“Mom? What does that mean?” Jeremy asked. He pointed to a small sentence written on the side of the bus shelter.
I can’t remember how old he was then. Younger than twelve that’s for sure, probably somewhere between 8 and 10 years old. I expected something explicit or vulgar. Instead I read six small words… “I wish I was a girl”.
I looked at Jeremy and had no idea what to say at all. As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve lead a fairly sheltered life. Ironically, being bullied all through school meant I was out of the loop when it came to school yard gossip, so I was more naive than the average kid. And I grew up in a bland middle-class neighbourhood in the 1980’s. My only exposure to anyone who wasn’t straight or cisgender was someone who was collectively known as “Terry the fairy”. Note, I said my neighbourhood was bland, not classy. He was known for pairing fancy dresses and a matching purse with hairy legs and five o’clock shadow. Other than Klinger, off of M.A.S.H., that was it.
I took a deep breath and tried to think of what to say.
“Well, you know how you look like a boy on the outside and feel like a boy on the inside…”
My voice trailed off as Jeremy stared at me blankly then shook his head. Great, two seconds into my explanation and I’d already screwed it up. Another deep breath.
“Okay, most people look like a boy on the outside and feel like a boy on the inside. Or look like a girl on the outside and feel like a girl on the inside but sometimes people don’t. Sometimes people look like a boy on the outside and feel like a girl on the inside or look like a girl on the outside and feel like a boy on the inside.”
I could have stopped there. In fact I should have stopped there. But I didn’t.
“This is something I don’t understand,” I admitted. “I want you to be happy in your body and to be happy with who you are. If you’re not happy with your body then you’re not happy with a big part of yourself…”
My voice trailed off as I had an epiphany. This actually didn’t have anything to do with me or what I felt. I looked from Jeremy to the writing on the shelter and sighed.
“You know what? It doesn’t matter if I understand or not. No one chooses their body and it must be hard living in one that just does not feel right.”
Jeremy nodded. “Why did he write that?”
“Maybe there wasn’t anyone to talk to,” I pointed out. Jeremy looked stricken.
“He could talk to me,” he replied, looking around as if he expected whoever wrote this message to walk right over.
“Hon, the person who wrote this note could be anyone,” I said and gestured around the neighbourhood. “Think of how many people live in our building alone and there’s three more buildings the same size and all these houses.”
Jeremy nodded sadly then our bus came and we headed off. As far as I know, the message is still written on the side of that shelter. We never did find out who wrote it and I doubt we ever will.