“Why can’t you just be a tomboy?”
Witty comebacks always come slow when gender is involved, especially with new questions. Surely not new to anyone else, but new to him, at least. Though, it wouldn’t take much to trigger a response, no matter how aggressive or shocked and sad that response might be. But this one, though. This was new. Having never been asked this before, he had no weapons to combat this, to shoot down the asker with a well-placed glare and a retort that would shut them up right away.
He did try, he really did. You have to give him credit for that.
But then his throat choked up, and he fled. The only thing he managed to choke out was that he was going to go now. That was it. Shut down so quickly. From fearless and untouchable to an anxiety attack shaking its way up his spine and into his hands.
“Why can’t you just be a tomboy?”
And there it is again, he thinks. That one sentence wrapping tighter and tighter around his windpipe.
It was a challenge hurrying down the stairs without falling, because the anxiety had him in such a tight grip that he could hardly breathe.
Then there it was, those dreaded bathrooms.
“Are you a girl or a boy?”
There was not time to spend fifteen minutes or half an hour or all day standing between those two things. With his mind screaming MALE, and his traitorous body screaming FEMALE, he ducked into the women’s restroom and stumbled into the handicap stall.
It started then.
A barrage of everything that he had ever been asked because all that people saw were his body: *******, thick thighs, wide hips, a pear shape with curves in all the right places, and it made him sick.
“Since you haven’t had the surgery yet, aren’t you still technically a woman?”
“Are you a boy or a girl?”
“What are you?”
“This is my friend, he’s a transvestite.”
It’s too much, with the tomboy comment still rattling around in his exhausted brain.
And with each thunk of the back of his head against the tiled bathroom wall, he tried to shake them loose. But they wouldn’t leave. Why wouldn’t they leave? He knows that it isn’t true. None of those people know anything. Their questions are out of mostly out of ignorance, and not malice, but, gods, they all hurt so much.
He talks then, a harsh whisper making its feeble way out on the wave of each choking, silent, sob.
“I tried. I tried so hard. And I’ll tell you why I can’t ‘just be a tomboy’ because, ******, I was a tomboy. And you wanna know what that got me? Six years worth of scars on my arm and shoulder.”
He drags the remains of anxiously bitten-down nails down his arm now, over and over again, leaving angry red trails through the pale lines on even paler skin.
“I’ve know that I wasn’t a girl since I was seven. That’s pretty, funny, isn’t it? The not knowing, it almost killed me. I mean that literally, but sometimes swallowing forty pills speaks louder than words.”
The phantom voice, branded into his eardrums and stamped angry and red on the graymatter of his brain, speaks up again. “Why can’t you just be a tomboy?”
And he knows what the real question is now.
Why can’t you just be a girl?
Why do you have to be transgender?
Why can’t you just be happy as a girl?
Why can’t you just be a tomboy?
Getting up off the ground, scrubbing tear tracks from his cheeks and off his glasses, he presses the back of his throbbing head against the tiled wall, whispering to everybody and nobody, “SHUT UP.”
Last week or so, some ******* had the bright and transphobic idea to ask me why I couldn't just be a lesbian. Huh. Believe it or not, that was the first time anyone had asked me that. Sure, I've been asked lots of other uneducated and malicious questions, but this one caught me so off guard that it triggered an anxiety attack that had me hiding in the handicap stall of the woman's restroom, sobbing and banging my head against the wall. Yeah. That was fun.
Anyway, I turned that ****** thing into a school assignment/spoken word/rant/******* to the transphobes kind of thing. It is cathartic, and makes it easier for me to let this particular ****** thing go.