Your name is Ambrose 'Bro' Strider, and your little sister Evelyn is going through a phase. At the age of four, most kids start playing pretend and expect everyone else to play along with them. So you humor her. Today, she's saying that she's now a little boy and that her name is Dave. Not David, just Dave. "All right, little si... little bro." She beams up at you, and you figure that this is probably one of the easier, less awkward pretend phases she could've chosen. One kid at her daycare insisted on being Superman, down to refusing to dress in anything but the stupid Halloween costume he'd gotten last year.
You take your little sis to the local Goodwill to get some boy's clothes. Raising a kid is expensive, and most of your extra cash is eaten up in the upkeep of your DJ equipment. So buying a new set of non-frilly clothes would take a good chunk of change that you could be putting towards something else.
'Dave', as she's calling herself for now, doesn't seem to mind. She goes straight for the dirtiest, most torn up shirts and pants. Especially pants. Not surprising, seeing as she's wearing a frilly little set of jeans right now. You insist on at least getting a few outfits that aren't torn up to hell, and she helps pick them out.
She goes to school the next day and winds up in a fight. She says the other boys wouldn't play with her. The day after that, she asks you to teach her how to fight. You say sure, because martial arts is a damn useful skill for anyone to know, guy or girl, and she might need it for self-defense at some point.
You start teaching her the basics, how she shouldn't be using what she learns to go around and beat other kids up just because she knows how. She asks if she can learn sword fighting if she's good with that. You're not sure if she's going to keep up her little obsession that long, but you say yes anyway. It's good discipline and self-control for her if she keeps up with it.
You've just been woken up by the school. Dave's gotten into a fight again. Third time this month, and they're threatening suspension. You grumble that you'll be there as soon as you get dressed. You wouldn't be surprised if it's the same cause again – Dave beating someone up because they dared to call her a girl. You sigh as you put on your baseball cap and sunglasses. She's almost eight years old, she should've grown out of this phase a long time ago.
You think maybe it's time to have a chat with her.
Her name's sorta stuck as Dave. Everyone assumes it's a nickname, but she pitches a fit whenever a teacher addresses her as Evelyn. You can't blame her, you always tell people to call you Bro because you think Ambrose is a stupid name. You look down at her sulking in the principal's office chairs before signing her out for the day and making an arrangement to have a chat with some of the teachers next week before they allow her back into class.
You lead her to the car, shaking your head as she buckles in. Neither of you say anything, not until you get home and she tosses her backpack into her room. "You can't keep doing this, Dave. Your little phase is gonna end now. I'm not bailing you out or defending you when I talk to your principal, got it?"
She screws up her face into one you're all too familiar with. Dave's ready to throw a bitchfit, and she'll probably try to do some serious damage. Luckily, you're not one of the relatively defenseless kids she goes to school with. You have her arms behind her back and pinned down to the floor before she even has a chance to fight back. "Fuck you Ambrose! This isn't some dumb phase, it's real!"
"You're a girl, Evelyn. You can act like a tomboy if that's what you want, I don't care, but stop tryin' to get people to act like you're not a girl."
Wrong thing to say. Maybe you've humored her tomboyishness a little too long, because she starts screaming and kicking, aiming right for your crotch. You know you don't really have the money for it, but you might wind up busting your ass a bit harder so you can take her to a shrink. Obviously, you fucked up somewhere along the line if she's honestly convinced she's a dude.
You hold her down until she wears herself out, tears running down her face but refusing to let out so much as a sniffle. "Room. Now. You've got homework you need to do, and if I catch you playing games or on the computer without permission, they get locked up in my room." She knows you'll do it, too. You've never backed out on threats of punishment yet.
"Fuck you, Ambrose..." her voice is wavering, and you pull her up to look her in the eye, no shades between the two of you.
"I don't mind callin' you Dave, kiddo. But you keep calling me Ambrose and I'll keep calling you Evelyn. And secondly, you keep this attitude up and I will not hesitate to beat your ass black and blue."
She nods, not brave enough to look away from you until you take the initiative to push your sunglasses back up on your nose. "I gotta go get ready for work. Stay out of my way and behave, got it?"
She just nods again, then goes into her room. She's pissed at you, and you know it. She always give some sort of verbal response when you tell her to do something, even if it's a 'yeah whatever.' You grumble and head off to try and get a shower in before a long day of work.
Even though your day job is simple enough, it's exhausting work moving other people's furniture for them. But the tips are pretty decent, and you have a night gig at the local titty bar to give them some custom music. It gives you a chance to relax and zone out, for the most part. While getting a free show, of course.
One of the dancers, a girl that goes by Delilah on the stage, comes up to you. She's already off the clock, but she likes talking to you. So long as you keep stuff running according to the scripts, the manager doesn't care if you have someone up there with you or not.
"What's up, Strider? You look tense. More than usual, anyways."
You shrug. She knows about Dave – you've told her about your little sis plenty of times before, but never too much at once. Tonight, though, you let everything out. Down to feeling like a shitty guardian for raising a girl to think she was a boy.
She kicks you, and those platform heels hurt like a bitch. "The hell was that for, Lilah?"
"I've told you about my sister, right?" Katie, you remember. The girl was coming into town for a visit, and you've had thoughts of hitting her up for a bit of fun.
"Yeah, what about her?"
Lilah rolls her eyes and hits you on the shoulder. "She was born a he."
Welp. There goes your boner, and all thought of asking for a one-night stand. You like to think of yourself as tolerant, but that sort of information is not good on your libido. "Okay. So?"
"I think your little brother is a trans boy. You shouldn't beat yourself up about it... and for God's sake, don't try to change what he's trying to be." Trans boy? What the fuck. You've never heard of that sorta thing, and the whole idea of letting Dave try and be a boy is a bit repulsive.
"She's just a kid. She doesn't know what she's getting into. She doesn't know what she wants."
Lilah gives you another kick with those goddamn heels. "Kids are pretty honest. How long has he been saying he's a boy?" Her insistence on calling Dave a he is weirding you out.
"Since she was four." Lilah kicks you again. You're probably gonna have one hell of a bruise on the back of your leg at this rate. "Quit that or I'll convince Ricky to have your next shift set entirely to the B-52s." You know how much she hates the band.
"Quit calling him a girl. The worst thing you can do is try to force him into a role he doesn't want. Think about when he hits puberty. That's coming up pretty soon for him, yeah? Think about how bad you'd feel if you had to go through the changes of a girl's body at that age." She looks pretty serious. And honestly, once she's said it, the thought leaves you with a faint feeling of unease.
"You're not the one raising her. I am." You hate having to resort to the defense of 'you're not the kid's parent, stay out of it,' but you don't want to have to keep defending your choices.
Lilah looks at you, and for the first time since talking to her you think you've really said the wrong thing and upset her. "You're right. I just don't want to see another trans kid get so depressed they attempt suicide because the most important person in the world to them won't listen to what they're trying to say."
You miss the cue to bring out the next girl and start up the next song. You recover pretty quick, making the announcement before going back to look at Lilah in the eye. "… Your sis do that?" She nods, and you have to fight to keep your cool.
Like hell you're gonna make a decision that could lead to Dave attempting suicide. "Sh... He's pissed at me right now." You're quick to correct yourself. It's gonna take a fair bit of getting used to, you think.
Lilah pulls a piece of paper out of her purse, and scribbles a name down on it, putting it in your front pocket and patting it with a wink. "Go here. It's a support group for the local GLBT community. Tell them what's going on, they can help you find the names of trans-friendly shrinks and doctors, and after you talk it out with your brother, maybe you can start taking him with you. I think they've got a youth group."
You get home way too damn late, and Dave's fallen asleep on the couch. You sit next to her (him, you mentally correct yourself), and shake him awake. "Hey little bro. Let's get you in your bed."
He wipes his eyes, crusted over with dried tears. You ruffle his hair, trying to remember not to slip up somewhere in your sleep deprivation. "Thought you said I wasn't your bro."
You feel a sinking weight in your gut. "Yeah, well, I got my ass handed to me by a stripper who says otherwise." You pull him over your shoulder, and Dave's too tired to fight back as you drag him to his room.
"Dude, you never get your ass handed to you by nobody."
"Women have a tendency to do that. You'll learn it soon enough." You toss him down on his bed, and he kicks at you. "Go back to sleep. I gotta get some myself. Tomorrow, we'll have a talk about this, 'kay?"
"Why can't we talk now?"
You raise an eyebrow, but sit down on the edge of his bed. "If you really want. I can't be coherent all the time, bro. I really do need my sleep."
"Why do I gotta be a girl? It don't feel right, Bro." He honestly looks confused. Upset. Hell, even frustrated. You try to step back a moment and think about how he's gotta feel. You'd probably be feeling the same way.
"That's life's ultimate irony, little bro."
He raises an eyebrow, mimicking your own expression as well as he can without any shades on. "Yeah, well, it's not very cool."
You wrap an arm around his shoulders and pull him in for a brotherly hug. "The ultimate irony never is, kiddo. But I'm not gonna make you deal with it alone."