TW: unsafe binding
The halls buzzed with the familiar sound of middle schoolers switching classes. As the teachers complained about how loud their students were being, a hooded figure slunk down the hall and slipped out of sight. The bell started to ring and a collective sigh followed from students and teachers alike as they all filed into class.
Alik adjusted the pronoun bracelets on eir wrist. E glanced up at eir teacher who was reading off the attendance list. E noticed that Anya, the most popular girl in the school, was absent. Again. That was three days in a row. E started to drift off into eir thoughts when the teacher paused at a name on the list.
“Sasha?” the teacher questioned. Alik knew what was coming. In the process of around three seconds the entire class whipped around to watch em tell eir teacher for the millionth time that eir name wasn't “Sasha”. The stares were unfriendly as always. It seemed like eir teacher was mocking em. A cruel smile spread on to her face challenging em. That was the final straw. Alik stood up, pushing the cheap metal chair away from the desk. E crossed the room and snatched the clipboard from the teacher. E pulled out eir favorite black sharpie and took it to the paper. The ink immersed eir deadname into a pool of blackness. E let the clipboard clatter to the floor of the silent classroom as e walked out.
Rain breathed a sigh of relief as they unclipped their binder. They quickly glanced down at the sports bra they were wearing underneath. Sports bras. Yes, bras. They hadn’t shown they’re face in school in days and their snapchat was blowing up with messages questioning were they were. They reluctantly stared back down at their chest that was starting to turn black and blue with bruises. Unsafe binding. That's what their online friend had warned them about. Just a few more days they told themself. Fucking up their chest was more important then looking in the mirror and seeing the large lumps that defined their gender to everyone.
Three nights ago gender dysphoria came like a wave. No, a tsunami. Crashing over them and pinning them down under its wrath. The misgendering, the feminine clothes, the terrible terrible things on their body they wished they could get rid of. It was too much. They cried themselves to sleep just quiet enough so their parents couldn't hear them. The next day they grabbed an ace bandage, 3 sports bras, a cheap binder, and their brothers old oversized sweatshirt and threw them all on. Every day since they had hid in the school library until it was time to go home and pretend they were fine.
They undid all the bras and the ace bandage and threw the sweatshirt back on. They sank to the bathroom floor and started to cry. Then the door swung open.
Alik stormed into the bathroom and dropped eir backpack on the linoleum floor. Stupid teachers. Why would you hire someone if all they're going to do is be horrible to anyone that is different than them. Cishet my ass Alik thought. Out of the corner of eir eye e spotted a pair of converse poking out from one of the bathroom stalls.
“Hello?” A sniff echoed eir question. The person inside gathered themselves up off the grimy floor and the stall door creaked open.
“ANYA?” e whisper screamed.
“Rain” they replied.
“Its Rain now” Alik finally understood and eir mouth dropped open to form an O shape. Alik slapped palms with Rain and helped them to their feet. Rain’s bag was still open and Alik peered down at it.
“Been there done that” e said. Rain wiped away the remains of their tears.
“Its just hard ya know”
“Hell yeah I know” Alik slung eir backpack to the floor and pulled out a tube of jet black lipstick. E spread it across sir lips and smacked them together a couple of times. E zipped open eir bag to reveal the treasure inside.
“Alright sib. What can i do for ya.”
Rain’s eyes opened wide when they saw the contents of eir bag. There was every color of hair dye imaginable, multiple tubes of eyeliner and pounds of makeup. There was even a pair of hair cutting scissors and a razor with multiple attachments for giving shorter haircuts.
“How- what- when- How long have you had all of this stuff?” they stammered
“How do you think anyone in this school has gotten anything remotely cool done to their hair?”
“Uh- the hairdresser?”
“You're lookin at em.”
Rain pulled a photo from their pocket. The glossy picture showed a short messy cut colored to look like a bright bond fire. They opened their mouth to speak but Alik was already gathering hair dye into eir arms and bringing it over to the bathroom sink. Alik pulled out eir phone and connected eir air pods. E tossed one to Rain. The sounds of eir spotify playlist streamed into both of their ears as Alik took a pair of scissors to Rain's long brown hair. The bounds of the gender that everyone told them to be fell down all around them. Teenagers played in their ears. For the first time in months Rain smiled to themself in the mirror. Alik smiled down at them. A strand of blue hair slipped into eir face and e tucked it behind eir ear and continued chopping away at Rain's hair adding layers and small pieces to frame their face.
Rain lifted their head from the sink. They gasped at what they saw. Their hair was the most vibrant orange with pieces of red and yellow mixed in. The cut was messy with an undershave at the back. Alik had curled the sides out to give it a fluffier effect. Rain lept into Alik’s arms.
“I love it” They gushed. Alik gave a small embarrassed smile. E grabbed a tube of blue hair dye and motioned for them to touch up eir roots. By the time they were done the sink was stained with orange and blue and their hands were dyed the color of the hair they had dyed. Rain went to grab their phone to take a selfie but they were stopped by Alik. E shook up a liquid eyeliner and slid the wand over their eyes adding a small wing. Alik did the same thing to eirself adding a slightly larger wing. Rain held up the phone to them and their friend and snapped a photo. Not a boy. Not a girl. Just Rain. Not a boy. Not a girl. Just Alik. River slid their hand into Alik’s and they both proudly walked out of the bathroom.
Gender dysphoria is a real thing and many people experience it. Just because someone looks a certain way does not decide their gender. Gender expression is NOT gender identity. Please be mindful of that. To all of those struggling, out, closeted, no matter your gender, your sexuality, your race, your religion. You are valid.