Excerpt: Growing Pains (Release date 2018)

I was recently in a conversation with a dear friend of mine. Their partner is just about to go through the process of transition and, as part of that, they are required to write a letter to a specialist so they can begin HRT. And it came up in conversation that, even though this is not something I have personally gone through, I have written a novel where a character goes through exactly this.

In the course of writing this whole novel, and particularly this scene, I spoke to everyone who was willing and had gone through it in Melbourne (since that is where the novel is set). I had various trans beta readers go through it before sending it in as a submission.

This book is not out yet. It will not be out until next year. However, this is exactly why I wrote this book. I cannot wait for the whole novel to be out in the world, but I can put this portion of it out today:

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From Growing Pains

His writing was made up of smallish block letters that weren’t too difficult to read.

Dear Whomever It May Concern, it started.

My name is Con Sullivan, and I have been living full time as a boy man for the last three years.

The problem is, obviously, I was not born as a man. The truth of this has on occasion made others uncomfortable, but never as uncomfortable as it makes me on a daily basis.

I realised recently that there were steps that I could take in order to start a transition beyond wearing guy clothes, adopting the way that they walk, using masculine deodorant and aftershave.

And for that, I need to write this letter.

Even without hormone replacement therapy, I will continue to live as a man because that’s who I am. The idea of being seen as anything else is so incredibly dysphoric for me that it’s not even a question. However, with hormone replacement therapy, I hope to at least begin to see a me in the mirror that I recognise.

After that point of the letter, there were so many scribbles and stops and starts that Perrin couldn’t make anything cohesive of what Con had written. For a while, she struggled to do so, squinting and shaking her head until Con said, “Yeah, I had trouble figuring out what I wanted to write beyond that point that didn’t sound like I was just trying to say what they wanted to hear.”

Perrin nodded. “I get that.” She tongued one of her back molars in thought, then said, “Well, what about if there was a bit more about how you felt before you first started dressing this way? You know, some specifics. I kinda feel like I’ve been brought in at the end of a story in this letter.”

Con looked down at his page of writing, then back to Perrin. “You mean like… early childhood?”

Perrin’s eyebrows rose. “Did it start that early for you?”

Con shrugged. The way he evaded her gaze told her that his emotions were more complex than that. He clearly wanted to shrug it away. Perrin wasn’t sure pushing or shrugging things away was such a good idea given the kind of letter he was supposed to write.

“Me and Dante—my brother—always used to play with toys together. It didn’t occur to me that things were any different between us until I was almost ten and mum started saying things about how I needed to be a ‘Proper Young Lady’ now.”

Perrin reached out slowly for her laptop, taking it from Con and setting it in front of her again.

There was a faint flush over Con’s cheekbones as Perrin did it, but he lowered his eyes and kept talking. “Teenage years were the worst. There was the high school uniform. Mum didn’t buy a pair of the pants, so I had the option of the school skirt and summer dress, until I went to the second hand shop and got a pair of school pants for myself.”

Perrin started typing down what he was sharing. Her touch typing speed was fast, and any spelling errors she made along the way could be fixed later. The steady clacking of her typing made a soothing background noise in the times when Con paused between thoughts.

“Mum never said anything about it, but she wasn’t impressed. I knew that when Dad started to come down on my case. How Mum only had one daughter and I should be considerate of her feelings. I only ever asked him once, ‘What if I don’t want to be a daughter?’ His face got so red and he told me under no uncertain terms to go to my room. If I hadn’t known before then that the way I felt about being a girl and a daughter was ‘wrong’, that was my proof.

“In around year 10, I started bringing a change of clothes to work, and I got the courage to cut my hair really short for the first time. Everyone there knew that I was a girl, of course; I’d been attending high school there for four years. There were a couple of jibes, ‘Are you a boy now?’ and stuff like that, but I still felt better. They meant them as gibes, but I saw it as a compliment that I could be mistaken as a boy by people who thought they knew otherwise.”

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