It was good to get away from school, and even better to be somewhere safe. Tanya’s home was one of those places. Her room was a haven through which no bigotry could bleed its way in lest it incur her wrath. In that space her will was absolute; not even her Mom was guaranteed safety if she crossed her there.
She knocked on the bathroom door. (Gods, she had her own bathroom.) “You going to be in there all day or what?” she pressed. “Some of us have… you know, personal business, to attend to.”
I looked down, lost in the void between my chest and the cup of my bra. Was I just going to keep staring? Shaking myself back to reason I took the loosely packed stocking from the counter and slid it down. The idea of stuffing my bra with packs of bird seed seemed crazy, but the internet recommended it and gods help me, it did bring out a nice shape.
“Don’t worry, I’m almost done,” I told her, though I really didn’t know if that was true.
My fingers pulled the tie from my hair and let it fall. I brushed it to one side and swept a fringe across my face. It seemed amazing how in a few strokes I couldn’t see myself the ‘boy’ in me anymore; I saw a human being, I saw myself, and I was smiling.
A weight thudded against the door; probably Tanya making herself comfortable. “Can I ask you a personal question?” she asked.
No, I wanted to say.
“Sure,” I relented.
“You never told me how long this has been going on,” she mused. “I mean, being trans isn’t something that just happens to a person, but until a few months ago I never would have known. Is this something you’ve felt the whole time we’ve known each other?”
I ignored her and focused on the clothing pile in front of me. Each article was pored over with every ounce of judgment I could muster. Would I look better in this, or this; the blue top or the green? Would people know I was different if I showed off too much of my shoulders? I judged them as if it was the fabric the world scorned, and not the idea of a girl like me.
Hearing the name made me tingle. It was still new, still warm, but it hadn’t become a part of me yet; even when I told people that was me deep down it still felt like pretend, as though it could be unraveled by some jerk who insisted I was ‘really’ a guy.
“Yeah,” I stammered. “I’m… I just… yeah. It’s not new, I… all my life, okay? Every day. Always.”
“Even before you knew about the whole transgender thing?” she asked.
“Even then,” I explained. “The only thing different was that I didn’t have a name for it yet.”
She asked me questions the whole time; you know, the usual array that you’d hear on talk shows. ‘Do you want to have surgery one day?’ ‘What if you want to have kids of your own, or are you okay with adopting?’ ‘So are you straight or a lesbian or bi?’ At least she didn’t make any assumptions about that last one, I guess.
They didn’t seem like terrible questions, but I couldn’t relax in the face of them. I mean, I couldn’t expect other people to understand right away, could I? I was the alien; or at least that’s how it felt. At least she didn’t ask which bathroom I use.
Finally the transformation was complete. “Okay.”
Tanya called out from the other side. “Ready?”
“Is anybody truly ready?” I jabbed, and then opened the door.
“Oh my god,” she gasped.
I dared to pry one eye open. Tanya’s jaw had fallen so far it was almost cartoonish.
“You bitch,” she concluded.
I winced. “What did I do?”
“You make a better woman than I do!” she laughed.
“It’s really not,” she said. “Look, I understand you’ve probably had a lot of practice getting those culturally imposed self-image issues thrust on the rest of womankind down pat, but you seriously look gorgeous.”
She said that not seeing the things I could see; my hands, my neck, my narrow hips: one of them was bound to give me away at some point. I couldn’t afford to have a big head. Getting too confident meant letting my guard down; it felt dangerous.
That or maybe I didn’t know what I’d do without the self-doubt. What would it mean if it turned out she was right and the balance was shifted? I ran back to the mirror, determined to find something wrong.
Tanya stopped at the doorway and sighed. “What are you so scared of, KC?”
“Discovery, rejection, pain,” I told her; “do you really want the full list?”
“Sure,” she retorted. “If you tell me then we can do something about it, because if we don’t you’ll keep running away and you’ll never stop being afraid. You deserve better than that, you know?”
My hands crashed down onto the bathroom counter and I had to collect my breath. There were times when she was right and I hated her for it.
I tried to force an answer. “I’m scared of…”
“Of what?” Tanya pushed. She inched closer and ran a hand down my soul.
“Of being a tranny,” I told her.
“You mean… of not being seen as a woman? A real woman I mean,” she said.
“Okay, even if that were to happen, what the hell do they know? You’re the most genuine person I know, and you’ve only been more genuine since you came out. You’re never a fake, at least not to me.”
“You’re just saying that,” I chided.
“Excuse me? Am I the kind of person who just says junk?” she pressed. “You’re Kaira Cade, the shy girl who took too damn long to come out of her shell, and that’s it. Anyone who says otherwise can go to hell.”
For the first time since I’d changed I felt like I could exhale. Maybe she didn’t get it, but she still had my back, didn’t she? No matter what Tanya Truman was my superhero, and for that I was thankful.
Tanya stopped and blinked. “Oh wow…”
“What is it?”
“Nothing,” she said. “I’m never going to get used to you smiling like this.”
“Why? What’s wrong with my smile?” I giggled.
“Nothing! Nothing,” she insisted. “It’s just… real.”
Sometimes in life the best things, the best people, are taken for granted. Whether you mean to or not doesn’t matter, only that it happens. Then every so often one of them comes forward to remind you why they’re so special in the first place. This was one of those times.
“Thank you,” I said.
“For being awesome about all of this,” I beamed. “A lot of people aren’t lucky enough to have a Tanya watching their back at every turn.”
“Some people have $#&%%y best friends. You don’t,” she retorted.
I couldn’t keep my eyes from the mirror. It was surreal seeing a girl staring back; it meant the world to know that she wasn’t just a dream anymore, but that she finally existed.
“We should show my mom,” Tanya said.
“No. I don’t think I’m ready yet.”
“Fine,” she groaned, “but at least let me do your make-up.”
To be continued…