THEY: Breaking Down the Gender Barriers


I have been inspired recently to post more of my fiction writing. Blame it on my friends I guess. While I was overseas, I recently completed my first short story. I a  now working on my second. What follows is approximately the first two pages of my story, simply entitled “They”.

Freak. He-She. Faggety-Ann. These were just a few epithets amongst the many that had been spewed their way since coming out last year. Others were trying to make them believe that they didn’t know who they were – which was true to an extent, how well did we truly know ourselves – but also that they were hiding behind themself. That they were afraid. That was also partially true; they were afraid. But given their current situation, how could anybody really blame them? The bullying was always going to be there. In fact, it would probably increase if they decided to live any other way.

In terms of their identity, that was a bit of a loaded question. They weren’t totally sure how to describe it. They supposed genderqueer was the most accurate, given that it included many forms and ideas of what it means to be human. But for some reason, that label didn’t quite feel right, accurate. Wasn’t quite encompassing how they felt about themself and their body. Transgender was out because, well mainly, they hadn’t undergone any hormone replacement therapy or body modification. Even gender-fluid didn’t quite incapsulate the idea they had of themself. It wasn’t as if they were shifting between a male and female identity. It was something different. Just different. If they were being completely true and honest about how they felt and what they were, agender seemed to be the most accurate description of their mind-body dichotomy, at least at this current juncture, even if they weren’t totally sure what it meant. Most people didn’t.

Atheist. That was a good comparison to think of. If atheist was the absence of belief, then agender was the absence of gender. Genderless was another term, but they didn’t think that that sounded as nice. They lived outside the heteronormative boundaries, without labels and societal borders. They knew they weren’t inventing the rules, but they sure as hell weren’t playing by them either. They also didn’t feel they were breaking any rules either, they were just living their life and if people didn’t like it or couldn’t it understand, well they weren’t going to worry because there was nothing they could do about it. It should also be noted that they didn’t identify as an atheist. Nothing was that finite; agnostic maybe, but they certainly didn’t have a total lack of belief.

But lately, life had gotten a lot tougher. First off, the school had reneged on the promise to introduce gender-neutral bathrooms. Cis washrooms were a problem because, well being agender obviously meant that they did not match the gender of their birth. Sometimes they sucked it up, but more often than not they would run across the street to the cafe that had a single unisex bathroom or would wait until they got home.

Home… that was another issue entirely. They weren’t really living at home right now. It wasn’t that their parents kicked them out for being different – they hadn’t officially lived with their parents for years, instead they bounced through foster homes and when that wasn’t an option, stayed on the couches or in the spare bedrooms of friends of relatives. At this juncture however, they were in a shelter for homeless teens. It wasn’t the worst thing in the world, it did give them a certain amount of freedom, but they longed for some stability in their life. A nice bed – preferably queen-sized – hot showers, home-cooked meals, employment. That last one they were working on. In their town, businesses had been relatively good about having inclusive hiring practices.

Barriers. There were still plenty of those to cross. Many to overcome. Once they turned eighteen all bets were off. There would be no help from “the system”. Although there were technically means of support – both financially and emotionally – they would no longer be considered a child in the eyes of the law and the government. Which was completely fine by them; they were actually planning on ending their life before they reached that milestone (or another barrier, depending on how one framed it). It just was becoming not worth it. There was too much trouble, too many assholes to deal with and they were becoming tired. Of everything. Regardless, they were still going to try their damned-well best to meet all of their goals before their self-imposed chosen date of expiration.

Right now however, what they really needed, what they really wanted was food. They were already close to the mall so they decided to see what the food court had to offer. They had manage to use this most recent batch of money they received quite frugally and, as a result, had a bit more to spare than usual. Still they didn’t want to overspend. They figured that since they were already in the mall, they would check out the bookstore after lunch. That was once thing they truly enjoyed. Books, books, books. They were currently engorged in “The Maze Runner”, but were also always on the hunt for a bargain book. They didn’t buy a lot, mostly hung out and occupied themself at the library, but every so often they would find a book that they really wanted to have.

But of course, they ended up at their usual – and favourite – spot: Starbucks. Their drink of choice: non-fat soy cappuccino with extra foam. Because of course it was. They waited a minute or two for it to cool down before taking a sip, sauntering over to Chapters in the interim. Although they disliked the corporate capitalism that Chapters was apart of, they did appreciate the selection and given that they were in a mall, it wasn’t the worst place in the world to be. Cup in hand, they strolled over to the teen section and began to browse the shelves. They found most of the books to be of a rather similar ilk; quick reads, heavy on fantasy, and splashes of romance.

 Unsatisfied with the YA pickings, they began meandering to their other favourite section: Biographies. Janet Mock’s Redefining Realness stuck out at them, though they had already read it; same went for many of the other LGBTQ+ memoirs protruding from the shelves. She remembered that Laura Jane Grace’s book would be coming out in November. They were really looking forward to that, and not just because they were a huge fan of Against Me! Laura was a hero in the trans community. When they turned 18, they were planning on getting a tattoo with the words True Trans Soul Rebel – after the song.

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