stairs.

Jane turned. “No boys are allowed in my room. Parents’ orders.”

“That’s what I thought,” I nodded, and turned to head back in the kitchen.

Jane said, “I said ‘no boys are allowed in my room’. Come on, silly!”

I turned and looked; she was giving me a direct look, making it plain.

She didn’t consider me a boy. Hoping she didn’t get in trouble, I followed her upstairs, a smile growing.

And then …I just about died. Her bedroom was exactly where mine was in the floor plan, and it was the girl’s bedroom of my dreams. She had pinkish-beige patterned wallpaper, lacy ruffles on the bed, a gorgeous vanity with scalloped edges, and a coat stand festooned with scarves, ribbons, hats, and coats. There were bracelets and necklaces hanging from every edge of the vanity, and her makeup and perfume sat on a mirrored tray. I would have killed to live in a room so feminine, and vowed that as soon as possible, Mom and I would work to make my room like Jane’s.

“Oh, Jane, it’s beautiful!” I looked around for somewhere to sit; she’d flopped down on her bed so I took the vanity bench. It was hard to keep from studying her makeup and perfumes.

“Is something the matter? You’re—oh, is this the first girl’s bedroom you’ve been in?” I nodded. “Well, I know when I first go to someone’s house, I always check out their stuff, too. Go ahead!”

I laughed. “Well, I won’t start checking labels, but if you see my attention start to drift, yell at me.”

“Deal. Now, I’ve been dying to ask you—and you don’t have to tell me anything if it’s too embarrassing—do you ...dress up in girl’s clothes?”

I knew that I was in too far to back out, and I’d promised myself to tell the full truth with Jane. “Yes. Just started, actually. At home, of course, not outside.” One time in a sundress at the movies didn’t count. “But …I’m a little uncomfortable with the words ‘dress up’. I know how you meant it, but it makes it sound like a costume. If I’m home wearing girls’ clothes, it’s no more a costume than what you’re wearing right now.” I shrugged. “They’re just clothes, you know?”

She nodded, taking it all in. “But you have your own clothes? Or your Mom’s? And your Mom doesn’t mind? Or does she know?”

“Oh, sure; I’m getting a pretty complete wardrobe now. My own, I mean. And yes, Mom knows, and she seems okay with it; ever since I told her.”

”Wow, that must’ve blown her mind!”

“It did, kind of. And then, it really didn’t. But let’s face it; I couldn’t go on living a lie. She actually kind of guessed already. And that reminds me; how did you guess about me so quickly today?”

“Well, I didn’t notice anything at first, dumb me, because I’ve known you so long. You know the way you don’t really study your family the way you would a stranger—their faces and clothes and stuff—because they’re so familiar? Suddenly you realize, hey, Dad’s losing his hair! When did that start? But a stranger just meeting Dad would notice that right away. Like that. So I didn’t see anything different; I just saw ‘Bobby’.”

“So the sales lady blew it then.”

“Only that I realized that I’d taken the way you looked for granted. When she said that, it was kind of like smacking a phonograph with a stuck record. So I looked at you like I had just met you, and it was obvious.”

“I thought I wasn’t obvious.”

“Oh, come on, Bobby, you were standing there in tennies, no socks, jeans, and an oversized sweater, sure, but your feet and knees were together, like a girl, and your sweater is kind of baggy, and you were gripping the ends of the cuffs with your fingers, and your long hair and all—and that damn complexion of yours—and your whole body language shouted ‘girl’.”

“Damn complexion?”

“Oh, geez, Bobby, you’ve got skin to die for! If you only knew how much gunk I have to put on to keep my skin soft and it’s still not as nice as yours, and I know other girls who’ve commented on your skin.”

“Oh God, then everybody at school must be noticing, too!”

“I don’t think so; they all have the same familiarity‑blindness that I had. But just a little change in your hairstyle—it’s definitely a boy’s hair grown long, but that could be changed real fast—or a touch of makeup, and you wouldn’t even have to wear a dress. Even in the same clothes you have on, anyone meeting you would think you’re a girl. But you’d have to relax, be yourself and just go for it; you’re so uptight trying to keep this ‘Bobby’ face on. By the way, you dress as a girl, you said. Are you still called Bobby, or do you have a different name? How does it work?”

“As soon as I’m home I can relax—you’re right about that—and I become ‘Ann’. Mom said she and Dad were going to call me ‘Mary’ or ‘Ann’ if I was born a girl.”

“Lord! You’re definitely not a ‘Mary’.”

I laughed. “That’s what I said! So, I figured they were half‑right; my mind was born female, so I’m ‘Ann’ at home.”

“Can I call you ‘Ann’?”

“Probably not a good idea; you might slip in class or something.”

“Well, if we ever get together as ... as girlfriends, with you relaxed and being ‘Ann’, I don’t think I could call you ‘Bobby’; that would be too weird.”

Just the thought of that made me smile. “I’d like that. I’d be really pleased with you calling me ‘Ann’, and I never thought of getting together with anyone, but I’d love to relax and be myself around you.”

“Well, you’re pretty relaxed now, and we’re talking some serious stuff.”

“Yeah, but I’m still conscious of ‘Bobby’ sitting here. Wait a sec; I’ve got an idea. You said you were just going to hang around and watch TV until your folks came home? My mom should be home by now, let me call her. Would you like to have dinner with us?” Maybe I could work up the courage to be Ann, I thought.

Jane looked me directly in the eyes and spoke carefully. “I would be delighted to have dinner with your mother and Ann.”

It took me a moment to realize that she’d understood exactly what I had meant. “Okay. Great! Let me call Mom!”

“Cool. I gotta pee,” she said getting off the bed.

It startled me for a moment, how casual she was with saying that, and I realized it was something girls did among girls, and that she was considering me as a girl already. In fact, those three words meant more than all the declarations she could make. I was a girl to her, now.

Feeling happy but nervous, I went into the living room and called Mom; she was concerned about letting someone know about Ann, but said if I’d thought it out, it would be fine with her. In fact, since she knew Jane, she said I couldn’t find a better person to ‘come out’ to, and she’d get started right away. Jane had changed while I called, and came into the living room wearing a yellow sleeveless top, green denim skirt, no stockings, and sandals. And she looked absolutely fabulous as usual. We rinsed the glasses in the kitchen sink, and she grabbed a matching green denim jacket and her purse, locked up, and we walked to my house. On the way, she asked me if I was going to back out.

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, you are going to just do what you normally do when you get home, right? Don’t stay ‘Bobby’?”

“Oh. No, ‘Bobby’ will disappear quickly. My neighbors don’t know about Ann, so I’m always ‘Bobby’ when I’m outside, like now. But when we get behind closed doors ...” I sang the country song’s title.

She laughed. “Lordy, we’ve got to work on Ann’s singing voice!”

 

<b>End of Part 3</b>