Cis-perience: Episode 2 – Chapter 2

Boone was a town Kaylee knew all too well. Nestled up in the Appalachian Mountains, it was one of those towns that hung out of the fence between big and small. It was certainly bigger than Todd, the little community ten miles away where she grew up. When she was little, they had to drive into Boone every day to do just about anything. Todd was nothing but houses and farmland. Out there you either found a way into town or found ways to entertain yourself. She spent her alone time back then dreaming about living in the big city as a girl, both of which seemed impossible at the time. Kaylee always said she’d take the smell of car exhaust over cow shit any day.

The mountains were normally a few degrees cooler than where she lived, and the incoming clouds made it feel even cooler. She’d come in shorts and a tank top, and even though it was still warm outside, she found herself wishing she’d at least worn jeans. She and Roxy were standing together on the side of the road in a small patch of grass. Behind them stood a three story brick building with tall windows and a two row parking lot.

Inside this tiny office building was the office of Bob Felk, the local house representative to the General Assembly in Raleigh. It was late Sunday afternoon, meaning the representative certainly wasn’t there. Still, a sizable protest had formed out in front of the building. Kaylee estimated at least 50 people lining the side of the road. They held up signs calling for support of transgender rights and for Felk to not be so backwards thinking. After last night, it did her good to be around so many supportive people.

But that didn’t keep her from thinking about it.

“So, you gonna talk to me about it or just keep staring off into space?” Roxy asked. She was in a pink t-shirt and acid-wash jeans, holding up a sign reading, ‘WE NEED TO PEE SO YOU CAN PISS OFF’. The people all around them were chanting, “trans rights now!”, let by Risha who stood with Lauren several feet away.

“Sorry,” Kaylee said.

“I just know you wanna get it off your chest so go on,” Roxy continued. “I’m all ears.”

Kaylee had explained things to Risha on the ride up. And while Risha was fine to confide in, Roxy could connect with her on a deeper level with this stuff. “How much do you know already?”

“That it involves what’s-his-face…”

“Brandon.”

“Brandon, thank you. That it involves Brandon and it’s not good. I take it he finally found out.”

“I told him.”

“Well, I’m glad he didn’t hurt you or anything.” A blue Ford truck rolled by and the protesters waved their signs.

“He actually seemed really cool with it until…well…”

Roxy raised an eyebrow and cocked her head to the side. “Lord Jesus, girl. Were you about to fuck him?”

Kaylee sheepishly nodded.

“You just met him!”

“So?!”

“So, you know nothing about him! I know you’re bummed right now, but you made the whole thing as dangerous as possible!”

Kaylee took a step back and raised her hands. “I wasn’t going to be stupid about it. I had a condom for him.” She knew that wasn’t what Roxy was talking about, but it was the only defense she had.

“You can’t fuck a guy you only met like three days ago.”

“Women do it all the time.”

Roxy let one hand fall away from her sign. It swung at her side. “Cis women do it all the time, honey. Cis women get to fuck mysterious strangers because said stranger doesn’t need to be briefed on what genitalia is going to be involved; their likely assumption is already correct.”

Kaylee was feeling a little attacked. “This is a pretty prudish stance coming from a cam girl.”

“I don’t fuck the people watching me, Kaylee,” she retorted. “There are many miles between us, sometimes oceans. Plus, they come to me looking for a girl with a cock. Everyone who watches me is either into that shit or lying to themselves.”

Kaylee hung her head and sighed. Roxy put a hand on her shoulder.

“I don’t mean to be harsh. I just don’t want your cis-passing looks to blind you from reality. You’re still trans. You still need to take precautions just like the rest of us.”

“I at least told him from the other side of a locked door in case he freaked out.”

“Not a bad idea,” Roxy admitted. “I might have to suggest that to friends in the future.”

Kaylee rocked back and forth on her feet. More cars drove by, some of them honked horns and cheered out their windows. One guy slowed down and yelled “faggots!” out the window before speeding off. “He was shocked, but it seemed like he was fine with it. He even started hitting on me again.” She looked down and let out a long exhale. “Then he got a look at me with my jeans off and…” Kaylee leaned in whispered. “He couldn’t get hard.”

Roxy snickered.

“It’s not funny!” Kaylee insisted.

“I’m sorry,” Roxy said, trying in vain to stop smiling. “I know it’s not funny. It’s just…nature’s lie detector strikes again.”

“Well, it’s not so humorous when, ‘I find you attractive’ is the lie being exposed.”

“Now, that’s just a blatant lie,” Roxy insisted. “If he was eager to fuck you right up to the big reveal, your hotness had nothing to do with it.”

Kaylee smiled. “Thank you.”

“Don’t sweat it, hon,” Roxy said as she held up her sign again. “Besides, he doesn’t know what he turned away. Girl dick is the holy grail of sex.”

“Roxy!”
“It’s the damn truth! Girls with cocks are the thing men want but won’t say they want. If it weren’t true, I’d be out of a job.”

Kaylee was smiling now, and she had Roxy to thank for it. “You’re the best.”

“So, are you good now?” Roxy asked. “Think you can maybe get your head in the game and join us in this demonstration?”

“I still think we’re going to be fine,” Kaylee insisted. “It’s one rep overreacting to something in the news. Not like we haven’t seen that come and go a million times.”

Another car went by. Roxy waved her sign up in the air as it passed. “I hope you’re right, hon. I really do. I just…don’t wanna go through that HB2 shit again. It was way harder on me than it was you.”

“Roxy! Kaylee!” Risha shouted. She and Lauren were hastily moving through the crowd. Lauren had her iPhone in her hand. Noticing the panic in their faces, Roxy and Kaylee moved to meet them halfway. Kaylee recognized the sign Risha gave to Lauren; it was the sign for ‘show’, followed by a point to them.

“What’s up?” Roxy asked.

“What do you want her to show us?” Kaylee asked.

Lauren handed her phone to Kaylee. It had her Twitter feed pulled up. On screen was a Tweet from Donald Green, another state representative. “I fully stand behind Representative Felk. This nonsense has gone on too long,” Kaylee read aloud. “I’m cosponsoring his bill to end this sick social experiment once and for all.”

“Piece of shit,” Roxy said through gritted teeth.

Lauren signed to Risha, who nodded along. “Lauren said she’s already seen two other Republican reps post the same thing. This shit’s picking up speed.”

“Do we even know what’s in the bill yet?” Kaylee asked. She’d been trying to ignore her growing worry over the situation, but the dominoes were falling too fast to ignore now. “Is there a text made public?”

Risha shook her head. “That’s the really fucked up thing. These people be backing him up without knowing what he doing. They all like, he fucking up the trans people, so cool by me!” She was getting more angry with each word. Kaylee could see her hands shaking.

“The guy in Taylorsville wasn’t trans!” Kaylee exclaimed. She wanted to sound as angry as Risha did, but her emotions were more focused on fear. “He wasn’t even dressed like a woman! This has nothing to do with us!”

“But they’re more than eager to make it about us,” Roxy replied.

A roaring engine drowned out the conversation. All eyes turned to the road as an old Chevy pickup on tires easily four feet tall came rolling down the road. It had a cherry-red color scheme, a cracked windshield, and a Confederate flag plate on the front; a fitting accessory to the giant flag flying from a pole affixed to the bed. The passenger window was down and Kaylee saw a recognizable face lean out. Her stomach dropped as the skinny man with buzzed brown hair cupped his hands over his mouth.

“Goddamn faggots, go home!” the man shouted in with a thick, southern accent. A plume of black smoke billowed from the tail pipe as they sped on with a loud roar.

“Asshole!” Risha shouted, though they wouldn’t have heard her over the exhaust humming if she were right next to the truck.

Kaylee could feel her face getting hot as she watched the truck. The flag in the bed flapped wildly in the air as the truck turned the corner and pulled into a shopping center 2 blocks down the road.

“Kaylee, you okay?” Roxy asked.

Kaylee didn’t answer, instead storming off down the sidewalk towards the shopping center.

“Whoa, whoa girl!” Risha said as she gave chace. “Where you going?”

“To have a little chat with him.”

“Honey, leave it alone,” Risha pleaded. “It ain’t worth getting killed over.”

“That guy’s not going to kill me.”

“How are you so sure?” Roxy asked as she caught up.

Kaylee stopped and spun around. The shock and confusion on their faces told her just how angry she looked. “Because, he’s my worthless brother.”

She didn’t have a hard time finding the truck when she got to the parking lot. If the flag and big tires hadn’t given it away, the blaring country music would have led her right to it. Her brother was standing next to the driver side. Another guy was with him, a large man with no hair and a long, thin beard. He wore dirty overalls and a green, flannel button-up. Her brother was in a white t-shirt covered in mud stains that complimented the ones on his jeans. They both wore cowboy boots. He recognized her long before she arrived.

“Well, fuck me! If it isn’t my gay-ass brother!” He stretched his arms out as though looking for a hug, but the smile on his face was born of mockery, not family love.

“Still a white trash piece of shit, aren’t you, Dustin?” she said sternly.

“You say that girl’s ya brother?” the other guy asked in confusion.

“Shit, Mike, that ain’t no woman. Not a real one, no how.”

“Could’a fooled me,” he said softly, not really to anyone.

Kaylee stopped a good ten feet away. Not wanting to let anger make her stupid, she kept herself well out of arm’s reach of either of them. Most of her memories with Dustin involved her getting injured in some way, and she’d learned not to get too close. “Still yelling out the window at people like a highschool boy? Aren’t you ever going to grow up?” Risha, Roxy, and Lauren caught up and stood at her side.

“These ya faggot friends here to back you up?” Dustin asked with a wave of his finger.

“They boys too?” Mike asked with what seemed like genuine curiosity.

“That one for sure,” he replied, pointing at Roxy. “Don’t know ‘bout the other blonde and the colored.”

“Aren’t you classy?” Risha asked with palpable sarcasm. She was great in tense situations. Kaylee knew she wanted to pop her brother in the jaw for that comment, but she had too much self control. Kaylee was surprised it didn’t turn out worse than it did. Dustin rarely used the N word around black people, but used it liberally in their absence. She was surprised he hadn’t said it now.

Dustin spread his arms with in a display of dominance. He turned his head and spat a stream of tobacco juice on the pavement. “So, you come over here to teach me a lesson or something?” he asked with a laugh. “You couldn’t beat me when you were a boy so you sure as shit ain’t gonna now.”

Kaylee hadn’t stormed down the road with any endgame in mind. She was protesting in front of the office of a lawmaker who wasn’t even there. She was watching as more lawmakers backed him up from the safety of their Twitter accounts. Dustin was at least a face in front of her to sound off on. As she contemplated her next move, Risha put a hand on her shoulder.

“Come on, honey,” Risha said, “just let it go.”

She didn’t want to. She wanted to keep yelling, to scream, to throw a punch. But she knew she shouldn’t. With a final glare at her brother, she turned and walked away with her friends.

“I’ll tell mom her middle boy says hi!” Dustin yelled with a laugh, obviously using awkward phrasing to throw in a male-identifier.

“Well, you still live with her, so I assume that won’t be hard,” she replied without turning around.

“Is your whole family like that?” Roxy asked.

“Everyone else ranges from worse to not much better,” Kaylee answered. She could hear Dustin and Chris laughing behind them, but they were too far away to hear any words exchanged. It was probably for the best that she couldn’t. “Can we please go back home?” she asked. “This town is nothing but bad memories for me.”

“No problem,” Risha answered. “We’ll get something to eat along the way.”

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Cis-perience: Episode 2 – Chapter 1

Kaylee’s alarm blared at 6am Sunday morning. She’d been so distraught the night before she forgot to shut it off. It didn’t matter though; she’d barely slept anyway. The night turned so dramatically so quickly that she was still having trouble processing it. After a party at his place, she invited Brandon, the guy she was seeing, over to her apartment. There was hope it would be a night full of passionate fucking, and were she a cisgender woman that’s exactly how it would have gone.

But Kaylee was transgender, and at no other point in her life had that fact hurt her as greatly as it did then. Kaylee was pre-op, meaning she had exactly the type of genitalia a straight guy wasn’t expecting to see. Before clothes started flying off, she had to tell him. At first, things seemed to be going so smoothly. Brandon took the news well, though with an unsubtle amount of shock. He was supportive, and it made her feel like maybe, just maybe, her fantasy could come true.

It wasn’t until the kissing and grinding started that reality set in. He said he was fine; he said he still thought she was sexy; he said he still wanted her. But words couldn’t cover the truth revealed by his flaccid penis. She made him hard when he thought she was cis, but clearly the thought of screwing a trans woman was just too much of a turnoff.

After he left, Kaylee laid on the couch for what must have been an hour. Her roommates were both out for the night, leaving her all alone, lying in her panties in the dark apartment. She went back and forth between crying and just blankly staring at the back of the couch. The whole ordeal left her feeling discarded, like a piece of trash with no purpose. When she finally got to her feet and walked to her bedroom, she was drunk on despair.

Kaylee shut off the alarm and rolled onto her back. Her hunter green comforter covered her from the waist down, leaving her exposed breasts feeling chilled in the air conditioned bedroom. Ever a creature of habit, she reached towards the bedside table for her phone. The screen came to life: a few Facebook and Twitter notifications, but no missed calls or texts. She wondered how Brandon had spent the rest of his evening. Did he feel bad? Disgusted? Nothing she envisioned made her feel better, so she forced the thoughts from her head.

The room was still dark. It was late July and the sun would not be up for a while longer. She considered trying to get some more sleep, but knew it wouldn’t come. Admitting defeat, she let her feet hit the carpet and made her way to the bathroom. There was a nightlight plugged into the outlet by the mirror, and Kaylee just used that to navigate by. She didn’t want to turn on the lights, because that would mean looking at her reflection in the mirror. She was just in her panties, and the last thing she needed was a glimpse of the bulge under them that had ruined the night.

She plopped her bare ass on the toilet to take a piss. As she peed, she rubbed her temple with the fingers on her right hand. I wish Roxy were here. She wanted someone to talk to, someone who would understand and at least be able to sympathize. Her transgender roommate would’ve been the perfect candidate, but she was staying with a friend in Hickory, an hour north of Charlotte. Risha, her other roommate, was staying at her girlfriend’s apartment, as she’d been prone to do often since they got together. So it was just her, the darkness, and the sound of a stream of piss hitting the side of the bowl.

Kaylee threw on her bathrobe and went into the living room. The lights out there were still on. Off in the kitchen, the refrigerator hummed in dissonance with the air conditioner, adding another layer of tension to the ambiance of the apartment. Kaylee fished for a mug from the cupboard and set it into her Keurig machine. As the coffee brewed, she stared back out into the living room. Images from the night before replayed upon the couch before her eyes. She could see herself, tempting him with a little striptease as he sat. The memory made her stomach turn. Oh, how confident she’d felt.

The ghostly image played on. There she was, standing before him in nothing but her underwear. He told her he wanted her and she was so desperate to believe the lie. She climbed on top of him. For that moment, anything was possible. She could have the man of her dreams. She could feel him ravage her. But, most importantly, she could take comfort in the knowledge that he wanted her. Even though she wasn’t cis, she could be desired.

I was so stupid.

The silhouettes of uptown Charlotte’s skyscrapers were surrounded by the orange glow of dawn. Kaylee sipped her coffee while she stared out her window. She loved the view from up here. Ever since she was little she dreamed of living in the big city. Her parents raised her in a little podunk town in the Appalachian Mountains. Her uncle lived in Charlotte, and visiting him always meant riding in the back of the minivan through the streets of uptown. The energy of the city fit her perfectly, and she knew this would always be home.

From her window, Kaylee watched the orange in the skyline grow brighter. When the last sip of her coffee was gone, she set the cup on the table and took a deep breath. “Time to go for a run.”

She had a Sunday morning routine, and now that she was caffeinated, it was time to get out of her funk. Kaylee dawned her running shorts, shoes, and sports bra. Her earbuds went in and she let the world disappear.  The beat of the music pulsed from her ears and into her feet. The weather was perfect: warm but not not too warm. Her ponytail bounced against her neck with each step she made.

There weren’t many people out this early on a Sunday. This was why Kaylee always chose this time to run. She’d like to join a gym, but knew she’d never be able to use the locker room. Being trans made everything at least a little bit harder; everything had an extra obstacle to overcome. Even now, as she jogged down the sidewalk, she tried to read the thoughts of the men staring as she past. Were they staring because they thought she was hot, or could they tell she wasn’t cis? Even after convincing a guy she had a vagina right up until her pants dropped, she maintained doubts about her passability.

The crosswalk turned red. Kaylee jogged in place on the edge of the sidewalk as the cars went by. Her music app was changing songs, leaving a moment for the sounds of the city to fill her ears. She heard a horn honk a block away. Sirens echoed from the distance. Behind her and to the left, a male voice called out to her. “Yeah, girl, work on that booty. You know that’s what I like.” There was a cafe with sidewalk seating on the corner. The voice came from one of the tables. A whistle followed the comment. Kaylee didn’t acknowledge it, instead pretending her earbuds had drowned them out. A moment later, a Paramore song filled her ears and let the rude boys at the table fade into obscurity.

Tired of waiting for the light, Kaylee turned and headed down the next block. As much as she hated cat calls, they at least served as proof she still passed. It was a dark means of confirmation, but it was absolute. The next crosswalk was green and she sailed right through. She was heading north. Sunlight illuminated the next street crossing her path. Once out of the shadow of the building, it struck the side of her face.

She decided to stop. Kaylee paused the music and rested her back against the crosswalk post. Ignoring last night wasn’t working. He was still all she could think about. She had him. He was so ready, so into her, but the truth destroyed it all. A part of her wanted to call or text him, but she knew she shouldn’t. What would she say? What could she hope to gain from it? Maybe some part of her was foolish enough to think this could still work.

Don’t you dare start crying, Kaylee. Not now. Not here.

Still catching her breath, Kaylee pulled up her running app. She’d almost gone a mile. On a normal Sunday she tried to get in three, but she knew she didn’t have it in her today. The further she got from home, the more she just wanted to crawl back into bed. It was too soon to try and get back to normal.

The screen flashed and her earbuds rang. Risha was calling. Kaylee groaned. She wasn’t ready to talk to anyone yet. Still, she swiped to accept. “Hello?”

“Girl, where are you?” Risha asked.

“It’s Sunday. I’m out for my run.”

“Shit, I forgot. How far away are you?”

“A few blocks. I’m not done yet.”

“You done now. Get back here we gotta go.”

Kaylee lifted her back off the post. “Go where?”

“To the protest. Roxy is going to meet us there.”

She started the walk back. “What protest?”

“Have you not been on Facebook today?”

Her eyes went skyward and she took a deep breath. “Been avoiding the world for a while. Had kind of a shitty night last night.”

“Brandon?”

“Yea.”

“He find out?”

“I told him.”

“And he didn’t take it well.”

“It’s a long story, but the short version is no.”

“Well, it’s a long ride up to Boone, so you can explain on the way.”

“What do you mean, ‘up to Boone?’ Where are we going?” She walked back by the cafe. The crowd outside had thinned, and apparently the boys who bothered her were gone. Kaylee was relieved, not wanting to endure that again.

“This shit from Taylorsville is hitting the fan. One of the state house reps said on Twitter he gonna write a new bill that like HB2 on steroids.”

“What?”

“Yeah! We gonna go protest outside his office!”

“It’s Sunday. He probably won’t even be there.” She was on the same street as her building now and only three blocks away. The sidewalk was busier than when she’d started out. Sunlight reflected brightly off the upper floor windows of the buildings on her right.

“We still gotta show him we ain’t going though this shit again. You know it will get on the news and all.”

“There’s no way anyone in Raleigh wants to go through that nightmare again,” Kaylee retorted. She honestly didn’t believe much of her own words, but her mind wasn’t ready to process the notion of that nightmare restarting. This was not what her fragile emotional state needed.

“Girl, what’s up with you?” Risha asked. “You used to tell me about shit like this! Now you don’t wanna get involved in anything.”

Kaylee dropped her shoulders. She would have groaned, but she didn’t want Risha to hear it. This wasn’t the first time they’d had a conversation like this and she knew where it was going. “Stuff at work has just gotten hectic and I don’t have time.”

“Bullshit,” Risha replied. Kaylee could figure from the tone of her voice that her body was getting animated as she talked. She could just imagine her index finger circling in the air with her upper body leaned forward.  “I’ll tell you what it is. Now that you look like a damn supermodel and no one treats you like you trans, suddenly the fight for equality ain’t that important.”

“I do not look like a supermodel.”

“Bitch, you hot as fuck. You sure don’t look like no man, can tell you that much at least.”

Kaylee actually sighed this time. She wanted Risha to hear her exasperation. The last thing she needed to hear after Brandon blew her off was a lecture about how beautiful she was. A beautiful woman would have gotten laid last night. A beautiful woman wouldn’t have made the guy she was with feel repulsed. A beautiful woman wouldn’t have spent the night in soul-crushing loneliness. “Are you done making me feel bad?”

“I am as long as you on your way back to change clothes so we can hit the road.”

“Deal.”

“Yes! We can take my car. I’m sure you gotta get some stuff off yo’ chest on the way.”

“You have no idea.”

Kaylee reentered the apartment to find Risha sitting on the couch. She had on a black tank top and jean shorts. Poster boards were sprawled out on the coffee table, and she was hard at work designing block letters on them with a Sharpie.

“There you are,” Risha said. She stood up and recapped the marker in her hand.

“You gotta at least let me take a shower before we go,” Kaylee insisted. “I’m not sitting in a car for two hours when I’m all sweaty.”

“Whatever. Just make it quick.”

Risha went back to her art as Kaylee made her way to the bedroom. She pulled her sports bra off over her head and stepped out of her shorts. She ducked into the bathroom and turned on the water. Her mind still wasn’t up for protesting. Kaylee felt vulnerable. The last thing she wanted to do was stand outside on a street corner and basically advertise to the world she was transgender.

After turning the shower head on, Kaylee stepped out her panties and went to place them on her sink. Her reflection caught her eye and she froze. Body dysphoria was a bitch to deal with. Risha could talk about how beautiful she was all damn day. All she could see in the mirror was a man. A skinny man, sure; even a man with tits; but still a man. And there between her legs sat the damn thing that had shattered her dreams the night before. The whole night returned to her mind; every humiliating moment.

She couldn’t hold back anymore. Kaylee fell to her knees, bracing her left hand against the sink. Steam from the shower filled the room. The tears came, soaking her cheeks. Her chest hurt, clenched so tightly she could barely draw the air to cry. There were footsteps in the bedroom.

“Sorry to intrude, but I left my…” Risha’s thought evaporated when she pushed through the ajar bathroom door. “Da fuck?!”

Still on her knees, Kaylee curled up in a ball. She hugged her stomach. Her hair fell over her face. With each breath her shoulders heaved and she sobbed. Risha dropped to her knees and put her arm around Kaylee’s bare back. Kaylee fell into her, almost knocking her off balance. With her head in Risha’s lap, Risha wrapped her arms around her and held her close.

“I’m disgusting!” Kaylee screamed through her tears. “I was so stupid! Why would anyone ever want me?!”

Risha gently stroked Kaylee’s hair. “It’s okay, baby. I got you. I got you. Just let it out.”

Cis-perience: Chapter 7

“Hey, lady, is this your building or what?”

Kaylee had been so distracted, she’d lost track of the entire ride to her apartment. She’d spent the trip wrapped in Brandon’s arms in the back seat, but staring out the window at the buildings going by. Three times Brandon had asked ‘are you sure you’re okay? You seem really nervous’. She was shaking, to the point where it was noticeable by touching her arm. She told him she was just excited, but truthfully she really was terrified.

Kaylee had a step by step plan mapped out in her mind. Roxy and Risha were both out for the night, so she had the apartment to herself. Kaylee was infamous for over-planning things, especially when they made her nervous. Brandon had to find out completely on her terms; her safety depended on it.

“Yes, thank you,” she responded. They got out of the car and entered the building hand in hand. Her palms were wet and warm with sweat. She knew he could tell and hoped he still just chalked it up to excitement. They entered the elevator. The apartment was on the tenth floor. Kaylee wanted to push him against the wall and get the party started early, but the big reveal was only minutes away and she was just trying to keep herself from panicking.

The door opened to an empty hallway. Her unit was halfway down on the right. Kaylee could barely feel her legs beneath her. Ever the worrier, her mind envisioned every horrible way this could go. Would he yell? Would he try to get violent? Her plan accounted for all such scenarios, but she knew men put in this particular situation were highly unpredictable.

“This is me,” she said as they approached the door. She already had her key in hand. He lovingly kissed the back of her head as she slid the key into the lock. Kaylee paused and took a breath. He’s so wonderful. I hope he’s not about to leave me. “Give me just a second before you come in, okay?” she requested. “I gotta fix something before you see the place.”

“Just don’t be long,” he said with a smile.

With that, she slipped through the door and shut it behind her. Holding her breath, she turned the deadbolt, locking him out.

“Um…Kaylee?” she heard from the other side. “Did you just lock the door?”

“Can you hear me okay?” she asked. Her voice was cracking as the tears started. Holding back the panic was exhausting, and now that the time was here she couldn’t keep the wall up anymore.

“Yea, I can. What the fuck is this about? Are you crying?”

Kaylee leaned her back against the door. Her apartment was dark. A faint light from the hood over the stove shown like a beacon with no other lights to contend with it. She could see the twinkling of the Charlotte skyline out the window on the far wall. Her fists clenched and she took a deep breath. “Listen, Brandon. I like you a lot. Like…you have no goddamn idea how into you I am.”

“This is kind of a weird way of showing it.” It sounded like his confusion was turning to annoyance.

“Look, if this night is going where I feel like it’s going; where I really, really hope it’s going; there’s something about me you need to know.”

“And you have to tell me through a door?”

“It’s for my protection.”

“Your what?! Why would I hurt you?”

“It’s kinda a big deal and I don’t know how you’ll react.” Kaylee explained. A small tap echoed through the door. It sounded like he’d placed his palm on it.

He sighed, and there was a bit of a groan hidden inside it. “Kaylee. I really like you. I feel a strong connection between us. I can’t stop thinking about you. Whatever it is you’ve got going on in your life, I’m sure it’s nothing we can’t…”

“Brandon, I’m transgender!”

She just blurted it out, pushing the words as they stayed fearfully on the tip of her tongue like a skydiver with cold feet. Her revelation was followed by an eerie quiet, which amplified her pulse beating loudly in her head. Kaylee didn’t breath. She tried to imagine what kind of face he was making right then.

“What?!” Brandon finally said. He didn’t sound angry or enraged, but he was definitely confused.

Kaylee let out a long exhale. “I…I’m transgender.”

“Like…actually transgender?”

“Yes.”

“Like, you’re really a guy?”

Kaylee cringed. “Jesus Christ,” she whispered to herself.

“No, wait. I didn’t mean it like that. Sorry. I’m…I’m just kinda shocked, you know.” There was a pause.  “You’re really trans?!”

“Yes!” she exclaimed. Now the frustration was seeping over to her end of the conversation. He was making a sound like muffled laughter and it made her heart ache. Was he about to mock her like she and her friends did to that poor girl back at school?

“Holy shit…wow!” he said loudly. “I had…no fucking idea. Like, not a single clue.”

“Really?” she asked. A small smile cracked her tear-soaked face.

“Hell no.” He was laughing now, but it didn’t sound like he was mocking her. “I mean, you’re tall, and I thought you were a little stocky looking for a woman, but I never thought you were trans.”

“I’m hoping that was a compliment.”

“It’s at least meant that way.”

Kaylee took a moment to compose herself. There were several different emotions conflicting inside her mind, and she needed to focus. “Brandon, look, if you feel lied to or anything, I can’t say I blame you. I wanted to tell you, but…” The tears returned and she lost her composure. “You were just so cute, and you seemed so into me, and I’ve never had a straight guy look at me that way or treat me that way before. I didn’t want it to end. I still don’t want it to end.” She hung her head and slid down a little further against the door. “But, I understand if you do. If you want to walk away now, just go. I’ll never call you again.” She shut her eyes tight. “If you do, just know I’ll never forget you.”

There was another pause. Kaylee’s ears were on high alert, searching for any sounds from the other side of the door; footsteps, voices, anything. But there was only silence. The longer he waited, the more in pained her to know he was wrestling with the decision. It was so quiet, she heard the breath he took before finally speaking.

“Will you please open this door?”

“Are…are you staying?”

“Yes, Kaylee. Yes, I’m staying. But I’m tired of talking to a door when you’re sobbing on the other side and I really want to hold you.”

Kaylee rushed to her feet so fast she nearly tripped. It took four tries to grip the handle of the deadbolt and turn it again. Her fingers shook. Her breaths were deep and fast. The bolt clicked away and the doorknob turned beneath her hand. He was doing that part for her. She stepped back, letting the door open and the light from the hall fill the entryway.

Brandon rushed through the door and through his arms around her. Completely spent, Kaylee collapsed into him. She sobbed uncontrollably. Brandon held her up from beneath her arms, lowering the both of them down to their knees. He placed his left hand on her head and gently stroked her hair. “Hey…hey…it’s okay.”

“I…I was so scared to tell you!” she said through hysterical tears. “I didn’t know how you’d react or if you’d be angry or if you’d try to hurt me or…”

“Were you really worried about all that?” he asked, almost laughing.

Kaylee raised her head. Her cheeks was caked in mascara. “A part of me was, yes.”

“Well, I’m not going to do anything bad. I won’t say I’m not more than a little shocked and I definitely need a moment to process this, but don’t for a second think I’m going to hurt you or anything.”

Kaylee was so relieved that her tears turned to laughter. “How…how can you be this goddamn perfect? I mean, it shouldn’t be possible.”

He laughed with her. “Can we go sit down before we finish talking this out? I feel like we’re doing a tornado drill of something kneeling in the doorway like this.”

Kaylee stood and flipped on the lights. “Couch is that way. I need to go to the bathroom and compose myself first.”

Brandon gently kissed her on the forehead. “I’ll be waiting.”

As Brandon plopped down on the couch, Kaylee retreated to the bathroom. Turning on the light blinded her temporarily, but muscle memory and a familiar lay of the land helped position her in front of the mirror. She was a mess, cheeked streaked with makeup and puffy, red eyes. Kaylee had spent a lot of time trying to determine how he would react to the news, but she never considered how she’d react to his reaction. She placed her hands on the counter and took a deep breath.

Time to get it together, Kaylee. He didn’t freak out, but that doesn’t mean he won’t need a lot of shit explained. You gotta get in there and clear the air. She pulled a makeup removing cloth from the dispenser and proceeded to wipe clean the disaster on her face. Once finished, she took a deep breath and shook out her arms. With a pivot of her feet and a turn of the knob, Kaylee reentered the living room.

Brandon was on the end of the couch, legs apart, arms limp at his sides, and head back. She could only imagine what was going through his head right now. “Are you okay now?” he asked.

“Yes,” she said softly with a smile.

His head popped up and his arms met on his lap. “Good, because I have a ton of questions.”

She laughed. “And you’ve more than earned a ton of answers.” She sat on the seat across from him. At first she thought about sitting next to him, but this conversation needed to be face to face. If the night continued its streak of good luck; cuddling, and hopefully more, would come later. She crossed her legs and put her hands on her knee. “Fire away.”

“Have you had surgery?”

His bluntness took her aback. She figured that would be one of the questions, but god if he wasn’t coming with an uppercut right after the bell. “Wow,” she started out. “Normally I decline to answer that but, seeing how I think we were both planning on fucking tonight…” She laughed and he didn’t, so she returned to a matter-of-fact tone. “No,” she said, half sounding defeated.

There was a small but noticeable cringe in his eyes. “So, that means you have a…a…”

“I do,” she said.

“Wow,” he whispered.

“I know it was the last thing you were expecting tonight…”

“Understatement of the year.”

“But, despite what chromosomes I have or how my genitals look, I promise you, I am a woman. I always have been.”

“That I don’t doubt,” he replied. His hands rubbed down his face before returning to his lap. “You look like one, and despite the bombshell you just dropped in my lap, I gotta say I still think you’re a pretty hot one.”

She smiled and looked away to hide her blushing cheeks.

“But that leads me to my next question: what have you had done? I mean, I doubt you’ve looked like that your whole life.”

Kaylee brushed her bangs out of her face. “I very much have not. Well, I’ve been on hormones over two years. That softened my skin and lightened my body hair.”

“Did it get rid of your beard?” He cringed again. She could see how awkward this was for him, but it made her all the happier that he was willingly pushing through it.

She shook her head. “No. Laser hair removal took care of that. I worked with a vocal coach to raise my voice, and the rest has just been diet and exercise.”

He looked puzzled. “Nothing else?”

“No.”

“Well, what about your…your…” Brandon put his hands out over his chest.

Kaylee laughed. “Oh no, no augmentation. These tits are all natural.”

“Really?”

“Yep; a result of hormones. Trust me, if I were buying them they wouldn’t be this small.”

Brandon leaned back and put his right arm on the back of the couch. “From what I can tell they look just fine.”

She blushed again. Her finger danced around her knee playfully. “You think so?”

“Well, I mean, I can’t tell with your shirt on.”

Her skin suddenly felt hot. Was he seriously flirting with her again? Could it all really be this easy? “Well,” she began as she slowly stood, “I can maybe do something about that.” Kaylee pulled her tank top over her head, revealing her bare stomach and lacy, black bra. She had a little belly to her, but wasn’t fat and had a nice figure; at least she thought so. From the look in his eyes, he agreed.

“Not bad, not bad. I still don’t have a clear picture though.”

Kaylee strutted towards him as she reached behind her back. Her fingers made quick work of her bra strap. The cups popped away and dangled from her shoulders. She lowered her arms, letting the bra come with them and expose her nipples. Her bra fell on the carpet and she stepped over it.

Brandon’s eyes widened and his nostrils flared. “See, they’re perfect.”

She felt her loins burning. Her leg muscles twitched, eager to straddle his lap and pick up where they’d left off earlier. She was right in front of him now, her shins on either side of his left knee. His eyes stayed fixed upon her had he undid the button of his pants and slid down the zipper. Kaylee bit her lip in eager anticipation.

“What do you have to show me next?” he asked in a seductive tone.

Kaylee unbuttoned and unzipped her jeans. Her thumbs wrapped under the waist at her sides and started to push. She stopped a couple inches down and looked back at his eyes. “Are…are you sure.”

He nodded.

“Like…really sure?”

He smiled. “Show me.”

Kaylee held her breath as her jeans slipped down to her thighs. The bulge under her red panties was in full view, and knowing that made her feel numb. She stayed locked on his gaze, trying to read his thoughts in his eyes as she lowered her pants to the floor and stepped out of them.

Brandon leaned back and cocked his head to the side. “Now…that is a woman.”

“God I want you to fuck me!” she declared through gritted teeth. Before he could answer, Kaylee pounced on him. Her legs straddled his lap as her hands pinned his shoulders back. Her desire was uncontrollable. Her hips grinded against his lap as her lips descended upon his neck. As she softly bit on his skin, his hands locked onto her hips. They moved in motion, rocking in a sultry rhythm that consumed her. Kaylee lost all control, giving in to every instruction her carnal desires gave her. She gasped for each breath as she moved on top of him.

It took her a moment to realize that his hands had fallen away. Then she noticed his hips had stopped moving. She sat back, putting her hands on his shoulders and giving him a puzzled look. “What’s wrong, baby?”

“You’re…you’re hard,” he said. There was no desire in his voice. He even averted his eyes when he spoke.

“Yea,” she said in confusion. “It does that when I’m hot and bothered.” That when the final clue clicked in her horny brain. “But…but you’re not.”

“Look, I’m trying, okay?” he said, almost begrudgingly; like he was doing something required rather than desired. “It’s just, something I gotta wrap my head around.”

Kaylee’s heart sank. She could feel tears again behind her eyes and she cursed herself. You stupid, fucking idiot. How could you be this dense? Did you really think he’d just magically be okay with all of this?! She fell off his lap and curled up on the other end of the couch. Her legs were tucked up into her stomach. She tried to hide herself; to hide her body; to hide that cursed thing between her legs. She thought back to earlier at his apartment, how his cock sprang to life after only a few kisses. Here she was, practically naked and throwing herself at him, and he didn’t want her.

Why would he want me?! Why would anyone want me?! I’m a freak!

“Kaylee”, he said as he re-zipped his pants. “I just need some time, and then maybe I’ll…”

“Please, just go,” she said meekly.

“You don’t have to…”

“Just go, please!” she begged. With her eyes shut and her face buried in the throw pillow, she didn’t see him stand. She didn’t see him walk softly back to the door. She didn’t see him turn the knob or open the door. But she did hear him mutter ‘I’m sorry’ before he shut it behind him.

Cis-perience: Chapter 6

Kaylee’s early twenties were a tough time. She was nineteen when she figured out she was transgender, but it would still be years before she came to terms with it. Her young adult years were spent trying to hide her femininity. She had super short hair and a goatee. Her wardrobe was a collection of baggy t-shirts and jeans. Kaylee surrounded herself with some terrible people, men who she knew, deep down, were nightmarish. Back then she went by Kyle. Kyle’s days were spent in class at UNCC, but his night were spent in bars getting drunk and hitting on women he didn’t want with guys he didn’t want to be with.

Jason, Chester, and Derrick were Kyle’s trio of ‘bros’. The four of them were constantly getting into trouble. Kaylee couldn’t recall any weekends back then when Kyle actually stayed sober. But it wasn’t just going out and getting drunk that was tough. Those were actually the easier times, because the alcohol took away some of the hurt. It was when Kyle and the boys were just hanging out that things always turned really uncomfortable.

One instance in particular always made Kaylee cringe to think back on. It was a Wednesday afternoon. Kyle’s last class had just let out and they were all meeting up under the clock tower at the student center. Summer was approaching and the weather couldn’t have been better. Kyle and Jason were leaning against the base of the clock, people watching as they waited on the others. They chatted about approaching finals and finding jobs over the summer. As they talked, Derrick came running down the long concrete staircase. Kyle could see he was holding back from laughing uproariously.

“Guys, guys! Look behind me!” he said as he dashed over. Derrick was tall and stocky with dark, black hair and a thin-line beard. He stopped and turned with a finger extended back down the stairs. Kyle and Jason looked towards the top of the stairs. There was a girl in a blue dress. She was tall, with wide shoulders and a squared jaw. Her makeup was trying and failing to conceal the stubble on her chin. A knot formed in Kyle’s stomach.

“That’s a dude!” Derrick said. He couldn’t control his laughter anymore, doubling over and putting his hands on his knees.

“Holy shit!” Jason responded.

Kyle looked on in silence, with knees shaking but a forced smile on his face. Kyle was the outward appearance, but Kaylee was the truth locked away inside. And she was panicking. The girl on the stairs glanced rapidly from side to side. A stack of books were hugged tightly to her chest.

“Hey, Kyle, I know you wanna hit that, right?!” Derrick said while punching Kyle in the shoulder playfully.

“Fuck no!” Kyle said with as much sincere disgust as Kaylee could force.

“What’s going on?” Chester asked as he emerged from the student center. He had shoulder-length, wavy blond hair and patchy facial hair. A thin pair of glasses covered his blue eyes.  

“There’s a fucking tranny about to come down the steps!” Derrick said. At this point, even his laughter seemed forced, like he was laughing just for the sake of making it more hurtful for that poor woman. Chester looked up the stairs. His eyes widened and a hand went over his mouth. The other boys laughed as he pantomimed throwing up.

Kyle’s eyes were focused on the woman. She’d spotted them. She knew they were laughing and knew it was about her. She sidestepped as she descended the stairs, trying to move as far away from them as possible. The other boys continued to joke to each other. Through Kyle’s eyes, Kaylee tried to tell the girl staring at them, tears running down her cheeks, that she was sorry. She was going into the activity center, meaning she had to walk right by them. The woman kept her eyes on the door and quickened her steps. She wanted the moment to be over just like Kyle did.

“Aren’t you going to go ask out your new girlfriend?” Derrick asked Kyle.

“Fuck, no!” Kyle shouted. “Sick!”

Then Derrick did the thing Kaylee absolutely didn’t want him to do. Before the woman could reach for the door handle, he turned to her and cupped his hands around his mouth. “Hey!” he shouted. “Will you go out with my friend here?! He’s really into cock!”

The girls said nothing, only ran through the door and disappeared into the activity center. On the outside, Kyle laughed jubilantly. On the inside, Kaylee sobbed uncontrollably. She knew this was what coming out would mean. This is how it would go. This is the treatment she was guaranteed to suffer through should she dare reveal herself.

Brandon’s apartment was reminding her of that day at the clocktower.

Alternative rock blared from speakers on either side of the 32 inch TV, which was playing a college football game with the sound muted. The air smelled of menthol vape clouds. It was a small apartment, only two bedrooms upstairs with a single bathroom. The kitchen was essentially just a wall of the dining room. Kaylee sat on the edge of stained, brown couch. There were tears in the cushion, and she could feel something digging into her side from beneath the upholstery. She had a Miller Lite bottle in her left hand and her bare feet were tucked up under her legs. Another empty bottle was on a mini fridge by the couch doubling as an end table. She had on a blue tanktop and jeans. Her black bra straps were exposed beneath the straps of her top.

Brandon plopped down beside her, shaking the couch slightly. “Having fun?” he asked while setting his half-finished third can of Busch Light on the coffee table. He wasn’t drunk, but well on his way, and it made her uncomfortable. On their way over, she’d imagined only the fun ways this night could go, but the testosterone-soaked den she entered sent her into a small panic. There were posters of swimsuit models on the walls. A bookcase in the corner held stacks of Blu-ray boxes and a few anime figurines. A large bust of a dragon’s head sat in the middle of the top shelf.  Above the TV, a Celtic broadsword hung on the wall, looking strangely out of place. It was a world comprised of whatever he and his roommate, Jeff, had collected along their travels in life.

“I guess so,” she said without making eye contact. She took a sip of her beer. Kaylee didn’t want to get drunk, but she wanted enough alcohol in her to relax. She was in no perceivable danger. Still, environments like this always drudged up dark memories and feelings she wanted to keep in the past where they belonged.

Brandon cocked his head to the side. “You okay?”

“Sure.” She kept her voice low and her words short. She was in survival mode. Brandon was sweet, but knowing this was where he lived made her question her choices up until now. It made her wonder what other sides of him she wasn’t seeing.

In the corner of the dining room, a dart board hung surrounded by innumerable tiny holes in the sheetrock. Jeff stood a few paces away with a group of guys behind him. Everyone had a beer in hand save for Jeff, who was getting ready to throw his next dart. “Brandon!” Jeff shouted.

“What?”

Kaylee heard the thwack of a dart hitting the board. “Get your ass in here. Your new girlfriend needs to see how bad you suck at darts.”

“That’s exactly why I’m not in there, dumbass!’ he said with a laugh. His attention turned to Kaylee again. She was staring off into the middle distance, but could track his movements out of the corner of her eye. “Sorry about Jeff.”

“He’s fine.”

Kaylee watched as Brandon’s hand gently rested on her knee. “Listen, we can get out of here if you want.”

Sheepishly, she turned towards him. “Did you tell him I was your girlfriend?”

“What?”

“Jeff called me your girlfriend. Is that what you told him.”

He shook his head. “I told him the girl I went out with last night was coming over. I didn’t say girlfriend.”

Kaylee loosened her muscles, allowing her legs to extend out across the couch towards his leg. She took another sip of beer. “I don’t mean to be so closed off,” she said. “Jeff…this place…they just don’t seem much like the you I know.”

He chuckled a bit. “Promise to keep this conversation between us?”

She laughed. “You think I’m going to go running over and tell them anything?”

“Fair enough. Listen, most of the stuff in here is his. Jeff’s in my disk club and offered me a room when his old roommate moved out. It was cheaper than where I was at so I said okay. Most of the nerdy stuff is mine, but the whole place is largely how it was when I moved in.”

“What about the sword?”

Brandon rolled his eyes. “Lame, hu? He bought it at a comic book shop years ago. It’s about as sharp as this couch cushion.”

She giggled into her hand. “Based on what I’m sitting on, that sounds positively lethal!”

They both laughed. She scooted closer to him. The smell of his aftershave overpowered the vape mist, drawing her closer. She rested her head on his shoulder and his arm wrapped around her back. Kaylee trembled as his finger slowly ran up and down her bare arm. Her breaths quickened and her heart pounded. God, she wanted him. As a cis woman, she’d be asking to see his room with obviously faked innocence. She wanted to be heading for the stairs while fishing for the condom she kept at the bottom of her purse.

This shouldn’t have to be this complicated.

“You’re being lame!” Jeff shouted from the kitchen. “The party is in here!”

“Lay off!” Brandon shouted back.

Kaylee could feel the alcohol in her system doing its thing. Her fear was melting away with how hot he was making her. Her hand rubbed across his chest and she snuggled in close. “He thinks the party is in there, hu?”

He gave a little moan, deep and throaty like the purr of a lion. Kaylee was so turned on her skin felt hot. His arm tensed around her torso, pulling her closer. She was almost sitting on his leg now, and his hand, firmly placed on her ass, was holding her to him. “I like this party better,” he whispered.

Kaylee couldn’t stand it anymore. She threw her left leg over him, straddling him and digging her knees into the couch cushions. She cupped her hands on the back of his neck and leaned in close. Their lips met and the world disappeared. His scruff scratched at her face, but she only pressed harder. Kaylee closed her eyes when his tongue slipped past her teeth.

Her body went into autopilot. Uncontrollably, Kaylee grinded her ass against his crotch. His hands grasped her hips and took over, pushing and pulling her back and forth. She could feel his cock springing to life below his shorts. Unfortunately, so was her’s.

Please, don’t do this! I don’t want to get hard! I just want him! God damn my body! Fear set in once again. Reason wrestled control of her body away from her aching libido. Kaylee pushed away, letting their lips part and lifting her ass off his lap. She was breathing heavily with her eyes wide. It physically hurt to pull away from him, but she didn’t have a choice.

“What is it?” he asked. She watched his eyes, trying to determine how he was interpreting what just happened. His gaze went down to where there groins were suspended inches apart.

Oh God! Don’t look at me there! What if he sees a bulge?! Her heart was pounding with a mixture of leftover passion and newly arrived terror. If he noticed a bulge under her jeans now, she could very likely end up like Roxy’s friend; only worse since Brandon had an apartment full of guys to back him up. She thought back to that day at the clock tower, to the laughter and ridicule that poor girl suffered just for daring to wear women’s clothing in public. What would Derrick have done if he discovered a girl he was just making out with was trans, especially in a room full of other guys? He would have killed her, no doubt. Why didn’t I listen to you, Roxy?

“Oh come on, you can’t fault me for that!” he said.

“Hu?” she said.

“Well, when you’re grinding on me like that, I’m going to pop a boner; can’t help it.”

She let out a long breath. He was talking about his dick. He thought she was surprised that he’d gotten hard. Under less terrifying circumstances, the whole thing would have been hilarious. “Hey, I’m just glad I turn you on that much.”

He squeezed her ass. “Damn right you do.”

There was a loud, long whistle from the dining room. Kaylee and Brandon looked over to see the rest of the guys standing in the entryway staring at them. Jeff was in the middle. He had a bald head and a pointed goatee half a foot long. His ears were gaged out and a series of tattoos ran up and down his arms. “You have a room, you know,” Jeff said with a coy smirk.

“You guys go back to your little game,” Brandon said with a confident smirk. “I’m happy right where I am.”

“Hey, at least you gettin’ some,” Jeff said. “Don’t let us interrupt.” The boys went back to the kitchen, leaving them alone on the couch. Kaylee sat back on his legs and rested her hands on his thighs.

“Listen,” Brandon said. “I don’t wanna force you into anything, but I want you so goddamn bad right now and I do have a room upstairs so if…”

Kaylee put a finger to his lips, halting his sentence. He was so sweet, so considerate. She thought back over all the guys she’d known in her life, all the guys who’d have considered what they just did as consent to do whatever they pleased. Even now, with her sitting on his lap and his cock half stiff, he remained so respectful.

Still, there was no crossing this line without telling him. All of her hormones, the hair removal sessions, the voice coaching; all of it had given her the opportunity for  an amazing experience these last few days. But she was still pre-op, and sex was a cis-perience out of her grasp. She wanted this, but this was not the place. If she was finally going to break the news to him, it would have to be on her own terms and in the safest place for her she could think of. With her finger still on his lips, she leaned over to the coffee table and fished out her phone.

“What are you doing?” he asked as she finally lifted his speaking ban.

“Calling a Lyft,” she answered. “You’re too drunk to drive me back.”

He looked puzzled. “You’re going home?”

Kaylee gave him a playful smile. “Yep, and your fine ass is coming with me.”

Cis-perience: Chapter 5

Kaylee grew up dreading clothes shopping. Since she was little, her mom always took her to the same store in the mall to get everything. Each year, before school started, she’d take Kaylee and her two brothers out to get them an all new wardrobe. Her brothers loved it, but it pained her every time. The men’s section of the store was in the back, meaning they had to walk through the dress section to get there. Strolling through rack after rack of dresses was torture. She’d keep glancing back, staring at the things she wanted but couldn’t have for as long as she could. To make it worse, her brothers would often make fun of some of the items they passed. Anything with a lot of color or frills was something to point and laugh at. She always had to join in, less her brothers call her a faggot again and start punching her in the arm whenever mom wasn’t looking.

Now, clothes shopping was practically a sport to her. She adored going out to splurge on a new dress or pair of shoes. Even looking for simple jeans and t-shirts was a joy when she didn’t have to find them in the men’s section. It was a beautiful Saturday afternoon. Kaylee and Roxy emerged from the Macy’s entrance and into Northlake Mall. They each already had bags in hand and Kaylee had a smile on her face. Shopping was like therapy to her.

“You ready for lunch?” Kaylee asked.

“I think I could eat,” Roxy replied. Her voice seemed distant, altered by the weight of whatever was on her mind.

“You’ve been in a fog all morning,” Kaylee said with concern. “You okay?”

“I’m worried about what’s going to come of that fuck-nut in Taylorsville.”

Kaylee used her free hand to rub Roxy’s back. “I’m sure it will blow over.”

Roxy gave a sarcastic laugh. “Blow over? In North Carolina? HB2 was only a few years ago, hon. Don’t tell me you forgot that hell already.”

Stopping at a bench in the center of the walkway, Roxy took a seat and set down her bags. Kaylee sat next to her, crossing her legs and leaning back. She was wearing a pair of chunky heels and it felt good to get off her feet for a second. “You really think they’ll try something like that again after that shit show? I’m sure they don’t want to face a bunch of boycotts again.”

“This is different,” Roxy retorted. “Now they have an actual instance to point to.”

“He wasn’t trans!” Kaylee insisted. “He has a full beard for fuck’s sake. At no point did he ever claim to identify as female.”

Roxy shook her head. “Won’t matter. It’s someone with a penis harming a cis girl in a bathroom; everything they need is right there on a platter.”

“Speaking of bathrooms, I gotta pee,” Kaylee said. She loved hanging out with Roxy, but her friend was killing the mood and she wanted to change the subject before everything became all doom and gloom.

“I’ll hold it till the food court.”

Kaylee pointed. “But there’s a bathroom right there. The food court is a long way away.”

“It’s the only spot with a family bathroom.”

“What does that matter?”

Roxy tilted her head back and took a deep breath. “Look, Kaylee. I love you like a sister. You know that, right?”

“Yea.”

“You gotta pull your head out of your ass.”

Kaylee tilted her head. “Excuse me?”
“Your passing privilege is going to your head. Not all of us can just waltz in and out of the women’s room without causing a scene.”

“You pass just fine!” Kaylee insisted. “You look great!”

“You do remember that our cashier at Macy’s called me ‘sir’, right?”

Kaylee opened her mouth to speak, but she knew there was nothing to say back.

Roxy pulled a stick of gum out of her purse and unwrapped it. “Tell you what,” she said before popping the gum into her mouth. “See that group of boys over there?”

Kaylee looked up. There were three guys standing against the wall. They all appeared to be in their mid twenties. The trio was huddled together, talking and laughing about something she couldn’t determine. “Yea.”

“There’s a trash can on the other side of them. I’m going over there to throw this gum wrapper away. You watch them while I move. If you don’t see them stare at me, laugh at me, or anything like that, I’ll go to the bathroom with you. If they do, you gotta buy me lunch.”

Before Kaylee could respond, Roxy stood and made her way to the trash can. Kaylee sighed softly. The boys were looking at her before she was ten feet away. One put a hand over his mouth to hide his sudden outburst of laughter. The other two started whispering back and forth. Roxy walked past them, seemingly unphased, and tossed her gum wrapper in the trash. All three boys were laughing now, and it made Kaylee’s stomach turn. On her way back, Roxy was treated to one of them shouting ‘tranny freak’. Roxy sat back down, crossed her legs, and stared at Kaylee.

“I’ll have sushi,” Roxy said.

“Rox…” Kaylee said softly. “I… I…”

“You…you…need to check your privilege,” Roxy said sternly. “You may be trans, but you live in a different world from most of us. Stop assuming this is as easy for everyone because it is for you.” Kaylee felt like shit. She didn’t know what to say, but knew nothing she did say would be appropriate. Roxy put a hand on her knee. “Listen, despite what you just saw, I love myself,” Roxy assured. “I like my body, and I’ve got tons of cam followers that love it too. This ain’t about me wanting to look cis. I just want to be treated like I was.”

“I’m so sorry,” Kaylee said meekly.

Roxy smiled. “Don’t sweat it; I’m not. You think I give a flying fuck what those boys think? They wish they could have a girl like you or me, whether they know it or not. Now, go pee quick so I can have my sushi.”

Kaylee smiled. “I’ll hold it till we get to the food court.”

The two girls stood an tured. Kaylee had only taken a few steps before a familiar face emerged from the crowd ahead. “Holy shit!” she said softly but excitedly.

“What?” Roxy asked.

Kaylee pointed. “It’s Brandon!”

He noticed her the moment she pointed. Though at a distance, Kaylee could see the smile she loved so much lighting up his face. His steps quickened as he made his way toward them.

Roxy leaned on her back leg and her eyes went wide. “Girl, you said he was fine, you didn’t say he was that fine.”

“Well, fancy meeting you here!” Brandon said as he stopped just in front of them. Kaylee leaned forward and hugged him. They’d made out the night before, so a hug now didn’t seem too forward. He embraced her, and Kaylee enjoyed the gentle squeeze of his bicep on her back.

“I know, right?!” Kaylee replied. “What are you doing here?”

“My sister’s birthday is next week, so I’m just out gift shopping.”

“Nice! You know what you’re getting her?” Kaylee asked.

Brandon laughed. “Not a damn clue! I’m so bad at this.”

“Well…would you like some help?” Kaylee inquired with a smile.

“You would be a lifesaver,” he replied.

“Eh-hem,” Roxy said. Her fake throat clear wiped the flirty smile off Kaylee’s face.

“Oh, right. Sorry. Brandon, this is Roxy. She’s one of my roommates.”

“Ah, very nice to meet you,” Brandon said while extending his hand. Roxy placed her fingers on his palm. She always said firm handshakes were for dudes and lesbians.

“You as well,” Roxy said. “Kaylee has talked about you constantly.”

“Roxy!” Kaylee snapped.

Brandon chuckled. “All good things, I hope. Listen, I don’t want to be a third wheel here. If you two already had plans then…”

“Oh no,” Roxy insisted. “I’ve got some new equipment I need to set up for work anyway.”

“What do you do?”

“Um…my work is web-based,” Roxy half explained. “Let’s leave it at that for now.”

“Well, I just need to run to the bathroom,” Brandon said. His eyes turned to Kaylee. “Still be here when I get back?”

She smiled. “Absolutely.”

Brandon headed off for the bathrooms. The two girls watched him as he walked away.

“Yep, he thinks you’re cis,” Roxy said.

“You sure?”

Roxy nodded. “You could tell it in his look.”

“How did he look at me?”

Roxy rolled her eyes. “Not at you, honey; at me. His eyes said, ‘holy shit, that’s a tranny’ the second he saw me; meaning it’s surprising to him that you would be with me.”

“So, what should I do?” Kaylee asked.

Roxy turned and put a hand on her arm. “He seems sweet, but don’t let your guard down,” she suggested. “If you gotta tell him, make sure you’re in a safe place. Don’t be in close proximity and try not to be alone with him.”

Kaylee’s skin crawled. “You really think he’d react that badly?”

“Cis guys don’t like finding out the girls they wanna fuck used to be dudes. It, like, messes with them on a subconscious level. Guys are trained to think anything even a little gay makes them less of a man. If they think that’s questionable, they’ll resort to violence to prove their manhood again. It happened to a girl I know online.”

“Really?”

Roxy nodded. “She met a guy at a bar. One thing led to another and suddenly they’re making out in the alley behind the building. He reached down between her legs, found something he wasn’t expecting, and lost his shit.” Roxy looked her in the eyes. Her concern was palpable. “He knocked out three of her teeth and broke her nose. If someone hadn’t come running when she screamed, he probably would have killed her.”

Kaylee suddenly felt cold. Brandon was so sweet. It was hard to imagine him reacting like that, but she knew it was possible.

“Make a guy question his manhood, and he’ll become a completely different person.” Roxy said.

“You think I should back away?” Kaylee asked.

Roxy shook her head. “Just be careful and don’t do anything stupid.” Brandon was coming back now. Roxy gave Kaylee a hug. “You’ll be fine, honey. Just use your head.”

“See you at home,” Kaylee said.

“Nice to meet you!” Roxy said loudly to Brandon as he approached. They waved at each other and Roxy disappeared into the crowds of shoppers. “You still owe me a lunch, Kaylee!”

“What was that about?” he asked.

“Inside joke,” Kaylee lied.

“So…um…can I ask you a question?” Brandon asked.

“Sure.”

“Your friend Roxy. Is she…like…transgender?”

Kaylee’s pulse quickened. Her knuckles turned white against the handles of the Macy’s bag she was holding. “I’m…not sure if it’s right for me to talk about that,” she replied. It wasn’t her place to out Roxy, but she obviously wasn’t keeping a big secret by not.

“Hey, no judgement here,” Brandon continued. “That’s super brave of her to be out like that.”

“You think so?”

“Yeah. I knew a trans girl in college and she was really cool. This state has put them all through a lot of shit.”

Kaylee’s body remained still, but in her mind, she was jumping up and down and singing. She at least knew now he was cool with trans people. A part of her wanted to go ahead and tell him now, but a small sliver of sense held her tongue. After all, her mother used to say she was ‘okay’ with trans people too, until it was her kid. When son Kyle sat her down and told her she was really Kaylee, suddenly being trans was a lot less cool.

“That’s really great of you,” Kaylee said warmly. “So, where do you want to start?”

Brandon shrugged.

“What kind of stuff does your sister like?”

“Um…clothes?”

Kaylee slapped her forehead in an overly dramatic gesture. “What’s her style?”

He shrugged.

“Ug, boys,” she said with a laugh. “Show me some pictures of her. Does she have a Facebook?”

“Yea, sure.” Brandon retrieved his phone from the pocket of his jeans.  His thumbs swiped across the screen, searching for the right page. “You have a Facebook?” he asked while staring at the screen.

“I do,” she replied, “but I’m barely ever on there.” She averted her eyes, not wanting him to see in her face that she was lying. Barely a day past that she wasn’t posting to Facebook, and it was usually selfies. But her online presence held more than a few giveaway regarding her trans status, so best to keep him away for now.

“I probably use it more than I should,” he said. “Here she is.” Brandon held out the phone to let Kaylee study the picture.

“Okay; she’s got kind of a boho-chic thing going for her.”

“A what?”

“Boho-chic.”

Brandon laughed. “Gesundheit.”

Now Kaylee was laughing too. God, how she loved his sense of humor. “I’m going to have to teach you everything,” she said. “Follow me. I know just the store.” Kaylee paused when she felt Brandon’s hand slip into hers. It startled her. Kaylee whipped her head back to face him and his eyes grew wide.

“I’m sorry,” he blurted out. “I didn’t know if that would be too forward or not but, after our kiss last night…I…”

She smiled warmly and gave his hand a squeeze. “Don’t worry so much,” she said. “If this wasn’t obvious, I’m, like, seriously into you.”

He blushed. “The feelings mutual.” Hand in hand, the two made their way through the crowded mall. “Oh, I was going to ask you something,” he said after playfully slapping his forehead.

Kaylee gave him a puzzled look.

“My roommate and I are throwing a little party for the disk team; just something fun to do since they’re rescheduling our match. Did you want to go?”

“Where is it?”

“At our apartment.”

At those words, Kaylee’s conscious was kidnapped and replaced by the voice of Roxy. Assuming the new position, Roxy reminded her that a strange apartment full of jocks is likely the last place a trans woman should be going. There were a thousand ways it could go wrong, and most of them involved one of his friends clocking her and spilling the beans. Guys finding out they want to fuck a trans girl was one thing, but for the revelation to come while surrounded by ‘the bros’ would be a recipe for disaster. Roxy was loud, but not loud enough to override her fluttering heart as she squeezed Brandon’s hand. All of her risky decisions so far had paid off. Why not roll the dice again?

“Sounds like fun,” she said with a smile.

“I’ll pick you up.”

Dan Forest And Poorly Disguised Bigotry

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There’s an old adage that, if you’re going to say something, you should at least have the guts to say it to my face. Take, for example, the KKK and Neo-nazi groups staging violent demonstrations across the nation. They hate minorities and want nothing but harm for minority communities, but they at least admit that up front. I rarely hear a skinhead beat around the bush when talking about the rights of black people or the ludicrous notion of “white genocide.” With these deplorable monsters, you know exactly what you’re getting at face value.

Other hateful people aren’t so subtle. Some will even try to spin their bigotry as something positive. And no one is better at doing that than politicians. Pissing on your face and trying to convince you it’s raining is practically an art form for some elected officials. Here in North Carolina, we were recently blessed to have a blatant example of this terrible practice. Lieutenant Governor Dan Forest released a statement a few days ago in response to Governor Cooper’s executive order guaranteeing protections for state employed transgender people (it was about other stuff too, but that’s the main point for the purposes of this post). His full statement is below:

For Immediate Release: Lt. Gov. Dan Forest’s Response to Gov. Cooper’s Executive Order

Governor Cooper’s Executive Order once again opens the bathroom stall for those who would seek to do women and children harm while falsely claiming they are transgender. While I take at face value the Governor’s intent to help transgender people use the bathroom of their identity, his order creates a legal loophole that will be exploited by non-transgender pedophiles, stalkers and perverts. All bathrooms at state rest areas, parks and museums will now be fertile ground for sexual deviants who will falsely claim to be transgender to gain protected access to our women and children.  

Is your skin crawling too?

I’ve dealt with a lot of different kinds of transphobia. Many times it’s blatant and obvious. When I get called sick, mentally ill, psychotic, confused, sinful, etc., it is by people who wear their trans hate on their sleeve. This statement represents the more sly, subtle form of transphobia. First off, you’ll notice he says “I take at face value the Governor’s intent to help transgender people use the bathroom of their identity.” He doesn’t try to invalidate the identities of transgender people and seems to indicate that Forest believes transgender people are indeed who we say we are (imagine that!).

However, the rest of the statement divulges into one of the most textbook examples of fear-mongering and outright lying I’ve seen from a politician in recent time. Consider the notion that, with these protections in place, “sexual deviants…will falsely claim to be transgender to gain protected access to our women and children.” This just flat out does not happen; at least not with any kind of regularity that it could be considered a present danger. You’re more likely to die being crushed under a vending machine than you are attacked by someone “pretending” to be transgender. It’s practically a made-up crime.

Speaking of crime; this argument, as well as any other argument I’ve ever heard against letting trans people just pee in peace, completely overlooks one big issue: molestation and sexual assault are already crimes! It doesn’t matter if you’re in the men’s room, the women’s room, in a car, at the office, at home, a movie theater…anywhere! Assault is against the law. If someone “pretends” to be trans to go into the bathroom and assaults someone, they’re still committing a crime whether trans people are allowed in there or not.

This is just trying to spin your bigotry as a positive, pure and simple. And just look at the language he uses! “All bathrooms at state rest areas, parks and museums will now be fertile ground for sexual deviants.” Talk about fear mongering! He’s ignoring the fact that trans protections are already in place in other parts of the country and they’re not experiencing anything even close to this. Forest is crying wolf; making up a boogieman that doesn’t exist. He needs something to scare people with so they won’t think rationally about the issue. Trans people are harmless. I won’t say it’s never happened that a trans person did something bad in a restroom. But if we’re going to throw up single instances as proof that there’s a bigger problem in need of solving, then I’m free to bring about gun control by sighting the mass shootings that happen every single goddamn day in this nation. You can’t use one logic for something you hate and then use another for something you don’t.

I’m sick of hearing that my safety and dignity have to be compromised so people who don’t want to understand me don’t have to think about me. Being “weirded out” by trans people isn’t an excuse to kick us out of anything. And for god sake, stop dressing this all up as a means of protecting cis women and girls. It’s all a farce with you. How many women had to come out against the likes of Harvey Weinstein and Bill Cosby before the public started to believe them? We both know that if a man went into a restroom and molested a cis woman, they would ask what she did to coerce him.

Dan Forest, you are a bigot, and it’s clear in every hate-filled word you write. In case you happen to be reading this, I dare you to speak to me face-to-face. I want you to tell me to my face why my safety isn’t important. Explain to me why I have to be put in danger because cis women must be protected from a phantom threat you made up to stir the public. Or, better yet, just have the spine to admit that it’s all just because you hate me and others like me. You’re no different than the monsters marching in Charlottesville or burning crosses in the middle of the night; you just express your bigotry in more subtle ways.

Mr. Governor, How Long Must Trans People Wait for Liberty?

Yesterday it was announced that Roy Cooper, governor of the great okay flawed disgraceful state of North Carolina was signing an executive order that makes it illegal to discriminate against LGBT people in government employment. It also bars the state from contracting with any business or organization that discriminates against LGBT people. It’s a bold move, especially given the current political climate of NC. The heavily Republican controlled general assembly has his office so locked up that he basically can’t do anything. I’ve lost count how many of his vetoes have been overridden just this year.

So, once again, my home state is going to be talking a lot about transgender people. The order applies to all LGBT people, but the focus for most queer opposition these days has been on the transgender community, so that’s going to get the bulk of the attention in all this. I have a lot of feelings about this as well as a lot of information that I think needs to be worked through a filter or two. In this post I’ll be both defending Cooper as well as raking him over the coals. I will not, however, be praising him at any point. This new development hasn’t removed him from my shit list.

First off, I need to address the people decrying that this order doesn’t do nearly enough. Why only protect government employees? Why not extend that protection to all LGBT people, regardless of where they work? Well, because he can’t. Executive orders aren’t all that powerful. Cooper can protect government office workers because they all technically fall under the executive branch of government, which therefor makes him their boss. This is very much a case of doing what you can with what you have. I originally turned my nose up at this part because, as far as I know, this is already the case. After the national shit-show started over the passage of HB2, then governor McCrory tried to save face by passing essentially the same thing. His order also stated that government employees who were LGBT would be protected from discrimination. It was a pretty empty gesture though, since the law still made it illegal for transgender people to use public facilities in state-owned buildings. Basically, you couldn’t be fired for being trans, just as long as you never had to pee while at work.

It’s the second part of this order that’s really new. Baring the state from contracting with anti-LGBT groups is a big step. Ironically, it basically makes one of the most hated parts of the Charlotte transgender protection ordinance a statewide policy. That’s good, and serves as a nice middle finger to the Republicans who hated the Charlotte ordinance so bad they wrote the cancerous HB2 to begin with. Cooper had mentioned right after the passage of HB142 DietHB2 that he would be passing some sort of LGBT protection order. There’s been nothing but silence on the matter for months, leading me to think he honestly just tossed the idea once the public ire died down. That’s the one good mark I’ll give him here; at least he came through on his word…this time.

What I want to stress though is that, in my mind at least, this does not exonerate Cooper from signing HB142 in the first place. For those who don’t know, 142 was the replacement to HB2 that basically repealed the bill but barred local governments from passing any kind of non-discrimination laws until the year 2020. It was passed because the NCAA was threatening to take NC off the list of potential championship hosts for the next ten or so years if they didn’t repeal HB2 by their arbitrary deadline. 142 is how they did that. It was signed into law by Cooper after receiving support from enough Democrat senators to get it through the GA. One of those senators was Terry Van Duyn of Asheville, and I had the pleasure of getting to say to her face that it was a load of crap and that I’d lost respect for her.

After 142 became law, the Democrats (Cooper included) who backed it trotted out a synchronized song and dance about how it was only a first step, and that they would keep fighting for transgender equality. It was a message that went over with trans people as well as a cow gets over a ten foot wall, and I was definitely part of that group. It was a load of crap, so much so in fact that it’s the reason I’m still not forgiving him, even after this new executive order. Why, you ask?

Because it should never have happened in the first place.

Remember, LGBT people aren’t a federally protected class. When you tell local governments they can’t pass non-discrimination laws, LGBT (and especially T) is really the only group you’re screwing over. And don’t forget, 142 was passed to save basketball games! Yes, there’s a lot of revenue on the line there, but since when is their a monetary value on the safety and security of a group of human beings? I’m transgender and luckily work for a company that respects my gender identity. What if tomorrow we get a new CEO and they don’t like trans people? They could call me into the office and fire me on the spot, and there’d be nothing I could do about it. That’s a fear I have to live with. That’s a fear the family I provide for has to live with. And Roy Cooper signed a law which told me it’s better for me to keep suffering through that for another 3 years than for the state to lose some basketball games. You know what message that sends? That tells me I’m not completely a person. That tells me my rights, my dignity, my safety, and my basic humanity aren’t as important as they are for other people. Can you imagine if the same kind of law was passed about a religion, or a race? There would be sustained public rage. No amount of money is worth leaving them out in the cold, but that apparently doesn’t apply to transgender people.

So that’s my take. Is this a good order? Yes. Does it forgive Roy Cooper for betraying the transgender community? No. It doesn’t matter that he’s fighting for our rights now, because he already demonstrated that our rights were only worthy of the ‘when I can get around to it’ pile. We’ve already been shown that we’re just talking points to him instead of actual people, and I for one am sick of being treated that way. I won’t be happy getting something just because I rarely get anything. I’m just as much a person as cisgender people are, and I refuse to be seen any differently. So go ahead and call your order a step in the right direction. It doesn’t matter how many steps you’ve taken if you waited in the blocks when the race first started. I am not something for you to just get around to when it’s convenient for you.

I don’t appreciate having to wait to be a person.

Cis-perience: Chapter 4

“Risha, I’m getting ready to get into the elevator. I’ll need to call you back.”

Kaylee knew that excuse wouldn’t work, but she really needed to get her off the phone. It wasn’t that she didn’t want to fill her roommate in on all the details of last night’s date, but much of the conversation wasn’t appropriate to have it in a crowded office building. Risha had a commanding voice normally, but excitement amplified it considerably. With how loudly she was coming through the phone, it was like she had it set to speaker.

“You can not leave me hanging like this!” Risha insisted. “I need details!”

“If you wanted that so bad you shouldn’t have spent the night at Lauren’s place.”

“Girl, you know I ain’t gonna pass up a chance for me and my girl to…”

“Gotta go, bye!” Kaylee said before quickly hanging up the phone. People in the lobby were already starting to look at her, and she didn’t need Risha to blurt out the details of Lauren sitting on her face last night. She loved Risha like a sister, and often was jealous of her brave, proud demeanor. But it was time to go to work. The gossip hour would have to wait until this evening.

Kaylee loved going to work. She’d spent her young life in the backwoods of the Appalachian mountains, dreaming of having a posh life in the city. The bright lights striped across the ceiling reflected off the glossy, beige floor. The clicks of dress heels and polished men’s shoes echoed off the brown and silver walls like she was in a cathedral. A large, flat TV hung on the wall just before the row of four elevators. Upon the screen, Rachel Maddow recounted the top stories of the day. Finely dressed business men and women crisscrossed the lobby while talking on cellphones or sat upon benches along the wall with computers in their laps. It all coalesced into a snapshot of big-city life, and even though she’d called it home for almost three years now, it always felt as it did on day one.

The elevator doors opened as she approached them. Others waiting had already pressed the call button, but it added to the overall feeling of the universe just falling into place for her. She barely felt her feet on the ground because, to her, it felt like she was walking on clouds. Her mind was locked on that kiss. Her skin still tingled from being pressed against the stubble on Brandon’s face. She remembered the feel of his hands on her hips. No matter how things went with him from now on, she hoped it would never tarnish that moment they’d shared. He still didn’t know she was trans, and if things were to continue he’d eventually have to know, but for now she was living her own metropolitan fairytale.

The polished, silver doors closed and the elevator took off. She spent the ride looking at her reflection in them, though she ignored the fact that she was the tallest person in the elevator. Kaylee was a vision in her cream colored, flowy dress pants and silky, short-sleeved black blouse. Her black pumps raised her another inch off the ground, but she was addicted to the way they clicked on the linoleum floor when she walked. She was the image of a woman with success, a woman with looks, and now a woman with a hot guy yearning for her.

If only she could’ve been a woman with a vagina; then she’d have it made.

Kaylee got off on the 17th floor. The offices for DCS was at the end of the hallway. Double glass doors with the company logo emblazoned across them awaited her at the end of the tan carpeted corridor. Kaylee pulled on the long, stainless handle and made her way into the office.

“Hello, Kaylee,” the receptionist said with a smile. She was a portly, pale woman with short, curly brown and silver hair. Her thick-rimmed glasses were suspended by a chain of large, obviously fake “diamonds’.

“Good morning, Madison,” Kaylee replied with a smile. She heard a few more hellos on her way to her desk. She shared a block of cubicles with three other people. She was grateful to have made it to this point in her career, but her eye was always on one of the private offices along the walls with a 17th floor view of uptown Charlotte. Years ago she was amazed they even let her stay on after coming out to human resources; today she was hungry for a promotion.

She set her stuff on the desk as her phone buzzed in her purse. She fished it out and tapped the screen. REMINDER: Staff Meeting – 15 Minutes. She didn’t really need the reminder since it was how every Friday morning started off, but she never bothered to delete it.

“So, how is Kaylee this morning?” a voice asked from her left.

She smiled as she turned. The man at the desk next to her was rather short, with olive skin and overly-gelled short black hair. He was sharply dressed, too, with a freshly pressed pair of black pants and royal blue shirt. His tie was silky and solid black, done up at the collar with a fancy knot that looked like a flower.

“I’m wonderful!” Kaylee exclaimed. “How is Bashir?”

“Bashir leaned back in his seat and stared at the ceiling. “Just living the dream, like every other day,” he replied sarcastically.

Kaylee sat in her seat and pulled up her email client. After sifting through a few messages, she noticed Bashir’s eyes focused on her. “Something up?” she asked.

“Was about to ask you that,” he answered. “Curious to know why you’re grinning so much.”

“Well,” Kaylee said as she pushed her rolling chair away from the desk. “I had a date last night.”

“Did you now?” Bashir said. He leaned forward and put his elbows on his knees. “Guy or girl?”

“Guy.”

“Hot?”

Kaylee gave an exaggerated laugh. “As fuck.”

Bashir rubbed his hands together eagerly. “I need pictures.”

The request gave Kaylee pause. “Um…I actually don’t have any.”

Leaning back again, Bashir put up his hands. “Well, as you Americans say: pics or it didn’t happen. Just pull up his Facebook.”

Kaylee grabbed her phone. “I’ll have to find him.”

“You went out with this guy and didn’t already friend him?”
“Not yet.”

“Why?”

“Because…” Kaylee paused as she typed his name into the Facebook search box. His profile was the first result. She smiled as she beheld a picture of him in baggy blue shorts and a white tank top. He was outdoors with a group of guys. Dark sunglasses covered his eyes. He was just so dreamy. “Because he doesn’t know I’m trans yet.”

Bashir’s eyes opened wide. He slid his chair around his desk and into her cubicle. “You mean he couldn’t tell?”
Kaylee raised an eyebrow. “Gee, thanks,” she said sarcastically.

“I didn’t mean it like that,” Bashir corrected. “But you didn’t tell him?”

“No.”

“Why not?”

“Why should I have to?”

“Well, don’t you think he has a right to know if he’s dating you? Maybe he’s not into trans women.”

Kaylee closed her eyes and rubbed the bridge of her nose. “If he’s into women, then trans or cis shouldn’t matter.”

Bashir smirked. “Well, we both know we don’t live in ‘Should-land’.”

“Here’s his picture,” Kaylee said as she turned the phone to him. The conversation was starting to piss her off and she hoped this would stop the uncomfortable turn things were taking.

“Damn, he is cute!” Bashir exclaimed.

“I know, right?!”

“Send him a friend request.”

Kaylee siged. “I told you, I’m not ready for that.”

“Because he’ll find out you’re trans if he stalks your page?”

“Yes.”

Bashir rolled back to his desk. “So it’s no big deal to not tell him, but it is a big deal that he not find out? Don’t you think that’s a bit hypocritical?”

“Fuck you!” Kaylee said louder than the meant to. A couple eyes in the neighboring cubicles turned to them, but soon went back to their computer screens.

“Look, honey,” Bashir started. “You know I love you. You know I support your and I will personally be cheering for you two to fall madly in love and for him to have a huge cock you get to ride into next week.”

Kaylee snickered.

“But if it’s not important for him to know you’re trans, then it can’t be important to keep it from him.” There was a pause. Clicking keys and ringing phones were the only sounds in the open office space. Bashir turned back to his keyboard. “I only say it because I love you, girl.”

Kaylee just sat there. She felt deflated. If Risha were there, Bashir would be getting an ear-full about trans women being just as valid as cis women and that she had a right to privacy. Risha had a much stronger spirit than she did. Kaylee knew it was right, but she did feel like a hypocrite. Thoughts of how Brandon would react if he found out kept popping up in her mind, and she tried her best to push them away. She didn’t want to face them, not yet. She was enjoying her chance to feel like it wasn’t something she had to worry about.

“We gotta get to the boardroom,” Kaylee said softly.

With her laptop under her arm and a coffee cup in her free hand, Kaylee pushed through the glass door on the far wall and stepped into the boardroom. Easily the largest room in the office space, it had eight foot tall windows across the entire wall. The full beauty of the uptown Charlotte skyline served as the backdrop of each day’s business. The table at the center of the room was roughly twenty feet long with a sleek, black, polished surface. A microphone and wall outlet was built in at every seating spot along the table. A projector sat suspended from a beam in the ceiling, casting the image of the DCS logo onto a white backdrop on the wall.

Kaylee took her seat and set her stuff on the table. She took a deep breath as she unlocked the screen on her laptop. Don’t let him kill your high, Kaylee. When her desktop came up it was all set to go. The data from her meeting at the airport was front and center.

“Good morning, everyone,” said a commanding voice from the door. Donald Reed, or ‘Don’, was a middle-aged man with a golden tan and most of his hair gone. He sported a thick moustache and small set of reading glasses. A gray and white suit covered his tall, chubby body. “I trust everyone is ready to get started.

“Yes sir,” said all in attendance, Kaylee included. She took a sip of her coffee.

Don took a seat near the end closest to the screen. “First things first. I need an update on where we are with the Barren Industries account. Kyle, you’re up.

Kaylee took a long, deep breath and closed her eyes.

“Er, sorry,” Don corrected. “Kaylee.”

“Thank you,” Kaylee said as she stood. Almost two years to the day and he still fucks that up sometimes. “I spent about two hours with Mr. Barren yesterday and took him to dinner. He had very few concerns and I’ve already emailed those out to everyone. He’s ready to see the full presentation before he flies back out on Tuesday.”

“Is he staying all weekend just to wait on us?” A woman at the far end of the table asked.

Kaylee shook her head. “His daughter lives in Matthews, so he’s visiting her.”

“Excellent work, Kaylee,” Don said with a smile.

“Thank you, sir.” Kaylee’s phone screen lit up. She knew to keep it on silent during meetings, or else Don would have scolded her for the distraction. She glanced down. It was a text from Roxy. Could my roommates please wait till five to beg me for gossip? She slid the phone under the table and pulled up the message: ‘hon u c this? There was a link attached. She glanced up. Don was talking to Josh about financials, which had nothing to do with her. Convinced she wouldn’t be needed for a moment, Kaylee clicked open the link.

It was a CNN article. First she saw a mug shot of a large, white male with no hair and a thick beard. The title popped up next, and she immediately saw why Roxy had sent it to her. NORTH CAROLINA MAN CHARGED WITH MOLESTING TEEN GIRL IN WOMEN’S RESTROOM. Her stomach turned. Her mind filled in much of the story with just the image and the title, but she read on anyway.

‘TAYLORSVILLE-NC: A 40 year old man from Alexander County has been charged with following a teenage woman into the women’s restroom at the Taylorsville Walmart and exposing himself to her. Authorities were alerted to the Walmart at 5:40pm on Friday evening. After being shouted out of the restroom by the victim and several other women, the man continued to shop in the store. Store management followed him until police arrived, at which point he was arrested for indecent exposure.’

Kaylee gritted her teeth. She could already hear the comments people would make against trans people because of this. The state had infamously dealt with transgender bathroom issues in the past, and it was still a hot-button issue. The thought of reading any more made her nauseous.

“Kaylee!” Don said loudly.

Her boss shouting shook her from her thoughts. She looked up. All eyes were upon her. “Yes?”

“Something taking your attention away from this meeting?” Don asked sternly.

“I…uh…got a news alert on my phone,” she answered, only half lying.

“Anything important?” Don asked. “Anything we should be worried about?”

Kaylee sighed as she gazed out the window. The sky was getting cloudy, and the regular reflections of sunlight in the adjacent buildings was fading. “I really hope not.”

Cis-perience: Chapter 3

It was a miracle Kaylee hadn’t wrecked her car on her way to Dos Amigos restaurant. Not only was she nervously shaking, but her eyes constantly left the road to check her reflection in the visor mirror. It wasn’t for vanities sake, though she was often prone to it. It had been nearly a year since the last time she was on a date, and she’d never dated a guy while presenting authentically. The only boys she’d ever been out with were gay. This was something different. Not only was Brandon straight, she supposed, but he also seemed to think she was cisgender. That prospect was exciting, but also terrifying.

Kaylee would be the first to admit she had a lot of things going for her prior to transition. Even before she took her first Estradiol pill she looked pretty feminine. Her skin was fair with very little body hair. Her adam’s apple barely showed. Hormones served more as icing on the cake rather than a dramatic transformation.

Still, that didn’t mean she was without masculine features, the most glaring of which being her height. She hated standing in groups, especially with cis women. Even in flats she towered over most of them. Kaylee always felt like she stuck out figuratively, but standing half a foot taller than most other women made it literal as well.

The parking lot was packed as she pulled in. After turning the key and shutting off the engine, she found herself frozen in place. Her heart raced. It had been a while since she experienced this, but she recognized the feeling. In her early days of transition, going into a crowded place was always nerve wracking. There were always eyes on her, whispers started flying after she passed people by. It had been months since she felt a room staring at her. Sure, the occasional person clocked her and made for an uncomfortable moment, but then it would pass and life would resume.

It was strange to be this nervous about going into a restaurant again. It wasn’t that she thought everyone would tell she was trans, but the thought of sitting with a guy she didn’t know and convincing him for an entire evening was terrifying. Her fingers played with the hem of her pleated, black skirt. She figured it was too dressy for this kind of date, but Lauren had been so eager to dress her up. Truthfully, seeing herself in the mirror on her closet door boosted her confidence. Kaylee had legs for days. They were one of her best features. Some cute flats and a flowy white shirt with drop shoulders rounded out the look. In the bedroom mirror she’d seen a confident, sexy woman.

Now, she saw a guy in a skirt.

She was two parking rows from the door. There was a trio of guys smoking just outside. She cringed, not liking the idea of having to walk through them. Maybe she would just wait for them to go back inside. This lack of confidence was so unlike her, but this was unlike anything she’d experienced before. The door opened and a hetero couple exited with their leftovers in styrofoam containers. A hand caught the door before it shut, and Kaylee saw Brandon’s head poking out to survey the parking lot.

“Oh, shit!” she said to herself. He was already here. Was his hotel close by? How eager was he to see her? Her hands shook in her lap. Closing her eyes, Kaylee took a couple of deep breaths. “You’ve got this,” she whispered. “You’re confident and he’s really into you. Don’t wimp out now.” She reached for the handle and opened the door. The air was hot and muggy after the storm and she could already smell grilled chicken and peppers wafting from the restaurant. She was careful to keep her legs closed as she stood, knowing her Corolla was pretty low to the ground for a 6 foot woman to be getting out of in a thigh-length skirt.

He was waving at her before she even shut the door. Even in the dim streetlights, she could see that cute smile on his face. It made her relax a little. He looked so genuinely happy to see her. She smiled and wiggled her fingers. He was wearing a polo shirt, dark blue jeans and brown shoes. He was more dressed up to see her than he was to get on an airplane.

Kaylee took small steps across the parking lot. One thing she’d learned in transition was to shorten her stride; it made her look more feminine. The three smoking guys were looking up now and she felt a lump in her throat. There were only two reasons she ever got stared at: either someone thought she was hot or they could tell she was trans. Kaylee tried to keep her attention on Brandon. If she’d been clocked by the guys, she’d find out regardless of whether or not she watched them.

“Don’t you look amazing,” Brandon said with a big grin. Kaylee melted. His voice entranced her, and she caught his eyes scanning her hungrily. She knew she was blushing, and a moment later she knew he could tell.

“Thank you,” she replied. “I hope I’m not too dressy.”

“Not at all. Let’s go get a table.”

The restaurant was noisy. An amalgam of indiscernible conversations were accentuated by the crackling of sizzling fajitas and clinking glasses. The air was alive with the smells of meats and spices. They were led to a table on the far wall. Kaylee was relieved to be sitting again. Standing in a room where most were seated meant lots of eyes on her, and that’s exactly what she didn’t want. She was glad to be with a guy taller than her, but the waiter was only about five foot eight, and she felt like she towered over him.

Brandon sat across from her. The waiter put a basket of chips and bowl of salsa on the table before asking for drink orders.

“Can I see a beer list?” Kaylee asked. Whenever she talked she tightened her throat and put extra air behind her words to raise the pitch of her voice. It was second nature to her now, but in situations like this, where passing felt of dire importance, she put a lot more conscious effort into making it sound as convincing as possible.

“Si, senorita,” he said before stepping back to the server station. Kaylee let out a sigh of relief. Senorita: a female pronoun. It was always reassuring to hear them. The waiter returned with the list and handed it to her.

“Um…I’ll have a Stella, please,” Kaylee requested.

“Same for me,” Brandon said. “You know good beer,” he said with a grin. “Definitely off to a good start.”

Kaylee was a bit of a beer enthusiast, but truthfully she just knew she wouldn’t get through this without a little booze. “Sorry your match got rained out,” she said.

“It happens,” Brandon replied.  There will be other matches.”

“I just hate to think you flew all this way for nothing. They should at least reschedule.”

“Flew?” Brandon said with a puzzled look.

Kaylee grabbed a chip and dipped it into the salsa. “Flew? As in flew into town for the meet?” Was she not making sense?

Brandon’s eyes went wide and he laughed. “Oh! Oh, you thought I… Now that is funny!”

“Am I missing something?”

“You thought I was at the airport because I got off a plane. I was picking up another player.”

“What?!” Kaylee asked with more surprise than she wanted to show.

“Yea, I live in Belmont.”

Kaylee felt a cold sweat on the back of her neck. He was local. Belmont was about twenty minutes away. She cursed her stupidity. Why didn’t she ask where he was from back at the airport? This changed everything. No longer was this definitely a one-time thing. His interest wasn’t passing. It was going to be challenging enough keeping up the cisgender charade for one evening. There was no way this could be any more than that.

“You okay?” he asked.

She’d been staring off into space, leaving a chip half submerged in the salsa. Her other hand was rubbing her knee, something she was prone to do when scared. Keep cool, Kaylee. Don’t let this trip you up. “Yea, just a pleasant surprise,” she answered. “Here I thought you were some mysterious stranger from out of town.”

“Well, I can play that part if you’d prefer,” he said with a coy grin.

Kaylee couldn’t help but smile again. Christ, he was so charming. And that smile of his drove her wild. He still hadn’t shaved since this morning, and she was dying to run her hands across his cheeks.

“I’m sure that sounded stupid,” he admitted.

“Oh no,” Kaylee insisted. “I actually thought it was kind of cute.”

“Can I be honest with you?” he said after a pause.

Kaylee took a sip of her beer. A ring of lipstick stained the rim of the bottle. “Absolutely.”

“I’m actually really nervous and afraid I’m trying too hard and it’s coming across either desperate or dorky.”

“Why would you say that?” Kaylee had to admit, his vulnerability was keeping her distracted from her own worries.

“I’m never this forward with, you know, asking out someone out that I just met.”

“Well, that begs the question then: why me?”

“I…I don’t know. I came out of a nasty breakup a few months ago; last girlfriend cheated on me.”

“Sorry to hear that.”

“I’m just happy it’s over. The more I look back the more I realize how bad she was for me. You struck up a conversation with me at the airport and seemed like you were into me.”

Kaylee lowered her head. “Was I that obvious?”

“Yes, and I mean that as a compliment,” he insisted. “I’m thick as cement so otherwise I’d have never picked up on it. Girls aren’t usually as forward as you.”

“Still a compliment?”

“Yes.”

“I’ll admit, this isn’t common for me either,” Kaylee said after taking another sip of beer. “It’s been years since I’ve been on a date.”

“So why did you roll the dice with me?”

Kaylee stared off into space for a moment. “We’ll, for starters, I thought you were really cute.” No sense in being shy if he’s being this open with me. Maybe he’d be okay with me being trans. He certainly does seem the open minded type.

“Is that so?” He asked playfully.

“Yea, and I’ve got to say, you flirting with me was a big confidence booster. I’m really not used to guys looking at me like that?”

“Why? Are they intimidated by a tall woman?”

Kaylee’s eyes darted from side to side as she picked up her beer. “Sure, we’ll say it’s that.”

“No worries,” he said reassuringly. “I have a cousin about your height and she has exactly the same problem you do.”

I doubt it.

The waiter returned to take their orders. Kaylee was starting to feel relaxed and that worried her. The conversation went on long after their plates were cleared. She was sure she was boring him as she talked about her job, but his interest never seemed to wane. Meeting new people was something Kaylee always enjoyed; there was always so much to learn. Brandon worked at his dad’s clothing store and was set to manage a second location they were preparing to open next year. They specialized in outdoors apparel and gear. He looked like a man who liked to get out in the woods, another thing that made him just her type.

“That’s great you have such a good relationship with your parents,” Kaylee said.

“I’m guessing that means you don’t?” Brandon questioned.

“Not exactly.”

“May I ask why?”

Kaylee sighed. “Not on the first date. You gotta get to at least level two to unlock that door.”

Ha laughed. “I take it you’re a gamer nerd then?”

“Oh, yea!” she said enthusiastically.

“What’s your system?”

“PS4”

“Oh no!” Brandon said with cheesy dramatic emphasis. “I play on Xbox! There’s no hope for us now, for we are on on opposite sides of the war!”

Kaylee doubled over laughing. Her elbows slid across the table, taking her hands well past the long empty chip bowl. “Fear not! I will forsake the rivalries of gaming factions to be with you.”

Her eyes were down when she felt Brandon’s hands wrap around hers. He was warm, but Kaylee’s hands were usually cold. There was a slight roughness to his skin. She gasped a little as the touch took her breath away. Her head darted up, letting her lock eyes with him. He had the look of a man who knew he had gambled by touching her hand and was waiting to see if the dice landed in his favor. When she squeezed back, she could tell he knew they had.

She didn’t want it to end. Other patrons had come in, ate, and left as they continued to sit there and talk. Two hours had past before Kaylee could blink. It wasn’t just that she was enjoying herself, though she most certainly was. Kaylee couldn’t help but worry that this would be their one and only date. He was clearly into her and she wanted him so bad she couldn’t stand it, but he still seemed convinced she was cisgender. Thinking he was from out of town had made coming here easier. If a definite goodbye was understood to be inevitable, she wouldn’t have to worry about getting this attached. All night she’d been wanting to not leave, and now she wanted him to never let go of her hand.

They paid for their meal and stepped back out into the muggy Charlotte night air. Restaurant chatter was replaced by honking horns and distant sirens. He walked her to her car, keeping his fingers wrapped in hers for every step. When they reached the driver door they stood face to face. Neither of them seemed to know how the next moment should go, but their hands were still interlocked and Kaylee wanted not to let go.

“So, what are the chances of me getting to level two?” he asked.

Inside, Kaylee was screaming. He was just perfect. If she were cis, this would have been the biggest no brainer in history. But she wasn’t, and she was the only one who knew that. Everything that had happened tonight, every magical moment, was built on an unstable foundation. Caution told her to say no, or at least to say she’d call him later so she could make decisions in a more rational mindset.

But there was another voice, a voice that had been quietly whispering in the back of her mind but now insisted on shouting. Fuck caution! Fuck depriving myself because I’m not cis! I deserve romance! I deserve to date a hot guy! Stop overthinking this and just enjoy your cis-perience as long as you can!

She leaned in and planted her lips on his. She’d been staring at them all night, watching them move with each word he said, wondering what kissing him would be like. Kaylee closed her eyes as her heart raced. Her soul demanded this moment of absolute selfishness and was relishing in it. Brandon’s hand slipped from hers and for a moment she worried she’d moved too fast. But when she felt his palms squeezing her waist she reached heaven. Kaylee didn’t know how long the kiss actually lasted, but it could have gone until dawn and not been long enough. When they finally parted, she sat in her dark car and watched him walk away.

“What the fuck am I going to do?”

Take a Knee to Take a Stand

arian-foster-dolphins-national-anthem-kneel

A few months ago I went to a town hall meeting. It was hosted by the Republican congressman from the district next to mine (the one from my district is even worse). It was a packed house, with attendance seeming to fall close to even along party lines. Before the meeting began, the crowd was asked to stand and face the flag to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. Everyone stood and turned towards the front-left corner of the large room where the flag was erected and chanted in unison.

I did not participate. As everyone else stood and recited, I remained in my seat and silent. From what I could tell, I was the only person in attendance to do so. I was honestly afraid I was going to catch a lot of hate for it, but my silent protest seemed to go largely unnoticed. Of course, I’m just some woman from Podunk, North Carolina. I’m not on any big stage or under any bright spotlight to where all eyes are upon me. The football players in the NFL however, are.

A year or so ago, San Francisco quarterback Colin Kapernick began a silent protest where, during the pre-game National Anthem, he knelt instead of standing (previously he sat). There was a public outcry as people demanded he stand for the Anthem, saying his actions disrespected America and the military. The turmoil ultimately concluded in his football career ending long before it should have. However, this year dozens of NFL players (as well as players in other sports) have followed his example. They kneel, they lock arms, sometimes they just stay in the locker room. Their protest has nothing to do with the armed forces. No, it was to draw attention to the epidemic of police brutality against African American men in America. Across the country, black men (and some women) are being gunned down during stops for minor infractions or even when they’ve done absolutely nothing wrong. These poor souls have lost their lives due to police racism. To make matters worse, the deceased often get no justice as the officers committing the crimes aren’t even charged. It’s disgusting, it’s unjust, and it absolutely needs to stop.

I join these people in solidarity. Their cause is just and their method is sound. I personally have not stood for the Anthem or the Pledge in at least a couple of years now.  What they’re speaking out about, what they’re drawing attention to, desperately needs to be a part of the cultural conversation right now. Of course, those who are decrying the action keep changing the subject. “How dare you disrespect the troops!” they yell, as if that had anything to do with their protest. “Find a more appropriate way to protest!” they whine, as if they’d be satisfied with any outcome other than black men going back to quietly doing what they’re told. And when they see me participating, it turns to, “why are you kneeling; you’re white!”.

First and foremost, I kneel because I agree with the message. The cause of equal justice for black Americans would be won by now if white people would lend their voices. For as much as I talk about transgender struggles on this blog (we’re getting to that, by the way), I’ll be the first to tell you that I unfairly enjoy an exorbitant amount of white privilege. I don’t experience fear when interacting with the police. I’ve never had my job application passed by because I had a “black sounding” name. I’ve never been labeled a thug. I’ve never worried that the legal system would impose on my a ludicrous penalty for a small infraction.  I’ve never had someone be afraid to sit near me or to walk past me on the street. That’s not my world, and it’s not fair that it’s theirs. Because of that, I kneel during the National Anthem.

But that’s not the only reason…

Before I keep going, I want to make one thing abundantly clear: when talking about National Anthem protests, the conversation needs to first and foremost be about the mistreatment of African Americans in our society, if it’s about anything else at all. That is the focus. It is where the spotlight must shine. I’m close to 800 words in now before even mentioning anything other than that and that’s very much on purpose. Black lives matter, and I’ll shout it anywhere, anytime. But I kneel for another reason, too. For as much as I enjoy white privilege, it can’t be denied that the United States has been really shitty when it comes to the treatment of transgender people and it’s only gotten worse in the years since marriage equality was finally legalized (that’s a tease for a future post).

In just the last year, the Justice Department has removed bathroom protections for transgender students. In just the last month or two, President Fuhrer Trump has tried to ban transgender people from serving in the military and Nikki Haley voted in the United Nations not to ban countries from executing gay people. In just the last week, Jeff Sessions announced that Title VII would no longer protect transgender people from workplace discrimination. We’ve fought bathroom bill after goddamn bathroom bill in states all over the country. America is trying very hard to make transgender people go away, and you wonder why I won’t respect a song honoring America?

You really think I’m going to be thankful for my freedom under these circumstances? You really expect me to stand up for a nation that keeps trying to kick me down? Hell no! I will not show this flag, this song, and certainly not this country that kind of respect; it hasn’t earned it. Let’s face a cold, hard truth: America is an embarrassment. I don’t even fly the American Flag outside of my house anymore. The last time I took it down because there was a storm coming I couldn’t stomach the thought of putting it back up. When I look at the Stars and Stripes, all I think about is the injustice, the intolerance, the bigotry, and the ignorance-worshiping nationalism it truly represents. When I see “Old Glory”, I think about all the times I’ve had to call my elected officials and beg them not to either kick me out of the bathroom or take away my healthcare. When I hear the National Anthem, I here a chorus of voices calling me a “freak”, a “monster”, a “deviant”, a “sinner”, and a “pervert”. I feel no pride in America, and I won’t pretend to.

Now, if you’re getting all red in the face while reading this and thinking ‘well just move if you hate America so much!’, this next part’s for you. I’m not going to do that. See, for as much as I consider America as a whole a dark spot on the world these days, there are plenty of Americans I’m rather fond of. There are wonderful people in my community, people who represent love, compassion, understanding, tolerance, and unity. I’m proud of my life and the things I’ve accomplished. I’m proud of my family. These are all things I’ve earned, not because of the promise of America, but in spite of what this nation has tried to keep me from. I will fight to see this nation transformed into what it has the potential to be. I will work tirelessly to ensure the promise of safety and prosperity is fulfilled for everyone. When we achieve that kind of America, then I will stand up with my hand over my heart and sing, “Oh say can you see…”