Getting Lost in the Girly-Girly Swamp

I dearly love my twin. I may complain about the consequences but I really do love Alexis. Fraternal twins, of course. We couldn’t be more different. Alexis is the younger one, by 28 minutes. Already as a baby Alexis was small and prone to get sick. I on the other hand have always been “robust”. I’ve always felt very protective about Alexis. That’s how I got dragged into the “Girly-girly swamp”.

Even in France a small child may be a victim of bullies. Fortunately I was always been there to protect and serve. By age 10 Alexis began to be less sickly and grew to be very pretty though quite petite. Taking ballet helped both health-wise and demeanor-wise. As opposed to me (a soccer fanatic) Alexis never liked sports. Ballet provided Alexis with vital challenging physical exercise. There’s a damned lot of work behind making things look that effortless! Of course Alexis taking ballet meant that I did as well. I grew to love it. The movements, the strength required for the leaps and turns … I did NOT wear pink! Black tights over white leotard, please! Alexis on the other hand couldn’t be more girly-girly. Everything pink, lacy and so on. I do love Alexis but when it comes to taste …

I liked things as they were. Life was good. Then Mother got this fantastic job offer in the US!

At first there were no problems, until we got those papers from our new High School. Americans!

So insular, so unaware of other cultures! Alexis and Claude – naturally that had to be two girls so they “corrected” that sex box our parents had ticked quite correctly. I pointed out the error to my parents. I should have done it when Alexis wasn’t present. Alexis made clear that this was great. This way we could be together in more classes including PE. The argument was silly since my classes, geared towards math and science and Alexis’ – geared towards art and fashion differed so much anyway. Alexis kept on about the “danger” of the locker rooms. Alexis played on my ingrained sense of protectiveness and responsibility. I gave in and dropped my objections. You think I was weak? I’d like to see YOU resist two large doe puppy-eyes pleading! Not that I got any support form my parents. We were both going to start school as girls. Mother and Father started getting the necessary documentations.

A few months later Father dropped us off outside our new school and told me I looked good in my skirt, my first ever. Not as short as Alexis’ but it still gave me a feeling of being exposed. There was one thing in our favor. We were fresh”men” meaning that we wouldn’t come into a milieu of already formed groups. We felt lost but so did our classmates as well.

I had hoped to keep a low profile. No such luck! The circumstances around me and Alexis soon become known. A Transgendered boy, sorry girl! As it happened we became the focus of an ongoing culture war in the school. One camp talking about “abomination” and quite ready to burn us on a stake and the other determined to make us more than welcome. As it turned out the balance of power had already shifted away from the conservatives, in this case led by sophomore Mary Lopez. There were petitions, rallies, heated school-board meetings and so on and Mary organized all her friends into making my and Alexis’ lives as close to hell as possible. All wailing availing to nothing. Already from the beginning one could predict the outcome and when … well, I’ll get to THAT later.

However, there was enough opposition that the “progressive” forces embraced us. Determined to provide full feminine immersion both Alexis and I were “annexed” to the cheerleading squad even if we didn’t qualify. As the year went on Alexis thrived in the squad and by sophomore year you could find Alexis on top of the pyramid. Me – occasionally at the base – at training. I DID try. I worked hard. I was considered as a reserve. Not that this meant that I could slack off. On the contrary. I had to learn more than one position.

Further, we weren’t allowed any deviation from the highest feminine standards. How they set those standards was a mystery to me. You can’t imagine what some shops in the US peddle to teenage girls! How the pink, purple, frills, lace and cutesy (and in my opinion absolutely tacky) things Alexis wore could be “high standard” was beyond me. Me – I preferred more conservative dress(es).

And ballet. We both were signed up for ballet in school. There no longer was any escape from pink for me. I tried to convince our teacher that black tights over white leotard is an eminently suitable ballet attire. I failed. I was a girl and had to follow the dress code. Pink tights, pink slippers, black camisole leotard. The teacher also found out that both Alexis and I had several years of training so she put us in beginner’s pointe class. Have you any idea what your feet feels like after 30 minutes of pointe class?

Alexis and I had to make another visit to the dance shop. Straight and narrow Alexis had no problem finding pointe shoes that fit. I’m not as narrow and all the shoes available would have twisted inwards if I tried dancing in them. The idea is to get your foot, and shoe, to turn outwards to get the right support. Finally we had to specially order my shoes. Freed’s size 6 ½, XXXXXXX wide!

There was one breathing hole for me. I ignored all protests and attended the open football training that Coach had going. Anyone was welcome. Coach had found that this gave him both a wider selection when picking his teams and gave him a better understanding of abilities and potential. We got along great! I also mingled with another set of people. I got to be good friends with Mike, Peter and Luke, all sophomores. The good thing was that they all were part of the “progressive” set so gender equality was not an issue for them. The bad part was that they were part of the “progressive” set which meant that the aided and abetted those plunging me and Alexis into femininity. Still whenever I needed a break from the cheerleaders and the even more girly set Alexis had become a part of I still could get a break.

Did you know that American boys are suckers for a French accent? I’m NOT pretty but still boys were attracted to my accent. I lost it as fast as I could. Alexis on the other hand couldn’t have been more pleased with the attention… For a while our parents were quite worried but then they realized that Alexis is a “butterfly” flitting from one boy to another without actually engaging any deeper feelings. That’s when I started to worry. Alexis really is a people person though, even befriending Mary Lopez. There was the time Mary became estranged from her old set (they really hated her). She was really lost for a while and when Alexis reached out to her … However, Mary never got comfortable with Alexis set so I also relented and forgave her. Even if I kind had hated her for what she did I empathized with her now and soon you could find her with me, Mike, Peter and Luke. I think Luke had a thing for her.

And so freshman year went on. For the summer we went to France. I really didn’t see the point in me wearing a tiny bikini on the beach but my Father and Mother insisted that I get the proper tan lines. Alexis and I had a reputation to uphold, well Alexis did and my parents thought I should follow the example. To be perfectly honest – and DO NOT TELL ANYBODY – I was kind of flattered by the attention I got. There was one boy … NO! I won’t go there!

Sophomore year started out like freshman year. Math, science, football practice, cheerleading practice, ballet classes and thus back to the old routine. I did well at football practice and coach gave me some extra attention. The cheerleading captain made me a permanent reserve, not that I ever got on the field. In ballet I managed to do my first clean pirouette en pointe. It was a glorious feeling! It was like I was floating on air. I just had to get more of that fix! The pink didn’t bother me any longer. Not even the tutu that we started to wear when rehearsing for the recital. Actually, it was kind of cute.

The frills on Alexis’ dresses kind of locked rather nice so I got myself a dress with a few frills. OK, the dress caused a few comments at football practice but I still hung out with Mike, Mary, Peter and Luke even if they now were Juniors. Peter had been picked for the junior team. He was rather handsome in the uniform. I realized that Alexis’ crowd wasn’t that bad. True, they were a bit giggly and so on but not really THAT bad and the stories Nina told about the boys hihihi. Wait? Was that me giggling? Pink isn’t that bad a color. Why did I ever think so?

Towards spring Alexis and the girls in both sets I moved in finally persuaded me to go on a date. Peter, who I thus far only had considered to be a good friend, asked me and I couldn’t turn him down could I? We celebrated (while still a secret) that Coach had picked Peter to be the Quarterback next year and that I had also made the team, the best d**ned soccer-style kicker Coach ever seen! Me being a girl was not a problem, Title IX you known. That first date was followed by a second and a third and… I realized I had got myself a boyfriend! Alexis noted that my skirts had gotten shorter since I started dating Peter. I hadn’t noticed. I retrieved my cute French accent. I even got myself a BFF as well. Someone I really could discuss fashion, make-up and such things with. I couldn’t have found a better teacher. And yes, I DID discuss boys as well with my BFF. I was well on the way to being sucked into the Girly-Girly swamp! Well Alexis thrived there so why couldn’t I? I was become addicted to the girliest clothing, boy bands (I had discovered K-pop). I even considered changing classes. I had become addicted to the girliest possible way of life, or so I thought.

The next summer Mum had to work for two months in Japan. The rest of the family joined her (daddy is a writer). It was like locking an alcoholic in a bar overnight. Have you seen the Lolita dresses you can get there? I had no resistance left - I overdosed. I got the pinkest, frilliest dresses that even Alexis scorned. I frolicked in the Girly-girly swamp. I had become a swamp monster!

Fortunately my BFF saved me and just in time for my Junior year. After endless, patient talks my BFF made me realize that giving in to my girly side didn’t have to mean that I went to the other extreme. When asked: “Claude, do you really like all this pink and frills or was it just something you have convinced yourself you HAD to like?” I was forced to look into myself. With my BFF’s help I realized I could be a girl that likes tasteful feminine clothing, loves to dance ballet, en particulier en pointe and at the same time lives to play football.

I tell you that when at the beginning of the fall semester Coach announced that I had made the team he really stirred up things. Not the gender thing. The Cheerleader captain, unbeknownst to coach, had just announced that I had been made a regular on the cheerleading team. I couldn’t be in two places at the same time (even if on the same field). Nobody, absolutely NOBODY had ever turned down a place on the cheerleading team. Coach wouldn’t budge, I was his secret weapon that finally could get us to the play-offs. The issue split the school down the middle. The old fault-line conservative and progressive had disappeared. Now the issue was should I be a cheerleader or should I play football. I myself was split down the middle. I loved football but I also loved the cheerleading team, not that anybody bothered to ask ME. I was saved by my boyfriend, the QB. Peter stated that 1) He wanted his girlfriend on the team 2) He wanted to date a cheerleader => I was to play on the team and be a cheerleader on all other occasions. Period.

Rather strange logic but everyone, including me, bought it. Of course Peter used unfair means when persuading me – he FRENCH kissed me!

Things settled down. I lived up to Coach’s expectations, and to the cheerleading team’s (and to Peter’s giggle). Alexis finally got serious with someone. Not just anyone but the person I would have least expected: Mary! Mary even asked Alexis to the prom. Peter asked me. Well, the formal asking was just a pure formality.

I say that we made a quite a splash at the prom. My little brother (all of 28 minutes younger) was as cute as could be (and pretty). Sorry, as of the day before she was now finally officially my little sister. She really was lucky to have a name that in our native France is masculine while everyone in the US erroneously thinks is female. Her partner Mary, or more correctly Francis (also as of the day before) couldn’t have been more handsome in his tuxedo. Francis was very grateful to Alexis for overcoming the barrier he had felt to admit that he was a boy, the reason why he had tried to destroy Alexis’ life. When he saw Alexis’ determination and the natural certainty of her gender he had finally had had the courage to admit his own gender to himself. Francis really had had a much tougher time transitioning than Alexis. His parents had come around without too much of a problem but at the cost of severing all their old social ties.

I was feeling very ladylike in my gorgeous blue gown. The gown was such that it was impossible to feel anything less in it. “Auntie” Bru had given it to me. “Auntie” Bru is not only a doll but also quite droll. Just imagine admonishing me to “beware of Oklahoma cowgirls” when wearing it. Well, “Auntie” IS a bit strange. Next to me I had my BFF in an equally gorgeous gown. I was lucky to have a BFF that was also my boyfriend, a boyfriend that (mistakenly) claims that I’m his role model. Someone that isn’t afraid straddle the faux-binary gender divide. It was him seeing me both dance en pointe and play football even if genetically XX (or XXXXXXX according to Freed’s of London) that had given him the courage to reveal his own genderbending (he sucks at ballet though). Seeing us Coach shook his head in a resigned way. Peter and I DO cause a stir on away games. Coach wasn’t able to hide his fond smile though. Well, we DID bring back that big ugly trophy that he can’t stop admiring even when the Principal finally pried it out of his office.

PS
The parts referring to ballet including pointe work but excluding the clothing part is autobiographical. Yes, the shoe size stated is the one I got from Freed's of London.



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