I log-in to the gender assignment site and click on the link to my test results. I scroll through the sections quickly, not bothering to read them, until I get to the last page.
I slam the laptop shut and storm into my room. My breath comes raggedly. I feel heat thrumming through my body and my throat constricts. I will not cry. I will not cry. I will not cry.
I grab a tennis ball off the floor and start throwing it against the bedroom wall, then catching it. Throwing it, hearing its thump, catching it. Throw, thump, catch. It echoes the rhythm of my heart, drowns out my racing thoughts.
There’s a timid knock on my door, but I don’t answer it. The door cracks open.
It’s my mother. She would have received a parents’ copy of the results. She probably knew last night and didn’t even say anything to me to prepare me. I pick up the pace and throw the ball harder. She flinches, as if I’m going to throw it at her, and I’m glad.
“Jordie, stop. Why you so angry? We so happy for you. You bring honor to our family now.”
I cringe at her English, still stilted after all these years. How hard is it to remember a freaking verb, anyway? I feel a stab of guilt for my thought, then push it away. This is all her fault. She always wanted a boy.
By law, adults aren’t allowed to influence children’s gender identity. As if.
They are instructed to follow our lead, let us express our interests our way. Baby clothes are neutral. Once we’re old enough to choose for ourselves, all options are always offered. We get to choose the clothes we want to wear, the toys we want to play with, the activities we want to participate in. I always thought that was awesome. Until now.
Private parts are referred to generically as “genitals.” I mean, sure, at some point we figure out there are physical differences, but it is never mentioned at home or at school.
Then, at age 12, we’re tested. The results of the test determine our gender assignment. Apparently, I’m a boy. Except, I already started my period. And my breasts, tiny buds, are already beginning to grow.
They’ll change all that, I know. Thinking about it, I want to throw up. It feels like such an invasion.
But…maybe…maybe I could get my parents to file an appeal.
“Please, Mama,” I say, hating the note of desperation in my voice. “Don’t let them do this to me. I don’t want to be a boy.”
She scoffs, waving off my panic.
“You already boy. You wear jeans and t-shirt. You play lots and lots of sports, and you top player. You get high score for math and science. They call me to school, tell me you beat up that other boy.”
My eyes flash, and I want to scream. Yes, I beat up Loren, but that was because he was making fun of her, my mom, with her funny accent and her funny way of talking.
“Why can’t I just be a lesbian?” I fling at her. Her eyes grow wide and she frantically looks around the room, as if someone were lurking in the corners and overheard.
“Where you hear that word?” she hisses at me. I shrug and clamp my mouth shut. We aren’t supposed to know about sexuality yet, but that doesn’t stop us from talking on the playground. Someone’s older brother said this, someone’s older sister said that. It’s all the more fascinating because it ‘s forbidden. No way am I going to rat my friends out and get them in trouble.
“You go to best college now, get best job,” she says, trying to persuade me. “You make lots of money. Buy yourself new car, eh? No staying home with babies for you.”
She sounds jealous, and it stings. I throw the ball at my desk, and it hits the lamp, knocking it over.
I push past my mom and run out of the room, down the stairs, and outside. She doesn’t follow, and I’m grateful. I get the basketball out of the garage and begin shooting hoops, but there’s no joy in it now.
I’m still making baskets when my dad gets home from work. His car pulls up in the driveway, and he gets out. I can tell from the look on his face that he knows why I’m upset.
“Hey, Jordie pie,” he says, holding his hands out for a pass. I throw him the ball. He shoots but misses the basket. He always was lousy at basketball.
“It’s not that bad, you know,” he says while I’m retrieving the ball. He sounds kind of sad.
“I don’t want one of…you know…those things. It’ll just get in the way.”
“But you get to pee standing up. Wherever you want. It’s quite convenient,” he says, trying to make me smile.
“Oh, yeah, what about multiple orgasms?”
OK. I didn’t say that out loud, because we’re not supposed to know about that, either. But from what I’ve heard on the playground, it’s not that great a trade-off.
“You’re still going to be you,” he says, pulling me into him with a hug.
I look up at him, the tears that I’ve been holding back all day threatening to spill.
“But why can’t I be me in this body?” I ask.
He tries to smile reassuringly but it doesn’t ring true. He just shakes his head, kisses the top of my head, and walks into the house.
My shoulders droop, and I know I’m defeated.
Prompt: Imagine you wake up and are the opposite gender. Or, if you don’t identify with a specific, imagine the government forces you to choose one. I took the government involvement a step further.