Past Life

Looking down, I realize it’s not my credit card I’m handing to the checkout clerk, it’s my mother’s. I don’t own one yet. I’m only 17, living at home with my parents. It’s my senior year in high school.

Looking down, I realize I have breasts again. No problem, I can handle this, I’ve dealt with breasts before. I just need to buy a binder online. Wait! I don’t have a credit card. I don’t even think you could buy binders online in 2004, much less have them shipped to Mexico. But even if you could, I don’t have a credit card. Or any money, for that matter. I’m only 17.

I realize I could do with a haircut. My hair is not long anymore, but it’s not as short as I’d like it to be. Maybe I can convince my mom to drive me to the supermarket (of course I don’t have a car! nor is there public transportation!) so I can sneak in an Ace bandage from the pharmacy. I’m worried of getting caught, because I’m not very good at sneaking and lying – I’ve never had to do it – but it’s my only option.

The plan is starting to come together. While my mom is diverted by her shopping, I’ll go get a haircut next door. This way she can’t loom over me; she won’t be able to intercept the stylist when I ask for the clippers. My mother definitely won’t be happy once she sees the results – she’ll scream that it’s way too short, that now I look like a boy (intoned as if that were a travesty) – but we’ve had this discussion so many times now it will just roll off my shoulders. After all, I’m a 27 year old not-so-young adult, my mother’s insults no longer penetrate the barrier I’ve built over 10 years.  It’s not like she ever stopped complaining about my looks anyway.

Looking up, I catch my reflection on the storefront window. It tells me “you’re starting to look like you, but not quite.” I can only half-smile, because I’m finally righting all the wrongs.

I realize then, there’s the issue of my closet. Literally, my closet. While I stick to mostly “sporty” items, they’re all still girl clothes. I’d much rather stealthily borrow a few shirts from my brother, it’s not like he ever noticed anyway. I hope his pants fit me. What size was he at 14? Back then he was chubbier, and I was skinnier too. As I change, another unfortunate realization hits me. Unless I can maneuver another sneaky shopping trip, I have little choice in the underwear department. My brother has yet to discover the wonders of boxer briefs, and all that’s available in my drawer is… not as comfortable. At least I have orange sneakers. I could always rock orange.

Thus I awoke just before 4am, heart racing, as present-me was navigating my life 10 years ago. Semi-consciously – too awake to go back to sleep, too groggy to detach myself from the emotional distress – the scenario continued to play out in my mind with excruciating detail, resolutely seeking completion.

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After registering the initial shock – and suffocating dysphoria – of my situation, my first inexplicable instinct is to come out to someone. I need to tell them about my new name! Although “Micah” doesn’t translate well in Spanish, so I should probably use a different name. Which name? God, it was hard enough to find one to begin with! Let’s go with Max. It’s only temporary, after all. Future-me is stuck in past-me’s life for some reason, and it can’t go on forever. I’ll wake up, right? I hope so. Max it is then.

Now I really need to tell someone – well, ideally EVERYONE – that I can’t stomach to hear my birth name anymore. That I’d prefer to be called Max. And he. (Thankfully, I can skip the whole pronoun-crisis, because future-me has already figured all that out.) At least I don’t have to tell my grandmother, seeing as I still haven’t told her, and don’t plan to in the near future-future. So, who do I tell?

My mother is immediately off the list. She remains uncomfortable with the situation, after years of arguments, reaching out, support groups, and, well, reality. There is certainly no hope she would take well to it 10 years prior. As much as I’d like to take a chance on her, I know it’s for the best that I don’t.

What about my dad? My dad, whose attitude is “I love you whatever you are, whoever you are, as long as you’re happy“? But Dad didn’t always feel this way. In fact, when my brother came out – rather, was involuntarily outed – as gay, my dad was the first to take him to three different psychiatrists so they could “cure” him, and this event is still two years down the line. What is past-Dad like now, in 2004? I think back (or forward?) to when I sorta-kinda came out to my dad a few years later as being in a relationship. All he said was “I still love you, just don’t tell your mother.” A year after that, he flip-flopped again. Yet he never seemed to care how I looked or dressed. Dad went through many opinions before truly embracing love. I’d definitely trust future-Dad, but can I trust past-Dad?

Who do I turn to when everything has gone wrong? My significant other. Not only is she sound asleep beside me (and it’d be very rude to wake her at 4am with my runaway brain), there is the minor issue that WE HAVEN’T EVEN MET YET! As luck would have it, we live in the same city. I can probably get her phone number somehow – that will be easier if my dad has already met her mom at that fencing match – and call her, and say… what? “I’m from the future, you don’t know this yet, but I’m the love of your life and I need your help”? I know everything about her though: where she lives, who her family is, her deepest darkest most personal secrets. I could tell her stuff she has never uttered out loud, thoughts that have not left her mind yet, things only someone she truly trusts would eventually know. Which piece of information would convince her that I’m telling the truth? There’s a chance she might believe me.

The conversation plays out in my head (my dream-head, a recursive reverie of sorts). Still, there’s nothing she can really do to improve the situation. Except maybe send me a hug, over the phone. But her entire world would crumble. Not only would I break it to her that she ends up marrying a not-girl-not-boy, much to her past-family’s chagrin (future-in-laws are ok with it all), that she grows up to be a game designer (let’s not include the part about how it’s not as glamorous as it sounds), and that she’s the love of my life, but that I’ve somehow gone back in dream-time to tell her this.

This urge to tell someone is tugging at me, consuming me. Future-me can’t handle being seen as a girl. I have to make a plan before anyone does, or it’s going to kill me inside.

Is there someone I can trust with my secrets? Anyone I could sit down and explain everything to? Which one sounds weirder: that I’m trans, or that I’m from the future? Which one are people more likely to believe?

I’m 17, and I have to go to school tomorrow. I’ll have to come out to everyone – teachers, friends, peers. Oh god oh god oh god. How do you come out to your entire school? My palms are sweating at the mere imaginary thought.  Do you just make an announcement, stand in front of every classroom and nervously blurt out a curt speech, slowly awaiting the wrath of your fellow students? Do you tell a few teachers in private? Will they need to talk to my parents about all this? Where do you even start? I freeze. It’s the scariest thing I’ve never thought of doing.

I’m 17, and it’s all coming back to me. It’s the year a small group of friends tried to start a Gay-Straight Alliance at my school. I didn’t really know what gay was. And I definitely didn’t know any gays. But parents assembled outside the Headmaster’s office in protest. It was an outrage that a club should have the word “gay” in it. My school spans all ages and grades, from pre-K to 12th; what would the children think? The administration caved. Although banned, this unofficial club came to have more members than the Math club I had started.

Oh how future-me could enlighten them! We should call it an LGBTQ club, not a GSA! And it’s not just about being gay, there’s gender and sexuality and all that awesome stuff I’ve yet to discover! But there’s no time for that, I have myself to take care of right now. Nobody knows anything yet.

As I greet people in the hallways and approach  my locker, I continue to walk through my plan. I could talk to the Principal. He likes me; after all, I’m a straight-A student who never gets in trouble. Who wouldn’t trust that? And it’s a well-known secret that the principal himself is probably, in all likelihood, very gay. That doesn’t mean he advocated for the GSA though. He might calmly nod his head and help me change my name and come up with a plan to tell everyone at school how to address me; or he might calmly nod his head and call me crazy.

Deep breath, you can do this. Is there anyone you can turn to?

Perhaps I need resources! Statistics! Pamphlets. Books to back me up. But The Transgender Child is 5 years from being published. Most of the blogs and news sources and organizations I rely on haven’t been created, and for the that have, trans youth aren’t on their radar yet. Anything found on the internet isn’t taken seriously yet. There’s no Netflix, no YouTube, no Facebook – I can’t even listen to the music I like, because the albums have yet to be recorded! (Not to mention it would take forever to download just five songs, and I forgot how to burn a CD. JBiebs is 9, Britney hasn’t shaved her head yet, and all future-me knows are useless celebrity facts about who’s gay and who’s not.)

And even if any useful books are available (which they wouldn’t be in Mexico anyway), who would take me seriously? The right to self-identify is not a concept; teenagers have no agency. I need an adult, for I am powerless.

How can I make them believe me? What will their reaction be? Needless to say, at 17 I had no friends to turn to.

Frustration is mounting. Doubt is gnawing. I have no one, and there is no escape. I begin to understand why 50% of transgender youth have considered suicide.

She finally wakes up, what with all the rolling around I’m doing. It’s long past 5am. We sit on the couch eating Lucky Charms as I recount my nightmare. A lone tear wearily trails down my cheek, and I ask her, “would you have believed me?”

“Of course,” she says without hesitation, hugging me tight, “because I loved you since the first time I saw you. You were so cool.”

36 responses to “Past Life

  1. I’m totally crying over here. I’m so sorry you felt all this, throughout life and again the other night. And I’m so glad you had someone who loves you so much to hold you and help you feel better. <3

    • Well, it was a dream, not my reality. I didn’t start coming out until much later. But it is what many LGBT and trans youth face every day, this made me see the world from their perspective.

  2. No matter how many times I read blogs or stories about LGBT or transgendered people (youth AND adults) I can still not wrap my head around the fact that people think so poorly of others and treat them like second class citizens. I am a white, heterosexual, middle class woman and view every person as an individual with their own thoughts and feelings no matter what. I feel that no matter what color/gender/weight/height/sexual orientation a person is does NOT define who they are. How they treat others is the most important. If you are kind and friendly, sassy and confident, or even shy and giving – that’s what matters. Your heart and nothing else. Great blog!

  3. Stumbled across your post. Enjoyed your writing. Was slapped in the face with your content. (I was someone who wasnt sheltered from the world, just never never knew about those who didnt fit the “normal” mold.)
    Thank you for your and others posts and bloggers who help keep me from returning to the world of pigeon holes and the mentality of society norms.

  4. dang :(
    Glad it was all a nightmare, though the fact that you, or anyone else, had to experience that in in real life…sucks. Wish the world could be a lot more understanding and step away from the belief that life is either black or white with no in-betweens.
    thnx for sharing.

  5. Really freakin’ good stuff. I got lost a few times but the story was so compelling, I had to keep going to see if I was right. I was right.

    The thought that flows over me whenever I witness anything even slightly pejorative about gender or sexuality these days is “I can’t believe people have chosen such a benign, normal, natural, ubiquitous human condition as an excuse to hate.” Makes about as much sense as putting people in jail over the length and number of their eyelashes. For fuck’s sake.

    Anyway, really freakin’ good stuff. Rock on.

  6. Very well written. You have suffered a lot in your life through others ignorance. What strikes me the most is you are only looking back ten years. My teen years were the eighties, and the world has progressed a lot since then, just not fast enough it seems.
    All the best.

  7. This is so good. It’s great that your blog is getting so much attention recently! Somewhat off-topic, but will you be at PTHC again this year? We are already making plans to attend & hope to meet you. I think my kiddo is already following your blog, but i’ll share this post just in case they missed it.

    • Thanks K! I thought of you and your kid at some point while publishing this, since this actually was not my reality, but I know it’s yours. It really changed my perspective.

      I think I’m skipping all conferences this year. For now. We’ll see.

  8. This is so well written and powerful. You’re absolutely right, teens have no agency. Kids need supportive and caring adults to advocate for them. Amazing post.
    - Kit

  9. Thank you for writing this, because at 19 I’m finally starting to get some control of my life, but basically everything you said was spot on about my life two years ago (except by now I’m assuming there were better internet resources) and at the time, on top of everything, I felt bad about being so upset because I didn’t think that my problems were legitimate. So thanks! Because its really fulfilling to see an adult acknowledge that problems that I faced so recently as being real and worthy of attention, as well as to see an adult who faced those same challenges and continually manages to make a place for themself in the world.

  10. I’m still slowly catching up from your first post. Your blog inspired me to finally create my own account and write down everything that I’ve kept in for so long. Thank you for sharing this dream experience, and I hope to be up to date soon!

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