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Friends In Unexpected Places

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Claire never really felt girlish, but she never felt not girlish either.  It wasn’t hard for her to be a girl.  She did like girly things, like makeup and magazines.  On occasion.  When she hung out with Mary and Darci.

But sometimes?

Claire watched Mary and Darci when they hung out.  There would be these little things.  Things they said.  Things they did.  Things Claire never really considered.  Never realized.

There were times when Claire wondered.

She wasn’t a trans guy.  She’d researched that.  And she just wasn’t.  Her lack of femininity sometimes wasn’t the presence of masculinity.  Claire wondered if she were nonbinary too, but using that as a label didn’t fit quite right either.

The label she identified with the longest during this period of her life was agender.  She liked its definition of lacking a gender.  Not any of them.  Nothing.  She was just herself.  Nothing else.  No gender to worry about.

It did fit, to an extent.  At first.  But then it stopped.  Claire still felt a connection to femininity, even if it didn’t pop up all that often and fluctuated like crazy, which was very frustrating, if she was going to be completely honest.  Like if she wasn’t going to be something, she’d prefer to completely not be that something.  Otherwise, it was confusing and made her feel conflicted more often than not.  And she had enough to worry about already between grades, Romeo and Juliet, the frequency which her parents asked her to care for her little brother, and her growing crush-thing on Jim Lake Jr. (she liked him, but she wasn’t sure she like liked him).

Anyway, the agender label stopped feeling comfortable.  Eventually Claire stopped identifying with it.  Though not before she’d adopted they/them pronouns and started using them regularly.  Claire soon realized that, even though the label didn’t fit, the pronouns still did.

Thus, Claire continued to use they/them to refer to themself.  At least between themself and their friends.  The idea of coming out on a bigger scale was tricky given that Claire didn’t know what they would come out as.

At this point, they knew they was definitely still something.  They just hadn’t figured out the right label to identify what that was yet.

Claire walked out of school almost an hour after the final class of the day had let out.  Their conversation with Ms. Janeth about their troubles in getting boys to audition for Romeo and Juliet had been productive in making them feel slightly better about the situation but not in finding a solution.  Seriously, it was so freaking ridiculous.  Being in the school play wouldn’t destroy their masculinity, but try to get a bunch of high school guys (who weren’t Eli Pepperjack) to believe that?  Yeah, Claire had a better chance of learning ancient dark magics before that happened.

Claire didn’t realize there was someone in their way before they ran into him and papers went flying everywhere.

“Oh!  Sorry!”  Claire scrambled to get back up.  They grabbed as many as the fliers as were near them.  “Here you go.”  They handed the fliers back to…Jim?

“Thanks.”  The boy they sort of had a crush on took the fliers back.  “Uhhh you should watch where you’re going.  I don’t mean that in a mean way.  Just in a ‘be careful’ kind of way.  Uh, yeah.  Sorry.  I’m, I’m going to go now.”  Jim spun on his heel and marched away.

“Wait!  You forgot the rest of your fliers!”  Claire grabbed the rest of the papers off the floor and ran after him.  “What are these, anyway?”  They looked down at them, but they didn’t have enough time to read what was on the fliers before Jim grabbed them away.

“Uh nothing.  Nothing important.”

“They look important.”

Jim stared at them.  Then, “Promise you won’t tell anyone?”  He paused.  “Ok, you can tell people.  That was sort of the point.”  He glanced around, but there was no one else left at school this late in the day.

“Sure, ok.  But it’s not like a…”  Claire peered at the fliers, trying to read the top one.  They didn’t think Jim was the type of person to be into shady things, but one never really knew someone.  Anyway, the fliers didn’t look bad.  They were for a support group at a local clinic?

Jim took a deep breath.  “There’s this group.  A support group.  Thursday evenings.  At my mom’s clinic.  For, um, for, you know…” He ran his hand through his hair.  “Trans and queer people.  How to get resources and stuff.  Like for transitioning, name changes, advice on coming out, that kind of thing.”  Jim paused to look at them a long moment.  “Anyway, they’ve also set up a partner support group for teens and I was, um, yeah, gonna go give these to Coach Lawrence to give to anyone who’s looking for that sort of thing.”  He shrugged.  “Yeah, I’m, I’m gonna go now.  See ya.”

“No, wait!”  Claire grabbed his arm.  “That’s really cool.  That you’re doing that.”  They sighed.  “Actually, actually I’m kinda interested.  I’m…”  Their brain realized that they didn’t really want to come out to him and they didn’t know (at the moment) what to come out as.  “I’m, um, interested.  So, um, can I have a flier?”

“Suuuure.”  Jim took one out of the stack.  “But if you’re messing with me, I have a friend who is literally a giant troll.  He’ll—”

“No.  No, nothing like that.”  Claire reassured him.  They gulped.  “I’m—I use they/them pronouns.  I just—I’m not messing with you, ok?”

“Ok.  I believe you.”  Jim smiled at them before giving them the flier.  “But I have to be careful, you know?”

“Yeah.  So, um, are you…?”  Claire winced.  “Sorry, that’s a really personal question.  Forget I said that.  Never mind.”

Jim looked around again, but they were still alone in the hallway.  “I’m trans.  You aren’t alone at Arcadia High.”  He took a deep breath.  “Give me your phone, I’ll give you my number, we can talk about it and stuff some time.”  Jim paused.  “Just don’t go around asking people like that.”

“I won’t.  Again, sorry.  Sorry.”

“It’s cool.  You’re learning.”  He handed them back their phone.  “See you around.”  He went to leave again and this time Claire let him.

They stared at their phone a long time after torn on whether to be happy that they had someone to talk to about not being cisgender or happy because that person was also their longtime crush.


 8:45 PM

Me: hi

Jim?

sorry

can I ask you some stuff?

personal stuff

you dont have to reply if you dont wanna

no biggie

 

8:49 PM

Jim: sure

I got like 20min before

 

8:52 PM

Jim: my uncle will notice I’m not paying attention to his lecture

so go 4 it

 

8:54 PM

Me: ur uncle lectures u at night?

 

8:55 PM

Jim: more like a really close family friend

he teaches me cool stuff

like how to kick trolls made of living rock in the nuts

 

8:56 PM

Me: lmao what ur joking

 

8:59 PM

Jim: yup ;)

Jim: yeah so questions?

about trans stuff?

 

9:02 PM

Me: ok um

how did you know?

like is there a certain feeling?

sorry nvm

 

9:05 PM

Jim: its ok

i told you u could ask

dont worry

it took me a while to figure out

u will :)

 

9:10 PM

Jim: also here’s a link to the clinic’s resource page

its got a list of identities and stuff that may help

gotta go now

blink noticed

and he’s kinda mad bout it

 

Me: thank you

for everything

 

Claire put down their phone, but didn’t go back to doing homework.  They couldn’t.  Not yet.  The fact that there was a webpage they could go to for new info was far too distracting.  So, they closed their textbook with a soft thud, grabbed their laptop, woke it up, and plugged in their headphones.  Then they opened their web browser, got some music going, and went to the link Jim had texted them.

Most of the labels on the page, Claire recognized as ones they’d seen before, but there were still a few new ones.

Demigirl.

It took three songs worth of time of staring for Claire to finally realize something had clicked into place in such a way that nothing had before when they saw that specific one.

They had found themself.

It was a label that meant partially a girl and partially not, or partially a girl and another gender altogether.  It was a label that fit the hard to describe feeling of not quite being a girl but not quite not being a girl.  It was a label Claire knew belonged to them.


 “Why didn’t you tell us you got Jim Lake’s number?”  Mary asked.  “You can’t just keep these things from us, Claire.  We’re you’re bffs.”

Because that would mean explaining how I got it, Claire replied internally.  They and Jim had been talking more frequently (he’d been the first person they’d told about being demigirl), because it felt nice to have someone to be open with about their gender identity who they didn’t have to explain as much to.

Mary had found out they had Jim’s number because she’d seen his name on a new text on Claire’s phone.  Claire had so far kept the origin of their friendship a secret.  They let Darci respond to Mary first.

“Mary, focus.  Claire said they had something super important to tell us.”  Darci turned to them.  “Unless that was The Thing.”

“No.”  Claire exhaled.  “You know how I’ve been trying to figure out an identity that fits me?”  They smiled.  “I think I found one.  It’s called demigirl.  I’m a demigirl.”  They glanced between their two friends.

It felt very nice to say that out loud.

“Oh, Claire!”  Darci clasped her hands together.  “I’m so excited for you!”

“This calls for a hug.  Bring it in, you two.”  Mary opened up her arms to them.  Once they were in a group hug, her eyes widened.  “Wait, so are you still using they/them pronouns or do we need to learn a new set?”

“Still using they/them pronouns.”  Claire grinned.


 “Thanks for helping out.  You have no idea how much I appreciate it.”  Jim’s mom, Barbara, closed the trunk to her car and picked up the snacks weren’t already carrying.  “I swear we need more and more every Thursday.”  She adjusted her grip on the boxes.  “But that’s a good thing!  As long as we’re helping you guys get support.”

Claire offered a tentative smile back.  They still weren’t sure they belonged in the support group, but both Jim and and his mom had been super welcoming so they supposed it was alright that they were there.  And it felt nice to be there too.

“Oh, hey, that reminds me.”  Barbara spoke up again when they’d reached the mini kitchen and started putting chips and pretzels in bowls.  She stopped what she was doing and walked over to a shelf and picked a book up off it.  “This is a fiction anthology written by some of our regulars a few years back.  It has stories about all sorts of gender identities.  I’ve marked the demigirl ones with post-its for you.”

Claire hesitated.  They were interested in the book, but, “I can’t take this.  Someone might need it more than me.  I’m not…” not enough.  I shouldn’t be here.  I’m taking up space that someone else could really need.  I…

“Someone who I think would really love reading the stories in this book.”  Barbara approached them.  “But if you’re not comfortable taking it permanently, how about borrowing it for a bit?  We have about twenty minutes left before everyone’s going to arrive for the meeting.  I can take care of everything else in here, go find a seat and read.”

Claire bit their lip.  “Ok, but just for a bit.”

“Sure, now go on.  Go.”  Barbara shooed them out of the mini kitchen.  “Oh, and Claire?”

“Yes.”

“You belong here.  Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.”

“Thanks, Dr. L.”

In the end, Claire found they did really enjoy the book, especially because there was one short story in a play format in it.  Some time later, when they’d met more demigender people, Claire would become a leading force in putting together a small stage production based on it with their new friends.