Other people wear dresses too!

Other people wear dresses too !!!!!

There’s some surprises in life that you don’t expect. And other surprises that you really don’t want. I thought I was alone. No – I knew I was alone, I knew that there was nobody else exactly like me. Nobody who thought like I did or did what I did. Nobody. How could there be?

Here’s a nicer story. Less harsh, less uncomfortable than ‘Hate, Hell, Hope’. That had some good ideas but quite reasonably vote-wise readers don’t like nasty pieces (or, it seems, multi-parts).


I was sitting in a heap at the bend in the stairs. I had been crying. My foot hurt and I couldn’t move.

I was wearing a long pale green dress with 2 inch heels. I’m not sure what caused the problem. But now I could see that the hem was torn and perhaps that had caught in the heel of the shoe and made me fall. I was going to be in such trouble.

After all, I shouldn’t have borrowed the dress or the heels from cousin Juliet. She had told me not to try the heels without her being there and she didn't really want me trying such a long dress either. She hadn't made a comment about the stairs - perhaps she didn't think I'd be either that impatient or that careless. And we both knew what my mum would have said and we could guess what our dad would have said.

Mum would have giggled and said something like ‘well what did you expect when obviously you’ve never tried to walk in heels before. And trying to come down stairs wearing them – that’s just silly.”

Dad would not have been so understanding. I had no doubt about that.

But who would be through the door to rescue me. I couldn’t move. My leg and ankle and everything hurt so much.

There was someone at the door. And coming in.

Would it be Sophie, my baby sister? All of eleven years old. Tiny, blonde, determined, very girly. She had things in her wardrobe and in her bedroom that I would have loved to have – if I was half the size I am. Pretty, sparkly, nice things.

And I couldn’t borrow from Mum either. She was like Sophie – just more grown up. All of five foot three, and slim, and blonde, and very pretty.

Not me – I was blonde, yes, skinny for a bloke, yes, but five foot seven already, and apart from a few years ago when I was nearer her size – none of her clothes had ever been borrowable. For a start, they were always perfectly arranged and I had no idea how to get them back without crumples or creases. And my sports-enhanced 38 inch chest was never going to fit her 34 bras or anything else she wore. I did admire her clothing choices, and I did watch her and her friends a lot for ideas and so on.

There had been times that Mum, or one of the friends, had noticed and teased me a bit about how interested I was and how attentive I was when they were talking about clothes and such. I would try my best not to blush and then I would depart as soon as was convenient!

-----------------

But that’s just telling you about things. Right at that moment, I was dealing with who was coming through the door. ………. (Jaws music in my head / the screeching violins of the Psycho shower-scene.)

It was Mum. It sounded like her but I couldn’t be sure. My heart was beating like a hammer.

I waited until she came round the corner to the kitchen and I could be certain it was her.

“Mum” – it wasn’t quite a wail or a whimper.

Her first comment, almost under her breath sounded like ‘Well, I never …’ then she paused and exclaimed “Oh, honey. What have you done?”

“I can’t move. It hurts so much. I tried but I can’t stand up. My left leg is so sore and my right ankle – I think it’s broken or something.”

“Well, let’s see if we can move you. I’ll help you downstairs.”

I didn’t scream – but by golly I hurt. I did whimper and moan a lot until we got down the twelve steps and into the snug and the big sofa.

“Now, honey. Let’s look at your ankle. We’ll have to get those tights off first. I like the colour – but perhaps they aren’t quite the right size for you, are they, mmmm?”

I couldn’t believe her first comment about how I was dressed was on the colour and size of my tights!

“And you must never try to come down the stairs in heels until I’m sure you’re safe to do so. Heels need a lot of practice for you to be safe. And .. “

I interrupted. “Mum, why aren’t you screaming and shouting?”

“Huh, would it change anything? You’ve obviously tried those heels on a few times. And the dress looks like you fit it too well for it to be one of mine or one of Stephany’s. Either you bought it, begged it, borrowed it, even stole it ….. but …” she paused. “You’re going to have to tell me everything, John.”

See – that was the problem. I was a boy. Seventeen years old – puberty and hair and all well in progress – and I wanted to dress as a girl. I really enjoyed wearing dresses and skirts – and because wearing those meant wearing undies tooo. Well, obviously I wore undies – and I enjoyed them even more. Sometimes I had gone to school wearing panties. And I had been around town wearing panties as well as a bra under my shirt and sweater. I was pretty confident that it was undetectable – but who do you ask? How do you ask? Do you try ‘Excuse me mum but does my bra strap show under this shirt? Don’t think so – no.

There was a long silence. How could I find the words to say?

“Do you dress up often, honeypie?”

Another silence.

“Are you wearing undies or just the dress, tights and shoes?”

“Panties, of course.” My voice did still work.

“Do you dress often, was what I wanted an answer to first. Are you going to tell the truth or are you going to tell me ‘oh no, this is the first time ever’ or some chaff like that. I’m not dim. I have superpowers over all children – I am a Mum!” She smiled – and that made me feel much better.

“Now and again, really.”

“When did you start?”

“A couple of years ago. When cousin Juliet came to stay.”

“And ….”

“We got talking. About being teenagers, and stereotyping, and all that sort of thing, and then clothes. She said that she found dressing pretty was sometimes really tedious and having to fit what people expected was a nuisance. Sometimes, she wanted to dress as simply as boys did – up and dressed in 2 minutes – easy. That’s what she said. And so we did a swap. We sorted out some clothes for each other. Then she had to start from lying down on the bed to out of the door as quickly as possible. It took her four minutes the first time because she wasted time wondering whether to wear the red shirt or the, I think, patterned one. The next time we did it, she did take only just over two minutes.”

“And you? What did you have to do?”

“Er ….. wear some of her clothes.”

“No. That wouldn’t be right. If she was wanting to try boy-style – which is, if I’m right, get up, splash near the sink, pee, maybe wash, think about a shower, decide not, put on yesterday’s clothes unless you do actually think they whiff. The out of the door, avalanche down the stairs and come into the kitchen saying ‘where’s my breakfast’. That might take a few minutes – but I get the message that she was going to want YOU to dress in her clothes. And THAT wasn’t going to take ‘just a few minutes’, Eh?”

Silence again.

“So what did she insist you wore?”

“She laid out a whole bunch of clothes on the bed and said I had to select a set to wear – and if possible, explain why I had chosen that particular combination. She said I would have twenty minutes to get ready before making my choice and I could take ten minutes to choose.”

“My, what a speedy girl. Hardly anyone I know could be ready in half an hour. What sort of choices did she give.”

“Erm, there was an orange and yellow dress, a flowery dress, a pink blouse, a purple blouse, a grey skirt and a black skirt and all sorts of undies. I hadn’t got a clue.”

Mum smirked. “What did you choose?”

“I thought pretty much any combination would do. Wow, did I get that wrong. Juliet spent lots of time teaching me about colour matching and how some fabrics don’t go together. It turned out to be a lot of fun.”

“I have noticed that you spend more time thinking about what to wear and what to buy than you used to.”

“Well, once you start thinking about that sort of thing…”

“And do you now think about clothes a lot. And, nitty gritty time, what sort of clothes do you think about most?”

“Well, since I wear boy’s clothes mostly, obviously I think most about them.”

“I really wouldn’t be sure about your use of the word ‘obviously’ ….. since you have ‘obviously’ put some time and effort into wearing Juliet’s clothes.” She raised an eyebrow at my expression. “So, those aren’t Juliet’s clothes. Whose are they and or when did you get them?”

“Okay. They’re not Juliet’s. Her’s actually weren’t a good fit for me. So she insisted that I buy my own if I was going to go on with dressing up. So, I’ve bought some things for myself.”

“And where d’you keep them so I don’t notice.”

"At the back of my wardrobe. At the very back, behind my big winter coat and my ski-suit.”

“Mmm. Shall we go and see what you’ve got?”

“Can I tidy up first.”

“By that, do you mean, ‘hide all the things you don’t want me to see.”

“Well, yes and no. I won’t hide any of my dress-up stuff.”

“Honey, nice girls don’t use the word stuff. And when you’re dressed as a girl – then I’ll treat you as a girl.”

“Not sure I’m comfortable with that, y’know.”

“Aren’t you being a girl when you’re dressed up so pretty.”

“Honestly, I’m not sure. I do really enjoy the feel of the clothes, the choices, the everything – but does it make me feel like a girl. I suppose a little bit. But I still feel like a boy most of the time.”

“Tell me more about that first time – with Juliet.”

“Well, she sat on the chair and answered my questions about what would go with what. And things like that.”

“What did you eventually choose?”

“Well, I can’t really say whether I chose it or she did. But she said the blouses were too thin so any underwear would have to be light rather than dark. Then she opened a packet and pulled out a bra. I squeaked and said ‘no way’.”

“And she said ‘way – or else the clothes will look just completely wrong. Girl’s clothes need some shape or else they look very strange. Mind you – there’s problems for big girls just as much as flat girls. If you keep your eyes open in future, you’ll learn so much.’

So I put on the bra – or rather Juliet attached it to me – and then she added what she said were called ‘chickens’ on each side. They felt weird – but they did give me sort of the right shape and they did warm up quite quickly. Then they felt better. And she insisted that I wore matching panties. Then the patterned blouse and the grey skirt. If the bra felt really weird, then the skirt felt …. Weird in a completely different way. The panties …. Weird again – and then doing the buttons the wrong way round – weirdness squared. Everything was weird. But then we went downstairs and sat around and had a juice and some biscuits. And Juliet asked if everything still felt strange and I had to say that after nearly half an hour or so, most of the weirdness had worn off. The flick of the skirt on my legs was kind of different. Okay, lots of everything felt different but the feeling of wrongness had worn off.”

“So, there must have been a next time, and lots of more next times after that.”

“Um, yes. We did do it again. Well. It was pretty clear that Juliet enjoyed the freedom of being able to get dressed in a couple of minutes.”

Mum interrupted “And you went the other way and enjoyed the feel of the clothes like never before.”

I dropped my eyes and mumbled, “Yes.”

“Don’t be silly, darling. Oops, almost called you ‘young lady’ then. Do you call yourself or does Juliet call you anything different when you’re dressed?”

“We seemed to come up with the name ‘Joy’ because Juliet said I enjoyed it so much.”

“Well, ‘Joy’ – do you want to dress up with my acceptance and help – or are you going to call an end to it now that I know?”

“A bit of both really. I thought once you knew – you’d forbid it bigtime. But now you do know – and you don’t seem to be too upset – I’d like to do it better. I do love wearing a dress or a skirt, y’know. It feels so …. so nice. As to the bra and so on – that I could do without but then the dresses and blouses would look horrid, like Juliet said. And I don’t want that.”

“How often would you like to dress up? Every evening, once in a while? As often as possible? Do you want to go out dressed up? Chop chop, give me some feedback.”

“Um, I never got beyond expecting panic and chaos when you found out.”

“No fantasies or pretending about how wonderful it might be?”

“God, no.”

“And what if your dad had been the first to find you – all dolled up and in a heap on the landing, with your tights torn, your heels broken and wearing a very pretty dress?”

“I tried not to think of that.”

“Have you done any research on the web?”

“Yeah, but some of it’s right grubby.”

“I would hope that you’d be able to set most of that stuff to one side and concentrate on the worthwhile.”

“Of course I try to do so – but one click in the wrong place on a screen and - woof – in your face. And some of it is really hard to mindscrub. Yukky-poo.”

“Well, what have you found? Apart from what you call the yukky-poo.”

“There’s sort-of scientific stuff which seems to be based as much on wishful thinking and anecdote as on genuine science. There’s reams of psychological insight which again sounds like one person’s experience being re-labelled as ‘this is what it’s like for everyone’. And there’s a couple of sites full of stories. One of them is mostly ‘being a girly-boi can be the most wonderful thing ever’ and the other is ‘we will make you into a sissy’. Obviously the ‘nice’ stories are more fun to read but they’re both equally naïve. The ‘real-life’ biographies are so trashy they’re equally obviously not real.”

Mum interrupted “But, overall, what would be your summary so far – as if you had to do a presentation at school.”

“Gack, what an awful idea.”

“If this transgender thing is as significant as some people are now saying – and it’s massively significant to those who have to deal with it – then perhaps a presentation at school might be one way forward. If you don’t offer to do so – who will. How many T-types do you think there might be at your school.”

“Good grief. I dunno. Let’s say there’s a thousand, pupils and staff included. If the percentage is in the region that I’ve read about – between 2 and ½ % that means either 6 or 1 person, er, persons, people. Wow, I’d never applied the percentages to real life.”

“You’re still not thinking wide enough. But, surely, having transgender concerns affects parents, siblings, relatives, friends, neighbours. So you need to multiply your give-or-take 1% who are trans in some way by, what, a factor of 10, 20?”

“Eeek. I’m going to be wandering the school wondering ‘who else here has a trans problem?’ Wow, again.”

“Honeypie – please try not to call it a problem. For those who are dealing with it – it’s a fact. And it’s the people around them who tend to cause the ‘problem’ by their reaction.”

“Mmmmm. Yer, too true. I’ll be more careful.”

“So, coming back some steps to where we were. Exactly what have you got in your wardrobe? And where did it come from? I’m startled as to how much you must have done with Juliet as she wasn’t here for very long was she?”

“We’ve kept in touch – there’s this thing you can do with your computer y’know.”

“Don’t be so rude. I’m not as out of date as you think. Even I’ve heard of fax and email.”

“Ooh, dearie ne. Am I going to have to give you lessons! Ain’cha heard of Twitter, Snapchat, Skype or Whizz.

“Somewhere between definitely not and probably not. But I ought to be more aware of what you can do. If other teenagers are doing stuff out of sight of Google and so on, with this Dark Web thing. I’d be naïve and stupid not to be more up-to-date. But we’re not talking about me but about you. Chop, chop. Upstairs now and let’s see what you’ve got tucked away. And I’ll try to ignore the rest of your room.”

“No. Sorry Mum but I can get it looking reasonable in, say, 5 minutes. Why not make a cup of tea and come up in a few. Please”

“But no hiding stuff. Yes.”

“I won’t have time in five minutes.”

“Four minutes 45, unless you scamper.”

“Er, mum. I can’t scamper, my foot hurts too much.”

“Okay, then. I’ll help you upstairs, come back for a tea, and then give you a few minutes to hobble around tidying up as best you can. I’d suggest tidying the bed so we can put your dresses on the bed and see what there is.”

………………….

Minutes must have passed but it seemed like only seconds before Mum was at the door with a cup of tea and a juice for me.

“Okay, honey?”

“As good as I can manage, yep.”

“So – dig out your various stashes of clothes so I can see what we have to work with. Let’s get the main things out – the dresses and skirts and so on.”

First out were the clothes that Juliet had first offered me. She was slightly shorter than me with a recently grown D-cup bust. So, the clothes she wore those months ago no longer fit – and several were passed to me – mostly B-cup as she had been C for such a short time. We had met in town one day, all with parental approval. I had taken the bag of clothes back, arriving while everyone else was out. Then I had put the bag in the garage while I checked for ‘them’ and then snuck the goodies into my wardrobe as quickly as I could.

Mum was not pleased at how scrunched and crumpled several things were. “You mustn’t push your clothes in like that. If you have to iron everything before you wear it, it’s a real nuisance. You can do it with some fabrics but you’re going to have to learn. I mean, just look at the creases in this pretty dress.” And she held up a sundress in pale cream with large red and purple flowers down one side.

I dropped my eyes and mumbled “Sorry, mum.”

“You are going to have to put a lot more effort into this if you’re going in with it.”

“What, you’re going to let me keep doing it.”

“Within limits, yes. And according to how you cope with certain issues.”

“I can understand you wanting to set some rules and so on – but ‘how I cope with certain issues’”

“Don’t worry about it, well, not yet anyway. Let’s get on with seeing what you have. Where are your undies, and how do you keep them washed and clean?”

“Erm I wash them and, if you’re out for a while I whizz them round in the dryer.”

“I have noticed the dryer has been hot a few times when I wasn’t expecting it. But that’s very bad for your undies and probably for most of your things.”

“When they get too manky, I throw them away.”

“That’s just silly. Pretty clothes cost a lot of money. You can’t throw them away because they get ‘manky’.”

“No. So I started to hand them in at the laundry at the end of the road, y’know, the one you stopped using because there’s a better one in town. So I drop them in on the way to school, as if they were for you, and pick them up a day or so later. Then, if you’re in, I slide into the house and put them away as quickly as I can.”

“Ha, well that stops at once. You can put your clothes in the wash-basket just like your ordinary things. Sometime soon I’ll show you how to look after your things properly. How to wash them, fold them, iron them, put them away, and so on. Pretty clothes need to be looked after prettily – or they stop being nice. Yes?”

I nodded and smiled. Then ran to her and hugged her. It felt like the right thing to do. And it felt more girly too.

“That’s nice.” Mum paused. “That was a nice thing to do, that was the first time I’ve felt that I was talking with Joy – and then I realized that it was my daughter Joy who gave me the hug. Even if John was also happy to hug me, eh?”

I grinned. “I think that was more of a Joy hug than a John hug, mummy.”

“Mummy, is it now? You’re getting girlier by the minute. I like it.”

“It was sort of an accident.”

“No, when you’re in girl-mode – then Mummy is okay. I’d prefer it. But I don’t want any mixture of boy and girl – unless it’s a signal that you’re having a mixed-up time. Generally, if you’re in girl mode then I expect girl dressing and girl behaviour and actually girl helping-round-the-house. If you’re in boy mode then that will not be what I expect. Yes?”

“Does make sense. But how do I decide?”

“Oh darling. If you get up and feel like putting on a dress, then put on a dress. If otherwise, otherwise. If the day moves on and you feel like a bit of girl-time, then get changed. But you might announce that that’s what is happening – just so I know.”

“But what about Dad – or should it be Daddy if I’m in girl-mode?”

“Probably Daddy – when you’re being Joy. It will work better.”

“Is he going to be angry?”

“I really don’t know exactly what his reaction will be. I’ve got a couple of guesses. But ….. in those stories you enjoy, isn’t there that character who says ‘we’ll wait and see’. [Emperor Gregor – Vorkosigan series – L M Bujold]

“That doesn’t give me a lot of confidence, y’know.”

“Let me worry about that, darling. You concentrate on resting while that pill takes effect. Then we’ll put a tight bandage on it and let it wait overnight.” Mum had been an A&E nurse so was more than competent at treating bumps, bruises and the like.

A while later, I heard the front door go and guesstimated after the relevant number of bangs, thumps, cries and welcomes that Dad was home. I waited. I must have dozed off.

Mum and Dad were standing there, looking down at me. Dad pulled up my bedside chair and sat in it. “Has it been really hard hiding Joy from us, Chuckie?” Long ago, he had nicknamed me Chuckie to match with calling my younger sister Sophie ‘Chickie’.

I turned my head away, hiding it in the pillow.

“Chuckie, you’re not the only one in this family who’s worn a dress.” His tone of voice had a smile in it.

I turned back – my eyes questioning.

“Yup. Me too. Perhaps it’s infectious. It’s more I used to do it when I was at college and for a while when I went out with your mum. Then you came along, then Chickie and I thought ‘probably not a good role-model to dress up in front of the kids’. Clearly, you’ve got the same interests as me – or as likely the reason is different. But mum says you were wearing a pretty green dress.”

It was almost a question, and my eyes flicked to the door where the dress hung on a hanger.

He turned and stood and went to look closer. “Oh, that’s pretty. The colour would probably look good on you too. Good choice. Now we do need to work out what to do next. I have to tell you – dressing up is slightly addictive. Dressing up can be frantically unpopular. And it only needs a very few obnoxious and nasty people to make your life very hard and even very hurting.”

I nodded and mumbled, “I do work the net, Dad. I do know there’s some real nasty stuff and some really ugly people waiting for ‘people who are different’.”

“That’s for sure. But our sort of different – apart from skin colour and size and height and weight, what you wear happens as much outside the house, in public, as inside the house. And when these bums, scuse me, are looking for ‘people who are different‘ they focus quickest on those who are in public. Like you. Like me.”

He continued. “I want you to be very certain this is part of your life, if you’re going to continue. If you can stop – then, by golly, your life will be a little easier. But maybe you just like your girl-time too much. I’ve never thought about it much since I felt I had to stop ….. but.”

Mum leant over and kissed him, thoroughly. “Honey, if Janey came back now and again, I wouldn’t complain. And obviously Joy, here, would learn from you – so all we have to think about is how Sophie would cope with it.” She giggled. “Four girls in the house, who’d guess?”

I smiled. “That’s nice.” And fell asleep again.

In the morning, I awoke with a start to realize that someone, Mum I guessed, had got a nightie onto me during the night. It was really pretty with wide shoulder straps which were almost short sleeves. I was amazed, excited, over-joyed – my parents accepted that I liked dressing up. ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! !

I knew how rare this was. I knew how lucky I was. Wouldn’t YOU be overjoyed.

When I did get up for breakfast, there was a strange woman at the table. It was obviously Janey. I ran and hugged her. She hugged me back and kissed me – just like mum usually did. Dad never kissed me, of course. But this was ….. so nice.

Sophie was there, eating her cornflakes as if there was nothing unusual going on. She was eleven now and, obviously, while I had been dozing things had been explained to her.

“Hello, sis. I’ve been talking with Mummy and Janey. Isn’t it fun that we’re now a house full of girls, or rather ladies as Janey pointed out very thoroughly. She said ‘I’m definitely not a ‘girl’ and I’d rather be a ‘lady’ than a ‘woman’.

I hugged my sister. It felt very different to be out in the open in girl clothes for the first time. Then I remembered how many time Juliet had been with me. So I corrected my thinking and just enjoyed being a girl with my family for the first time. It felt nice. It felt comfortable.

Janey leant towards me and said, “If we all rang the salon, would you like to join in? And then we could go shopping for our newest daughter.”

Mum’s voice came from the kitchen – all of six feet away. “Janey, I’m sure that after these years you’re going to need some new things. So, we’ll be looking out for you too.”

Sophie giggled, “If Joy’s my big sister, are you my big mummy?”

Daddy Bear stood up and growled ‘All the better to eat you with.”

“Janey, that’s not ladylike. Stop it and apologise.”

There was a moment’s shocked silence. Daddy was always in charge. This was new. This was having Mum as the senior woman in the house. Gosh. Sophie and I looked at each other – then at Daddy – Janey.

Daddy-Janey winked at us both. “Sorry, Sophie, that wasn’t setting a good example. Thankyou, Karen – and I’d much enjoy your guidance in the stores for both myself and Miss Joy too.”

“Thank you too, Mummy. I’d love to go to the shops and to the salon with you.”

“My, what politeness is occurring in this house all of a sudden. What can have changed?”

Somehow, all together, the three of us at the table said ‘It’s because it’s just girls in the house’. Maybe we didn’t all say exactly the same words – but we all meant the same thing.

It took some time for us all to be ready. It was a couple of miles or so to town. Surprisingly, our little house was pretty much all alone at the far end of the lane toward the canal. The nearest house was over 435 yards away – I had had to measure it as part of a school project. That was in a straight line as near as I had been able. The next nearest had been 451 yards more or less at right angles. It was so close that even the old aerial photograph hadn’t been any use and the Google version wasn’t much better.

So – we had no near neighbours and, fortunately for my girl-time, my friends always rang to say they were coming. Almost always. In the bicycling season, there were sudden visits and more than once I had nearly been discovered. Girl-scream Eeeeeek.

Suddenly I wondered about Juliet. When could I ring her and tell her? What would I tell her? Did she have any idea that Janey lived here too? So many questions. So many missing answers.

But, right now, we were going out – the four girls. Mummy Bare, DadMummy Bare, Girl Bare and new-Girl Bare. Could I help it if that was our completely fluky surname. And I can’t tell you some of the jokes that were made about us. It does teach you that rather than ‘words will never hurt you’ that only some words do in fact cause hurt. And it taught us to be kinder with our words too. But that was us, the Bare family. Apparently we were originally Swiss and called Bayer, but you move country and your spelling sometimes has to alter.

I had no idea what it would be like to buy clothes properly. To be able to look at each purchase and then to decide whether it was going to fit, to try it on, to check with a friend, then to go to the till and have that final moment of purchasing – then back home for the try-on and the decision as to whether to remove the label and prevent the otherwise simple task of return-and-exchange. I’d never done that before. Even when shopping with Juliet, there had been the risk and the worry. Then the effort of smuggling the one or two items back to my stash.

This was going to be so different. I was simultaneously so excited and yet so very worried. Would anyone see me as ‘a boy in a dress’? What would happen if they did? I glanced at Janey, stepping out in her heels, clip-clopping along the pavement, displaying complete confidence in her presentation as a woman. Comfortable and confident. I wanted to be like that.

To my amazement, I moved forward until I was beside her, grasped her hand and said ‘You will look after me, won’t you, Janey?”

Janey looked down at me. “Oh darling. Would I take any risk at all with you. I love you. I love you as much as my son as I do as my son-in-a-dress. You look lovely and we will make you look lovelier.”

That made me feel better. I didn’t really know why I was worried.

Part of my mind was screaming, or at least whimpering, ‘Everyone will be able to tell that you’re just John in a dress. It’ll be the end of your cred at school and in the neighbourhood. It’s all going to go wrong.’

And – by hindsight, it wasn’t that bad. But at the time, I was a complete bundle of nerves steadily disintegrating into a puddle of panic.

At that moment, Sophie took my other hand and grinned at me when I glanced at her. “It’s going to be fine, big sis. It’s going to be fine.”

And I began to relax.

It turned out to be a wonderful afternoon. Because we were obviously a family, nobody took a sideways look at us at all. We went into all sorts of shops – because every one of us wanted something or another. Obviously I needed the most but we were all getting into the fun of it. I was learning about shopping from the experts.

And wasn’t it different being a girl with other girls. I had been shopping with Juliet – but I had always been so concerned about being spotted. But with my whole family ….. it was nice. It was wonderful.

As the weeks went by, I spent much more time as Joy. Almost every evening after I had done my homework, and almost every weekend – I ran to have a quick shower and put on some of my pretty clothes. And now I always slept in a nightie. And a lot of the time, Janey was with us too. Four girls in the same house.

And I began to adopt some girly habits. This did get me noticed at school and sometimes when I was out with the gang. So I learnt to be more careful. But a time or two, when someone said I was or had done something ‘femmy’ or ‘girly’ – I tended to reply ‘so what’ or ‘hadn’t noticed myself’ or ‘how would you know’ ….. just a phrase to mislead them so they didn’t think too much about me.

And gradually people got to know about us. Juliet was the first. She came over to stay for the weekend. Okay she was expecting to meet Joy if I could squeeze in a sneaky exit into town. What she wasn’t expecting was for Joy to meet her at the door. And then for Janey to say ‘hello’.

Her eyes went SO big. The she started giggling – and we all joined in.

And we found that some people hated us because of what we were doing. And we found a few that didn’t care. And we found a very few who realized that we were actually more interesting than they had previously believed and they became better friends. But, overall, like Janey had predicted, we didn’t feel like we had gained. It is nice making new friends but it hurts, really hurts, finding that some friends weren’t as real as you had thought.

It took time to get past that particular hurt.

And you all, you out there hiding in the darkness, you know about hurt.

And you others, breaking out into the daylight and finding that there’s both good and ugly under the rocks – you know about hurt.

And ‘They’ say that time heals all hurts. I don’t agree. Maybe there's a ‘not yet’ waiting for me.

But time has passed, I’m now nineteen and about to go to college. I’ll be living quite near Juliet so we’ll see more of each other. Actually, there’ll often be four or five of us. There’s going to be Juliet and her brother Joe; myself and my sister Joy; Juliet’s best friend Beth who seems to have a bit of a thing for Joy, Beth’s flatmate Maggie, and I’ve got two coursemates who I often do things with Lionel and Patsie.

And I’ve got this gorgeous dress to wear next time we go out for the evening.



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