You Get What You Give

Sunday, September 25, 2011


1:30 AM on a steamy August night in northern New Hampshire, just a few weeks before I started junior high. I was lying on top of my sweat-soaked nylon sleeping bag, groggily contemplating the top of the my tent, which was listing badly to the right. Guess I can forget about an engineering career, I thought. 

Beside me, T lay in his sleeping bag, snoring blissfully, apparently immune to the stifling humidity and the mosquitos who have also taken up residence in the tent.

I moved the Timex watch my parents had given me for my twelfth birthday a few months ago back up to my wrist. It was identical to the one my father wore, and was the only thing I wanted.


When I first tried the watch on at my birthday party, it nearly fell off over my hand. When I lifted my arm up, it slid up past my elbow. We dutifully made a trip to a jeweler. 

"You got some skinny wrists there, kid," he informed me, shaking his head after his third pass at adjusting the band. "I can't take out any more links without ruining the band."

He turned to my parents. "No offense intended here, folks, but you might consider the girl's model. Same watch, just a little bit of a thinner band. It will fit better."

"NO!" I nearly shouted.

My parents looked over, startled.

"You don't want a watch that doesn't fit, do you?" asked my mother. "Why not see what this watch looks like? Or at least get another one with a different band."

"I like this one. It'll be fine," I said,  wincing slightly as the band caught the tiny hairs on my forearm as it slid up and down with every movement.

My father looked at the jeweler, who shrugged.

"I guess we'll keep this one then," said my father with a shrug, handing the jeweler a $10 bill. He handed it back.

"No charge, W." He turned to me. "You change your mind, kid, just come by and we'll get you set up. OK?" 

I nodded. "Not likely," I thought.


I checked the watch again: 1:35 AM. "Five minutes?!?" I thought. "I'm gonna melt by - "

Suddenly I heard footsteps pounding towards the tent. I sat up and began to unzip the mosquito netting. Then I felt a jolt. The entire tent crashed down and something fell on top of me, knocking the wind from my lungs. Gasping for breath, I struggled out of the tent.

C & F were lying on the ground in front of the tent. They reeked of alcohol. Two years older than me, both were Eagle Scout candidates. C and I attended the same grammar school. 

As they scrambled to their feet, I locked eyes for a moment with C. His were glassy and unfocused. After a moment, he and F lurched off into the woods as a flashlight moved towards us.

"What in the HELL is going on over here?" a voice called out. It was Mr. G, our scoutmaster.

I stood and attempted to right the tent pole, which was nearly bent in half.

"T, are you OK?" I called into the tent as I simultaneously tried to hold up the pole and the sagging tent.

T stirred in his sleeping bag. 

"Huh?" me mumbled. "Hey, shut the screen - the mosquitos are gonna get in, man." He rolled over and promptly began snoring again.

Mr. G emerged from the shadows.

"What in the name of…" he said, flashlight panning over the carnage. "Are you and T OK?"

I nodded, then nodded towards the tent. "T is still asleep, actually."

He rolled his eyes. "That boy could sleep through Armageddon. In fact, looks like he just did." He reached over and began to straighten out the tent pole. "So, what happened here? Did you see anything?"

Before I could say anything, C & F lurched into the circle of light.

"What's going on?" C slurred, swaying unsteadily. He turned to me.

"You okay, little man? We just woke up and thought we saw a deer or something run by our tent."

Mr. G stared at them steadily. 

"A deer, you say. Mmm." He turned to me.

"Did you see a deer, L? Or was it something - or someone - else?" His flashlight played across C & F's faces. "Maybe even two someones?" 

I looked at C. His bloodshot eyes were plaintive. F's eyes were downcast.

I turned to Mr. G.

"Sorry, Mr. G. I was sound asleep. By the time I got out and put on my glasses, whatever it was was long gone."

He gazed at me for what felt like an eternity.

"All right."  He snapped the tent pole back into place. "It's late. Better join Sleeping Beauty in there."

He turned to C & F.

"And you two better get your rest too. After all, you're supposed the ones setting a good example for L and the others. Right?"

Without a word, C & F trudged back to their tent. They never looked back.

Four years later

Sophomore year in high school. As mentioned in an earlier post, I worked after school in the office. Most days I would finish somewhere between 4:30-5:00. By then the school was all but empty. The only people typically still in the building were the cleaning crew and a few teachers grading papers in their offices.

And the students who were in detention.

In addition to being quiet and a loner by nature, I was usually the smallest in my class. That was enough to make me a target in grammar school. When I got to high school - an all-boy high school - I may as well have had a bullseye painted on my back.

D was a year ahead of me, and, using the logic known only to bullies everywhere, chose me as his target. At first it was the usual petty nonsense - knocking my books out of my hands in the hallway, banging into me with his shoulder as he walked by, and so on. And, as with all cowards, he always had one or more cohorts to help out. 

One late fall afternoon I was making the 15 minute walk to the bus stop in the deepening twilight. My high school was in an old, semi-deserted industrial area, so the traffic was fairly light at 5:30 PM.

From behind me I suddenly heard a voice call out.

"Hey, faggot."

It was D. And P, one of his buddies.

I picked up my pace. I heard their footsteps quicken. In a moment one of his friends was beside me. He was nearly a foot taller than me.

"Hey, a******. He's talking to you. You f***** deaf?"

D strode up on my other side and wrapped his arm around my shoulder.

"Hey, faggot. Didn't you hear me a second ago?" He turned to P.

"Must be thinking of getting his ashes hauled."

I shrugged his arm off my shoulder. 

"Leave me alone, D."

Now P grabbed my arm.

"Or what?" 

I pulled my arm away. He grabbed it again and yanked me closer to him.

"I asked you a f***** question." 

I shoved him as hard as I could. Caught off-balance, he staggered back and fell back into some bushes.  I started to run. D caught up with me and shoved me to the ground, scattering my books across the sidewalk. A car drove by; the driver slowed down momentarily, glanced over, then drove on.

He turned to P. "I think faggot here needs to learn some manners, don't you?"

P smirked. "Yup."

He reached into his pocket and pulled out a switchblade. Staring at me, he flicked it open.

I looked at the knife for a moment. 

Something in me snapped. I don't know if it was adrenaline, or defiance, or God knows what, but I started to laugh. Hard. D & P looked at each other in amazement.

I stood up and picked up my backpack. I started to walk away. D walked in front of me. 

"Where the f*** do you think you're going?"

I stepped around him and started walking again, still laughing to myself.

P came up on my other side, holding the switchblade at his side. He looked at D uncertainly. 

I turned to D. "What? You two clowns are going to stab me, here, on a public street, with cars going by? You know what? I don't think you or princess here actually have the balls to do anything." 

I turned to P, arms outstretched. 

"Go ahead, a******. I dare you." 

He stared at me in disbelief. I nodded. 

"Yeah, that's what I thought." 

The bus stop was across the street, where a handful of people stood waiting.

P, seeing the people, hastily folded up the knife and slipped it in his pocket.

"You're f***** crazy, man."

I blew them a kiss as I crossed the street to the bus stop. "So long, fellas. Have fun together!"


"Do you have any idea how foolish that was?"

Brother G was glaring at me from behind his desk. It was the following morning. I hadn't told my parents - I didn't think it would do any good - but I knew I had to say something when I got to school. When I arrived, he was already waiting for me at the entrance with a somber expression. After telling me he'd already called my first period teacher to excuse me from class, he brought me to his office.

"I know, Brother. I don't know what I was thinking. I'm just… sick and tire of his garbage, and of being picked on, and… everything." 

He nodded.

"And… I don't know, I could just tell they were trying to scare me. I really don't think they have the guts to actually do anything."

He rubbed his temples.

"D & P came here this morning, you know. With their parents."

"They did?"

He smiled without mirth.

"D claims you pulled the knife on them."

"Are you serious?" I said in disbelief.

He nodded wearily.

"I'm half their size, Brother! And there are two of them! Why would I - "

He held his hand up.

"I know he's lying. And I told them so, in so many words. Given their respective track records, I'm not inclined to cut either of them any slack, particularly Mr. D." 

He paused. "And of course it goes without saying that I know you're telling the truth."

"Thank you, Brother."

"You're welcome. Unfortunately, my hands are tied here. It's their word against yours, and there are no witnesses. I'm sorry. "

"So what do I do now, Brother?"

He stood up and came around the desk.

"Well, as you said, they're probably more bluster than anything else. And for what it's worth, neither of them are long for this school. One more slip-up - and there will be another slip-up with those two - and they're gone.

"But I would still watch your back. From now on you don't walk to the bus stop alone. If no one is around to go with you, both Mrs. B and Mrs. S have offered to drive you home." He smiled. "And if all else fails, even Brother D and I could deign to drop you off. For a nominal fee, of course."

I smiled. "Of course."

"I'm sorry I can't do more. And I'm sorry you have to go through this."

"I know, Brother."

He started to open the door, then paused, his hand on the door knob.

"Do you remember when I sat in for Brother L in your religion class a few weeks ago?"


"Do you remember what we talked about?"

"Umm… karma, right?"

"What do you think about it? Do you believe in it?"

I considered the question for a moment.

"I never really thought about it, I guess. But it seems to me that good is punished and evil is rewarded pretty consistently, Brother."

He nodded.

"I don't blame you for feeling that way. But things have a way of evening out. It may take a long time, and you may never know about it, but they do."

He opened the door.

"Have a good day."

"You too, Brother."


The next day, as I was walking to the library for my free period, my friend T caught up with me.

"Man, did you see D and P yet today?"

"No. Why?"

He chortled with glee.

"Dudes look like they got in an acid fight and lost. D's got a busted arm, and P must have 100 stitches just in his face. "

"Really? What happened?"

"Don't know. Don't care. But you know what? Couldn't have happened to a better pair, right? Later, man." 

"Yeah. See you around."


Brother G had told me he didn't need me after school the next day, so I was walking to the bus stop with several friends. From behind us, a horn honked, and a voice called out.

"Little man!"

I turned around as the car pulled up.

C sat behind the wheel, smiling, the leather sleeves of his letter jacket pushed up on his arms. Two of his fellow linebackers sat in the back seat. They nodded at me.

"Hey, C! What's happening? I didn't think you seniors were allowed to talk to a lowly sophomore?"

He grinned.

"I won't tell if you won't." He opened the door. 

"Hop in. I can give you a lift home. I just have to drop off these two numb nuts off first." He gestured to the back seat. "They forgot to leave a trail of bread crumbs this morning, so they'll never find their way home if I don't."

They simultaneously raised their middle fingers.

He shook his head in mock sadness.

"See this? I carry their a**** on the field and off, and this is the thanks I get. Hold on, little man; the sooner I get rid of these two the better. Stupid is contagious."

We peeled off down the street, tires screeching.


Several minutes later, his other passengers having safely disembarked, we headed off.

His hands drummed on the wheel as we drove. After a few moments he spoke up.

"So, how are things, little man?"

"OK, I guess."

"Not what I hear."


"Yeah. Heard you had some trouble with D & P the other day."

"How did you know that?"

He looked over at me.

"It's a small school, little man."

"OK. Yeah, I had a run-in with them."

"Run-in? You mean they jumped you."

"I… yeah. Whatever."

C took a breath.

"Why didn't you say something?"

"I.. I guess I should've fought back more."

"Fought back? For Christ's sake, they pulled a knife on you! And there are two of them, and they're twice your size to boot. How the hell were you going to fight back?"

I shrugged.

"I don't know. I guess… it's my problem. Besides, I hear they're out of commission for a while now."

C stared straight ahead. Slowly it dawned on me.

"You did that to them! Didn't you?"

He tried not to smile.

"Well, I had a little help."

"Your friends in the back seat?"

"They may not be good with directions, but they have other, uh, talents."

"Apparently. So what happened?"

"Well, like I said, it's a small school. Word got out about that little stunt they pulled with you. Then I asked around a bit more and heard about how D's been hassling you. Bastard." He shook his head angrily.

"Anyway, football practice and detention end around the same time. So yesterday, when D & P came out to the parking lot, we had a little welcoming committee waiting for them."

"What did you do?"

"Well, let's just say we… uh, persuaded them that it was in their best interest to leave you alone. Or else."

"Or else what?"

"Next time we come with six guys, not three. And next time we don't stop with one arm either."

I looked over.

"C, why… I mean, I never said anything to you about this. I wanted to - "

"First of all, I f****** hate bullies. You stood up to two of them, even with a knife pulled on you. You're half their size, but you have more guts than both of them combined."

We pulled up to a red light. He turned to me.

"But most of all… I owe you." 

"You don't owe me, C."

"The hell I don't. I owe you big time. I screwed up, and you didn't say anything."

"Well, I couldn't really see anything without my glasses."

"It's me, little man. You know damned well who knocked the tent over. Just like you knew what would happen to my chances of being an Eagle Scout if Mr. G found out."

Well, I - "

He held his hand up.

"Let me finish. No Eagle Scout, and I probably wind up in public school, not here. And without getting into this school, then I probably don't get into college either. So yeah, I'd say I owe you."

"Well, thank you."

"You're welcome. You know, I always wondered if I'd ever get a chance to pay you back. I'm glad karma was on my side."

"Karma? Funny, you're the second person to mention that the past few days."

"Is that a fact?" A small smile played across his face.

I looked at him quizzically. 


"Well, like I said before, it's a small school, isn't it?"

I started to say something, then thought better of it. We pulled up in front of my house.

"Last stop."

He extended his hand. We shook.

"Watch out for those deer on the way home, C. I hear they can wreak havoc."

He laughed.

"Will do, little man. Later, my friend."

"Later, C."

I watched until his taillights disappeared.


A terrific song from what, sadly, was their only album:

In Hiding

Saturday, September 24, 2011

One thing I've noticed recently is how much more relaxed my body language has become when I'm home alone. 

I've always had some gestures that come naturally that are definitely feminine. How I hold my hands, cross my legs, and so on. I was corrected more than once for them while growing up - boys don't do that, you see. And of course kids in school picked up on them.

So I learned early on to watch myself at all times. Watch how I crossed my legs. Watch how I held my hands. And on and on and on. 

I  took a theatre class in college as an elective, mostly because it fit my schedule. As part of the class students performed scenes from various plays. As I was leaving after one of the final classes, she asked me to stay for a moment. 

She asked if I had any theatre experience, which I didn't. She was surprised, saying it certainly seemed as if I had training as an actor (little did she know). She was also struck by how stiff my body language was when a scene started, and how much freer it became as it went on as I started to be in the moment. She encouraged me to try acting further, saying it can be a good way to learn confidence and self-expression.

So in the past few months I've been trying to work on this. I mentioned it to my therapist, who asked why I was so concerned about it. I said that I was worried people would figure out about Kelly, to which she replied - gently - that I already *am* Kelly.

Similarly, I recently mentioned to a friend that I was going to be visiting another friend for a weekend and spend it as Kelly. Her reply: "Repeat after me: 'spend it as myself.' Not Kelly. Myself." Point taken. :c)

Little by little, I'm learning I don't have to hide who I am. It's a long process, but I'm patient by nature. So that's OK. 


Here's a song from my old faves, Pearl Jam. While it's called "In Hiding," it's really about emerging from isolation to engage the world. Happy 20th Anniversary, gentlemen! 

In the Shadows, Boy Meets Man

Friday, September 16, 2011

I went to an all-boy high school that was run by the Xaverian Brothers. I was, understandably, ambivalent about going to an all-boy school; what if someone figured out my secret? But, finally, I decided it might help me learn how to at least pretend to be a boy.

About a month into my freshman year, Brother G, the assistant headmaster, offered me a job working in the office, the pay going to offset my tuition. While it meant I likely wouldn't be able to participate in many after-school activities, I'd already realized this was a good thing, as I was already retreating into the shell from which I just recently realized I had to discard. And with a younger brother and sister right behind me in age, every little bit helped my family, so I accepted his offer.

For the most part, it was your standard office grunt work; filing reports (this was pre-Internet), making copies, running errands, and so on. Brother G had an arch and, at times, sarcastic personality (his typical comment when I stopped by his office after finishing my day's work: "Thank you, L. Now get out.").  However, despite his best efforts, he was unable to hide his warmth and genuine affection for his students.

Typically I worked in a small room across from Brother G and Brother T, the headmaster, in the back of the front office and adjacent to the entrance to the brothers residence. I would arrive after the final bell just after 2:00 PM and typically work two or three hours every day. 

Occasionally Mrs. B and Mrs. S, the secretaries, would have a project for me up front, which I always enjoyed. They were in their sixties, and quickly adopted me as a sort of unofficial grandchild. They were both very funny, very kind, and always treated me as an equal. 

Better yet, they had a radio, and let me listen to whatever I wanted. Brother G, understandably, didn't want to listen to the likes of U2, Elvis Costello, and Bruce Springsteen blaring from the office when he was trying to hold a meeting, so I could only listen to it when I was up front. 

Until that fateful Friday, that is. 

It was a week before Christmas during my sophomore year. I came into the front office and called out hello to Mrs. B and Mrs. S, informing them how lovely they looked that day, as I always did. No answer. I stuck my head in the small room with the mimeograph machine next to Mrs. B's desk, but they weren't there either. 

I walked down the hallway to Brother G's office only, to find it empty as well, with the lights off. When I entered my small office, there were boxes of paper stacked around and on top of the table squeezed into the tiny room. Paper delivery today, I thought. I sighed at the prospect of two-plus hours lugging boxes to the front office, something I was ill-equipped for, being barely five feet tall and 110 lbs. on a good day.

Then I noticed a pile of report cards stacked on the only available chair in the office, which was wedged between more boxes on either side, facing away from the door. A note from Brother G  lay on top, asking me to sort them by year and class. Boring, but better than lugging dozens of 60 lb boxes of paper. Even better, I could listen to the radio.

I walked out to the front; still no Mrs. B and Mrs. S. I unplugged the radio and started to scribble a note, only to have the phone ring. After taking a message, I picked up the radio, the partially-written note lying forgotten on Mrs. B's desk.

I climbed over the back of the chair, there being no other way to sit down. I could barely move, and only managed to plug in the radio because my arms were so skinny I could contort them enough to reach the plug behind the boxes. After a few minutes, I was absorbed in the rhythm of sorting the massive pile of report cards, un aware of the world that lay outside the door behind me.


In the past decade, the sordid story of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, and the subsequent, even more sordid coverup, has finally seen the light of day. Sadly, my high school was not immune from this scandal.

WIthin a few days of starting my freshman year, whispers about Brother M were already widespread. He was… odd. Rumors of him being in the locker room after a football practice with his ever-present camera (he ran the photography club) were the source of endless jokes, attempting and failing to mask the discomfort everyone felt about the sight of a slender, wiry middle-aged man in a priest's habit walking around with a camera among semi-dressed (or less) teenage boys.

While I hadn't taken any classes with him, friends had. All agreed he was an outstanding teacher, tough but fair. As far as the rumors? They shrugged; the were just rumors, after all. No one had actually *accused* him of doing anything untoward. 

So everyone just pushed it aside, the way you quickly change the subject after an awkward comment from a distant relative at the Thanksgiving table. But it was always there, in the background. Keep your wits about you, people said, especially when you're alone. And, being in the school several hours after most students and teachers had left, I did each afternoon as I walked the darkened hallways to retrieve my books from my locker. 


It's fascinating to ponder how seemingly inconsequential details and decisions have ramifications you never consider - until later.

The radio. The unfinished note. The atypical absence of both Brother G, Mrs. B, and Mrs S from the office. The chair facing away from the door.

Engrossed in the rhythm of the mindless, repetitive sorting, I never heard the door from the brother's residence open, or the footsteps in the hallway.

Suddenly an arm wrapped around my neck like a vise and another began to tickle me. Stunned, I gasped out a strangled "Hey!"

"Ha! That'll teach you to sit with your back to the door!"  Brother M's voice.

Time really does seem to slow down when you're under stress, bringing with it a certain clarity. I remember thinking "Oh, f***, oh f***" while also realizing I couldn't panic.

"Oh, hey Brother!" I managed to stammer, struggling to free myself. "I didn't hear you."  

His grip tightened, the tickling continuing unabated.

"I know, Mr. M! We must keep our wits about us, eh?" he said. His voice was hoarse.

"I will, Brother." I said, squirming desperately and futilely, to escape. The boxes piled up beside the chair had me pinned in place. "But I have to get back to work here."

"Well, let this be a lesson to you, then, Mr. M!"

Still tickling me, his hand slowly crept down my stomach, my twisting becoming increasingly desperate. 

"Well, hello L! There you are!" 

It was Mrs. B.

Brother M's immediately pulled his hand away and loosened his headlock. He was breathing heavily.

I spun around, trying to catch my breath. Mrs. B stared up at Brother M, her mouth a slit. 

Brother M cleared his throat.

"Oh. Good afternoon, Mrs. B. And how are you this fine Friday afternoon?"


"L and I were just horsing around a bit. "

More silence. Brother M slowly withdrew his arm from my neck.

Without taking her eyes off Brother M, Mrs. B spoke.

"L, would you please go up front? Mrs. S is out there. She has some paperwork she hopes you can file for her."

Brother M said, "Brother G wants L to sort these report cards by tonight, Mrs. B."

Mrs. B spoke again, steel in her voice.

"Then Brother G can come to me, and I'll explain exactly why L couldn't finish."

Brother M opened his mouth, then closed it. Her eyes still locked on him, Mrs. B said, gently this time, "L. Go up front. Now."

Brother M stepped back as I pushed the chair out. Mrs. B continued to stare up at him as he squeezed past her into the hallway. I stood, my legs shaky, and walked down the hallway.

"Have a good weekend, L," Brother M called after me, his voice full of false cheer. I didn't respond.


Mrs. S looked up as I entered the front office.

"There you are! How are you, hon?"

"Hi, Mrs. S."

"Mrs. B and I were wondering where you were."

"I was in back working on the report cards for Brother G."

"Oh, that's right. Brother G left for the day. So *that's* why the radio wasn't up here. I should've guessed our resident music fanatic would have liberated it.." 

She chuckled, then stopped, looking at me closely.

"Is everything all right, L? You have a strange look on your face. And where is Mrs. B?"

"She's in back. Talking to Brother M."

"Brother M? Why is he -"

She clapped a hand over her mouth, then quickly blessed herself.

"Sweet Jesus. Are you…"  She rose and pulled over a chair. "Here, you sit down right here."

I sat down. "I'm OK."

"No, you're not OK," she said firmly. "Look at your hands."

They were shaking uncontrollably.

Mrs. B arrived and glanced at Mrs. S, who looked back, wide-eyed.

Mrs. B sat down next to me. 

"He's gone, L."

I nodded, numb.

"L, I am so, so sorry. I had no idea you were back there alone. Then I saw your note, and I went to see if you were still here." She shook her head. "Did he… did anything…?"

I shook my head. "No, he was just horsing around. It's OK, Mrs. B."

"Right. That's why your even paler than usual, if that's possible.' She turned to Mrs. S. "My son has my car today while his is in the shop. Could you run out and get a Coke for L?"

"Of course." She picked up her pocketbook and fished out her car keys. "Is Coke good, L?"

"Actually, could I have a cup of coffee? That would be great."

Mrs. S smiled. "That will stunt your growth, L."

I looked down at my diminutive frame. "I think it's already a lost cause, Mrs. S."

She and Mrs. B laughed.

"Coffee it is then. Be right back, sweetheart."

After the door closed, Mrs. S turned to me.

"L, I feel responsible. We went for a late lunch, and it never occurred to us that you'd be here by yourself."

"It's not your fault, Mrs. B. I should've been paying more attention. Besides, it was just him horsing around."

She shook her head angrily.

"The hell it - " She paused, took a breath, and continued. 

"This wasn't your fault. These things… people who…" Her voice trailed off. "Anyway, I'm sorry this happened to you. From now on, you work up front with Mrs. S and myself."

My eyes widened.

"But Brother G wants me back there so he can keep an eye on me."

She snorted, then waved her hand dismissively.

"That worked out well today, didn't it?"

"I'll ask him on Monday, I guess."

She stood up.

"No you won't. I'm *telling* Brother G you're working up here."

"Really? You can do that?"

"Well, there's a lot of things I can't do." She patted my arm. "But I can keep an eye out for you."

I smiled. "Well, someone better."

She smiled back.

"Always, hon. Always."


Here's a strange, sad song from U2's debut album, Boy, that seems to deal with a somewhat similar experience. The member of U2 were still teenagers when they recorded Boy (The Edge and Larry Mullen were only 17!), which certainly leads you to wonder if it was autobiographical...  

Little Sister

Thursday, September 15, 2011

So, yesterday was the day my sister C finally came down to visit. She's a nurse, so we had to reschedule it several times because of her work schedule, but she finally managed to make it.

After some small talk, I told her I had something I wanted to tell her that I'd been trying to deal with and deny my entire life. She immediately said, "You're gay."  

I told her no, and that she wasn't the first one to say that to me. She started to apologize, but I told her it wasn't necessary, as there's nothing wrong with being gay, but that that wasn't it. She nodded and then sat quietly. 

I said, "There's no easy way to say what I need to tell you, so I'm just going to say it. I'm transgendered." 

She looked at me blankly, then shook her head. "I'm sorry. I don't know much about this. Is that the same thing as a crossdresser? You know, the other one? I can't remember the word."

"You're thinking of transvestism. And no, that's not it." I paused. "I'm a transsexual. I'm a girl, C."

She looked at me for a second, then nodded and said, "OK. Thank God that's all it is! I've been worried sick you had some terrible disease or something! 

"This doesn't change how I feel about you one bit. You're still my brother. Sorry, my sister." She smiled. "I still love you, and I always will. I'll do whatever I can do to help you. I'll rearrange my schedule if you need me to go to doctor's appointments with you, I can tell Mom and Dad if you want, or just be there when you tell them, I can help you if you need to take shots, or anything… just let me know. You've always helped me when I was in trouble, and you've never once asked for anything. So please, let me know what I can do to help."

She asked me how long I'd known, and I recounted my story. When I finished, she told me she couldn't imagine how painful it must've been to carry a secret like that my entire life, and how lonely it must have been. She had no idea about any of it - the depression, the struggles with trying to date, none of it. 

She said she's always sensed I was struggling with something, but, like my friend F, who I told first, she knew I was a private person and wanted to respect that. I told her I was learning to open up, and that she could ask me anything about transitioning, and what it involves. We talked about the process a bit, and she joked that she no longer had to worry about finding something new to read about for the foreseeable future. I gave her a few books to read (Wrapped In Blue, She's Not There, and Almost Perfect); I had ordered True Selves, but it hadn't arrived yet.

Interestingly, she thinks my parents and my brother and sister-in-law will be OK with the news once they get over the initial shock. My therapist, M, has said the same thing, so I'm going to have think about this a bit more.


One thing about C; she's not shy about expressing her opinion, as you're about to see. After I got up to grab us a cold drink, she asked if I'd decided on a name. I told her I've been using Kelly.

She wrinkled her nose. "Sorry - you're not a Kelly." 

I told her I was open to suggestions - which I am, provided it's Irish - and she said I might consider seeing what my folks think, depending on how things go. She thought they might appreciate being asked. In the meantime, she was going to dig out her baby name books to start her research. (So in the future, this may become The Blog Formerly Known As Kelly's Quest. You've been warned…)

She took a look at my makeup, deemed it "so-so, but not bad for a beginner," then promised to come down for a girl's night out to work on improving my look. "And those eyebrows have to go. A caterpillar could hide up there. What are you thinking? Also, your hair… Good Lord…" 

"I've been growing it for four months now. I know it's a little wild today, but you know how curly hair gets when it's humid."

"Well, I want to take a weed whacker to it right here and now. At least use your blow dryer." A pause. "Tell me you have a blow dryer."

I looked down. She sighed loudly.

"Unbelievable. I'll bring you one of mine," she said, reaching for a notebook in her pocketbook.

This wasn't quite how I'd envisioned the day going.


My wardrobe, alas, also failed to pass muster. 

"Here - try these on," she commanded, stripping off her shorts and handing them to me. Apparently the wide-open window and lunchtime traffic streaming by weren't as much of a deterrent as I imagined. 

C snapped her fingers.

"Hello? Are we waiting for anything in particular? I'm your sister - and an ER nurse, for crying out loud. Do you think you're going to surprise me?"

A bit fearful of further incurring her wrath, I pulled the shorts on. They were a bit tight, but not nearly as much as I expected. 

"Well, aren't *you* the skinny thing! I'm a 4, and those will fit if you lose another five or six pounds. So you're a 6, for now at least. And you were buying 8's and 10's?!?" She shook her head. "What, were you dressing for two?"

She did throw me a bone, conceding that I did have some idea of what styles worked for me. 

"But stop buying these drab colors. If you joined the National Guard you could use them to hide in a swamp and you'd blend right in." She looked me up and down. "You need some pink; that will look really cute. I'll see what I have in my closet."

She jotted another note down.

"OK. This will keep me busy 'til next week. Either I can come here and we can work on makeup and stuff, or you can come up and I can go clothes shopping with you. We'll figure it out."

She picked up her pocketbook, dropped the notebook in it, then fished out her car keys.

"Well, I have to run. Like I said, please let me know what I can do. And you can call me anytime, day or night. Now that C (her son) is in college, God knows I'll working every waking hour for the rest of my life to keep His Majesty in the lifestyle he's used to."

She gave me a kiss, hugged me tightly, then climbed in her car. She rolled down the window while waiting for the air conditioning to kick in.

"Thank you for trusting me with this. I'm really honored." She shifted into Drive, then smiled up at me as she rolled up her window. 

"Wow... I have a sister."


Reflecting the depth of my gratitude to my little sister takes the combined talents of Robert Plant, the mighty Rockpile, and, yes, The King himself.


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