Part 8: Middle School Confusion
By K.T. Leone
I simply lay here thinking. That's really all you can do when you are in an enclosed tank covered with some kind of goop that is working away at your body. I wonder what it is doing. Could it be giving me a completely different body? That would be interesting if I got out of this isolation chamber and looked like a whole new person. At the same time, that could cause some confusion when I showed up to work on Monday. And, what if I were pulled over by the cops? My driver's license still says Gregory Nelson. I'm sure it will all work out, I'm sure for a place to be running this sort of operation they are equipped to deal with such things.
Still, I wonder what the liquid is doing to me. I still feel activity, more of a slow throb now, on my chest and between my groin. What I know about life says that in order the change the outward appearance of gender, scalpels are involved. But it is not like I keep up with every medical advance that comes out every year. I am so numb all over my body any way that who knows if a knife had touched my body while I was visiting the past. In fact, I wouldn't even be able to testify that I've been conscious the whole time.
Seeing my early childhood had given me a lot to think about. It has allowed me to challenge some pre-existing assumptions. I guess I was really the ones that put my parents' expectations on them. They never told me I had to act a certain way, talk a certain way, be a certain gender. For some reason I just figured that they expected me to behave like a boy because I had a penis between my legs. If I had told my mom I was a girl inside, she would not have disowned me. Sure, it might have taken her a bit by surprise, but she would not have loved me any less. The same thing is true about my dad. Especially early on in life. The more and more I conformed to my role as a boy and acted the way I thought boys were suppose to act, the harder it would've been for my parents to accept the notion that I was female. It really makes perfect sense when you take the time to think about it. It wouldn't have been about acceptance, it would have been about familiarity. They were familiar with me as a boy and as each day passed that I behaved in my assigned role, the further that familiarity was entrenched. But, say if when I was 4 or 5 I told my parents I was a girl. Not that I wanted to be a girl, but that I was a girl, it would have been easier for them to accept than if I told them when I was a teenager or in college or today. As each day passes by, the opportunity for them to relinquish their vision of me diminishes.
But still, boy or girl, my parents would love me. That use to be an issue, fearing their rejection, but I see it all so clearly now. If I would call my parents up today and tell them I was a woman, just explained it to them slowly, the would accept me. Maybe it would take a little while for the shock to wear off and there may be some confusion. Heck, I've been confused about it for the longest time and I've been living it. But they wouldn't hate me and our relationship would continue as it always had. Our relationship may even be better since this deep dark secret that I've been hiding would be out in the open to the two people who care for me the most.
So my parents would love me if I were a woman, even if I just became a woman today. So that's not a problem. But my parents are only two people out of the billions that inhabit the Earth and other people might not be so forgiving. I have friends that I have known for years that might write me off, and a job that is use to plain, conservative Greg. To show up as Grace would be a far departure from what they know about me and that's not even considering the external factors. Yes, my parents would still love me, but if the rest of the world rejects me, then I would be a wretch.
“Being accepted really matters to you,” the doctor says into the ear bud.
I had almost forgotten that though I was isolated, I wasn't totally alone. 'Yes,' I think. 'Yes, it really does.'
“Are you accepted now?” The doctor continues.
'Sure, sure I am. I might not be a big stud or a famous athlete but most people like me for who I am.'
“Do they really see you for who you are?”
I let the words sink in. Do they know me for who I am or do they know me for what I project?
“Let me ask you this,” the doctor interrupts my thinking. “When you watch a movie, one with a really nasty villas, do you hate the character or do you hate the actor?”
'I see your point, but caring about what others think about me is still a difficult obstacle to overcome.'
“Do you think that this obstacle is new?”
'No, I don't know where it came from.'
“Maybe we should find out.”
This time I don't feel myself floating out of my own body and hovering over the casket. Instead, for an instant I grow incredibly dizzy and lightheaded, almost to the point of passing out completely. Once I regain my senses, my consciousness is somewhere else entirely different.
Though I make my living in Florida, I am not a native. I use to live up north and, though I haven't been there in quite some time, I still remember it well. We lived in a modest, tan brick house in the middle of a dead end road. Being an only child, I obviously had my own room and I found myself standing in it, watching.
By the looks of things on the wall, I could tell that it was my final year of Junior High School. The leaves on the trees have not yet turned and by the looks of my workbooks, it was fairly early in the school year. This would make me about twelve years old. I'm surprised that I am here because I could only remember good times about my middle school years.
“Greg,” I hear my mother's voice as she knocks on the door. “Time to get up, you got an hour before you have to leave for school.”
I see a small lump under a green New York Jets sheet, with the old logo on it, begin to stir.
“Okay, Mom,” the high pitched voice says from under the pillow. “I'm up.”
I had forgotten how high my voice was before I had hit puberty. Too bad it had to change.
The prepubescent child kicked the cover off of him. Thankfully, back then I wore underwear and a pair of pajama shorts to bed. Amazingly, the child shot out of bed like he had about fifteen doses of adrenaline injected into his body. He made a mad scramble, packing his books and papers into a book bag that was sitting on a chair in front of his desk. Then, without as much as pausing to grab his breath, he made his way to the dresser, pulled a pair of jeans out of the bottom drawer, a shirt and sweatshirt from the drawer above it, and then a pair of socks and underwear from the top drawer. My younger self threw everything onto the bed in a blaze and I found myself envious of all the energy I use to have and it seemed such a waste that I used it up all then.
The young Greg then did something that was a normal routine back then, but one that I had long forgotten that I use to do. The younger me walked over to the mirror that hung on the door that led to the hallway and then let all of the energy he had just displayed abate.
It was a morning ritual all throughout my seventh grade year. Standing in front of the mirror and looking myself over. First the child eyed his face, looking for any hints of puberty, a hair, a pimple, anything would do. But, to his chagrin, the maturity fairy hadn't visited him in the night and planted a few facial hairs.
But, that child didn't give up any hope quite yet. He looked further down to his chest. There was some growth there, but not the kind that he had hoped for. Instead of hair or pectoral muscles forming, he had mounds that could easily pass for b-cup girl breast. He snarled at them. His mother had given him the clinical phrase for what was going on with his body, how sometimes that happened to boys on the verge of puberty, but he had long since forgotten the word.
“Not too please with your development as an adolescent,” the doctor interrupted.
'Not quite that,' I thought back. 'I was just hoping to develop a little differently, that is all. It is difficult to fill out one way when you are expecting to fill out another. '
“I see,” the doctor said.
'Plus, you know how cruel kids can be when they notice something different from the norm.'
“I certainly do,” the doctor said as his voice faded into the background.
I watched my younger self as he poked the breast that he found on his own chest. He put his hands flat against the nipples and tried to push as hard as he could to force them back into his longs. As soon as he let go, the breast popped back out, a little red but none the worst for wear.
“Arghhh,” the child said at the mirror. “When are you going to start to look like a man,” he complained to his physique. “Come on and hurry up with it already.”
Not every boy in his class had reached puberty, but the numbers of those who haven't were quickly dwindling and he didn't want to be the last one; that would be the worst.
“Hurry up up there,” my mother called from the kitchen. “Your breakfast is going to get cold.”
“I'm coming, I'm coming,” young Greg called back, knowing not to say anything flip that would get him in trouble with his old man.
The young boy pulled down his shorts and underwear in a full sweep and gave a quick glance to see if puberty had at least started there; it hadn't. He didn't view himself for long, however, and quickly returned his dignity by putting on a fresh pair of underwear and then the socks. The jeans went on next, followed by t-shirt and finally the sweatshirt.
After he was done dressing and putting on his sneakers the child checked himself in the mirror one last time.
“Two shirts?” The doctor asked in the ear bud.
'Yes,' I answered through thought. 'Now I remember. Back then I use to wear two shirts in an attempt to hide my boy boobs.'
“I see,” the doctor continued, evidently wanting more.
'Like I said earlier, it is hard to be a boy and stand out for the wrong reasons. Kids can be cruel.'
“And that can effect your body self-image, can't it?”
I hadn't thought of that before, but I could see how it would make me loath appearing female when I didn't want to. Not that I didn't want to look female, but I didn't want others to see me as female when they thought I was a boy.
“Thought you were a boy,” the doctor said. “Interesting.”
'That's not exactly what I meant. In fact, at the time, I did all that I could to appear as masculine as possible.'
“Do you regret that?” the doctor persisted.
'No,' I could tell that I was getting defensive and wished I wouldn't be. I was here for help, not to defend something that didn't need defending. “I don't think I gave much thought of being a girl back then, I didn't know that there were options. I was told that I was a boy. All the evidence said that I was a boy. I believed that I was a boy. So I did things to the best of my ability to live up to those stereotypes. Even knowing what I do today, I don't know if I would do anything different back then.'
The doctor grew silent, or, in the very least, he wasn't talking to me through the ear buds. The scene around me dissolved. I was half expecting to be back in the tube at the treatment center, thinking that maybe I have failed. Maybe I was suppose to say that if I could go back and do it all over again that I would. That I would discard everything male and start taking ballet lessons. I wasn't going to lie though. If this treatment was really going to help, I knew it required me to be honest. And I was going to be honest no matter what, even if it cost me my desired results.
I was not back in the isolation chamber when reality reassembled around me. In fact I knew exactly where I was. I was on the school playground, if you can actually call it such. There were no slides or swings or monkey bars, instead there was a concrete field for playing softball and three separate full court basketball courts in their own chain linked areas. During the three years that I spent at Grover Cleveland Middle School, I probably spent half my time at this particular playground. The three story school was off in the distance, far enough away so students didn't fear the tyranny of any teachers telling them to keep it down or to leave the premises, but close enough where they felt safe if something were to happen that required adult supervision.
It must've been the same afternoon of the morning I was just viewing because I was wearing the same pants and sweatshirt as I walked towards the basketball courts with a group of friends. I call the group friends, but to be honest, as an adult not one of them were a part of my life. Many of these acquaintances fell away during high school when we were sent to different school, the rest I lost after high school when I went off to college and then relocated to Florida.
I watched as the group of children played a spirited game of half court basketball. I certainly wasn't the athletic type, but hardly was anyone else. Anyone, except John that was. He could sink any shot, dribble around us like we weren't even there and he could even touch the bottom of the backboard. It didn't really matter, the kids were all having fun.
After a good hour, the game was over, the children's energy was spent, which was probably a relief to the parents. My younger self was hot and sweaty. Playing in a sweatshirt could do that to a kid.
In fact, my younger self was so hot, he removed his sweatshirt even though there were other guys around. It was a faux pa that he would learn never to make again.
“Hey look,” John called out as he pointed to the younger child's chest. “Greg is trying to win a wet t-shirt contest.”
The other kids laughed and pointed.
My younger self just grimaced and hope that a lack of a response would make the situation go away on its on.
He was wrong.
“Hey Greg, how does it feel to be able to feel your own boobs,” John continued.
“Shut up,” the younger me shouted back over the cackling of the other children.
“Shut up,” John mimicked in an amusingly high pitched little squeal that I didn't find the least bit funny; as a child nor as an adult. “Do you also get your period?”
“I'm warning you,” young Greg said as he postured himself in a fighting stance.
“I'm warning you,” John mimicked once again, knowing that in a fight he could easily take me. “Here,” he said as he starting fishing through his backpack. “I got you something.”
Without warning a small bra was flung at the younger me, that young Greg caught out of reflex.
“It's my sisters,” he announced as soon as I held it up and discovered what it was. “It's too big for her, but would be perfect for you. Ma'am.” He added the ma'am with the strength and volume of a bullet, leaving me awestruck.
I stood there, not knowing how to respond as the other kids laughed and pointed.
“We better get out of here,” John said as he caught his breath from laughing so hard. “Before we make the little girl cry and get into any trouble.”
On his commend, all the kids grabbed their book bags and scattered, leaving the two mes alone on the basketball court wondering what to do.
I watched as the young Greg did his best not to cry. Crying right now would have been the worst, especially if anyone caught him doing so. After being humiliated, a middle school student knows not to compound the issue by giving his attackers further ammo.
“You're an idiot, John,” he shouted out toward the general direction of where his nemesis had run off.
John was probably already out of earshot and no reply came.
Inexplicably, the young Greg started to stuff the bra into his own book bag. “I wish I were a girl,” he huffed as he hastily zipped up his backpack and slung it over his shoulder.
“You wish you were a girl,” the doctor said over the ear bud. “That is the second time in your life that you either thought or uttered that statement.”
'I guess,' I thought to the doctor as the scene in front of me stood still.
“Did you wish you were a girl for real, or was there something else?”
'I don't know, maybe a combination of the two.'
“Other than actually wanting to be a girl, what else could you have meant?”
'I think mostly that I wouldn't be made fun of for being shaped like I was. I know I've heard of people saying that they knew from early on that they were females, but I don't think that was me. At least not consciously. Here, I think I was just frustrated at being made fun of, but where I wound up, maybe there was more truth to that statement than I realized.'
“Hmm,” the doctor gave an extended pause. “Or could it be that the statement caused the future reality.”
I never thought of it that way. In fact, outside of just viewing the event again, I had all but forgotten it.
“Many events contribute to how we view the world and ourselves. Some more than others.”
I was left to wonder how much of a role this particular event may have effected my future decisions and whether or not, in the long run, that mattered very much.
I didn't have much time to mull the matter over before I found myself standing in my younger self's bedroom.
The young Greg closed and locked the door. That was an odd thing for him to do, very rarely did he latch the door because very rarely did anyone ever come into his room without knocking first. He fished the bra out of his book bag and took off his sweaty shirt. He held the bra cups over his chest and to his dismay, or perhaps delight, the thoughts flowing through the young man were confusing and conflicting, the breast neatly filled up the soft material. He slid his arms through the two loops and using a flexibility that he was unaware that he had, the young boy latched the bra into place.
The boy smiled and then frowned when he saw that the bra was all but a perfect fit. Not only that, but it made his chest even more pronounced. In a moment of disgust, perhaps at the idea that he liked how his chest looked, he hastily removed the garment and put it back in his book bag. He would throw it away the following day, but definitely not in his own house. There would be too many questions to answer then.
I was expecting the doctor to chime in, but he didn't. Reality quickly dissolved around me and I was back in the isolation chamber, seemingly alone with my thoughts. I suppose it was only right to see the first time I ever put on a woman's garment voluntarily, but my head was swimming with the thoughts of my prepubescent self.
It felt nice. It felt dirty. I felt comfortable. I felt slightly aroused. I felt guilty for feeling slightly aroused. I felt conflicted. I was angry at John for throwing the bra at me and at the same time thankful for the opportunity to have the experience. I felt angry at myself for feeling thankful.
I felt increased heat and pins and needles upon my head, distracting me from that one moment in time. The sensations must have lasted for a good ten minutes before the subsided.
I lay perfectly still submerged in the isolation chamber. The image of my younger self in a bra seemed to appear right in front of me.
I looked on and sighed. It was an event in my life, one that I have carried and suddenly I couldn't conjure up any emotional attachment to it. I was a young child looking at themselves in the mirror while wearing a bra. How about that?
Author's note: This is still a nurtures view of psycho-sexual development that not everyone may espouse to. Some people believe that gender identity starts in the womb and that you are mentally male or female before you even take your first breath. I am not discounting that theory, but I have always been of a position that sexual identity is most likely a combination of both nature and nurture. In a story such as this, it is difficult to show the nature side, outside of the gynecomastia and secondary sexual traits. Like I said earlier, this story really has gotten away from me, but I think I am nearing some sort of conclusion. The big question is, I wonder what the liquid is actually doing. I guess I'll find out right before everyone else does.
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