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256 pages, Hardcover
First published December 6, 2016
I'm playing another role, Mr. Happy Well-Adjusted Trans Guy. Because that's the narrative. The only story I'm allowed to tell is how much I hated myself before transition, how happy I am now.
If only they knew what it felt like, being held hostage by your own skin.
"If only they knew what it felt like, being held hostage by your own skin."
"I put off transition for the first year of college. Took classes to help me understand society's sexism better, and why it hurt so much to be seen as a woman. Examined my own internalized misogyny: Did I want to transition to escape being a girl, or did I need to do it because I was a boy?"
"But I'm a girl," she said.
"So girls can't be predators."
"It was always this way. I cracked my rib cage open only to allow venom in my heart."
Her lips made me think of my finger parting freesia petals.
The gold stromata in her irises burned like fuses.
Her hands were all over me, raising static from the wool suit, then touching my face in pops of little blue sparks.
“Tell me your story, Ms. Baylor.”
Drowsy smile. “You’ll think poorly of me, Mr. Grant.”
“What’s her motive? Why would she hurt you?”
“For being a man. That’s all the reason she’s ever needed to hurt someone. And all I needed.”
“That’s absurd,” Tam said.
“It’s not. All those men she sent me after—I never once questioned their guilt. Why? Because they’re men.”
“If he held something against you, you didn’t have full agency. You were a captive. A captive can’t give consent.”
Tam shrugged. “We’re all trapped by something. Freedom is an illusion. It’s the wind in your hair as you plummet off the cliff’s edge.”
Laney was no different from Norah. Both girls who’d accuse a man of the worst crime. Foment loathing and indignation against him. Because who wouldn’t believe a guy would do the worst thing? Of course he would. Rape culture, patriarchy, misogyny: these words had leaped from academic discourse into the common vernacular. Norah’s accusation needed no proof. Just her tears, and the whole history of men hurting women behind it.
How she’d believed my version of events. No question. Like Crito said, all a girl had to do was cry.
Norah did most of the talking. Eager to take the blame, do penitence, absolve herself. The world held no pity for a woman who’d falsely accused a man of rape.
I knew how hard it would be on her. They’d hold her up as proof all girls were liars. They would hate her. They would say she should actually be raped, for lying about it.
Strange, how those so eager to punish girls for lying turned a blind eye to the boys who raped. As if the real goal was merely to inflict hurt on female bodies. To punish femininity.
I knew these things. I knew exactly how hard it was to be believed after you’d been hurt. Even by yourself.
But believing was Black Iris’s job. I needed my name cleared. My life back.
“Then why did you say it was rape?”
—Because I felt slutty, okay? Everyone made me feel like shit about it, except Ingrid. She said I could make myself look better if I played the victim. That I could fix my reputation.
*Tamsin is dark-skinned, though I can't recall much else
*you're hard-pressed to find a het person in this novel
*Ren has depression, Blythe is bipolar
Chicago was me. It had been built for other things, torn down, burned, rebuilt. Beneath the cement skin and neon veins it hid blood-soaked slaughter yards, pipes made of poisonous lead. A secret history. Sometimes the old bones showed through, reminding you: I was made for other things. Design isn’t destiny. (ARC, ~p. 140)
Did I want to transition to escape being a girl, or did I need to do it because I was a boy? And why did it have to be one or the other? Was it so horrible if part of my identity was a revolt against the way I was treated for having tits and a vag? I never wanted them. Maybe I could have tolerated them, in a better world. But in this world I experienced my physical womanhood as a stigma.
I gripped my spine through my skin, as if I could tear it out, show him. “There’s something wrong inside me. Fundamentally wrong. It’s a design flaw and I can build a grand illusion on top of it, but the core is still broken.”
But a voice inside you kept telling you to hold on. That was me.
At the end, you were so tired. So fucking sad, worn down, empty. You almost didn’t make it. I wasn’t sure I’d ever get to write this, to open my eyes and wake up as Elliot. But you carried us both here. You spent your whole life shouldering both of our burdens. I’ve got this now, Leah. You can rest. Thank you for holding on until I was ready.