Hi! I am Henry Grange and I turn 15 tomorrow. My parents will be back tonight after a month long business trip to Europe, to celebrate my birthday with some well heeled business families of New York at our 5th Avenue penthouse. The party will be packed with panache, in quintessential Mrs. Grange’s style. The perfectionist in her deftly manages all international businesses, investments, parties, family matters and opinions of everyone around her, including my father’s.
She sees me as the black sheep of the family, with no affinity for business or networking. I prefer having more books rather than having more people around me. Writing and dancing are my life’s raison d’être. Even as a kid, I would rummage through life with books and words, visiting the 42nd street library, reading and writing stories, and putting life in them through my dance. When I started primary school, I remember writing about my teachers who did not look into my eyes and talk, how some boys in the physical exercise class teasingly said “Henry plays like a girl”, and the severe obloquy that followed when I told my parents that I wanted to grow up and be a girl.
When I was 7, I wrote about the hysterical laughter that followed when I told my classmates that I was planning to have a tiara-wearing unicorn cake on my birthday. They made sneering comments like “Tiara Henry” and “Henry is a girl” and teased me for weeks. I was scandalized and when I complained about being bullied, my parents made me join soccer and told me to “stop crying like a girl and be a man”, dismissing the issue as a cut and dry office presentation.
I wrote about crying for nights. I cried because my friends rebuffed me. I cried because I felt uncomfortable in my body. I cried because I did not know what man up really meant. I cried because deep down I knew that I was not like other boys and I cried because I really wanted to grow up and be a girl.
By the time I was 10, I had no friends and I was lonely, bewildered and hurt. The nihilistic and bitter me did not even read a single religious book my nanny forced me to borrow from the library.
One night, Mrs. Grange stormed into my room and warned me to start behaving like a boy or face reparative therapy. Those illegal devils had promised her to make a man out of me. I remember my whole body trembling, drenched in sweat. She threatened to go to any lengths and not let this “parenting failure”, ruin her highly successful business magnate image.
I was feeling utterly despondent and had stopped talking to everyone because being quiet was easier than behaving like other boys. I would only talk and cry when I was with Hannah, my pretend play friend since I was a toddler. An ardent fan of my writing and an enthusiastic participant in all my dance performances, she was always there inspiring and rescuing me from my stale mirthless life. I became the solemn inconspicuous kid.
Last month, I wrote a story on a talented dancer, also named Hannah, and gathered courage to sneak into Mrs. Grange’s closet who was traveling, to get a classy dress for performing on my story.
I was always mesmerized by Mrs. Grange’s fashion sense and jewelry but feeling those luscious flowing silk dresses, warm cashmere sweaters, crisp business suits, shimmering party dresses, bold earrings and necklaces, lipsticks and nail paints in a rainbow of colors, made me downright ecstatic. Touching the silk dresses evoked a vague comfort, an inexplicable joy. I sniffed a few scents, tried the chic stilettos, pumps, and boots, adding a layer or two of low-cut socks, to cover for the size gap. I felt my inner voice prompting me to keep exploring and was very pleased when I continued.
I brought Hannah to life that day, wearing a gentle lavender perfume, a gorgeous mauve silk dress with a nude belt, complemented by a subtle neck piece and lipstick, and nude pumps. I guess I had the flair because I managed myself on heels pretty easily.
It was magical when I started dancing because it was like never before. I was flooded with goosebumps, with a powerful womanly aura enveloping me as if my soul and body were uniting and celebrating. My entire being was completely soaked in that surreal moment and my body was dancing to the rhythm of my heart’s song. Dressing up and wearing heels had unleashed the Goddess in me, fearless and feminine. A little while later, I started crying uncontrollably, my eyes letting go years of accumulated tears. They made me also see who I am, and why I would never feel like other boys.
I realized being Hannah ignited my soul and made me decipher my inner voice that always inspired me not to give up. The voice of my heart was that of a tender girl who believed in me. It was not about the dresses or heels only, it was the strength and femininity that I experienced after wearing them, that made me euphoric. Hannah was not only my imaginary bosom friend and confidante but as real a person as me, Hannah was me.
I am scared to my core but I plan to introduce Hannah to Mrs. Grange tomorrow on my birthday. She will have to become my mom now and understand that I am not mentally sick. She has to see me as a rainbow and not a dark ominous cloud and overcome the shame of having a transgender child. The world is changing with LGBTQ+ people being accepted like never before, drag queens are reading in NY public libraries and we even have a very popular gay Presidential candidate. I want her to accept me as I am and let me be “Handsome in heels”.
This is an entry for UniK-4, a 1000-word writing event at ArtoonsInn.
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