Don't Die Tammy
WARNING: Don't Die Tammy is not written about any specific person. This flash fiction piece is written about the over-all struggle of transgender youth. This piece is specifically about the struggle of transgender girls. Please, be advised that this is potentially upsetting and triggering. This work of fiction highlights emotional abuse, denial of the individual rights, bullying, dysphoria, and thoughts of suicide.
It’s raining today. She hates these days. It means she’s going to wet walking to school.
Meet Tammy, a seventeen year old high school student making her way to school on a drizzly winter morning. She pulls her coat up tightly around her ears and shivers from the wind whipping at her cheeks and the water crushing down against her body. Every morning she gets up extra early and journeys several blocks to her school in this way. Through rain, snow, or any other type of weather she drags herself through the empty streets towards her high school and prays that no one she knows spots her along the way.
Tammy’s parents leave for work before she ventures forth, and it’s a good thing. They believe Tammy catches the bus around 7:30am and then heads straight to school. If they knew the truth they would probably start taking her to school, or arrange for one of their friends or family to take her. If they knew she was walking, they would never allow it, but it is not out of concern she might catch a cold.
Once Tammy arrives at the school she meets with her Geometry teacher. He’s a tender man that understands her situation. Each morning he smuggles her into the staff bathroom so that Tammy can use the restroom peacefully, change, and do her hair and make-up. He does this because he understands what it’s like to be in school and be different. Though he does not admit it openly, Tammy’s Geometry teacher is gay. He knows it will cause him trouble for what he’s doing, and he could even get fired if Tammy’s parents complain; he believes it is a small price to pay for the safety of a child.
Today Tammy slips out of her jeans and a t-shirt and into a pair of slim-fitting khakis and a pink sweater. She cannot wear a skirt, because the school would send her home. Still, the sweater makes her feel more comfortable. This sweater fills her with both pride and shame, because though it is cute, she was forced to buy it from a Goodwill for a dollar.
She smiles at the mirror as she works the blond cosplay wig a friend gave her into place. A bit of eye shadow and some lipstick later and she feels more on the outside like she does on the inside. Tammy is transgender. She was born Joshua, but does not feel comfortable in a male body. She enjoys expressing herself as a woman and would like to attend school as a woman. The school does not recognize Tammy as female, but worse is the fact that her parents do not.
Her Geometry teacher knocks twice on the door to let her know that it’s ok to come out. She quickly gathers her things and steps out of the bathroom, sheepishly thanking him for yet another day she can dress the way she wants to. At any time their little routine could be interrupted and shut down. She is thankful for these days, no matter how hard and depressing they can be.
She will go about her day, trying to ignore the teasing, the bullying, the brushes in the hallway, perhaps even a good hard shove into a locker. Tammy never feels safe, not at school, not at home…not anywhere.
The walk home is bitter sweet. Tammy has two girl friends that almost always accompany her. They can talk and laugh, enjoy one another the way that other girls do. The sun came out and for an hour she almost feels normal…human.
A block from her house the routine begins again. The three duck into a gas station that has a unisex bathroom. They all stand huddled round the bathroom as Tammy slips inside to change out of her preferred clothing and back into the boy’s clothing her parents force her to wear. She removes the wig, feeling inch by inch her identity stripped away and something perverse and foreign shoved into its place.
When it’s over she gazes into the mirror and what she sees makes her physically ill. “That’s not me. This isn’t me. Why can’t they understand that person isn’t me!?” She wants to punch the visage in the mirror. It’s like her soul was ripped from her chest and shoved into the body of a stranger. Is there no one else in the world that can understand?
Swallowing down the bile, the anger and the shame she places her lovely pink sweater and little khakis into a plastic bag. Outside her friends are waiting. One of them, sweet Kayla, is waiting to receive the plastic bag. Each day Kayla takes the soiled clothing to her mother and she washes them for Tammy. Kayla’s mother and father fully support Tammy and always let the girl be who she wants to be when she’s allowed near them. Unfortunately that is not very often. Tammy’s parents think Kayla’s parents are Godless heathens that will burn in Hell.
The rest of the walk home is filled with a sense of foreboding. A thick cloud hangs over Tammy’s head and her shoulders sink further and further towards the ground the closer she gets towards her home. Her friends have to leave her side before she reaches her house. If they are caught near her there is no telling what the consequences might be. If their routine is discovered there is no doubt in Tammy’s mind that her life will become an even worse nightmare. The last time Tammy’s mother found ‘girl’s’ clothing amongst Tammy’s things, she took them to the back yard and made Tammy watch as she torched them.
Tammy was so traumatized that she went so far as to phone Social Services on her parents and ask if burning a child’s things was considered child abuse. The person on the other line said she sympathized with Tammy, but as it stood, even if Tammy reported her parents and the setting fire of her things, likely nothing would be done. In the end, Tammy chose not to tell anyone of the incident; for fear that her parents would only treat her worse. Obviously the authorities were not going to do anything about it.
At home that afternoon it was as it always was. Tammy sat at the dinner table and listened to the insults that were thrown her way. She was called names, told she would never amount to anything. Her parents wanted to know how she thought she would ever get into college if she was doing so poorly in Physical Education. She sat in silence; unable to tell them how unsafe it was for her in PE.
Tammy cannot use the locker rooms at school. There are boys waiting inside of them to beat her, and no one seems to care. Of course, there’s no way for her to use the girl’s locker rooms either, and the teacher will not allow her to go elsewhere. Her only option is to refuse to participate.
After dinner she retreats to her room to surf the internet. She has to be careful of where she goes and what searches she does. If she’s caught anywhere that her parents do not approve, they will shut the internet off again and she will be left all alone.
“Just one more year…” She tells herself. “Just one more year and I can leave this place. Just one more year and I can start hormones…Just one more year.”
Tammy keeps telling herself, ‘just one more year.’ One can only hope she does not give into despair between now and then. Just one more year and we pray that our voices reach her and let her know that she is not alone. She thinks about giving up often. She thinks about ending it all. Tammy thinks about suicide. Don’t die Tammy. Please, don’t die.