When I was 14 and away at a youth congress for Camp Fire I met a girl who actually saw me more clearly than anyone had before. I was away from my parents so I could dress as I liked. I still had a page boy hair cut (I had been forbidden to go any shorter) and my sports bra (as if I would wear the regular ones mom made me pack) didn’t conceal my chest as much as I would like. But this girl still saw me. She said she loved my style and nicknamed me stud. She had no interest in meeting my friends, she had her own, she just wanted to hang out with me on our own. I liked it so much it terrified me and after I went home, I never wrote to her as I had promised. I should have clung to her like a life raft in the choppy sea of gender shaming and forced femininity where I tread daily, barely keeping my head above water. But I didn’t.
I wish I had a reason better than cowardice. She saw me and not only accepted me, but liked me for my butchness. Did I run because she made me think about my different-ness? Did I hide from her because I wasn’t ready to face the butterflies I got in my stomach when she told me she liked the way I looked? No one ever liked me like that and if they did, I never felt it or cared. I wish I had been braver. I wish I had written her. But more than anything I wish I could tell her I was sorry. She accepted me and I rejected her. That’s what I am ashamed of now.