Note from author: This was my submission for a local magazine. I realised I would rather put it up here and see what happens. I changed names for the sake of keeping this a ‘work of fiction’, although this actually happened (perhaps not in the brevity of a blog post, but it’s my own artistic representation of what occurred).
“Are you a boy or a girl?” Jimmy asked for the fifth time in the past twenty minutes. “I dunnae mean to offend you but you look like a girl.”
I forced a smile. It was cold, Kurt stood expectantly beside me, we had things to get back to, and this inebriated homeless fellow had decided to question the very core of my existence.
“No, I’m a boy. People make that mistake all the time.” And that’s ok, isn’t it? It’s ok for me to be challenged for ‘looking like a girl’, because your definition of a boy or man is very different to mine. How many times a day do you think I get that?
Do tell me, sir, if you see a man in a kilt, do you challenge his masculinity? If a woman wears trousers, do also you challenge her femininity?
I suppose this is where I must explain, it’s not being lumped into the wrong category that is frustrating – well, it becomes such when I have to spend 45 minutes explaining myself to strangers – but rather the fact that the categories exist.
People instantly assume I can only be one or the other. It seems a very narrow-minded view of the world; girl or boy, black or white, straight or gay, heaven or hell (if you believe in such things). As if nothing could exist in between, and I absolutely have to be one or the other.
Living as a person in ‘gender limbo’ – my colourful way of saying ‘in transition’ – makes life both interesting, but also very difficult and occasionally reflects how disturbingly foolish our society can be.
“I’m a boy,” I insisted, hoping he would drop it. He was holding my other arm in a vice-like grip from when he’d shaken it, and he was getting too close for comfort.
“Are you one of them…whatcha call’em… transsexuals?” The question lingered in the air a moment.
In all truth, I could ignore it, or claim it was inappropriate. Even as I opened my mouth to respond, I told myself I shouldn’t be justifying myself to anybody for this.
“No, I’m a boy. I’m just look very young,” I stated firmly.
“See if you were a girl, right, I’d fuck you in a heartbeat.”
“I’m not, though. I’m a boy and very interested in women.”
“Ah, you like the pussy? That’s fortunate. At least you like the pussy.”
Would it not have been ‘manly’ to say I was interested in men, then?
“Yes, I like women.”
“Yeah, he loves the ladies,” Kurt added with a chuckle. “But really, Jimmy, we have to get back to work now…”
We had spent the past half hour trying to ‘get back to work’.
“You got a knob then?” Jimmy gestured to indicate what he was talking about, and glanced unabashedly at my crotch.
The statement tore me in half. Part of me really wanted to punch him, and the other part of me said he probably didn’t know better.
Oh, you wanna play the anatomy game?
“Yes, I do.” I paused, then added: “You want me to show you?”
“No, no,” he laughed. “I didn’t mean tae offend you. It’s just… you look so much like a girl.”
How was I not to take offense? He piled them so clumsily one on top of the other.
“But I’m not, I’m a boy.”
“Oh, you’re a lad then? You come down the pub – we’ll drink 12 pints, and get into a fight!” He laughed, clearly entertaining himself with the idea.
“Sure, ok. But I can’t right now, we-” I gestured to Kurt. “have to get back to work.” I tried to pry my hand free, but he stopped me.
“I’m sorry if I offend you, but I don’t think you’re Eric yet,” he declared. “But I wish you luck in going from Erica to Eric.”
Who are you to decide whether I am or not? I decide, and nobody else.
“Thank you, but Kurt and I have to go now.” My arm was finally free, and we slipped back indoors to our office.
Am I intolerant towards the less fortunate? I wondered.
No. He might not have had the same opportunities as I have for education, housing, and so on, but there are other ways of talking to people about this… I want to believe you don’t need a university degree to respect someone.
I am Eric. I am a real boy. Not made of wood and glue. I am a real boy.
I am a boy.
I bet even Pinocchio didn’t have this problem.