If Wishes Were Horses

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If Wishes Were Horses

I managed to slam on the brakes just in time. Not only was the light red as a fire truck, but a family had just stepped into the intersection. The woman and her daughter looked petrified; the man looked furious. There was probably an infant in the stroller, too.

The man flipped me off, vigorously, but fortunately took no further steps to vent his entirely justified rage. I wasn’t in uniform and I was driving a beat-up Subaru Forester, so the man’s restraint had nothing to do with fear of the police. He’s probably just a decent guy who loves his family, I thought.

Oddly enough, the thought only left me more unsettled. It’s so easy, so natural, when they’re little. I wish it stayed that way! I snorted as my grammy's old saying ran through my head: If wishes were horses, beggars would ride.

The family was well out of the intersection when the light turned. I eased the Forester forward, forcing myself to be hyper aware of the speed limit. I had no destination in mind; had been driving blindly, so lost in my own thoughts that I didn’t even know where I was going.

It was the beach road, of course. That’s where my mind would take me when I put it on autopilot. The diner where I’d first met Ginny was only three blocks from here. Well . . . that’s where it had been, anyway. Long gone now; another big block of condos had replaced it. Naturally. Filled with more insufferable young professionals, no doubt. The whole effing world is going to shit, I snarled silently.

The long pier was still there. I’d taken Nate there when he was a kid. Early mornings and late evenings, when the fish were biting. Some father-son time, just like I used to have with my old man. Had still had with my old man, right up until last year. The Chief hadn’t recovered his mobility after the stroke, though.

I pulled into the parking lot carefully and backed into a spot. Clear exit to the road. Never knew when I might have to leave in a hurry. I sat for a minute, debating whether I should turn around and head home. But my near-accident convinced me that I should clear my head before driving any further. I shut off the engine and got out, locking the door carefully behind me. On duty or off, I have a weapon in the car, and I’m careful with it.

The pier was all lit up. I headed that way, thinking it might be nice to go to the end, sit on one of the benches, and listen to the surf for a bit. But a group of twenty-something’s started heading that way, too, and they were enough to change my mind. The girls wore flirty cocktail dresses and platform shoes; the guys were styling in pricy blue jeans, collared shirts and coiffed hair no doubt fluffed with “product.” Their laughter was too loud; the jokes probably what passed for witty. I felt a strong desire to be somewhere else.

There was a sandy path down to the beach and I took it, lured by the crash of waves and the cry of gulls. Closer to the water I stopped, knelt down, and removed my ratty sneakers. The night was early, and the beach still retained enough of the day’s heat that I was comfortable in my basketball shorts and hoodie.

The sand felt good. Moist and crumbly. I angled closer to the surf, wanting to feel the caress of waves across the top of my feet. Remembering the times Ginny and I had walked along this beach. We used to talk for hours; I couldn’t remember what all we’d actually said. It hadn’t mattered, the words. The message was always the same. I love you.

I still loved her, of course. But damn, she made it hard, some days. Always after me to be understanding of Nate — of my son, dammit! To accept him “as he is.”

To accept her.

Well, screw that! Nate was twenty-two now. He had a job behind a desk somewhere, and his own place. He could wear dresses all he liked, and no-one could tell him not to. But that didn’t change facts, did it? You can call yourself the Queen of Sheba, but don’t go expecting people to bow and scrape.

It’s not like I screamed at him, or told him he wasn’t welcome at my house, or anything like that, though the guys on the force would have done that at a minimum. But I’m the bad guy, just because I won’t call him “Shellie” or use female pronouns? I was there, dammit! Changed his stinky diapers a million times. I frickin’ know what’s under the hood!

But it just killed me, how this thing was driving a wedge between me and my family. Not my parents; they were as baffled as me, and the Chief had given me plenty of advice about taking a razor to Nate’s abundant hair. No, they got it. But Ginny was downright icy, and Nate . . . .

Nate was hurt.

He didn’t fight back. He never made a scene when I called him by his birth name, or referred to him by a male pronoun. He was always polite and respectful. But I’d known him all his young life. Had held him when he was banged up; comforted him when other boys were cruel, in the way that boys are, sometimes. He couldn’t fool me. Nate was wounded, hurting. Hurting bad. Ginny thought he’d feel better if I played along with his fantasy, but I just didn’t see it.

Pain shot up my right leg as my foot landed wrong on something hard and I hopped, cursing. Some fucker couldn’t be bothered to pick up their beer bottle. Good thing it wasn’t broken! I bent down and picked it up. What do you want to bet it’s some frickin’ pricey craft IPA. I wonder who mighta left this here? I rubbed some sand off it so I could read the label.

A warm, very feminine voice spoke, practically in my ear. “Ahhhh . . . Much better! Thanks.”

I practically jumped out of my skin and spun around. I’m both a veteran and a police officer, and I pride myself on situational awareness. I even teach it, for Chrissake! Lost in my thoughts, I hadn’t had a clue that anyone was nearby.

The woman made quite the appearance. Long, wavy black hair, deep, dark eyes, curves that were only highlighted by a bikini and the gauzy beach wrap that she wore over it. Her full lips curled in a smile. “I’m sorry if I startled you.”

Despite my sloppy appearance, I retreated into the familiarity and formality of my official persona. “Not at all, Ma’am. I’m just normally more alert than that.”

“Hmmm?” Her inquiry sounded amused. “Well, I for one am glad you stepped on my bottle and picked it up.”

“This is yours?”

“Sure. Yes.”

“Well, you’re welcome to it, but I’ll pitch in the recycling if you want.”

She laughed, free and amused. “Really? And let someone else get the three wishes? That’s magnanimous of you!”

Her manner, and her humor, made me laugh as well. “Good one, Miss . . . ?”

“Just call me Jeannie.”

The woman was quick, that was for sure. If I’d been a couple decades younger and unattached, I might stay to match wits and see where it might lead. As it was . . . . “Fair enough, Jeannie. But seriously, I’ll drop this off if you like; there’s a bin by my car.”

She shook her head, still smiling, and her dark hair swirled around her face in a cloud. “A man of a skeptical world, I see. Well, Sergeant Byron McAlistair, I am not kidding. I am who I say I am, and I have powers beyond what your experience can imagine. I can’t change the things that have been, but I can alter many things that are. Is your life really so perfect, that you scorn my help?”

My defenses went up with a snap. “How do you know my name?”

“How could I not know it, and more besides? You have opened my prison, for a time.”

Alright, this was taking a joke too far. “The beer bottle?” I let my skepticism color my tone. “Doesn’t seem real authentic.”

“Would you prefer a lamp? An urn? Perhaps an amphora?” As she spoke, the bottle in my hands changed shape. I dropped it with a startled cry when it became a large clay vessel, but it resumed the form of a beer bottle when it hit the soft sand, making hardly a sound.

Jeannie shrugged. “The world changes.” She spread her arms, causing her gauzy wrap to surge over her curves in eye-catching ways. “Attire changes. Forms must change as well.”

I looked at the beer bottle, lying there so innocently. But I had been holding it. The change hadn’t been an optical illusion; I’d felt it too. “Holy shit!” My voice was barely a whisper. “You’re for real?”

“What is ‘real?’” she countered. “But I don’t propose to debate my existence, not even with the famous 'Big Mac.'”

I flinched as she employed the nickname that only other sergeants dared to use to my face.

“You have done me a service.” Her voice was soft, and surprisingly compassionate. “By custom, I will grant you three wishes. For yourself; perhaps, for your loved ones. Beyond that, I cannot go.”

“So, world peace and an end to hunger are right out?”

“I’m afraid so,” she said gravely. “I am but a power of this world; not The Power.”

“Not even a World Series pennant for the A’s?”

“Nope. And, sorry, but after their last season, world peace would be easier. Just sayin’.”

Ouch! But her all-too-accurate insult to the tattered honor of my favorite baseball team went unanswered. My mind turned immediately to the problem that had brought me to this peaceful beach, alone, without the woman who should be here with me. As she had been, years before. “Nate!”

“Your child,” Jeannie said, matter-of-factly. “What is your wish?” I opened my mouth, but she laid a warming finger across it, silencing me. “Think before you answer. Be certain of what you want, and precise in your wording. The adage, ‘be careful what you wish for’ most definitely applies.”

I digested that. She was right, of course. I wanted Nate to stop his nonsense and go back to living as the man he was. But how much of the Nate I knew was wrapped up with his crazy gender nonsense? To use his own terms, where did “Shellie” end and Nate begin? Assuming Jeannie was for real — and I couldn’t quite bring myself to believe that — would I even recognize Nate, if she granted that particular wish?

But . . . but . . . I couldn’t just leave it! I could ask for a million bucks, or to win the billion-dollar Powerball, or whatever. But without my family, it wouldn’t be worth the contents of a septic tank.

I couldn’t think straight with Jeannie there, looking like a supermodel. I turned toward the ocean, placid under a bright silver moon. What do I want? Really want?

“Byron,” she said behind me, her voice soft. “You must choose.”

An old Bible story came to mind, causing me to smile. Without turning around, I whispered, “I want to understand him, Jeannie. I want to understand my son. Can you do that?”

She was silent. Maybe she was a hallucination. I turned around, half expecting to find no-one there, but she hadn’t moved. She was just completely still, her expression unreadable.

“Can you?” I repeated.

“Is that truly your wish? Be certain.”

“Yes. Yes, absolutely.”

She nodded sadly. “So be it. Byron . . . I’m so very sorry.”

I was puzzled. Why was she sorry? It seemed a shame that my wish had caused her such distress. Though, even shadowed, her features were perfect. Flawless. Just like her hair, her body . . . Everything about her was perfect.

It occurred to me, really for the first time in my life, that I am tremendously ugly. My hair is wiry, grizzled, with the start of a tonsure at the crown. My skin is rough and my features rougher. A heavy jaw, a nose like a beak, a thick neck and big, ungainly shoulders. God, what had Ginny ever seen in me?

I looked down at my hands. All I could see was that they are huge. Big palms, fat fingers. Age had thickened my gut. And then . . . between my legs, hanging there like some awful, rotting fruit, my “manhood.” I shuddered.

A feeling of revulsion overwhelmed me like a rogue wave. I had never felt anything like it, and I was completely unable to resist. Dropping to my knees, overcome by horror, I thought, I’m a monster! I want . . . I want . . . ! Jeannie was gazing at me, my distress echoed in her eyes. Her perfect eyes. I want to look like her! Or at least, not like ME! I want to be a woman! I’ve never wanted anything so much in my whole life!

The thought was new, alien. Overpowering. I knew, with complete certainty, that despite the clear evidence of my own senses, I not only wanted to be a woman, I was one, where it mattered most. Only my body was wrong. And not just slightly wrong, either. I know what I look like, sound like, feel like. Even smell like, God help me. All of it was terribly, hideously, catastrophically wrong.

It’s not real . . . it can’t be! I struggled, trying to subdue my supercharged emotions with futile wisps of logic. I’ve never felt like this before! I’ve never had any issue with being a . . . a . . . . My mind rebelled, not wanting to finish the thought. To accept the label “man” felt too wrong to contemplate.

I didn’t feel like this yesterday, or last week. Or ever. Frantically, I pulled at my memories to try to ground my sense of self and confirm the wrongness of my present feelings.

But my memories simply served up another debilitating shock. I was suddenly painfully aware of the many times I hadn’t been there for Ginny — or had been physically present, but emotionally distant. When her mother had her health issues, and Ginny’d been squeezed between her mom, Nate and her job . . . and I hadn’t stepped in to help out. When she’d been passed over for promotion and needed a shoulder to cry on, and I’d gone off to help my friends brew beer, reasoning that I had promised to be there.

The memories came lightning fast; it was like boulders were being piled on top of me, squeezing the air from my lungs. The emotional overload was too much. I began to sob, tears flowing freely over cheeks that had been dry for decades. I couldn’t even remain upright on my knees. My hands were buried in the moist, gritty sand as I bawled like a baby, completely unable to contain my grief and pain, or even lift my head. I was so ashamed.

I felt a hand on the back of my neck, soft, cool, and gentle. “I am so sorry,” Jeannie repeated. “Do you understand Shellie now?”

No!!! “It can’t be like this for him! It can’t!”

“But it is,” she said softly. “Every day.”

She couldn’t be right, could she? But . . . If she was! “Oh, God! What have I done?”

“What most parents do, Byron. What most people do. Some good, some bad.”

Sure as hell, I couldn’t see the good. Only that my child had needed me, like my wife had needed me. And I had failed them both. If Nate — if Shellie — felt as bad as I did now, how could she have even survived? Grasping at straws, I said, “At least Shellie has nothing to feel guilty about. Not . . . not like me.”

Jeannie squeezed my shoulder, both a comfort and a warning. “And yet she does feel guilty. For the hurt she causes you, just by being herself. For the rift in your marriage. For Ginny’s drinking, and your high blood pressure. She thinks it's her fault. All of it.”

The truth of Jeannie’s words hit home, a final, fatal boulder on top of the pile that was crushing me. None of it was Shellie’s fault. None of it! I cried out, “I wish I’d never even been born!”

“I can’t change what has been,” she reminded me, before adding gently, “and, would you really want me to?”

Despite her tone, her words were like a bucket of ice water. I suddenly remembered who I was speaking to — and the potential dangers of figures of speech. “No,” I said quickly. “No. Without me, Shellie wouldn’t have been born. I’m a complete fuck-up, but . . . but she deserves to live.”

Just like that, an inspiration hit me. “Not just live. That’s it! You can’t change the past. But Shellie can have a real life, starting right now. You can do that, right?” I twisted myself to face her and my hands — my massive, ugly, hairy hands — grabbed her upper arms fiercely as we knelt in the sand.

“What are you asking?” Her tone, again, was precise.

“If what I’m feeling now is what Shellie feels, you can stop it, right? You can give her the body of her dreams. She can be a woman, inside and out. Have a full life.” My mind whirled at the possibilities — at the life Shellie could have. As Shellie, she could even carry children in her womb; nurse them at her own breast. I was stunned to discover that the idea of my child nursing an infant brought, not shock, but jealousy.

Jeannie’s compassionate gaze held me for a long moment before she answered. “Yes, I can do that. If it is your wish.”

My first wish had produced consequences I hadn’t even contemplated, so I took a moment to consider this new idea carefully. Trying to see potential flaws. “You’re sure? This is really how Shellie feels? This . . . .” I searched for words to describe what was tearing me apart. “This longing? Heartache? And . . . and feeling like being stuffed in some monster’s skin?”


I searched her beautiful features, trying to see a sign of falsehood or trickery. But however much she looked like a human female, I knew now that she was definitely something else. I couldn’t simply rely on her words, or trust my perception of her. Closing my eyes, I reached out with my heart, trying to pierce the distance — physical, emotional, and spiritual — between me and my child. Is this what Shellie had always felt? Would this be her desire?

And, like that, I knew. I understood, completely and without doubt. Between the raw emotion of my new and very feminine heart, and my clear recollection of my child, I was certain of what Shellie would want. Opening my eyes again, I said, “That’s my wish. I’m sure.”

This time, Jeannie smiled. “Tonight, while she sleeps. It will be done.”

In the midst of the internal agony I was desperately trying to fight, I felt a touch of something else. Relief, maybe? A sense of rightness in a sea of wrong. Noticing for the first time the vice-like grip of my monstrous hands, I released Jeannie and sagged with relief. “Oh, thank God. I did something right.”

She got to her feet and extended a graceful hand. After a moment, I took it and rose heavily, extremely conscious of my rough and ungainly shape, compared to her exquisite and so-very-enviable form. It came to me, suddenly, that I had one wish left.

I can become a woman too!

God, I wanted it. Yearned for it. Imagined carrying a child in my womb, my full breasts swelling to meet its coming need. Longed for soft and delicate features, luscious hair, smooth skin caressed by silky fabric . . . . I could have it all.

Ironically, though, my woman’s heart would not countenance such selfishness. Unlike Shellie, I’m neither young nor unattached. And I had hurt Ginny more than enough already. I imagined trying to explain to her that she was married to a young woman. She’s as heterosexual as I am . . . or, at least, as heterosexual as I was. I’m still attracted to women — my reaction to Jeannie is ample proof of that! — but does that make me a lesbian, since I’m female inside? God, what a headache!

Was there, instead, something I could do for Ginny? Or, should I find a way to ease Shellie’s transition to her new life? Her spontaneous sex change would certainly blow the minds of bureaucrats, public and private.

Jeannie’s chuckle broke my reverie. “The last wish is always the hardest.”

I shrugged. “I suppose so. I want to do something for my wife and . . . daughter!” The novelty, the perfect fit, of that word brought a real smile to my lips despite my internal turmoil. “Something to make up for everything I’ve screwed up.”

“Nothing for yourself?”

I barked a harsh laugh. “I’ve spent thirty years looking after myself. Enough of that.”

She surprised me by resting her hand lightly on my chest, just over my heart. “Byron. I know the weight of what I put on you, when I granted your first wish. Believe me when I say there was no other way for you to understand what your daughter was enduring. I can give you a woman’s body; I could also reverse what I did to you.”

The offer was there, right there, out in the open. I could have it! It took more willpower than I even knew I possessed to close the door on the wish that I longed, so desperately, to shout to the heavens. No. And, as far as reversing the first wish, my mind rebelled at the idea. “I can’t just do something for me. I can’t! Not after I’ve screwed up so badly, for so long!”

“Do you really think you can go on like this?”

I gritted my teeth. “Shellie did it. She was just a kid, and she did it. I’ve got to be able to manage. I’ve got to try.”

“You may fail. Shellie almost did, more times than you can imagine. Do you really think there is something you can give them, that would make up for losing you?”

Me? What fucking good have I been? Why should they care? Ginny could do a million times better, and she should. Jesus, I look like an orc and I don’t act much better!”

“That’s your dysphoria speaking. And your guilt. Don’t think about how you feel about you. Think how they feel. What would Ginny say?”

“That I’m a pig-headed jackass!”

She gave me a lopsided smile. “I’m sure she’s said that on plenty of occasions. But I’m not talking about what she’d say in the heat of an argument. What would she say, if your life were threatened? Because it is, Byron. You need to understand that. I know you are strong. Maybe even stronger than you know. But Shellie had years to find ways to cope with dysphoria. You have no defenses.”

I forced myself to face the possibility that she was right. In the short time I’d endured it, the dysphoria had sapped my strength and demolished any sense that my life was worthwhile. Even if I found a way to live with it, to keep going, what kind of husband could I be, crippled by self-loathing? Again I tried to reach out with my aching, wounded heart, to imagine what Ginny would really say. What she would want.

A winning lotto ticket might assuage a lot of their grief. But as tempting as that thought was, I dismissed it. Ginny wasn’t like that; never had been. And however sure I was that she could do better, I knew in my heart that wouldn’t be her choice.

Should I really use my last wish to reverse the first? The part of my mind that was still processing in a linear fashion thought the notion wasteful as all hell. My heart, meanwhile . . . well, it didn’t want to be restored to its default settings; it just wanted a beautiful, female body to be complete. No help there.

Or . . . maybe that was helpful. I didn’t want to go back to who he had been.

“My time is almost up,” Jeannie said. “You must choose.”

I looked into her dark eyes, torn, uncertain, tormented. “I can’t be the woman I want to be. I can’t. But I don’t want to be the man I was. I feel like my heart’s been cracked open and it hurts like hell, but for the first time in forever, I can come close to understanding my wife and my child. I don’t want to lose that.”

Jeannie nodded slowly. “You’re a good person, Byron. I know you can’t see that right now, but you are. Shellie’s dysphoria was especially strong. I can dial it back quite a bit, while still leaving you a strong connection with your feminine side.”

I wasn’t sure that would work. “Before today, I didn’t even have a feminine side.”

She laughed. “Of course you did! The manliest man has a feminine side, just like the most feminine woman has a masculine side. You just spent decades burying it. Denying it. Pretending it didn’t exist.” She shook her head. “Time, Byron.”

As she said that, I noticed that her body seemed less solid — like she was fading, becoming translucent. I had no more time to weigh the pros and cons, and had to take it on faith. “Yes. Do that. That’s my wish.”

She stood on her tiptoes and kissed me lightly, a sweet kiss that nonetheless confirmed that I was still very much attracted to women. “Done, then. Good luck!” Before I had time to say anything, or even react, she was gone.

The first thing I noticed, naturally, was the absence of pain, like my heart had been freed from the iron jaws of a bear trap. I took a long breath and let it out, almost afraid that I might do something that would cause the pain to come back. It didn’t, so I took another.

Then, of course, I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to feel at all — that the tenderness which had filled me would have gone with the pain. But my mind turned to Shellie, sound asleep, and to Ginny, who was sitting at home, alone and worried, and I knew that fear, at least, was groundless. I still ached for their hurts and longed with all my heart to heal them.

That would require a different sort of miracle, of course. One of time and persistence and love. But as I stood alone on that deserted beach, I vowed to myself, and to the strange spirit that had visited me, that I would do what it took, for as long as it took.

Finally, like a patient waking from surgery, anxious but afraid to see what had been done, I took stock of how I felt about myself. My body no longer filled me with revulsion. It was what it was. Despite that, I still wished I were female. I longed for the beauty of it; the grace. It ached, but it was a dull ache. A manageable ache. And, I thought, a small price to pay.

A gull landed on the sand, not ten feet away, and eyed me quizzically.

Oddly, I felt a bit apologetic. “Got nothing for you, scamp.”

Somewhere over my head, lost in the moonlight, its mate called. The gull squawked in response, beat its wings, and took to the air.

“Alright,” I laughed. “I get it, Jeannie. I get it!” Turning toward the pier I could barely see in the distance, I began the journey home.

The end.


Author's note: I would like to thank the amazing Andrea Lena DiMaggio for giving me her thoughts on an earlier draft of this story. Love ya, 'Drea!

For information about my other stories, please check out my author's page.

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Not so sure that my father

... would have wished for this. I wonder how many would be so selfless if presented with the chance to make it go away.

Actually, it's an interesting exercise to consider what you would wish for yourself - I really don't know what _I_ would wish for. It's easy to say that I would wish that I had been born in the body I desire, but if I was, then would I still be me? Like many here, I had a couple of decades before transition yearning for it, and more decades since that trying to live up to my new self, but all that has shaped who I am inside and I really don't know that I would wish that away if I could.

Just as well that the chance isn't likely to come along, too confusing. I quite like being me most of the time despite the struggles to become who I am.

Good story, and Byron probably got it at least mostly right, as long as Shelly doesn't think like I do.


Stage of life matters

Emma Anne Tate's picture

Shellie is 22 and single. Resolving her dysphoria by making her female was practical, and while it will certainly change the trajectory of her life, it will do the least harm to the person she is inside. Very likely, she will see it as pure blessing. Doing the same thing to someone in their forties who is married, has an established career and children, would be incredibly disruptive. Whether it was a net positive would probably depend on the severity of the dysphoria. According to Jeanne, Shellie’s was very high.


holy crap, this is GOOD!

no, its GREAT!

thank you so much for sharing it with us.


Thanks, Dot!

Emma Anne Tate's picture

I’m so glad you read my stories. Every time you comment, I feel like I just got a big hug. :)


a great story

and another example of why I keep reading your stories as soon as they appear.

Thank you.

Emma Anne Tate's picture

Thank you for reading my stories, and for the kind comment. I’m glad you enjoy them!


Love it

Emma's picture

I adore the way you write. So refined and detailed and paired with such lovely tale.

Thanks for letting us read this. Wishes aren't horses but still I wish to write like you one day.

I’m really glad you don’t!

Emma Anne Tate's picture

If you wrote like me, you wouldn’t write like you! I’m really enjoying First Mother, and recommend it to everyone who enjoys either great characters, Science Fiction, or both. But thank you for your kind words, Emma Prime. ;-)


“But it is,” she said softly. “Every day.”

Andrea Lena's picture

If Nate — if Shellie — felt as bad as I did now, how could she have even survived? Grasping at straws, I said, “At least Shellie has nothing to feel guilty about. Not . . . not like me.”

Jeannie squeezed my shoulder, both a comfort and a warning. “And yet she does feel guilty. For the hurt she causes you, just by being herself. For the rift in your marriage. For Ginny’s drinking, and your high blood pressure. She thinks it's her fault. All of it.”

Just for being herself.



To be alive is to be vulnerable. Madeleine L'Engle
Love, Andrea Lena

Crushing with weights

Emma Anne Tate's picture

In the days of witch trials, authorities used to put a door on top of an accused person and pile stones on it. In theory, it was supposed to coerce a confession; in practice, it was just a slow and exceptionally cruel way to kill them. Dysphoria, society’s disapproval, family tension, guilt and shame are like those stones. Too many of our sisters and brothers have succumbed to their weight.

Like so many people on this site, you have had more than your share of weights piled on you. That you still manage to get up every day and keep going is a marvel and an inspiration. Stay strong, ‘Drea.



BarbieLee's picture

There is always an up if there is a down. An in if there is an out. Light trades with dark. And can anyone look at the diversity of Creation and proclaim they have all the answers and only their opinion and ideas are right? Emma wrapped up so much truth and emotion in this puppy, I believe I stopped breathing several times before going on. It is a lack of understanding that builds the void between those born with a double mix of boy=girl and those who refuse to understand and those who can't go on living with the rules man is man and woman is woman. There is no bridge between the two.
Emma, a lot of writers hand me something I may use on ideological theory they have on transgender. You filled some of that void I have to try and cross when discussing trans with a closed mind.
Hugs Emma
Barbie Jean
Life is a gift. Don't waste it.

Oklahoma born and raised cowgirl

How do you open a mind that is closed?

Emma Anne Tate's picture

If you find the secret, please share it! The only thing that’s ever worked, as far as I can see, is pure grace. An unfortunately rare phenomenon.

Thanks, Barb. I’m delighted that you enjoyed the story.


If 'ifs and buts' were candy and nuts...

Dee Sylvan's picture

We'd all have a Merry Christmas.' That was one of my moms favorite sayings. The world would be a different place if the intolerant could 'walk a mile' in others shoes. But alas, hearts will be won over, one by one. Another gem, Emma. I certainly wish my loved ones could experience the emotions I have suppressed my entire life and am now experiencing to the fullest. Good for Big Mac, good for Shellie, and good for Ginny who was certainly caught between a rock and a hard place. Thank you, sis! :DD


Candy and Nuts

Emma Anne Tate's picture

Love it! I hadn’t heard that variant!

People need to be touched personally to begin to understand — and even that isn’t enough, sometimes. Thanks, Sis — with everything you’ve got going on, I’m surprised you had time to read!!!


Different Points of View.

Sunflowerchan's picture

This story made me remember something from when I was testing my call to the Episcopal Priesthood. It was the first lesson I ever learned from an old priest, who in many ways was like the grandfather I never had. And that was that we must strive to understand each others different points of view. Sergeant Bryon McAlistair showed compassion and room to grow by wishing to understand what his daughter was going through. And that compassion and willingness to go and meet his daughter and his wife on their turf if you will, shows what kind of man he really is.

I might be following the wrong trail and if I am please forgive me, but this struck so close to home. I see so much of Fr. John in Sergeant Bryon McAlistair and at the same time I also see so much of Fr. George both were two men who shaped me into the person I am today. It like you have fused the two together. The side that seeks understanding of Segeant Bryon McAlistair is the Fr. John but the side that refuses to budge, refuses to see past his physical gender and see the spiriutal person inside struggling to come out is Fr. George. In the end, I'm glad things worked out for all, this story brought tears to my eyes and made me once more look into the deep, dark recesses of my soul.

Thank you dear Emma, thank you for all you do to entertain us, to enlighten us. You always bring you 'A' game when you write and I admire you for that.


Emma Anne Tate's picture

I think you are right to see both Father John and Father George in Shellie’s father, Byron. On the surface, he appears hard and inflexible, like Fr. George. What becomes clear as the story progresses is that he loves his family deeply, but is upset that he can’t understand them, retreating into angry obstinacy when they don’t conform to his view of the world. At the critical moment, when given agency to “fix” things, he understands just enough to know that he doesn’t understand enough. Knowing what we don’t know, and appreciating what we can’t know, is the road to humility, empathy, and wisdom.

Thank you for your comments, Sunflower-san. I hope when you look into the depths of your soul, you see the beauty of it. We all do.


I have often contemplated……

D. Eden's picture

What I would wish for if given the opportunity. As a serious exercise in introspection, this is much more complex than the simple question of what you would spend the money on if you won the lottery.

Like most people, I have of course been involved in that conversation - what would you do if you won $100 million? Funny how that used to be a simple million dollars, but then again that doesn’t go as far as it once did. Everyone has all of the usual answers - donate to charity, buy a new house, new homes for kids or parents or various relatives, travel, etc. Those are fairly standard answers which only impact the future.

When I was younger, I often prayed that I would wake up and suddenly be the girl that I should have been born as, or that some miracle would change me into that girl, or even that my parents would suddenly be the type of people that I could approach regarding my gender issue. Alas, my prayers went unanswered.

When I got older, my prayers changed. I prayed that God would simply heal me - that I would no longer suffer the way I was, that God would make me wholly male and thus resolve my suffering. I had resolved myself to being stuck as the physical person I was, and would have been willing to live thus if only I could simply been made whole.

Even later in life, when I admitted to myself and my family who I really was, and resolved to deal with my gender dysphoria, my spouse and I discussed this at length - parroting discussions which I had previously had with my therapist. Discussions which began around exactly how far I was going in my transition, eventually came around to the usual what-ifs. When my spouse asked if I planned on having surgery, and exactly what type of surgery, I told her that at my age and at my current stage in life that I did not plan on having a vaginoplasty.

You see, I love my wife and at this point in my life I have no desire to look for a different partner. Although I would love to be complete, to physically be the woman I am fully, there is no point in the expense, the pain, or the danger inherent to the surgery. My spouse is vehemently hetero, so having a vagina serves no purpose other than making me feel more fully female. I began my transition some ten years ago, completing the full course of hormones, legally and socially transitioning full time and living as a woman, and this past year having a bilateral orchiectomy. But no more.

My wife asked me if my answer would be different were it not for her - and my answer was complicated.

If I could go back in time and transition as a teenager would I? I don’t know.

If I did, I would not be the person I am now. The things that make me who I am now would never have happened. What’s more, I would never have met the woman I am desperately in love with. My three wonderful sons would never have been born. All of the things I have accomplished, all of the good that I have done, would never have happened.

Would I be happier? Perhaps - but would it be worth it? Would my happiness be worth the loss of my wife and my sons?

If my marriage had not survived my transition would I have completed my surgery? Probably - but I would have already lost my wife and probably my children as well, and there would be no reason not to move forward irregardless of the risk and the pain.

This story addresses those same issues. What would you do if you had the chance to change your life? I can only hope that I would be as selfless as Byron.

D. Eden

Dum Vivimus, Vivamus

Too much water under the bridge

Patricia Marie Allen's picture

To many things have happened and to many people have been affected by who I am and the life I've lived. I couldn't erase all of that just for a selfish need to be fulfilled in my life. Like you I have a family that would never have come to be without the me that I was and am being there to take part in it's formation.

It would be a little like the time travel paradox. If you could visit and interact with the past it wouldn't do to make any changes. Even the smallest change could alter the (then future) time you came from and there may be no place you could go back to.

No man is an island entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.

If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less,
As well as if a promontory were,
As well as any manor of thy friend's,
Or of thine own were.

Any man's death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind.
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.

John Donne


Happiness is being all dressed up and HAVING some place to go.
Semper in femineo gerunt

Prayers change with age

Emma Anne Tate's picture

I, too, think my prayers have changed with age. As a kid? Well, I probably would have asked for the ability to fly! From where I stand now, though . . . it's more important to consider my family's happiness. My dysphoria is manageable, like Byron's at the end of the story, after Jeannie grants his last wish. Of course, one of the reasons why it is manageable is that I am able to be here, conversing with so many transwomen who have managed, despite dysphoria, to lead lives that are full of meaning and grace. Including you two, Dallas and Patricia. Very much including you two!


Carl Jung

Patricia Marie Allen's picture

The manliest man has a feminine side, just like the most feminine woman has a masculine side

. In that you echoed Carl Jung, who said that there is something masculine about every woman and something feminine about every man.

You have encapsulated a great truth regarding gender dysphoria. I have never felt the transition or die feeling so many of my sisters have felt, though I have often felt the wrongness of my body. In reading your story, I found myself shaking my head in affirmation of the truth represented in how Nate/Shelly felt. While going wild with expressing the feminine within me and thumbing my nose at the world who couldn't accept would be freeing, the consequences to those I love would be far more devastating to them than me dealing with my mild gender dysphoria in less than a 100% manor is to me.


Happiness is being all dressed up and HAVING some place to go.
Semper in femineo gerunt


Emma Anne Tate's picture

Jung, who managed to be both incredibly perceptive and sometimes mad as a March Hare, purposefully built on many older traditions. The yinyang symbol, for instance, incorporates both the masculine and feminine in the whole circle, but the masculine element contains a dot of the feminine and vice versa. Even this powerful symbol, of course, does not encompass the variability of human experience -- in some people, that opposite "dot" is tiny; in others it's enormous.

Thank you for your thoughtful comment, Patricia. I'd like to thumb my nose at the world too, someday!


When it is all said and done

Wendy Jean's picture

He managed to do the best he could for his family. I could think of worse wishes.


Emma Anne Tate's picture

I mean, if Jeanne had the power, Byron would have felt guilty not using his wishes for world peace, an end to hunger, and a pennant for the poor Oakland A's (okay, maybe not that last one. Though, as a fan, he surely would have felt guilty). But with that off the table, what better wish could he have for his loved ones? Even Ginny, who got nothing directly, will end up with an end to strife between her husband and her child, and a husband who is far more understanding and attentive.


Shaped By Circumstances

joannebarbarella's picture

"O wad some power the giftie gie us tae see oorsels as ithers see us". That was Byron's first gift in a way, but in reverse, and Jeannie knew it would hurt. His second wish was for his child's happiness. The third was, obliquely, for his wife's happiness, and if it gave him some relief and made the whole family happy, that was a bonus.

I can't imagine the three wishes spent more wisely. While the goodness in him was innate and the wishes were his, he had a genie who was not trying to trick him but to help him. Not many of that ilk around in these stories.

As others have conjectured, what would I do in Byron's shoes? I am not sure I could be so wise. I would certainly wish for my wife's disabilities to go away. I could wish for my own health. That third wish is hard. I've been living with gender dysphoria for a lifetime and as Dallas said, there are so many things that would not have come to pass if I wished myself female that I don't think I could do it.

Winning the lottery? What's the point of being the richest corpse in the graveyard? I'll have to think on that one.

Just as your wonderful little story has made me think even while I enjoyed it, Emma Anne.

Come for the story . . .

Emma Anne Tate's picture

. . . stay for the thinky parts! In working through this story, I think I finally came up with a plan for the inevitable day -- it's gotta happen, right? -- when a Djinn appears and offers to grant three wishes. I will wish for wisdom first, and hope that after achieving that, I'll be able to make good choices for the last two. :)


What to wish for?

What would I wish for? At first, I think, I'd like to be relieved of the pain I've suffered under for most of my life, especially the scars of my childhood.

But then I realize that it is that very pain that has made me empathise with the the oppressed, the hurting, and even the awful people. And in a material sense, I am pretty privileged -- white, educated, well-off, in a trans-safe area of a country that is powerful enough to make sure that any consequences are suffered by people elsewhere. If that pain were taken away, wouldn't I end up becoming just another thoughtless, privileged person?

On the other hand, I don't do an awful lot with that empathy. Most of my strength and courage seems to be taken up with just getting out of bed in the morning. (By comparison, transition was a cakewalk.) The idea of actually making a difference is so frightening and draining that I don't seem to be able to do much more than write the occasional check.

So I guess I would wish for the strength and courage to act on that empathy more than I do.

Of course, "if wishes were horses ...." I have to work with what I am, not what I might imagine wanting to be.

You captured my feelings exactly

Emma Anne Tate's picture

A novel I read decades ago included a saying that's always stayed with me: "Pain exacts and defines the price of wisdom." Like you, I have been given many material blessings. I might have been happier without my dysphoria, but I fear it might have been the kind of bliss that comes only from ignorance. I'd probably be pretty conceited, too, thinking that my good fortune was maybe something I'd achieved on my own, or because I was somehow better than other people or more favored by God or some such nonsense. A "thorn in the flesh" is not without its uses!

Thank you for sharing this reflection, Asche. You definitely hit me where I live!



RachelMnM's picture

Got a lot of repressed "woman" in me and the ask to understand Shellie was so spot on. Thank you for the wonderfully crafted story and sharing it with us.


Rachel M. Moore...


Emma Anne Tate's picture

Yep, same, same, same, Chica! Thanks, Rachel. :)



just wow. That one hit me right where I live. This is a special story Emma, one of your best and that is saying something!

Thank you so much!

Emma Anne Tate's picture

You are very sweet, Holly. Thank you for your warm comments, here and on other stories. I’m glad this one connected for you.