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Fiction LGBTQ+ Transgender

This story contains sensitive content

Trigger/Content Warning:

Suicidal Ideation, Implied Suicide, Referenced Abuse/Violence, Transphobia, Misogyny, Mental Health Issues.

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Drawing under her lid, Jasmine’s arm shook, interrupting the delicate stream of black. She attempted to steady her right hand with the left, drilling her elbows down and muttering, “C’mon. You can do this. It’s just eyeliner.” But a zigzag betrayed her fear and Jasmine tossed the pencil down with a heavy sigh. Damn it.


Breathe. Just breathe. It’ll be okay. At this point, Jasmine knew whether she got the makeup on or not, she had no choice. The email went out yesterday at 5:30. Sure, many of her coworkers may not see until this morning, but she couldn’t backtrack now.


Phone pinging, Jasmine swept away another notification, like a persistent boil one ignores until the pain roars blinding and fierce.


Why did I do this? I could’ve gone on like everything was normal, right? I could’ve-


No. Jasmine stilled the flow of her thoughts. After years, a lifetime, in truth, of hiding, she had enough. She owed it to herself to be genuine, to stop huddling behind the mask of her former identity. If she didn’t come forward now, she never would.


When Jasmine began growing her hair, her coworkers cracked wise. “Guess we’re going back to Woodstock, eh, Marshall?” But good-natured. Kind.


And some women in the office peered at her face, studying Jasmine’s immaculate jawline. “How do you get your shave so close? What’s your secret? Wish I could get my legs to look that smooth. And your skin! Gorgeous!”


Jasmine laughed them off. Credited a fresh razor and intense hydration. She didn’t mention the laser hair removal, the estrogen responsible for her buttery complexion. How could she when everyone at Hansen Realty knew her as James: quiet and reliable accountant?


But now, they would witness a different person entirely. Yesterday, Jasmine pushed back from her desk, heart thundering as she put one foot after the other. Knocking on the doors bearing the etched moniker of Kevin Hansen, she forgot to breathe. “Come in.”


“Hello, Mr. Hansen? Do you have a moment?”


“Of course, Marshall. Come on in.” Her boss greeted with a warm smile, always rising to shake a subordinate’s hand. “How can I help?”


“Well…” Droplets erupted over her forehead, behind her knees, but Jasmine refused to shy away from her goal. “There’s something I need to tell you, sir.”


Hansen’s elderly yet amiable face drooped. “Oh no, are you leaving us? Moving on?”


“No, no, nothing like that. I want to keep working here, but, um…” Clenching the chair with a manicure thankfully none noticed, Jasmine inhaled courage. “Well, it’s-it’s a little complicated, sir. I’m sending out an email to everyone after work today, but I wanted to tell you directly. I…”


Just do it. No matter what happens, it’ll be over and done. Just say it. “I’m in the process of transitioning. I’m a transgender woman. Starting tomorrow, I will be presenting as such and I would appreciate if everyone would address me as ‘Jasmine’.”


She could see the information slinking through Hansen’s brain, gears jarred, his eyes wide and mouth thin. After a beat, he eventually nodded. “I see. Well,” Clearing his throat, Hansen shuffled papers which needed no reorganization. “Well, that’s-that’s…good for you, Marshall. Is…will your surname be the same?”


“Yes, sir.”


“And,” Hansen scratched above his lip. He didn’t seem able to look at her directly. “Is it alright if I continue to call you that? Going forward?”


“Of course, sir. No problem.”


Standing, Hansen extended his arm. And though his traditional smile surfaced, a reticence lingered behind his pouchy eyes. “Very good. I wish you the best, Marshall. If you have any problems with the staff, let me know.”


“Thank you, sir.” Jasmine still imparted the strong handshake taught by her father, a firm clasp and two confident pumps. Perhaps she would tweak this habit, create something more demure. “I appreciate it.”


Walking out on jellied legs, Jasmine barely registered the others saying goodbye as she picked up her briefcase and went to the parking lot.


Now, as she dabbed makeup remover, starting fresh, she tried to recall the advice of her therapist. “You are Jasmine and you don’t need to apologize to anyone for being yourself.”


After a few calming breaths, she managed to apply her cosmetics, crimson hair cascading to her shoulders in gentle waves. Jasmine knew the change would be drastic for some, but she dealt with this before. Hopefully things would go better than with her parents, or some of her friends. Well…former friends.


Stepping into her trim-cut pink skirt, a smile ghosted over Jasmine’s mouth. Initially, she tried half a dozen outfits, settling on a no-nonsense beige pant suit. But when she modeled for her boyfriend, Marty, he arched a dark brow. “Huh, well, of course you look great, babe, but…” Stretching out his lower lip, he teetered his head. “It’s not very ‘you’.”


“What do you mean?”


Marty came up behind Jasmine, encapsulating her in powerful arms. “Well, usually when we go out you like to show off a bit. And I gotta say,” Crooked grin blossoming in their reflection, Marty kissed her neck. “I love it. You’re beautiful and you shouldn’t hide. Do what makes you comfortable though. Remember what you were wearing the first time we met?”


Jasmine certainly did. Black dress. Short. In the years since she began transitioning, though she kept things buttoned up during the workday, at night she let loose. And once or twice a month she and a few other trans femmes would get together; for drinks, dinner, and on this occasion, a concert at a trendy bar recommended by the adventurous Molly.


“Trust me, you’re gonna love these guys.” Molly claimed as they ordered cocktails that were far too complicated and even more expensive. “The singer is…” Forming a circle with her thumb and index finger, Molly wiggled her eyebrows. “Hot.”


The band climbed the makeshift stage to a smattering of applause. Jasmine thought the lead handsome enough, but he exuded smarm; gyrating behind the microphone and winking to the sparse audience as though he were at Madison Square Garden.


But her toe tapped, and by the third song Jasmine noticed her eyes drifting repeatedly to the bassist; tall, around her age, with shaggy brown curls obscuring his gaze. He swayed to the tunes, little belly protruding over his instrument and shrouded from the limelight, his deference beyond endearing.


Wrapping up their set, the band dispersed, the mysteriously adorable bass player perching at the bar. Whether due to the hormones or the second vodka sour, Jasmine didn’t know, but she excused herself from the girls and sidled up to his stool. “Hey, you were really great up there.”


An almost sibilant, “Thank you,” replied, his cobalt eyes downcast. But after offering to buy him a drink and discussing their favorite music, Marty soon gathered the will to ask Jasmine out.


Familiar dread flooded Jasmine's gut, hot and acidic. “Well, um, I think there’s something you should know first.”


“Oh no,” Marty scanned her face, then her hand, a deep V of disappointment forming between his prominent brows. “You married?”


“No, no, I’m not. It’s just-” Jasmine hesitated. Reactions differed. Some men were into it. A little too much, honestly. Seeing her transness as a prize to be acquired, like shooting an endangered species. And after they mounted her on their wall, so to speak, they flitted away without apology or regret.


Others, well… Others expressed disgust, hurled insults. Doing anything and everything to prove they weren’t ‘gay.’ The first time she came into work with a black eye, she said she fell. The next, a mugging. After that, Jasmine learned to disclose her status up front, in public. Often this meant sacrificing any chance at a date. But better to be cautious than risk the horrendous outcome many of her trans siblings encountered.


“I’m trans.” Jasmine stated, fighting to keep her voice even. “I know that’s an issue for some guys. So if you don’t want to see me again, I get it.”


Breath imprisoned while she waited for the axe to fall, much to Jasmine’s surprise, Marty simply shrugged. “That’s cool. So, does Saturday night work for you?”


Later she asked if he’d dated a trans person before. He hadn’t, but didn’t see why it should make a difference.


And after two years, it never did. Marty loved her without fail, willing to listen and cherishing Jasmine in a manner she didn’t think possible. With his support, and that of her therapist, the choice to come out at work became not only plausible, but realistic.


Purse over her shoulder, Jasmine double checked herself in the mirror. Here we go…


On the drive, her heart rate accelerated with each mile, hummingbird-like when she stepped into the elevator and pressed the button for the fifth floor.


Doors sliding open, the cheerful, round face of the receptionist Marcia waited. “Oh hi, Jam-Jasmine!” 


She supposed she would need to get used to people tripping over her new name. The same happened with her friends during the first few months. Jasmine originally considered ‘Jane.’ After all, many trans people she knew chose the direct feminine or masculine versions of their dead names. But after some contemplation, Jasmine realized her transition wasn’t about making this easier on everyone else. She didn’t want to be Plain Jane. She wanted to be unique, even a little wild. And so Jasmine. She would be Jasmine.


“Hey Marcia, how’s it going?” After speaking in her lower register during work hours for the last decade, the feminine lilt emerged shaky and unsure.


“Good, good. I got your email.” Marcia examined Jasmine from head to toe, making her want to crouch behind her handbag, but her smile proved authentic. “You look great. Have a good day, hun.”


“Thank you.”


As Jasmine waded into the ocean of cubicles, endless eyes seemed to wait ahead with whispers following behind.


Did you see-”


“Trans? Marshall? Really?”


“Never would’ve guessed. So straight-laced-”


“Huh. Nice legs…”


Admittedly this last comment, however misogynistic, boosted Jasmine’s confidence as she sat down, taking what felt like the first taste of oxygen since she entered the building. After powering up her computer, she could no longer postpone the inevitable. Jasmine opened her email.


Six responses. Number one, Jenny in accounting:


Jasmine!


Congratulations! Good for you! I’m so happy for you and you are so, so brave! Yay! Let me know if you need anything, girlfriend!


Followed by a half dozen emojis, ranging from a heart to champagne glasses clinking, and her signature. Overenthusiastic, but positive, and Jasmine was grateful.


The next four were much the same, with varying degrees of ebullience. But Jasmine stared at the sixth with trepidation.


Peter. Her oldest friend. They went to college together, joined the team at Hansen. Lunch at least twice a week. Holidays. Over fifteen years of memories. And he left the subject line blank.


Eyes scrunched, she clicked.


“Okay.”


That’s all Peter said in response to Jasmine’s declaration of personhood. “Okay.”


‘Okay’ good? Or ‘okay’ bad?


Jasmine wasn’t foolish enough to hope for the former. The words of Marty echoed in her mind. “Remember, it’s the first day. People may need some time to adjust. It could get better.”


Jasmine smiled. Nodded. She didn’t tell Marty that in her experience, people didn’t need time. They never really ‘adjusted.’ Sure, folks would learn to call her by the right name, the right pronouns. Reign in hate behind sewn lips. But their eyes, they would never lie. No matter what, if someone didn’t accept her from the beginning, Jasmine could inevitably see the glint of judgement in their gaze.


Throat tightening at the idea of saying goodbye to yet another dear friend, Jasmine put aside the budgets and fished out her phone, composing a text to Marty.


Jasmine: Hey, are you free? I don’t know if I can do this. It’s harder than I thought. Maybe I should just quit and go somewhere new where they don’t know me.


Within two minutes, her phone vibrated. Thankfully the lifestyle of a musician afforded Marty oodles of free time.


Marty: I’m sorry it’s so difficult my love. Are people being unkind? If you feel you need to move on, I’ll help you find somewhere else. I know you’ve really enjoyed working there though and you’re good at it. Do you want to talk on the phone? Or I can swing by and take you out to lunch?


Jasmine: So far, no one has been outright cruel. Looks like things are over with Peter though, which really sucks. I don’t think I can talk on the phone right now, but lunch would be great, thanks. I love you.


Marty: I love you too. I’m sorry to hear about Peter. I know you’ve been close. I hope he comes around. Should I meet you in the parking lot at 11:30?


Historically, whenever Marty swung by they operated covertly. Jasmine supposed this wasn’t strictly necessary, after all it wouldn’t be strange for her to have lunch with a friend. If her coworkers saw the same guy frequenting the office though, they may start to talk. But, reflecting on today’s journey, Jasmine smirked. Screw it.


Jasmine: Just come upstairs. I’ll meet you at the front desk. We can go to Noni to celebrate.


***


Powering through spreadsheets, Jasmine did her best to ignore the sidelong glances as the clock ticked. That is, until a small pink box landed on the corner of her desk. “Oh!”


She looked up to see Laura, one of the realtors, her weight shifting from foot to foot. “Sorry Jasmine, I don’t want to bother you, but, um, I just wanted to get you a little something. For today. I know it must’ve been difficult.” Words rushing like a waterfall, Laura wrung her hands. “Coming out and everything. Sorry, I-like I said, I don’t want to bother you or put anything on you. So, yeah, just…yeah. Have a good day, Jasmine.”


She started to dash away when Jasmine turned. “Wait, Laura?”


“Yeah?”


“Thank you.” Jasmine opened the lid to reveal a cupcake with pink buttercream frosting. “Wow, that’s very sweet of you. No pun intended. I really appreciate it.”


Nodding as if the bolts in her neck required tightening, Laura smiled. “You’re welcome. My-my sister was trans. So it’s…yeah. Sorry. That’s not-” Her fists clenched and she looked away.


Jasmine leaned in. “...Was?”


“Yeah, um,” Eyes glassy, Laura’s voice faltered. “She…she had a hard time. You know…”


Nodding solemnly, Jasmine murmured, “Yes. I do.”


Silence stretched, Laura sniffing a little. “Well, um, yeah. That’s all. I just…wanted to give you that.” Then her features morphed, taking on an air of ferality, a rod of steel beneath her tone. “And if you have any trouble here, you let me know, okay?”


Jasmine grinned. “Will do. Thank you.”


After she scuttled off, Jasmine sent an email to Laura thanking her again and seeing whether she might want to have lunch sometime. Lose a friend, gain a friend.


11:30 rolled around and Jasmine’s desk phone rang. “There’s a ‘Marty’ here to see you.”


“Thanks, Marcia. I’ll be right there.”


As Jasmine neared, she saw Marty’s long figure poised against the wall, hands in the pockets of his faded jeans. When she planted a kiss to the joint of his sculpted jaw, his brows shot up. “Hey there. Ready?”


“Yup.” Marty enveloped her waist and Jasmine sensed Marcia’s eyes scorching the back of her blouse, but decided not to care. By the time they returned from lunch, with her blabbermouth, everyone would know about their relationship. But better to kill all of today’s birds with one gigantic stone.


At the restaurant, Jasmine splurged, ordering steak gorgonzola and tiramisu, grateful Marty treasured her curves. “So,” He asked after the waiter left. “How was it? Do you want to call in sick for the rest of the day? Eat that cake in bed?”


“Tempting.” Jasmine chuckled, especially with the uneven smirk on Marty’s lips guaranteeing a lot more than dessert if she played hooky. “But no, it wasn’t that bad. I think I can power through. It’s just…” Rubbing her temples, Jasmine sighed. “I get tired of feeling like I'm in a damn zoo. Everyone staring, you know? Like yeah, I’m wearing a skirt and lipstick. Get over it.”


Marty nodded. “Yeah, I can’t imagine. You’re giving up so much privilege just to be yourself.” Entwining their fingers across the table, he squeezed her hand. “It must be so scary and overwhelming. But can I ask you something?”


“Of course.”


Angling his head, the sea of Marty’s eyes washed over her for what felt like a long time before he spoke. “Considering everything, having to walk away from your family, your friends. Going through hoops to transition, the harassment, and all that bullshit…” Marty bent forward. “If you could go back, knowing how hard it would be, would you do it again?”


“Absolutely.” Jasmine replied instantly. “Because no matter what I had to go through, it beats the hell out of wanting to die every day, and that terrible feeling like…” Screwing up her mouth, Jasmine snapped. “Okay, so, you know when two people are singing and they try to harmonize, but they get the wrong note?”


Marty nodded knowledgeably. “Yeah, dissonance.”


“Exactly, it was like that. Except constant.” Jasmine shook her head. “A never ending, cringing scream between my body and my mind. That’s dysphoria.”


“Wow, that’s awful.” Thumb rubbing circles of solace into her skin, Marty frowned. “I’m sorry you had to go through that.”


“I still do, sometimes. But it’s a lot better now. Like I’m able to turn down the volume.” Jasmine shrugged. “So no matter what I’ve had to do, or will have to do, it’s all been worth it.” Relaxing back, Jasmine beamed as their food arrived. “Because now I can hear the music.”


December 10, 2021 07:47

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