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This Phantom Skin, It's Weird To Live In

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   -November 2016-

   There was something wrong with her, but Genevieve had never been able to figure it out. She was very obviously different from all the other girls, and yet, she looked like the perfect daughter.
  
   The problem, of course, was far beyond the exterior. There was nothing physically wrong with her, so she thought, so the issue had to be some internal problem. Even looking deeper didn't do any good, though.

   It wasn't until she was scrolling online one day, a word popped up on the screen that piqued her interest.

   Transgender.

   She had no idea what it meant, so she searched it on Google, and it gave her a few thousand results, the top being a dictionary definition.

   trans·gen·der

   /transˈjendər,tranzˈjendər/

   adjective
  
   denoting or relating to a person whose sense of personal identity and gender does not correspond with their birth sex.

   She blinked at the words on the screen, re-reading the definition a couple of times to make sure she'd read it correctly. Huh, she'd never heard of this. Maybe she should do more research...

   A few hours of reading articles later, it clicked- but, of course, she pushed the thought away. There was no way that this stuff applied to her. She was a girl, right? She'd always been referred to with female pronouns, and a feminine name, and it had never bothered her. So she locked the information up in her head and tried to be normal, just like the other girls.

   -February 2017-

   She took in a deep breath as she looked in the mirror, fresh out of the shower with a towel wrapped around her thin frame. She... Didn't like what she saw. At all. It had only gotten worse the past few months since finding that word, and doing more research on it whenever her mother wasn't looking.
  
   She hated what she saw staring back at her, from her full, pink lips, to her long eyelashes. There wasn't a trace of any kind of facial hair to be seen on her, and for some reason, that was bothering her now. Every time she heard her name or was called by female pronouns, it made her want to curl up in a tiny ball and disappear.

   But, she ignored it. Trans people seemingly had it even worse than gay people, and she already knew what her mother's opinion of gay people was. Spoiler; she didn't have a very positive opinion.

   So, Genevieve got ready for school and continued living the lie her life was turning out to be.

   -April 2017-

   Again she stood at the mirror, and again, she was disgusted with what she saw. But she was doing an experiment to see if a few changes could fix that.

   Very quietly, she snuck into the room that used to belong to her step-brother, and she raided his closet for clothes. When she found something she was sure would fit, she scurried back to her own room and stood in front of the mirror again.

   ... And that was when she realized clothes alone wouldn't make her look like the opposite sex, so she dug out a roll of ace bandaging, and started binding her chest. The internet had very specifically told her that it was dangerous to bind like this, but it wasn't like she could keep it on for very long, anyway. Her mother would be home soon enough, and the last thing Genevieve needed was to get caught crossdressing by her bigoted mother.

She turned to the side, taking in the sight of her flattened chest. It looked... Right. Like that was how she was supposed to look normal, with a flat chest. It only made her more and more scared of what she already knew. She slipped on her brother's old clothes, and they hung oddly on her, but they, too, looked right, rather than the light pink sweater she'd been wearing before.

   She grabbed a beanie from the table next to her and tucked her hair into it until only her bangs were showing to create the illusion of short hair. And then she just... Started at herself.

   She hadn't wanted to believe it, but now there wasn't any way she could deny it anymore. Staring at a boy in the mirror, she (he?) saw the person that... he...? was obviously meant to be.

   ~~~~~

   He called Elijah that night, tears rolling down his face as he did. His brother picked up on the fourth ring. "Gen? What's up?"

   Genevieve sniffled, wiping tears away with the back of his hand. "Eli, I... Gotta tell you something." He paused. "You can't tell anyone, though, especially not my mom."

   "What is it, what's wrong?" Eli asked. Genevieve collected himself, trying to think best how to explain it.

   "I think... I was born into the wrong body... " he said quietly.

   "What do you mean?" His brother asked. "Gen?"

   "I'm not a girl, Eli." Genevieve continued, choking on a sob. "I've been trying to be normal like everyone else for the past few months, but I... I'm not a normal girl, cuz I'm not a girl, and I don't know what to do, and-"

   "Whoa, whoa, hey, slow down," Elijah said. "Are... You trying to tell me you're trans?"

   Genevieve nodded a little, before remembering his step-brother couldn't see him. "Yeah..." He replied quietly. "Y-you can't tell my mom, though. If she finds out, she'll kill me."

   The other end of the call was silent for a moment, and for a split second, Genevieve was scared he'd chased off the one person in the world who'd ever cared about him. But, then he heard his older brother sigh a little, before he asked, "Have you picked out a name?"

   Genevieve blinked in surprise. He hadn't thought that far. "Why?"

   "I can't exactly keep calling you Gen if you're a boy, can I?"

   He wiped more tears away, thinking. "I don't know... Maybe..." He thought of boy names that started with G, as his birth name. Gabe, George, Gary- none of those felt right, and his head was swirling with too many emotions right now to think of any others, so he sighed. "I don't know..."

   "Alright, well, I have to go," Elijah said. "My dad is making me go to this lame banquet. I can't get out of it, and I've already been procrastinating this entire time." Elijah paused. "Keep me updated, alright? I'm here for you."

   "Okay..." Genevieve replied. "Bye, Eli..."

   "Bye, dude."

   Click. He hung up the phone.

   ~~~~~

   He pushed his food around on his plate as his mother sat at the table across from him, eating her dinner. He'd lost his appetite. "Genevieve, you should eat." He cringed at hearing that name. It was wrong. That wasn't supposed to be his name.

   "I'm not hungry." He replied quietly. His mother looked at him with an eyebrow raised, as if to say 'I don't care if you're not hungry, you're gonna eat'. He sighed, and started eating, slowly, since he still didn't have an appetite.

   "I got a call from the school today." His mother added after a moment, in that tone that made his blood freeze. "What exactly possessed you to disobey your P.E. teacher by not changing into your gym clothes?"

   "I, um..." He had to think of an excuse quickly. "My... Gym clothes don't... Fit me anymore."

   For a few moments, his mother was silent, giving him that look of disbelief she wore whenever he told her anything. Whether it was true or not, she never believed him. "Well, since it's the weekend, we can go shopping tomorrow."

   He sighed. His mother was sure to pick out the girliest work-out clothes she could find, as she'd always done. He was never allowed to pick for himself, and even if he were, choosing boy clothes would just piss her off, and maybe even arouse suspicion.

   Truth be told, the reason he didn't change today during P.E. class was that he didn't want to be greeted by the sight of his chest, or his feminine hips. But, it was looking like he was gonna be stuck being 'Genevieve', at least until he moved out when he was eighteen, which was still more than three years away...
  
   Could life be any suckier...?

   ~~~~~

   "How about... Gabe?"

   "No..." He told Eli. "I don't feel like a Gabe."

   "Gale?" Eli suggested. Gen shook his head. His step-brother thought for another minute. "Okay, what about... Gavin?"

   Gen blinked his eyes in surprise. "Gavin." He repeated slowly.

   "Hey, you lemme know if you have any better ideas, cuz that's all I got," Elijah replied sarcastically as he took a bite of his ice cream sundae.

   "No, no, no, I... I think I like it." He replied. "I like the name Gavin, it's cool."

   "So, Gavin it is, then?"

   He thought for a moment. "Yeah... Gavin."

   Eli smiled at him. "Well, then, Gavin. You wanna go play some Black Ops?"

   "Hell yeah."

  -October 7th, 2017-

   Gavin looked down at the pink floral dress that had been laid out on his bed. The outfit his mother picked for him to wear today, on his 15th birthday. He hated it. Even if it weren't for the fact that he didn't want to wear it (but was going to have to, anyway), he wouldn't have liked it on anyone else, either. It was an ugly thing, with a ribbon that tied in the back, and sleeves that cut off at the elbows. And the heels his mother picked to go with the dress weren't exactly the highlight of the outfit, either. They were pink and sparkly and had to be at least four inches tall.

   "Genevieve!" He heard his mother call up the steps, the name that wasn't really his that he'd endured the past few months stabbing him in the chest once again. "Your grandma and aunt are here, hurry up and get ready, sweetie!"

   Gavin sighed as his eyes glassed over with tears. Today was going to be horrible, he thought as he got undressed.

   Putting the dress on felt like a victory and a loss at the same time. On one hand, Gavin was surprised he didn't break into tears right then and there. On the other, he was still gonna have to wear the dress for the rest of the day, and get called 'Genevieve', 'she' and 'her' all damn day. It wasn't fair...

   Once the ribbon was tied around his waist, he slipped the heels on and tried his best to put on a brave face as he looked in the mirror. All he saw was a boy in a dress staring back at him. An unhappy boy, mind you, but a boy nonetheless. It felt so wrong... Everything about this was wrong. He wiped at his eyes, trying to make sure no one could tell he was close to tears as he walked awkwardly down the steps.

   The first person he saw upon reaching the bottom of the stairs was his grandmother. She immediately stood from her seat with a gasp. "There's my beautiful granddaughter!" She walked over to Gavin and immediately hugged him, all whilst Gavin cringed internally. "You look so lovely in that dress, sweetheart. Oh, you're such a pretty young lady."

   "Thank you, Grandma..." Gavin forced the words out of his mouth. He wasn't grateful. Not really. He would have rather been called a handsome young man.

   The rest of the day was basically like that. He spent the entire day being called pretty, and beautiful, and his mother even mentioned how he was 'a young woman' now instead of a 'little girl'. He hated all of it. He hated the headbands, earrings, bracelets, and makeup he got as gifts. He hated that the cake read 'Happy 15th Birthday, Genevieve!', in pink icing,  instead of 'Happy 15th Birthday, Gavin!' in literally any other color. He hated the heels that gave him blisters by the end of the night, and he hated that he couldn't even be himself on his goddamn birthday.

   As soon as he closed himself up in his room for the night, tears fell down his cheeks rapidly, blurring his vision as he sunk onto his bed. He grabbed a pillow and buried his face into it, hugging it tightly. This had to have been the worst birthday he'd ever had.