When interviewed by the Twinbrook Tribune after getting named Fireman of the Year, the reporter asked me what I felt was my greatest accomplishment.
“Why, growing up,” I answered without a beat.
She blinked her wide doe-eyes at me, clearly a bit taken back by my answer. “Growing up?” she asked, her tone dumb-founded. “But everyone grows up.”
“Yes,” I said, my baritone laugh filling the air. “But how we grow up is significant, and shapes us into who we are in the present. I wouldn’t be who am I today if I hadn’t gone through it.”
“So… you wanted to be a fireman when you were a kid?” she asked, still not quite understanding my deeper meaning.
I just gave her a wide grin. “Something like that.” I just didn’t bother to clarify that fires had nothing to do with it. I just simply wanted to be a man. Any sort of man would’ve been fine.
I was never your typical little girl. When my brother and I played with the neighbor girl next door, I was always the prince and she was always the princess, and my brother was the dragon, and it was always my duty to climb the fortress walls and save yon fair maiden from the clutches of the foul evil Brothersaurus Rex.
My best friend in the world was Parker. Riding bikes, climbing trees… everything was an adventure! It never occured to me that there was anything strange about our friendship until the day he said I couldn’t go explore the old cathedral ruins, because they were haunted and girls were scaredy cats.
“But I’m not a girl.”
I had been serious when I’d said it, but he’d laughed and said, “Right, you’re such a tomboy! Well, if you’re not gunna get scared, I’ll race you!” and that had been the end of that.
Tomboy. That’s what my parents always said, too, but I never really understood the term back then. In my mind I just heard the “boy” part and thought that was a good thing. I played baseball better than my brother and whenever Bridgette wanted to play dolls I always played the dad and the brother and the boyfriend, and she was fine with that. She had way more girl dolls than boy dolls to play with, but we had fun. In my mind, I was just enjoying childhood as any little boy should. It wasn’t until I was older that I realized everyone else just thought my behavior was “acting like a tomboy.” No one ever took me seriously.
I still remember when I felt my first real rejection back then, from my parents. They were willing to accept having a “tomboy” for a daughter, but only to a certain extent, as I learned that day when Mom took me to get my hair cut. I hated that long hair. I hated those girly pigtails that stuck out awkwardly from my baseball cap. So I told Mom I wanted to cut my hair short. She had looked really torn, but finally relented to my begging and pleading.
I loved how it looked. It was light and airy and off my ears and my neck. But I hated the look on Mom’s face when she set down that magazine and looked at me after it was finished. I felt like I’d done something wrong, and couldn’t understand why. My brother Nathan had hair like this, so why couldn’t I? It just didn’t make sense…
Even if everyone else seemed confused about who I was, I certain’t wasn’t. I mean, I was Ty. I was your average little boy that loved superheroes and had skinned knees and wanted a basketball arcade game and the Masked Bandito action figure for his birthday. Sure, some of the… parts that Nathan already had weren’t there yet, but I just figured that was because Nathan was older than me. I’d just get those when I got older.
Oh, how wrong I was. How very wrong I was. The more my body grew, the more I grew to hate myself, and the person I had to see in the mirror. That was not Ty. I had felt so comfortable as a naive little boy… and then my chest grew, and I could no longer hide from the inevitable. My body was wrong. And the rest of the world… all they could see was this body. They wanted me to be Tyra, not Ty. They didn’t understand.
Somehow, I blamed myself, and the deceitful betrayal of my own body. I became really withdrawn. I’d been a really outgoing kid, but as a teen, I became really awkward and spent most of my time alone. I became exceedingly depressed, and spent too much time crying to myself in bed and wishing I could go back to my younger self, before that stupid chest had grown in and my hips had started to become all curvy-like. I was filled with estrogen and hated every minute of it. I even tried to stop eating, hoping I could somehow stunt my development, but my mother noticed my nearly-full plates at the end of meals and got worried I was anorexic. She had no idea what was truly going on inside me… but I didn’t feel like I could tell her, either.
I was sent to see a psychologist.
At first, I really didn’t want to talk to Dr. Harbin. But looking back on things, I’m glad that I did. Somehow, being told that I had gender dysphoria, and that I wasn’t alone, was a slight comfort. Unfortunately, my parents refused to accept any of it, so treatment came to a screeching halt. I was under eighteen. It wasn’t like I could get a prescription for puberty blockers or start hormones without their support.
They were certain it was all “just a phase,” and that if I tried “embracing my femininity” that I’d enjoy it. Mom begged me to let my hair grow out a bit. I hated every second of it, but it seemed that every inch it got longer, she seemed to accept me a little more. She got this thrill dolling me up for prom, even though I said I didn’t want to go. I hated it. I hated the make-up, I hated the dress in its pastel colors, I hated the nylons, and jewelry, and especially those damned heels! Every part of it felt like I was wearing some fake Tyra costume and trying to play a part to make everyone else happy, while I just felt worse and worse about myself for doing it.
As soon as I arrived at the school, I bolted straight through the gym, covering my face from the dancers, and slipped into the locker room, hoping that no one had seen me, or worse, recognized me, in that awful outfit.
And then I just broke down. Really broke down. I knew I couldn’t put on that facade any more.
I looked in the mirror at what I had become and screamed at the stranger reflected there. And then I shoved those horrible clothes into my gym locker and grabbed my spare workout clothes, and using a small pair of nail scissors I kept for hangnail emergencies, I hacked away that long hair that pleased my mother so much.
And when only Ty was left, I felt better. So much better.
Dad was furious when I got home and he saw me. How could I betray him and especially my mother like that? Why couldn’t I just be their little girl? I thought he was going to hit me, he was so enraged. He didn’t, but I knew then that I was never going to have their understanding. Their acceptance. But I’d decided that night that my own happiness, that being who I needed to be, was more important.
And in the end, growing up wasn’t all bad, because eventually, I turned eighteen. I was able to move out of that household where nobody understood me, and go back to Dr. Harbin to get the hormones and surgery that I needed so the world can now see the person I’ve always been.
And I couldn’t be happier!
This was written for the May Monthly Short Story Challenge from the Sims forums, which tasked folks to write a story in 500-1500 words using 1-12 screencaps using the theme “Growth.” It is a completely stand-alone story, not using any characters from any of my other works (although there is a cameo from my February short story… can you spot it?)
This is one of the rare instances where I knew fairly quickly after reading the theme what I wanted to write about! A random funny fact… when I decided I wanted the psychologist shot as I was playing, I was like, argh, I need a set! Luckily the house I’d plopped down had a big, empty basement in it, so I quickly made up a one-room set… then realized I needed an actor! Quick, who does the family know? Right, no one… Oh wait, the annoying llama mascot that comes at the beginning of every single new save game! So yes, the psychologist is actually the llama mascot, called up short notice and re-dressed. Hehehehe.