Unlikely Quarterback

Unlikely Quarterback

By Jessica C

I’m Bryce Royce, a junior who is out for football only because my Dad, an assistant coach, says so. Three weeks ago I became the starting quarterback for the varsity team during the Bridgewater game. When the starting quarterback was badly hurt. Coach Higgins didn’t expect me to do as well as I did. He just didn’t want to lose another quarterback in a game, he already considered lost. We were losing 10-27 in the third quarter.

My Dad’s the junior varsity coach and a varsity defense coach. I don’t even play much on the junior varsity team. But because my Dad is a coach, every play has been drilled into my head. I could play quarterback or as a receiver on offense or a safety or cornerback on defense. My saving grace is that I am quick and in good condition. Being 5’ 8”, I'm listed as 155 pounds. The truth is I am a lanky person at best weighing 140 pounds in wet clothes. If Mom were at the game, she says she would have protested against my playing.

On my first play, the running back lost three yards. The Bridgewater team was sure I wouldn’t pass the ball. They thought the same for the next play. The Coach called for a sweep left, which had failed most of the time. And that was when we ran it with the starting quarterback. I called F38 sweep left. It meant we were sweeping left but I was going to throw it to a receiver in the center of the field. I winked to my friend Hadley Ford and he smiled back.

The play started and we were moving left and the other team was breaking through to tackle whoever had the ball. If I had run with it I would have been tackled, if I threw the ball straight forward they would have swatted it down or intercepted the pass. Luckily my arm was strong enough to throw it over the heads of those rushing to tackle me. The only person expecting it where I threw it was Hadley. He caught it and was able to gain another ten yards after the catch. First down and we were even finally in the other team’s end of the field.

Our Coach quickly called a timeout to yell at me. It is not a good practice for a quarterback to run a play different than the coach calls. But I was successful, plus I didn’t care if he threw me out of the game. Coach Higgins did yell at me, “What the ____ kind of a play was that? You’re lucky Hadley Ford was there to catch it. …How far can you throw the ball?”

I said, “Thirty yards if a strong wind is with me, but I suggest no more than fifteen.”

He said, “If I send Maynard deep, do you think you can hit Ford again running underneath?”

I said, “He should be deeper than the linebacker.”

The coach said, “Don’t worry, I am pretty sure that linebacker is personally attacking you for making him look bad.”

We called the play and no sooner was the ball hiked and it was obvious that linebacker was coming to kill me. I threw it just to his right to avoid his raised arms and ten yards downfield. I then went to the ground.

Maynard is our best receiver and with Bridgewater double covering him, Hadley was again open. He caught the pass and ran another twelve yards before he was tackled.

The next play was to be sweep right and I’m expected to toss it to Johnny James. When it came time to toss the ball; the opposition was already going after James so I tucked the ball under my arms and ran with it. I gained five yards when I was hit from both sides. The funny thing was they hit me at the same time which caused me not to fall immediately. I stumbled ahead until I regained my balance. Luckily I finally fell into the end zone for a touchdown. The score was now 17-27.

Our defense was good enough to eventually stop Bridgewater. I was badly bruised, but I could play. But they stopped us this time. It was the second time we got the ball back that we were able to move the ball. I was now enough of a threat, Johnny James could again successfully run with the ball. He gained 24 yards in three plays. But now in two downs, they kept us to three yards and we needed at least seven yards to gain a first down and keep the ball.

The Coach once again called Sweep Left but it was to be a trick play. I tossed it to Johnny right after it was hiked to me. I counted three and they ran downfield. Coach was right they didn’t expect me to be a receiver and I wasn’t covered. I was to stop at seven yards, but I felt better running. Johnny saw me run and he threw it ahead of me. “Great!”

I ran passed an official that screened me from their defender. I caught the ball and kept running. Roberts from Bridgewater was in the act of tackling me when I dove forward. He did tackle me, but it wasn’t full force like he intended.

Being a smaller guy, I had learned not to take a direct hit, if it could be avoided. Roberts growled at me, “You were lucky that time. I’m going to put the hurt on you when I can.” It is a good practice not to show fear when you’re scared and I don’t think I did. Roberts had a reputation and it was not good.

We moved the ball closer toward the goal line, but we had one play left to try and score. It was now hard for me to see our receivers and there was only player, Hadley that I ever timed a play with. We called a timeout and planned our play. Hadley in a timed route was to go just over the goal line at a set spot. Hike, time and I threw the ball. Hadley had gotten to the goal line, turn and stopped right where he was supposed to. Maynard was now running across the back of the goal line, eight yards deeper than Hadley. I threw it high enough only a good jump and catch by Maynard would result in a touchdown. Everything went well and Maynard showed how good he is. We even made the two-point conversion. If we could get the ball one more time we could win with a field goal.

Unfortunately, we were only good enough to stop them from scoring. We lost the game 25-27.


Riding home from the game with Dad, he was finally proud of me, but he also wanted to get his point made. “Well Bryce, I hope you got to know how exciting it is to play and almost win in football. Aren’t you glad you are not a cheerleader?”

“Dad, I never said I wanted to be a cheerleader. I would rather be on the girls’ cross country team and run track. Even as a boy running cross-country would be better, the clock would be my judge, not some official.”


The reality is that my body is androgynous. It wasn’t until I was in eighth grade that I understood what that meant for me. Then I decided I wanted to be a girl. Needless to say, my Dad didn’t see things my way. I have been to counselors before and since then. It was only since I began seeing Psychologist Anne Akers that she and a medical doctor that someone agreed with me. However, it was against my Dad’s insistence that I have any right to choose.

While some see me as an effeminate boy, who’s probably gay. I am not willing to say that. If I’d be seen as a transgendered girl that would be preferable.

Dr. Anne and Dr. Henry Matters, tell me I have little chance of having surgery until I am eighteen. They have even been told me, I cannot have any hormone blocker or other hormone therapy as they recommend. That was because my parents, won’t approve it. While my Mom is kind of in agreement with me. She is old school and won’t act against my Dad’s wishes.


It is kind of fun to finally get noticed by others in the school and be popular. All of it because I am now the starting quarterback. However, I’m repulsed by the number of bruises that are piling up on my body. I’ve had a few scrapes and cuts, thankfully none yet bad enough that it should leave a scar. My friend Hadley chides me, “Hey Bryce, why are you afraid to break a bone or get some stitches? They’re like a badge of courage.”

I tell him, “I don’t understand what is so courageous about getting one’s body damaged in this game. Do you know how easy it is to get brain damage or need a knee replacement when we get older?”

Hadley says, “Hey that’s the price of playing the game; no pain no glory? How often is a guy our size going to gain the interest of the varsity cheerleaders?”

I said, “Hadley, you’re a good ten pounds heavier then they say I am. The freshmen cheerleaders were already interested in you. You liked Marie three weeks ago and now you’re not happy with that.”

Hadley said, “You know I like her. It’s just nice to have girls our age or better wanting to get a date with me.”

“You play around like that, you’re apt to lose what you think you have along with what you’re dreaming about. I hope you’re content with a wet dream. That might be the only thing you get in the long run.”

Hadley says, “Well, you don’t seem to mind Rhonda Adams showing you attention.”

I tell him, “It’s different!” He asks, why? I tell him, “It just is, maybe someday you’ll know but not now.”

Hadley says, “You know she’s not going to keep interest in you if you don’t show a little more attention back. Like asking her for a date and snuggling up to her pretty bumps. It wouldn’t hurt your image problems.” Hadley knew I was very sensitive about that and he pretty much knew I wasn’t gay. Finally, he said, “I’m sorry about that but you know it hurts me too that people think you’re like that. Because then they wonder about me?”

“I never asked to be judged.’


Three wins have us again in the running for a playoff berth in state competition. A second loss would eliminate us from the competition. This week would be the biggest challenge. Our opponent Westmont High is believed to be as tough a team as Bridgewater, some say better. One advantage we have now is our players are familiar with me as the quarterback. I have thrown enough completed passes and some for twenty yards or longer. I am now considered a threat as a passer.

Coach Higgins finally has Jack Rivers ready as the backup quarterback. Image-wise a lot of people would prefer Jack as the quarterback. I’ve been told that more than once, usually more than once a day. I even told them it was alright with me if he took over.

Reportedly, Coach told someone, “It wouldn’t look good for me taking out a quarterback who has gone 3-0, especially if we lose the game. You might as well know I plan on playing Bryce. He’s either getting the job done or going down trying. I just hope if he’s going down with an injury it’s early enough in the game that Jack Rivers can get the job done.”


Hadley was right over two weeks ago something did happen between Rhonda Adams and me, but no one has guessed what it was. Neither Rhonda nor I am telling them. It was the Sunday, that I went out running at the country club to relax. Rhonda was out running as well. But I was sure I was alone when I had bent down to tie my running shoes. That's when Rhonda saw it. She said, “Bryce, what’s with the underwear, a little strange for a quarterback, isn’t it?”

There weren’t too many chances I got to wear my pink panties. What were the chances my laces would need tying when someone else came by? Ninety-nine times out of a hundred I would have made sure I didn’t make that mistake. But I was out on the golf course and no golf was going on. The season was over. Heck, I hadn’t even seen Rhonda running, when I stopped to tie my laces. Where did she come from?

I stand up, pulling my shirt down as I stand. I’m looking at her, trying to assess what trouble I’m in. “Hi Rhonda, I’m not sure what to say, it was a stupid mistake?”

“Good at least you’re not denying it. I’m not out to create you trouble, but I would like to know something. Some other students get hassled for less, but then again you’re a hot shot quarterback. I’d probably get in more trouble saying anything.”

I know she’s right both about others getting hassled and her making trouble for me while our team is winning. “I’m sorry Rhonda, it’s not anything perverted I’m just not comfortable saying anything.”

Rhonda is a very popular girl in the school and she is admired by many for all the right reasons. She’s a good athlete which in our school is a big thing, along with being a attractive girl. More important in reality, she’s an honor roll student, popular and a friend even to the unpopular students. She's as attractive as any cheerleader. She might have been Homecoming Queen but she wouldn’t let herself be nominated.

She says, “I can understand that but I’m surprised you don’t trust me.”

I say, “It’s not that I don’t trust you. It is just that it’s a… well, it’s something my best friends don’t even know.” Deep down inside I am now getting emotional and part of me wants so much to tell someone. If I were to tell someone, someone like Rhonda would be ideal. I have great respect for her but we’ve never been friends. I’m kind of shy and I relate more with sophomores and freshmen, not upperclassmen.

Rhonda says, “Well it’s kind of hard on me, because I know there’s something. I would think if it were that big of a secret you’d want to tell someone. I know it would bother me if I had a big secret and couldn’t tell anyone. I would think you’d want to tell someone. I’d think I’m a good risk, but you think not.”

I look at Rhonda and I kind of want to laugh. Rhonda is a tall as I am, probably an inch taller. Seeing myself as a girl, she’s someone I’d look up to and want to be like. Rhonda asks, “So what’s with the funny look. It’s like you want to laugh?”

I do let out a giggle but then I tear up. I sit on the ground trying to hold back the emotions that want to burst out. Rhonda sits across from me and takes a gentle hold of a hand. I am moved even more. “I guess I need to tell you now, I hope you won’t laugh at me.”

She says, “You don’t have to do anything for me, but I’m here in case you do.”

I draw a big breath and sniffle back some tears. “I know, I guess it’s more for me. Can you keep it a secret between us? I’m not gay as some surmise, I’m androgynous.”

Rhonda smiles, “Well that is not that big of a surprise?”

“I know, but I don’t think anyone knows I see myself as a girl?”

“Wow,” Rhonda says, “I guess you are right. Probably playing football and being the starting quarterback would kind of throw most people off the track.” She smiles, “You’ve got my attention and the pink panties indicate it could be true. Looking at you, I think you would make a cute looking girl, but I’ve never seen any indication of you trying to look like a girl. How come you never went out for girls’ cross-country or the girls' track team? Wouldn’t it give you enough prestige?”

That hurt, mostly because I would have loved it. I am now defensive, “No, because my Dad won’t let me. It isn’t as simple as you think!”

Rhonda starts to stand up but hesitates. “I’ll stay here and talk, but I’d rather get off this cold ground and run over to my house. There it would be nice and warm to visit. What do you say, I won’t stop our talk?”

I ask, “What would your parents say about us talking about this?”

“If it’s a secret then we’re talking confidentially. My parents won’t have any trouble with that.”

I’m confused, “But what if they see I’m a girl or worse think I’m a boy wanting to be alone with you?” Now it is Rhonda’s turn to giggle a little.

She says, “Yes, I’m sure they could easily see you as a girl. ...You could change into something I never wear and I’ll make you up a little as we talk.”

Once at her house, we're in her bedroom, and she hands me some clothes and pushes me into her walk-in closet. I say, “I can’t believe I’m doing this.”

Rhonda says, “I’ve never pushed a quarterback into a closet expecting a girl to come out.” Not having expected what we’re doing; Rhonda had picked out a nice outfit for me to wear. I did need to ask for tights to cover my bruised legs. Rhonda had waited for me to come out of the closet before she gave me the tights. She watches closely as I carefully roll them up and unroll them as I pull them up my legs with the correct support to make sure they do not get a run.

She said, “Even in drama club we don’t have a boy who can do a better job putting tights on.” The skirt is dropped down as I finish getting the panty portion properly in place. “So why would you prefer to be a girl?”

I said, “It’s not as much what I prefer as to how I feel. I feel like I’m Elaine Royce, not Bryce. It might not make sense to you. You’ve always seen yourself as Rhonda, no questions asked. Now that I’ve figured it out my parents won’t let me move in that direction. And now that I’m the quarterback, Dad expects me to be happy. Well I’m not, I much prefer talking with you while wearing this.” Rhonda smiles, I’m sure she’s happy she’s helping me.”

She says, “You need to tell a counselor or a doctor. They’ll help you.”

“Been there, done that. But I’m still a minor and my parents say, 'No' to anything and everything about me being seen as female. My counselor and doctor say until my parents change; I’d only hurt myself by taking it public.”

Rhonda opens the door and yells, “Mom can you come here?”

I said, “What are you doing, you promised?” I ran into the closet and closed the door behind me.

Rhonda says, “Sorry, I forgot.” Her Mom is now into the room, “What do you want Honey?” She looks around, “I thought you had someone in here with you?”

I knew Rhonda would now be in trouble if I didn’t speak up. “She wanted to tell you about me, but I didn’t want her too. She promised not to, but…” With that, I opened the door and stepped out. “Mrs. Adams, I’m Bryce Royce, but then again I prefer to be Elaine Royce.” Mrs. Adams' hands go up to her mouth as she sees me, "O my."

She asks, “Are you wearing tights so the bruises don’t show?”

I was surprised she figure it out until she says, “Rhonda's big brother who used to play football. This time of the season, it was painful to see how many bruises he had all over his body. He thought it was a macho thing, I always thought it was ugly. I’m glad he doesn’t play anymore.” She holds out a hand for me to come to her.

Rhonda apologizes first to me, “I’m sorry Elaine. Mom, I shouldn’t have involved you.” We talked and I told her why I couldn’t be Elaine.

She said, “I’m sorry Elaine, but as you now know you’re safe to be yourself here. Except this house is sometimes like Central Station with people coming and going.”

We’d have talked longer but I needed to change and get back home. I had been to their house a number of times since. People knew Rhonda and I had become good friends but they didn’t know why. Jennifer Adams her younger sister did figure it out and we too were friends. Amy Kirk, Rhonda’s BFF also knows now. Both of them have seen Elaine and we even went shopping once.


Dad drilled me once I got home from the Adams. Since then he’s taken my friendships with Rhonda and Jennifer as a good sign that I’m liking girls more. My friend Diane isn’t as happy, but we’re still best friends.

The week before our game with Westmont High, I am mostly throwing passes and running plays without being part of the contact scrimmage. Dad remains upset that I don’t do the strength exercises he insists on. The most I’ll do is work with weights on my hands around the wrists. I can consistently throw the ball 25 yards with accuracy and further but dangerously inaccurately.

The Patterson newspaper near Westmont rates their Westmont team as a ten point favorite after interviewing me and our coach. My advantage is I now know several plays I can run with the ball and avoid major hits if I read the play right.

Friday, before I go suit up with the team; I got to visit with Rhonda and Amy. Rhonda gave me a small perfumed handkerchief to take with me into the game.

It is a tough game with the score 14-13 come halftime, the one point makes little difference. Come the third quarter I was successful with a good pass to Maynard. But I took a hard hit and I’m slow in getting up. My head is kind of cloudy until I take a sniff of Rhonda’s handkerchief. It's like smelling salts for a girl. My head's clear once again. The next play I have Maynard cutting short across from me but as he runs to the left I throw deeper to Hadley. The twenty-seven-yard completion will be my longest completion of the season.

The next play is an all-out blitz as I fake a draw play and step back to throw the ball. Several big guys hit me and I was down for the count. Well, I was out of the game until late in the fourth quarter. Dad and I knew once the game was over I would not be able to play the following week, if ever. I knew like my Dad I could play and play well yet this game.

Coach Higgins put me back in and gave Jack Rivers the jersey of a receiver. It would allow him to enter the game and hide his identity as a quarterback. It was third down with three yards needed for a first down. Jack replaced Johnny as we rolled to the right I pitched the ball to Jack and blocked. Jack threw the ball almost forty yards in the air and Maynard made a diving catch in the end zone to help us win the game. Unfortunately, I had been roughly tackled and was still down on the field.


I made it off the field in thanks to the handkerchief and Hadley helping me. But I was taken by ambulance to the hospital before the game was officially over. That was alright as Jack Rivers was now considered the star of the game and was now the starting quarterback.

I was put in the hospital over the weekend for observation. Few people understood or appreciated that Rhonda had painted my fingernails and toenails the school colors. My Dad complained and wanted them cleaned off. But he backed away when I threatened to tell others I’m a girl.

Dad said, “You wouldn’t, it would embarrass you as much as myself.”

“Dad, I’m not embarrassed to be a girl. it’s who I am. I am delaying it, not to embarrass you. But you need to get ready. It will happen, Dad.”

He actually said, “Thank you, Bryce, I appreciate that.” I was pretty sure he didn't mean it.

It was Cathy my nurse come Saturday night who added things together. First, she said, “You’re not upset to be seen as a girl, are you?”

“No, I am comfortable. People have called me a girl so many times in jest. Unfortunately, most times in ridicule.”

She said with Rhonda present, “But now it’s no longer a spoof for you, is it?” I’m close to tears when she takes one hand and Rhonda’s holding the other.

“No, someday I’m going to be openly recognized as Elaine Royce. I appreciate for now that it is at least here with you. I’m hoping come Easter, Mom will let me show my colors. This year when school is over I plan to be Elaine one way or another.”

Cathy says, “But you were the Quarterback, Friday night. So are you a Tomboy?”

Rhonda laughs, “She’s more girly than I am if she gets the chance.”

Cathy looks at me and I smile in agreement. “My sister Sara is a bit more athletic than I am, but she also likes very much to be a girl or young woman.”

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