In case you’re wondering why I haven’t told you
It’s because of the look you gave me when you asked what the new soap I’d bought was and I hesitated before replying, “It’s called Gender Bender.” You then passive-aggressively bought me 24 new bars of soap in an assorted package, which I am not yet halfway through.
It’s because of the joke you made about “pretending to be a tranny to get a discount” in the car on the way to get haircuts one Saturday morning.
It’s because of the way I watched your face when I was talking to you in the bathroom this morning when you noticed I, your female child with short hair and a flat chest, was wearing a shirt that said, “#1 Dad” on it as a joke. I saw the look in your eyes like a warning.
It’s because of the way you asked my older sister if I was interested in that boy I brought over to play video games instead of going to prom. “He’s kind of weird,” you told her, “but I just want her to like a boy.” And when my sister, who knows, asked, “What if she doesn’t?” you replied, “I’m her mother, I’m allowed to have a preference, that’s all.”
It’s because of one of the many times I was visiting my dad in New Hampshire when he said, “Oh, when we were together, your mother hated gay people. And your grandmother can’t stand them, either.”
It’s because of the way you opened my sister’s mail and saw that she had registered herself as a democrat. A few weeks later, we were out to dinner with one of your friends, and you said, “And I’ve told Jaimie, if she’s going to register as a democrat, not to say anything. Her sister I’m not sure about, but I have confidence that Jaimie should at least wisen up before long.” And I kept quiet because you told me not to say anything.
It’s because of the day we went school shopping in the summer before ninth grade, and when I asked if I could look to buy boy’s jeans, you said, “Like it or not, you’re a woman, and you have a woman’s curves.” I still wanted boy’s jeans, but I told you I’d changed my mind. I still want boy’s jeans, but you think I changed my mind.
It’s because of the way you scrunched your nose when I told you my character in the school musical had been changed from “Kate,” who had one line, to “Ike,” who appeared in several scenes. Instead of congratulating me, you asked why they made me play a boy every year.
It’s because of the nightmares I used to have wherein my aunt, who figured it out on her own, outed me to you, and I got so scared of your response that I woke up with dust clogging my throat.
It’s because of the time my sister looked at our cat and said, “Sometimes I don’t really think of Oscar as a boy cat, he’s kinda in-between sometimes.” And you said, “Well, he is a boy cat.” And you used that tone. I have grown up with the presence of that tone settled in my gut like a rock.
It’s because of the way I sat in my room having a panic attack, huddled in front of my blasting fan because it was too hot and I couldn’t breathe, the first time I tried on my binder (the binder that I bought secretly with my own money three years ago and you still don’t know I have.) If anyone finds out, I thought, what will happen to me?
It’s because of the way I told you I wanted to try living with Dad for awhile and you broke down, wouldn’t talk to me about it, wouldn’t acknowledge that it was happening until it had, and even though I was happier there, even though I had told my dad and his girlfriend within a month of living with them, even though I was more involved with theater and didn’t hate the thought of going to school every morning because I liked this one, even though I had friends that I loved more than anyone I knew back here, in this godforsaken farm town in rural New York, you still made me feel guilty enough about leaving you that I came back anyway.
It’s because of the way that I’m out at school, that I don’t care if anyone there knows that I’m not a girl or a boy, or that I like both girls and boys, and there I’m loud, and there I’m happy, but as soon as I get home I’m quiet as a mouse because I don’t want you to talk to me because you might say something careless, and think nothing of it, but your throwaway comment, to me, is a dagger in my lungs.
It’s because of the look you gave me when I was thirteen and I told you I wanted to be a prince for Halloween.
It’s because of the way you once prefaced your indignation at something sexist with, “I’m NOT a feminist, but…”
It’s because of the way my heart spiked with panic when we were reviewing my college applications together and I realized I’d marked gender as “prefer not to respond” and quickly scrolled past it.
It’s because of what I imagine you would say if you found out that I have signed up to live in gender-neutral housing for my freshman year on campus, and that I will not let any of my roommates believe I am a girl.
And if you’re wondering why I haven’t let you read anything I’ve written, it’s because my writing is deeply personal to me, and I don’t want you to know any of my secrets. I don’t want you to know what I think about the world because I know you would disagree and tell me so. I don’t want you to know what I think love should be because you would only be cynical and try to tell me about the real world. I don’t want you to read about my queer heroes because these characters and their stories are important to me, and I feel like if I let you touch them, it would ruin them for me.
It’s because I remember all of these things every time I get close to you.
It’s because I break my own heart thinking about how much I want to love you, but can’t.
If you’re wondering why I haven’t told you I’m queer, and why I never will, it’s because I don’t trust you. And when I start my own life, and I live on my own, I will not care who knows, and I will not care if you find out, because once I am out, I will be far away, and I won’t have to see that look on your face ever again.