They hadn’t been known as Matty since Christmas. Well. More properly, since Yule, but they told everyone Christmas because it was easier to keep the seasons aligned that way. Aunt Becka, especially, was a difficult one to convince, but then, Aunt Becka was mostly concerned these days with whether Apple+ was going to show the Charlie Brown Christmas Special for free.
Before they were Matty, of course, they’d been something else. And something else before that. “They’re finding themself,” Mom liked to say, and Dad would add something like “we encourage experimentation. After all, at that age I didn’t know that I wanted to be a teacher.”
But it’s a peculiar kind of grief, the failure to find opposition. So they read books – coming out stories, of course, carefully stocked on their shelves by loving parents. They volunteered at shelters, they went to Pride. Nothing fit, quite, and they chafed not so much at being forced into a mold as against having no mold to break.
“There are too many options,” they confessed once to Ocean, who was cleaning the fifth piercing in his ear carefully, with a saline spray. “How did you know?”
“When the time comes, something will just make sense,” Ocean said, and swore, pushing crust away with a Q-tip. “You gotta try stuff on for a while. Like jeans.”
They tried. They really did. At Easter, they wore lace gloves, an extravagant hat, skinny chinos. At the summer picnic they wore ripped jeans, a flannel with the sleeves cut off, a ribbed top, Mary Janes. They tried on names like the t-shirts in teen stores, tissue-thin and meant to be seen through, and they filled in lines from songs in “gender” spaces on applications. Like jeans, nothing felt quite right.
On Samhain they took off their name. Their boots lay, unworn, by the door, with their shed skin. Mom gave them a mini Snickers and stroked their spines. “You just needed time,” she said. The smile they smiled back had exactly the right amount of teeth.