"Dad..." I said in my practised feminine voice. "I- there's something I want to tell you..."
"Yes, I can see that," dad replied, still in a state of shock at my appearance.
"I- I'm transgendered," I said confidently as Ophelia walked through from the kitchen, a mixture of shock and pride on her face. "I want to be a woman. I feel like a woman inside. I want to live the rest of my life as a woman." What felt like an eternity passed as dad tried to process what he had just been told.
"...Okay," dad shrugged, before reaching for the remote control. "Want to get out of the way of the TV now?"
"What, really?" I asked. "I'm stood hear wearing make-up, a bodysuit and a skirt and THAT's your reaction?"
"Oh, god no!" Dad suddenly wails in an overdramatic voice, before hurling the remote control clear across the room. "My only son has turned into a sissy! Why, cruel fate, why!?"
"...That wasn't funny," I sighed.
"Would you have preferred that reaction or my first one?" Dad asked, snorting with laughter as I rolled my eyes.
"I'm not sure your first reaction even counts as a reaction," I retorted.
"Answer the question, one or two," dad commanded.
"Well, one, obviously," I said. "But you could have been somewhere in between, you know? You can have, like, questions, your options aren't limited to 'Brian Blessed telling you you're overdoing it' or 'coma patient'."
"Oh, believe me, I have questions," dad said softly. "Quite a lot of them. But the most important one... I think I know the answer to it. Is this really, truly what you need to make you happy?"
"Yes," I answered without hesitation.
"That's what I thought," dad sighed. "Jason- ah. That's not going to be your name anymore, is it?"
"I hope you weren't too attached to it," I mumbled. "I wasn't particularly."
"I could lie and say that your mum was a huge Jason Donovan fan," dad sighed as he glanced at mum's urn beside the fire. "But in truth, we just thought 'name beginning with a J' and Jason came top of the list."
"What- what would I have been called if I'd been a girl?" I asked as a euphoric feeling started to fill my body. Despite my months of panic, it seemed that dad was actually prepared to accept his daughter without reservation!
"Karen," dad said softly. "...What name have you chosen for yourself?"
"Umm, Jacinta..." I mumbled.
"Seriously?" Dad asked. "Have you ever met someone with that name who wasn't Australian or from Portugal or somewhere?"
"Umm..." I mumbled, before taking a deep breath and looking my father defiantly in the eyes. "Well YOU have now!"
"Okay, 'Jacinta' it is," dad sighed, before looking up at where Ophelia was stood in the kitchen doorway. "I suppose you've known about this for ages? Things you can tell a friend that you can't tell a parent, that sort of thing?"
"Jacinta confided in me at the start of the college year last September," Ophelia said as she lowered herself into the seat next to mine.
"Eleven months ago, heh, of course he- of course SHE did," dad sighed.
"No offence," I mumbled. "I- I, um-"
"You were afraid I'd go all 'Brian Blessed on Red Bull' on you?" dad asked, smirking as my cheeks turned red. "Jas- sinta. JAY-sinta. Jacinta. Jay. Son. Daughter. My child. When you came out as gay, I told you something along the lines of 'I've always wanted you to be your own person, and if it makes you happy, isn't illegal and doesn't hurt anyone, then I'll be happy for you'. That hasn't changed in the last two years."
"...Thanks," I squeaked, wiping a tear from the corner of my eye.
"Gay or straight, man or woman, you'll always be my child, and that's what's most important," dad said. "I'll always love and support you... I just fear that you'll need a lot of both. Been keeping up with the news?"
"Unless it involves cute guys or celebrities, not really," I said. "Why?" I bit my lip with worry as dad fished his tablet computer out of the pile of magazines next to his chair and opened up a news article to show to me.
'Transgendered child kidnapped,' the headline read. 'Twelve year old Laura White was abducted on the afternoon of Sunday the 9th of August from a busy supermarket in west London. Police have launched a nationwide manhunt for Robert White, the child's father, who is the primary suspect behind the kidnapping. Any witnesses or anyone who can shed light on the location of Robert and/or Laura White are asked to contact the metropolitan police on-'
"Shit," I whispered. "That- that's horrific!"
"That's the sad reality of what some transgendered people have to go through in their lives," dad said in a soft voice.
"I will admit..." I mumbled. "If- if I'd seen this, I probably wouldn't have come out to you..."
"Hence why I prevented you from seeing it," Ophelia said in a quiet voice, withering as I shot her an angry glare.
"...Thanks," I sighed. "I probably should be angry, you keeping this from me, but- but thanks."
"You are very welcome, Jacinta," Ophelia said.
"Obviously I'm not going to kidnap you," dad said. "I mean, you're 5' 10", I'd probably slip a disc trying."
"If anything, I'm UNDERweight!" I protested, making dad chuckle.
"Yeah, you're still bigger than a twelve year old," dad laughed. "Point is, you should be prepared for some kind of backlash."
"I've had two years of being in the 'G' category of LGBT, I know all about backlash," I retorted.
"That's because on the outside, there's no difference between a gay man and a straight man," dad said. "A transgendered woman and a, you know, nor- reg- umm, not-transgendered woman, on the other hand..."
"Are you implying that all non-transgendered women are inconspicuous?" Ophelia asked, gesturing to her own extravagant outfit- which stood out a lot more than my plain, casual clothes.
"...No bloody winning with you two, is there?" Dad sighed.
"I know you're only trying to play devil's advocate," I said. "And I do appreciate it. But I've thought long and hard about this. Umm, pun not intended..."
"Does that include the physical side of it?" Dad asked. "I mean, like that Jamie woman on that ITV2 show you two like, the one who had the, you know, snippity doo dah done a few months ago?"
"...YOU follow the Angels?" I asked, giggling as dad rolled his eyes.
"It was on the news," dad argued. "You know, that show that you claim never to have heard of?"
"Entertainment news, maybe," I laughed. "Doubt it was on the six o'clock news..."
"Shut up," dad mumbled, which even earned a giggle from Ophelia. "Point I'm trying to make is that to make this, you know, 'official', there's a lot of hoops you'll have to jump through, a lot of forms to fill out- something I know you hate- doctor's appointments if you want the medication to change your hormones..."
"Whatever it takes," I said confidently. "I want this. I really, seriously want this. Will- will you help?"
"Anything I can do to help, just ask," dad said with a warm grin. "All I ever wanted was for you to be healthy and happy. If you can't do that without wearing a skirt, well, then you wear that skirt."
"And you know that you always have my full support as well," Ophelia said, making me cry tears of joy once again.
"Group hug?" I asked.
"Don't push it," dad retorted, making me giggle as I relaxed back into my seat.
All my fears had been for nothing. Dad had not only accepted me, he had been happy for me to make my change and would do everything he could to support me. It was like a weight had been lifted from my shoulders... Only to come crashing back down again as I realised that whilst I'd just taken a first step, the road ahead was very, very long.
As I went to bed that night, once again wearing the loose nightdress Ophelia had given me, I was also overcome by a feeling of regret. Regret that I hadn't had the courage to come out to my father two years earlier, when I had wanted to. There was no doubt in my mind that he would have accepted me then with as much love as when I told him about Jacinta for real- and the last two years of misery, frustration, fear and- and 'Jason' could all have been avoided.
I experienced a moment of panic the following morning when I woke up still wearing my nightdress, before the memories of the previous day came flooding back to me. I smiled as I showered and got dressed, realising that not only would dad not be surprised if I went downstairs wearing a skirt, he'd be surprised if I WASN'T wearing one. With that in mind, after I brushed out my hair and applied a light layer of make-up, I slipped on a comfortable padded bra and control thong, before pulling a loose summer dress over my head.
"Good morning, daughter!" Dad said cheerfully as I headed downstairs to find him hard at work on his laptop- and my BFF sat on the sofa in the exact same position she'd been sitting yesterday.
"Morning, dad," I said, scratching my head. "Hi Ophelia, umm, when did you get here?"
"Approximately one hour and thirty minutes ago," Ophelia replied, making my eyes go wide.
"And- and you didn't wake me?" I asked.
"Figured you earned a lie-in after yesterday," dad replied. "Also I like how the strangest thing about Ophelia isn't her fashion sense, but the fact that she's a seventeen year old girl who actually likes getting up before 11am!" I let out a small giggle at dad's teasing, which turned into a big giggle when Ophelia rolled her eyes in response.
"So it WASN'T a prank, then?" Dad asked as I sat down next to Ophelia with my legs pressed tightly together.
"I did try to tell you, Mike," Ophelia replied.
"Good," dad said with a proud grin.
"...So you'd actually have been disappointed if I HADN'T come downstairs wearing a dress?" I asked.
"It'd have meant that I'd have wasted the last hour and a half of work," dad chuckled as he handed me his laptop, on which he has almost ten internet browser windows open.
"What- what's this?" I asked as I read the first window, which was titled 'how to change your name by deed poll'.
"Everything you need to live your life as a woman," dad replied. "Google's such a wonderful thing. I've already arranged an appointment for you with Doctor Thomson later this afternoon."
"Whoa- wait, wait a minute, this- this is too fast," I gasped.
"If you want me to call and cancel, I will," dad said. "If that's what you REALLY want."
"Jacinta," Ophelia said softly. "Is this not the life you always dreamed of living? Did you not always suffer from depression and misery every time you had to become male again? Did you now always wish that you could become a woman permanently?"
"Well- yes, yes and yes," I sighed. "But seeing the doctor about this?"
"You can't get a formal diagnosis of GID from the postman," dad shrugged.
"GID?" I asked.
"Gender identity dysphoria," dad explained. "Think it's the third or fourth tab on there. And you WILL need a formal diagnosis if you're to begin hormone treatment- fifth tab. And the college will want some sort of official paperwork before you go back there next month."
"Whoa, PLEASE slow down," I said, setting the laptop to one side. "This- this is all overwhelming, seriously!"
"Jacinta," dad sighed. "That IS the name you want to be known by, right?"
"Well- yes, of course," I said.
"For the rest of your life?" Dad asked.
"Yes," I replied firmly.
"Would you like me to wave a magic wand that instantaneously turns you from a man into a woman and alters every computer record everywhere to match?" Dad asked.
"If you could, that'd be great," I snorted, earning a giggle even from Ophelia.
"Unfortunately Hogwarts confiscated my wand after I left," dad replied. "So we're going to have to do this the slow way. Which unfortunately for you, will involve lots of talking to doctors and lots of filling in forms."
"If this is what it takes to become a woman," I sighed as I picked the laptop up and began studying it again.
"It's more that this is what it takes to become an adult," dad whispered as he handed me his iPad, on which was a new site with a headline that brought a smile to my face- 'Laura White returned to family'. "They found her last night. Thought you could use a little encouragement."
"Just sitting down here dressed like this is encouraging by itself," I chuckled. "But it IS good to hear about Laura."
"She's got her happy ending," dad said with a grin. "Your turn next. Only difference is, you're going to have to earn it."
"...Okay," I sighed. "So what do I need to do first?"
First, it turned out, was the doctor's appointment later that afternoon. Doctor Thomson had been the family doctor ever since I was ten, and even though I hadn't been injury or illness prone as a child, he still knew me better than anyone bar family (and by family, I of course include Ophelia). However, he was even less surprised than dad was when I walked into his consulting room wearing a dress and make-up- or if he was, he did a good job of disguising it behind a look of professionalism. Then again, when you stick your finger up men's arses all day, it must take a lot to truly surprise you...
"Hello, good to see you again," Doctor Thomson said, skillfully avoiding using my deadname as he obviously didn't know my new one yet. "I imagine I could take an educated guess as to why you wanted to see me today."
"Probably," I said with a giggle. "You're probably also going to want to update my records."
"Of course," Doctor Thomson chuckled, before taking a deep breath. "I feel I should say up front that I'm not going to be able to just provide you with a diagnosis of gender identity dysphoria right here and now. That needs to be given by a trained psychiatric professional- and that's not me."
"I figured as much," I sighed. "I just- I just wanted to get the ball rolling, you know? I've spent the last eighteen years constantly feeling like who I was wasn't who I was supposed to be. Umm, if that makes any, you know, sense..."
"More than you might suspect," Doctor Thomson said softly. "You're far from the first transgendered person I've 'got the ball rolling' for. Umm, pun NOT intended..."
"R-really?" I ask, shocked by the notion that my 'situation' might not be as unusual as I'd thought.
"Brighton might be more famous for the first three letters of LGBT, but I've had plenty of T people sit in that chair before," Doctor Thomson explained. "You really, truly aren't 'the only gay in the village'. Or 'the only transgendered person in the city', in this case. Everybody who sat where you are now felt nervous, alone, afraid..."
"And- and are they, you know, 'complete' now?" I asked. "Umm, physically, I mean..."
"Obviously I can't discuss individual cases," the doctor said. "But I can say that there are plenty of people in this city- and across the country and around the world- who are successfully living their life as the opposite gender to the one into which they were born. Do you- do you truly want to be in that group?"
"Yes," I replied without hesitation. "All I want is to live as a girl and be accepted as a girl." I bit my lip as I felt tears begin to form in the corners of my eyes. "It's all I've ever wanted- god, I'm sorry, I'm sorry I'm so emotional, it's just- sorry..."
"It’s okay, it's okay," Doctor Thomson said softly. "Of course, I'll do everything I can to help. I'll refer you to a gender identity specialist I've worked with in the past, who'll get in touch with you to organise an initial meeting followed by a regular counselling program. She'll be able to offer any help you need. I'll also print off details of support groups for transgendered people, both online groups and face to face ones. They, umm, also have support groups for family members... How is- how's your dad taking it?"
"Amazingly," I replied with a wide grin. "Better than I ever could have hoped for, actually."
"I'm pleased to hear that," Doctor Thomson said. "You know, he has mentioned to me a few times that he's wondered whether or not there were any, for want of a better word, 'deeper issues'."
"Heh, if he'd just mentioned that to me a few years ago..." I sighed.
"The important thing is not to dwell on any past regrets, but to move forward," Doctor Thomson said, handing me the information he'd just printed out. "If you have any queries of a medical nature, I'm only ever a phone call away. But the specialist I'm referring you to will be able to help you absolutely every step of the way. She can prescribe you the hormones you'll need to complete your transition. I reckon you've got a good chance of being on them by Christmas, maybe even earlier."
"Wow," I breathed. "Thank you, thank you so much for all of this."
"It's my pleasure," Doctor Thomson said with a warm grin. "Oh, you, umm, you didn't tell me how you wanted me to update your record."
"...My name is Jacinta," I said confidently. "Jacinta Amelia Hanley."
"It's nice to meet you, Jacinta," Doctor Thomson said as he made the appropriate changes to my patient record. "Hopefully, the next time we meet, things will be, well, 'better' for you."
"They will," I said with a wide grin as I shook the doctor's hand and returned to the waiting room, where dad and Ophelia were sat waiting for me.
"Did it go well?" Dad asked.
"Better than 'well'," I said, showing him the print-out. "Got a lot of information to read up on. There's, umm, also support groups for families..."
"Why would I need 'supporting'?" Dad asked. "You're the one going through this change, I should be the one supporting you!"
"Yeah, but, umm, you know..." I mumbled.
"I 'know' what?" Dad asked.
"...Nothing," I sighed.
"...Would like to think I know a LITTLE more than that," dad mumbled, earning a giggle from Ophelia as the three of us headed back to his car. "I know we're far from done for today, for starters!"
"Umm... Why, exactly?" I asked.
"Because you need an expansion to the selection inside your wardrobe," Ophelia explained, making me roll my eyes.
"You two had a good chat while I was talking to the doctor, then?" I asked.
"With me doing most of the talking, obviously," dad said, making Ophelia roll her eyes at his gentle teasing. "But Ophelia's not wrong, you DO need more clothes, right?"
"Well- yes," I said as I stared at the loose dress covering my body. "And more shoes."
"Well- okay, I guess," dad said, bristling at the additional expense he hadn't considered.
"And underwear," I continued. "Wearing a thong for more than one day-"
"Okay, okay, more underwear it is," dad said, trying his hardest not to grimace. "Don't need any more details, thank you very much."
"...And more cosmetics-" I mumbled, before being interrupted by a long sigh from my father.
"...Fine," dad sighed. "Whilst we're in town we'll also see if we can't find you a Saturday job so you can stop torturing my credit card..."
Later that evening, the three of us returned with carrier bags full of clothes, shoes, underwear and even a little make-up. Ophelia had, of course, done a raid of the usual charity shops for clothes to customise, whilst even dad had bought a few things for himself. At dad's suggestion, Ophelia and I had also clubbed together to buy a book on how to write a good CV, and even collected application forms from several shops looking for weekend workers.
By the time we arrived home- after a quick dinner at a fast food restaurant- the three of us were all utterly exhausted from the day's events. Little did I know that the night was far from over.
"Thank you both SO much," I sighed as I collapsed onto my sofa, my dress stuck to my body from spending a whole day outside in the August heat. God only knows how Ophelia felt in her torturous corset...
"Anything for my beautiful daughter," dad said, his pride obvious in his voice.
"Anything for the best friend that I have ever had," Ophelia said, her voice somehow not betraying her obvious fatigue. "Now, if you must excuse me, I should return to my home. I would say that my mother would be worried about me, but I hardly think that that would be the case."
"Before you go," dad said, rising from the chair he had just sat down in, "there's one more thing I bought today. A gift- for you, Ophelia."
"You really did not need to purchase a gift for me, Mike," Ophelia said with a tired chuckle.
"No, after all you've done for Jacinta, I really did," dad whispered as he reached into his pocket and handed Ophelia a small piece of metal.
"What- what is this?" My BFF asked as she examined the gift.
"...It's a front door key," dad said. "For this house. After everything you've done, I want you to know that you're welcome in this house whenever you want."
"Oh- my-" Ophelia gasped, before bursting into a flood of tears. Needless to say, I was in tears myself mere seconds later as I wrapped my arms around my BFF and gave her a long, tight hug.
"That's includes overnight," dad said, trying to hide the emotion also present in his voice. "Tonight, even, as long as you don't mind sleeping on a sofa."
"Your invitation is most-" Ophelia whispered, trying and failing to maintain her affected accent. "-Thanks. I accept. Thank you so much!" I giggled as Ophelia unwrapped her arms from around my body and gave dad a tight hug.
"It- it's just a key," dad laughed.
"No," Ophelia insisted. "It is much, much more than that. Just as Jacinta's dress is more to her than just a piece of cloth that has been shaped a particular way, this is more to me. Thank you, Mike. Thank you so, so much."
"...You're welcome," dad said, awkwardly hugging Ophelia before sitting back down again, clearly also emotionally drained by his own gesture. "...Shall I get a spare set of sheets out of the airing cupboard?"
"Please," Ophelia said, making no effort to hide the joy in her voice.
Needless to say, over the course of the rest of the holiday, Ophelia spent more time at our house than at her own, only returning to get more clothes or work on her college projects. Her family barely noticed, of course- but it made the world of difference to me to have my 'sister' with me as much as possible, especially after dad returned to work following his holiday.
Not that Ophelia and I spent the whole of the summer lazing about, of course- we put the CV-writing book we bought to good use- both of us would have Saturday jobs before returning to college in September, Ophelia in a 'goth shop' (where I imagine her interview lasted all of thirty seconds) and me in a city centre newsagent, where the owner seemed to care more about me being over eighteen than being transgendered.
Most importantly, though, I had my first meeting with my counsellor, a middle-aged woman named Dr Turner. I told her everything that I told Dr Thomson, everything about how much happier I'd been since I started living full-time as a girl... And she told me how my story wasn't just 'not out of the ordinary', but it was practically commonplace. Within a few meetings with her, I had myself a prescription for medication to suppress the testosterone produced by my body, and for oestrogen tablets that would transform my body into the one I wanted- or at the very least, begin that process.
By the time Ophelia and I returned to college in early September, I was on the biggest high I had ever been on in my entire life. My veins were flowing with oestrogen, my face was covered in make-up and my body was covered in a tight girly top, a cute pleated miniskirt and a pair of shiny black tights. At my side, my 'sister' was clad in her usual short, petticoat-enhanced dress, a pair of fishnet tights, a pair of spike-heeled stilettos and of course, her favourite corset, laced as tightly as it would go. We both strolled toward the front entrance of the college with confidence (not to mention oestrogen) filling out bodies... Only for that confidence to evaporate the second we entered the vast building and realised that we had both come crashing back down to reality... And neither of us were even remotely 'normal' anymore.
"Okay, I'm nervous," I whispered to my BFF as I suddenly became aware that many of the young men in the lobby of the college had taken an interest in my nylon-covered legs.
"There is no need," Ophelia said confidently, leading us to the college registration area. Even though we were returning to the same college and studying the same subjects that we had last year, as we were studying for a different level of qualification, we had to effectively register as new students, which at least let us off the complication of explaining why we're not registering under the same names we'd had the previous September. As Ophelia headed toward the fashion design area of the college, I headed toward the photography wing, where I bit my lip to stop myself from worrying as I began to recognise some of the faces walking alongside me.
When they began to recognise my face was when I really started to panic. Unlike Ophelia, I don't have a moral aversion to Facebook, but I don't have many friends on there, and certainly none from college. That's why the boys who recognised 'Jason' underneath the make-up were first shocked, then stunned, then adopted one of three reactions.
A few- a definite minority- were appalled. Ironically, many of them were boys I knew to be gay, but I hadn't found any of them particularly attractive so their disapproval was really no great loss. The bulk of the people who recognised 'Jason' simply shrugged and went on with their lives as though it was none of their business. Which it of course wasn't. The final reaction- which I only got from a handful of boys, maybe three at the most- was a smile of approval, and in one case, a supportive wink. Needless to say, I made a mental note to speak to those boys more closely once we'd got settled in at college!
What was most surprising, though, was the reaction I got from the girls at the college. Sure, there was some whispering behind my back, and a little giggling, but the vast majority of the girls- who obviously sensed that the 5' 10" newcomer had a little something 'extra' about her- had supportive smiles on their faces, almost as though they were welcoming me into their fold.
Indeed, once I'd collected my student ID for the year and entered the classroom for the first lesson of the day, I found myself drawn much more toward the tables of giggling girls than the tables of the boys (all of whom were still, flatteringly enough, fixated on my legs). For the first time in my educational career, I suddenly felt like I slotted into place, like I finally 'got' was school (or in this case, college) was about. No more being an outcast, or a loner, or a loser. I didn't have to pretend to be someone I wasn't just to fit in- I could finally be who I really was, and still fit in.
"Umm, hey," I said to the smiling (and in some cases, giggling) group of teenaged girls as I approached them. "Mind if I, umm, sit with you?"
"Sure!" The group's sole blonde girl, who appeared to be their 'leader' or their 'alpha' said with a giggle.
"Thanks," I said with a nervous giggle as I sat down, keeping my knees pressed tightly together and subconsciously smoothing my short skirt underneath me as I lowered myself into place. "I'm Ja- I'm Jacinta, by the way."
"Oh, we know who you are," one of the other girls said with a knowing smirk that caused my nerves to jangle yet again. "Well, we know who you WERE, anyway!"
"You really didn't think we'd recognise you?" The blonde 'alpha' said with an equally smug grin. "We were on the same course last year, you know?"
"Though we get why you'd need to introduce yourself again, hehe!" One of the other girls giggled- though her giggle seemed not to be one of condescension or cruelty, but of genuine happiness at having made a new friend. Naturally, that same giggle came out of my mouth mere seconds later.
"Yeah," I laughed as my nerves gave way for genuine relief. "So you- so you, umm, you know, don't have a -a problem, you know, with-"
"We'd be living in the wrong city if we did, hehe!" the blonde girl giggled. "Seriously. We don't care that you're transsexual. It's 2014, you know? Not the stone age!"
"Though some of us ARE disappointed," one of the other girls- a shorter girl with ginger hair- sighed overdramatically. "'Jason' was CUTE!"
"Sorry, girls," the blonde 'alpha' said with a giggle. "I have it on good authority that JACINTA is only into boys, hehe!"
"I'm happy to confirm that yes, that is the case!" I said, earning my own group giggle from the other five girls.
"Oh my god, this is SO cool!" One of the other brown-haired girls sighed. "Oh my god, I just realised- you probably don't even know OUR names, hehe!"
"Then let's change that!" The blonde alpha said, introducing my new friends one by one. "This is Ally, this is Grace, this is Ellie, this is Carla, and my name is Jamie-Lee Bur..." Despite myself, I found my eyes widening and my jaw dropping- and my new friends all giggling at my obvious surprise. "...Ton. Jamie-Lee Burton. Were you expecting me to have a different name?"
"Don't tease me like that!" I playfully admonished Jamie-Lee, who simply giggled smugly in response. "Even though you don't really look all that much like the 'real' Jamie-Lee Bur..."
"Huh, 'thanks'," Jamie-Lee snorted, making me frown in confusion.
"You- you actually want to look like a transgendered woman?" I asked.
"When that woman looks like Jamie-Lee Burke? Shit yeah!" Jamie-Lee (Burton) replied.
"...Sorry," I mumbled, earning sighs and 'aww's from the other girls.
"S'okay," Jamie-Lee shrugged. "I'm actually kinda glad you got the reference, didn't know whether it was, like, going with a stereotype to, you know, think that a transgendered girl would automatically be a fan of the Angels."
"I LOVE the Angels," I said, making the other girls all giggle.
"Who's your favourite?" Ellie asked, making me giggle and sigh.
"Okay, you got me- I'm a stereotype!" I said, holding my hands up in mock-surrender as my new friends all giggled.
"That makes two of us!" Jamie-Lee giggled, before gasping. "Oh my god, I just realised- we- the six of us- we are now a proper Angel-like group, aren't we?"
"Jamie-Lee, don't say that just because we've now got a transgendered friend," the ginger girl- who I'd learned was named Grace- admonished the blonde girl, whose cheeks began to turn red.
"It's okay, I don't mind," I shrugged. "Though there wasn't anything stopping you from being Angels, you know, without me, right? Like, it doesn't matter if you're five girls, or six or seven, or if you’re transgendered, right?"
"Hell yeah!" Ally cheered. "Oh my god, that's what we should call ourselves- the 'non-stereotypical Angels'!"
"What, exactly, is wrong with, you know, 'Brighton Angels'?" Grace asked, making Ally overdramatically sigh as I tried desperately to restrain my giggles at my new friends' mock-arguing.
"Okay, fine!" Ally said with a long, loud sigh. "'Brighton Angels' it is!"
"The Brighton Angels!" Jamie-Lee cheered, holding her hand in the middle of the table for the rest of us to cover with our own.
"The Brighton Angels!" We all cheered with a loud 'whoop' that startled the other teenagers in our class.
"Oh, this is SO cool," I sighed. "I was really worried, you know? About today? Like, I was panicking that I'd come here and I wouldn't be accepted-"
"Jacinta!" Jamie-Lee giggled. "It's okay. O-kay, okay? Like, I said before, if we're going to be prejudiced against transgendered people- or any kinda of gay people, you know? We're kinda in the wrong city?"
"Yeah, I know, but-" I sighed as the course's instructor arrived to begin our first lesson of the year. "I'll, umm, finish my sentence later."
"At lunch?" Jamie-Lee asked, giggling as I nodded. "That'll be cool!" I giggled along with my five new friends as I breathed a sigh of relief at just how lucky I'd been to sit with this group on my first day of a new college year. I could've sat with a group of total transphobes, or airheads who didn't 'get' what being transgendered meant, or a group of snobs... Instead, I found myself sitting with five of the coolest girls in the college.
...At least, that was what I thought, right up until Jamie-Lee said one final thing to me before the lesson started.
"Maybe then," the blonde woman said with a sneer in her voice, "you won't have to keep hanging out with that freak with the blue hair." I bit my lip as I felt my blood boil- how dare this blonde bitch talk that way about my sister! She'd never even met Ophelia, and yet she was willing to write her off as being a 'freak' simply for refusing to conform. Even more willing to write her off than she was me for being transgendered...
I tried to put Jamie-Lee's insult to the back of my mind and concentrate on my work for the next few hours, until the clock read 12:30 and we were all dismissed for lunch. All of a sudden, I felt my nerves increase again as the six of us made our way to the cafeteria- and much to my surprise, I was feeling even more nervous than I was at the beginning of the day as I stepped through the front door of the college. There, in her- or rather, our- usual seat, was Ophelia, picking at her food as she inevitably waited for my arrival.
"Ugh, look at her," Jamie-Lee spat, making me clench my hands into fists. "Who's she trying to impress, wearing that corset and those shoes?"
"Not me," Ally snorted. "Come on, Jacinta."
"You know," I said, trying to remain as calm as possible, "if you just got to know her, you'd realise she's actually pretty cool, you know?"
"Duh- no?" Jamie-Lee spat. "If I hear her talk to me even once in that stupid fake posh accent, I'll pull her hair out."
"You won't even try to get to know her?" I pleaded.
"Why are you being so defensive of her?" Grace snorted. "Like, you don't HAVE to hang around with her anymore, you can hang around with us!"
"Like, Ophelia isn't even her real name anyway!" Ellie said with a derisive snort of laughter.
"...It's as much her real name as Jacinta is mine," I said, suppressing a smirk as my argument momentarily silenced the other five girls.
"Yeah, but-" Ally stammered.
"You NEED to live life like the way you are," Jamie-Lee retorted. "SHE doesn't. She's just being an attention whore, and you're just being stupid for giving her any attention." This time, I didn't suppress my laughter.
"Yeah... Thanks, but no thanks," I said, turning my back on the girls as I headed toward my sister.
"Fine, be like that!" Jamie-Lee scoffed. "You know, I WAS going to set you up with a guy I know, a guy who's cool with dating a transgendered girl..." I paused briefly- which no doubt caused the blonde bitch to smirk- before resuming my stroll toward where Ophelia was sat. This 'Cinderella' isn't going to any 'ball' without her best friend in the world. Prince Charming will just have to wait for now.
"Did you make some new friends, Jacinta?" Ophelia asked as I sat down next to her with my meal.
"As it turns out, no," I replied. "They- we- there was a conflict of opinions, let's leave it at that."
"That is a pity," Ophelia said. "I have often wondered what it would be like to be a part of a true friendship group, like the Angels."
"Oh, trust me, they are NOT angels!" I snorted. "God... You know, this would be so much easier if I was a lesbian." I grimaced as my sudden statement caused Ophelia to nearly choke on her salad. "...Sorry. You okay?"
"I'll be fine," Ophelia said between uncomfortable-sounding coughs. "What- why would you say that, Jacinta?"
"That way you and I could be together," I said with a shrug. "Boom. Happily ever after. The end."
"It would also require me to be a lesbian," Ophelia reminded me. "Though there's no reason I couldn't fall in love with someone similar to you."
"'Similar'?" I asked.
"Well," Ophelia explained. "You would need to be a few inches taller, for one. And you would need to have a larger chest, firmer muscles... And most of all, well..."
"...'Well'?" I asked.
"...You would need to be male," Ophelia said with an uncharacteristic smirk. "Something that you are most definitely not!"
"Hehe," I giggled as I picked at my plate of chips. "Tall, muscular, able to sweep me off my feet... Yeah, that sounds pretty good right now."
"You will find him," Ophelia said confidently. "I like to believe that we both will."
"Totally," I said with a happy sigh.
"What was this 'conflict of opinions' you had with the girls with whom you came into the cafeteria?" Ophelia asked, making me sigh and roll my eyes. "I would hate to think that it was something to do with myself..."
"It's nothing," I replied, trying not to look into the teal-coloured eyes of my BFF, who clearly saw through my lie the instant it left my mouth. "They're not important. Bollocks to them."
"Well, if you insist," Ophelia said, bristling somewhat at my use of profanity. "There are many more girls in the college with whom we could form a friendship group like the Angels."
"ALL of which- sorry, all of WHOM would be lucky to have such an amazing friend as Ophelia Cassiopeia Love!" I giggled, making my sister blush as she finished her meal.
Needless to say, over the next few weeks, both Ophelia and I tried to form our own 'Angel group', and needless to say, on each occasion, we ended up right back where we started. Any potential friends I made were immediately put off by Ophelia's eccentricities, and any friends she made- well, she wouldn't come out (pun not intended) and say it, but I got the distinct impression that they weren't willing to be friends with a non-conformist like Ophelia AND a transgendered girl like me. We didn't even attend a Halloween party this year, instead 'celebrating' by ourselves at home.
Naturally, neither Ophelia nor I found our 'Prince Charming' during this time either.
As Autumn turned into Winter, and I began to notice the first physical signs of the transformation my body would undergo as the oestrogen worked its magic, it seemed like Ophelia and I would forever alone, only able to count on each other for company and friendship. And then, at the start of December, Ophelia received a letter that made me doubt that even THAT would be the case (especially with my mediocre grades)- she received her university application forms...
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