The Boy Suit

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My daughter Alice was not always called Alice. Until the age of fifteen, she was mostly Jory. On paper, she was Jordan. Often and alternately, she was called He or Him, both Son and Brother. On the hospital nursery wristband, tucked away now in the drawer of treasures beside my bed, she was likewise mislabeled.

Alice spent the first fifteen years of her life hidden away inside a Boy Suit, not unlike an inescapable pair of footie pajamas, which seem perfectly fine and comfortable at first, but grows less so over time. At the age of ten, a single toe poked through. By eleven, the armpits had gotten too tight. When she was twelve the broken zipper’s twisted teeth scraped her here and there, a constant rash of  irritations. At thirteen it had grown so uncomfortable and restrictive that Alice secretly set out to shred the whole damn thing.

By age fourteen she was well on her way to that destruction, slashing away at her Boy Suit with a hundred little razor cuts, waging war on it from the inside with pills and pints and powders, anything she could get her sticky-fingered hands on. She ravaged it and raged inside of there, lashing out at everything and everyone within reach.

Then came the long line of doctors and therapists, psychiatrists and specialists, each one armed with a new set of methodologies and medications, more pills to pop on top of the ones she was already popping, more mind-numbing, probing questions about her family, her  school, her past and bad behavior.  Nothing seemed to help. Nothing made her feel better, behave better or stop the intentional self-destructing. “I’m not like other people” she’d say, but pressed for further explanation, she couldn’t or wouldn’t say more.

Alice didn’t tell anyone about the Boy Suit until she was fifteen. Maybe it took that long to find the right moment or the right words, which were honestly, beautifully simple. “I am always angry because I am always sad. And I am always sad because I am a girl.” She didn’t say “a girl in a Boy Suit”, nor did I think of it that way back then, because of course, the Boy Suit was all I’d ever known.

Later that same night, she told me her name.

There was no time and no way anyway to prepare for the fragile female who peered out at me with all anxiousness and expectation. Everything about her was askew, strangely unfamiliar and downright delicate. What did I know of daughters? How to love one, how to raise one, most of all, how to help this unexpected one of mine flourish and bloom?

My daughter Alice spent the first fifteen years of her life hidden away inside a Boy Suit and together, we spent every day of her sixteenth year trying to dismantle it. Naming the thing didn’t magically melt it away. Adorning it with a patchwork of glittery girlie whatnots was occasionally, momentarily satisfying. But the painstaking work of deconstructing the suit, stitch by stitch, was agonizingly slow.

There were others along the way, who with the worst case of good intentions, would try to mend the seams or force the zipper up past stubbornly twisted teeth. So many days we had to start the disassembling all over again. Those days wore on Alice and I’d find her, all too often, back to slashing and raging, waging war from the inside. Old habits die hard and the stubborn suit of gender, even harder. In the end, three months shy of her seventeenth birthday, my beautifully blooming daughter freed herself the only way she knew how, leaving a grieving mother and an empty Boy Suit behind.

There are so many ways to tell Alice’s story.
This is but one of them.

 

 

[an excerpt from The Complicated Geography of Alice]

 

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10 Responses

  1. sizzle

    2010 Dec 23 1

    This is beautiful.

    xo

  2. Brad

    2010 Dec 31 2

    I’m ever amazed at the ability of a fine writer to express herself in such a way. It’s… well, it’s an excellent way to describe a complex and amazing person and time. As always, thank you for sharing.

  3. Laurustina » on writing “The Boy Suit”

    2011 Mar 23 3

    [...] « This is as Christmasy as I’m going to get this year The Boy Suit [...]

  4. Laurustina » some words …

    2011 Nov 03 4

    [...] Nov, 2011  Composition … stick with you. I opened Alice’s dresser drawer this morning looking for socks and found instead a virtual pharmacy. I searched her [...]

  5. Laurustina Socks, Drugs and The Loch Ness Monster

    2012 Mar 24 5

    [...]   [Socks, Drugs and The Loch Ness Monster is an excerpt from "The Complicated Geography of Alice"] [...]

  6. Ellen Abbott

    2012 Nov 26 6

    This is so fucking sad.  I don't know either of you and I am tearing up over your daughter's pain.  Human gender and sexuality is so complex.  It makes me so angry that religion that is supposed to be about love and compassion demonizes people like your daughter.  I so admire your reaction and your actions to help your daughter be who she was no matter what suit she was wearing.  
     

  7. Transfictional « Reasonably Noble

    2012 Dec 05 7

    [...] Transfictional [...]

  8. The Estrogen Files

    2012 Dec 29 8

    [...] been a month since Alice unzipped her Boy Suit and from Day One, she’s been nagging me about Estrogen. After double-checking that estrogen [...]

  9. In The Name Of Love

    2013 Jan 27 9

    [...] parade from the sidelines for years, but until four months ago, Alice was still hidden inside her Boy Suit and in many ways, this was her Coming Out [...]

  10. Arinn Dembo

    2013 Aug 03 10

    So sorry for your loss, and for your daughter’s loss. So sorry for our loss…of the chance to know your daughter.


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