My parents were sitting pensively in their respective wingback chairs in our overly decorated living room. As we finished dinner, I had asked if we could have a chat tonight, which I never do. They were nervous. As was I.
Fiddling with the beaded tassels of the throw pillow on the sofa, I cleared my throat and tried to look them in the eye. Mystic let a tentative smile appear on their face and I had to look away. Guspie didn’t smile when I moved my gaze to their face, in fact, they looked annoyed.
“Drey, what is it you wanted to talk about?” Mystic coaxed, leaning towards me and pressing their hands together between their knees. Mystic’s tan robe revealed a flash of ankle and bare feet beneath. Despite our lavish furnishings, our wardrobe was as mundane as everyone else in my neighborhood. We all wore tan, the only difference would be the buttons or sash, those could be personalized.
I tried to find the words to start, but the lump in my throat failed to clear. “I need water first.” Jumping up I dashed to the dinner table, gulping the remains of my drink.
“For Pryson sake already, Drey, what is the big deal?” Guspie was clearly annoyed. I took a deep breath before turning back to the parents that I loved to death but knew I was about to hurt.
“Ok, um, I don’t really know where to start….” My fingers were twisted around each other; my heart felt like it was going to jump from my chest. “I…I…” Mystic leaned further out of their chair, grey eyes wide and beckoning me to say more.
“Spit it out, child.” Guspie commanded.
I squeezed my eyes tight and willed my mouth to say what I had been practicing for months in the quiet recesses of my room. “I want to be a girl. I want to have breasts, and grow my hair out. And, and I want a new name, I call myself Mary.” The quiet in the room was deafening, I dared to open my eyes fearing they had passed out.
Mystic was frozen in place, their face in clear shock. Guspie was turning red. “I…I…” I couldn’t breathe and raised the glass to my lips again only to find it empty of any liquid. Putting the glass down, I fidgeted with the sun-shaped buttons on my robe.
“Your name is Drey. Mystic and I gave you that name. You will knock off this nonsense of being called Mary.” Guspie snarled the last part. “And breasts? Are you asking to be beaten? Or worse, what would Mystic and I do if you were attacked and murdered for showing a gender?” Guspie’s voice rose with the anger clearly blooming inside their chest.
Mystic came to life now, reaching out to Guspie first and then to me. “Ah, now, let’s all just stay calm and talk this out. Drey is having some identity questions, we all do.”
“No!” Guspie ripped his hand from Mystic’s grip, “I did not question the way things are. Drey should follow the Rights, just as we all have. Where did you even get this, this, fantasy of being a girl from? It’s that damn school isn’t it? Giving you ideas of being different, unique. You can’t! You hear me, you can’t.” Guspie was stomping across our living room floor. I tried to make myself small and sunk into the comforting depths of the sofa.
“Drey, darling.” Mystic addressed me but kept their eyes on their partner who continued to mutter under their breath on the absurdity of gender identity. “We’ve had this chat before. When you are matched with a mate, for one year you’ll both be given the option of taking the hormone antidote so you can breed, if you want to. You might be a girl, you might not be. We don’t know and we won’t know, you keep that secret with your mate when you go to the island for the ceremony.”
“Exactly!” Guspie thundered, making both Mystic and myself jump in our seats.
“No, you don’t understand.” I whispered, shaking my head. “I want to look like…a woman. The way they look in history books.”
“See!” Guspie turned on Mystic, wagging a finger in their face. “It’s that school. I told you, Drey never should have gone to that place.”
“It wasn’t at school. That’s not where the books are, they don’t talk about boys and girls there.” I hugged a button covered pillow to my chest, letting my chin nestle into its fragranced embrace. “There’s a club for gendered people, they showed me the books. There are old movies, too. The people there, they still dress like us on the outside, but in the club we can take the robes off and be girls. Or boys.”
Mystic and Guspie both looked at me, their faces going pale. “You, you’ve already been going?” Mystic could barely get the question to leave their lips.
“How long?” Guspie’s anger was quieter now, but the question firm.
I held up some fingers. “Three months.” Guspie swallowed loudly and dropped down into the chair.
We sat quietly together, no one looking at another. Slowly I moved to push the robe off my head and unpinned the hair I had been growing out since I adopted the name Mary. It only came to my earlobes, but it was the longest hair I ever had. I could feel my parent’s eyes tracing my hands as I slowly undid the buttons and let the robe slip off my shoulders.
I wore a padded bra under a tank top. I had shaved my under arms, and my legs, the way they described women in the text books the club had shared with me. I bowed my head and let a tear slip from the corner of my eye.
“I’m sorry, but this is who I am.”