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1. Tick the Box

Tick the box. M or F.

Male or Female are the only options ‘ordinary’ people know about. M for Male. F for Female. You’re one or the other. But what if you’re not? Like me. As I’m finding out.

I’ve been surfing the internet – I can’t actually go real surfing in the ocean because that would mean showing my body to someone, even if there was no one around. And I can’t do that because I’m so ashamed. It’s fat in all the wrong places.

I’ve been looking at blogs, mainly. Most of my friends have them and I have one, too, not that there’s ever much in it. I write things like the ‘ten random things about yourself’ when someone tags me to do it, and I fill in my birthday and star sign and favourite foods to see what kind of friend, rock star or potential serial killer I would be.

My star sign is Gemini, the twins.

My favourite snack is cheese toasties. How ordinary is that?

But there’s no real personal stuff there. If there were, it would be all emo stuff like, ‘Why can’t people treat me like I really am?’ Is that even a proper sentence? Makes sense to me. I’m called Skye. Eighteen years old. Female. I want to be treated like the person I am inside. That’s not quite the same as the outside Skye.

Maybe I should give out a list of all the new words I’ve learned lately to avoid explaining everything all the time. Before last week, I didn’t even know there were words to describe the way I am. Then I found the blogs. Guys who’d started out female. Like me. Reading their stories, something clicked. Something big:

I could do that.

I learned a new language. FTM stands for female-to-male. It’s a subset of transgender, which is different to transsexual, but only to some people.

I look at myself in the mirror and it’s me, but it’s not, and the reflection is a long way from where I want it to be. Right now I’m not even female. I’m no gender.

Tick the box. M or F. I can’t do that!

But I can start by telling you what I see. The real stuff. In my full-length mirror on the wardrobe I’ve had since I can remember, in between the butterfly stickers, I see a girl with long straggly dark-blonde hair, shaved at the back up to ear level and up one side, like half a Mohawk. My breasts aren’t that big at B-cup, but they look massive to me. My skin is very smooth and people are always congratulating me on how perfect it is. My hips are too wide for men’s jeans and I have size seven feet.

I know I’m going to have to transition soon. I’m obsessed with FTM stories and people.

This is why I feel like my band the Chronic Cramps isn’t going anywhere. It has to be my ‘real’ voice, to come from inside me, and I know it’s going to be hard, hard. I have to lose weight, too, even though it probably won’t do any good – the weight drops from my stomach and legs when it should go from my hips, chest, anywhere that sticks out and looks female. My breasts are making me depressed. I can’t possibly think of anything cooler than having a boy’s chest again like I did when I was a kid.

I’m online constantly, finding out as much as I can, and wondering how I’m going to do it myself. Now that I know it’s possible, it’s taken over my whole life.

My favourite memory from childhood is when I was playing dodgeball with the boys when I was six.

‘You’re out!’ But I was still part of the game.

It was all boys and me. I never dreamed this kind of game would become segregated, but by age eight or nine, I wasn’t welcome. The boys got nervous and resented not having complete freedom to play how they wanted and say anything in their own ‘boy’ language. So I was really ‘Out!’ of the game.

Later, I got told I was a girl so many times, I believed it.


I had my driver’s licence test today. Greg, my instructor, is a calm old guy and he’s been very patient with me and my crazy moves. I aced the test, except for the part where you need to look in the rearview mirror every five seconds. How can they even tell if you were looking in the mirror? I look with my eyes, not my whole head!

Had a setback while I was filling out the form when I first got there. So frustrating. I took my bank statement and passport for ID and wrote everything down, then went to fill in the ‘gender’ box. Much easier if I could just say I was male, so that I could show the bouncers new ID when I go to shows. They always give me shit about being female, but only because to them I look male. Especially the same guys I see every week.

I ticked the M box.

The Dragon Lady at the desk wasn’t having any of it.

She said in a loud voice, ‘Your birth certificate says “female” but you’ve put “male”.’ She gave me a look that would have been over the top of her glasses if she were wearing any.

After a pause, I said, ‘Yes.’

I doubted she would sympathise if I explained why I wanted it, and anyway, I’d only decided to do it on the spur of the moment.

‘Well, if you can’t do it then that’s fine,’ I mumbled.

I wished I’d never tried it in the first place, and just wanted to get this paperwork crap over with. I was keen to get on with the actual driving part of the test.

Dragon Lady let out a big over-the-top sigh, crossed out where I’d ticked the ‘male’ box and put a massive tick through the ‘female’ box.

‘The written test is in there.’ She pointed to a glassed-in room with droopy, slat blinds. ‘Everybody, male and female, must pass the written test. Your test papers are on the desk in there. Have you got a pen that works?’

‘Yeah. Thanks.’

The plastic chair was one of those squeaky uncomfortable ones, and the table wobbled as I wrote my answers or ticked the multi-choice boxes. The last question about what to do in an emergency was the only one where I was unsure. I looked around the room for inspiration.

Yellow safety posters about drink driving, crashes and speeding fines covered one wall. Enough blood and guts to put you off wanting to drive.

But I needed legal wheels, and couldn’t afford to pay to sit my licence again. So I wrote three examples of what to do in an emergency in answer to the last question, and didn’t add any silly comments about the facts being listed on the safety posters on the wall in front of me.

‘This test form appears to be correctly filled in,’ said Dragon Lady and waved me towards the carpark. ‘I’ll process it.’ She had a few more victims lined up, so she’d luckily lost interest in me.

Then I had to get into the test car and drive the practical, so form-filling went out of my head until afterwards. During the next half hour not once did I do a wrong turn into a one-way street. I’d been warned by my instructor about that. And my reverse parking was a work of art, even the police officer supervising agreed. Especially enjoyed the embarrassment of pedestrians getting out of the way fast when they recognised the test vehicle. Like I was in charge, for a moment.

Then it was all over.

I suppose it was a weird thing to do, to tick that M box on the ID form. I just thought the right paperwork would make my life easier, later.


I ran into Marla on the bus going home. She lives two streets away so we’re always meeting up.

‘You didn’t get to the protest!’ she accused. ‘Bunch of hippies turned up!’

Marla had just come from an Animal Liberation protest march in the city and was all worked up. I noticed her crumpled purple ‘I protest’ T-shirt was looking recycled these days.

‘Oh yeah? What did they do?’ I asked, not that she needed any encouragement.

‘So we were almost up to Parliament, had our chants organised and everything. I was on one end of the big “Ban Battery Cages” banner right at the front. Then all those bloody barefoot vegans came along with their “Ban Animal Farming In Any Form” nonsense and got in front of us like it was their protest.’

Typical of Marla – if you’re not wearing her slogan patches you’re not ‘punk enough’ to participate in her protest. She went on.

‘I mean, hello, we’re saying totally different things. Who listens if we turn up saying we should ban everything?’

Useless to argue once she was ranting, so I zoned out and gazed at her erl piercing. She’s had it for a couple of months, but I’m still fascinated. The barbell sat across the bridge of her nose, yet somehow didn’t get in the way of her glasses. Easier than the constantly annoying braces I used to have, even if my mum did try to call them mouth jewellery.

She reached the end of her tirade and sighed.

‘What have you been up to, then? You’re looking very ... normal.’

She looked disdainfully at my blue jumper and clean, unpatched black jeans. This was a break from my usual wardrobe of black, red and khaki-green punk gear, covered in patches with band names and slogans on them. I didn’t want the tester to mark me down just because I wasn’t dressed like a fashion clone. I get enough for looking like a butch girl as it is.

‘Passed my driver’s test.’ I hadn’t realised how pleased I was until then – I was grinning from ear to ear by the time I got all the words out.

Marla shrieked and leapt forward, slapping me on the arm with the back of her hand.

‘Awesome! You go girl!’

I hated it when she said that, but I kept grinning.

‘Now I can drive the van, legally! No more hassles with getting pulled over.’ Our family has a crusty old van that my parents gave me for my last birthday. Dad’ll be so stoked that I passed.

Jumping off at our bus stop, we walked the few blocks home. Marla’s house is in a nicer part of the neighbourhood, which I always thought was out of whack since her parents are divorced with big legal bills and mine are still together. She turned into her driveway.

‘There’s a show on Friday at the Corner, Femitron, that all-girl band from Sydney with Ratbag and Herpes Heartbreak. We should go. You can drive us there.’

Great, now I’m the chauffeur! The van barely runs.

‘Yeah, yeah, although I don’t see why we should drive if we’re not playing, I mean, there’s no gear to move. It’s bad for the environment.’

‘Come on, you’ve just got your licence! Live a little!’ She waved and I walked on to my place. Astounds me how Marla could be a greenie since she sure likes being driven around.

‘Oh, no.’ Another load of old car junk had been dumped in our front yard. More metallic decor. I’d spent the past weekend weeding, pruning, and battling against nature to pretend that ours wasn’t one of those mechanic’s houses full of overgrown jungle plants growing out of tyres and bits of metal. I think the plants appreciate it, too, even if they are a bunch of scraggly things grown from bits cut from other front yards. Weird how some can transplant with no hassles while others die.

Letting myself in, I could hear Dad in the kitchen, whistling. He was wiping his hands on a touristy teatowel left over from our one-and-only family holiday to sunny Suva. He flung the towel over his shoulder like a chef and beamed at me.

‘Hey, hey! How’s it feel to have a licence to drive?’ He hugged me, lifting me off the floor. I hugged back as best I could with my arms trapped against my sides, mid-bearhug.

‘How’d you know I passed?’ I staggered as he dumped me back on the floor.

He looked aghast. ‘How could you not pass? You’re the best driver in the family, and Greg’s the best teacher there is. Here–’ Opening the fridge, he pulled out a cheesecake with a crudely drawn van, squirted on with what looked like brown puffy paint, but I hoped was chocolate sauce.

‘Aw, thanks, Dad.’

I hoped I could have some straight away but knew I’d better wait until everyone was home. Dad was funny about that – liked everyone to appreciate his masterworks in the kitchen before they were demolished.

Dad never liked to hang around after giving a present. He suddenly gets all shy. He went out the back and slid the screen door shut. I cut a slice of cheesecake, plonked it on a plate and went to my room at the other end of the house. Time to update the world on my licence success! Once I’d kicked some clothes away from around the desk, I rolled the office chair over and sat down.

My blog was the first stop. It was going to be awesome over the next few days getting everyone’s congratulatory comments, especially being one of the first people I knew to get their licence.

Subject: Hey guys, I’m now licensed to hoon! I got my licence!

If you couldn’t tell from the subject. Apart from the desk lady giving me grief, it was all plain sailing, driving, whatever. So if anyone needs a ride anywhere, catch a bus cos I’m all booked up.

Seriously, fossil fuels are evil. See you on the bus!

Mood: ecstatic.

I hit ‘Post’. Well, that was done. A familiar feeling came over me, like unease, or a sense of impending guilt. I wanted to read more FTM stories. Not that I should feel guilty about that, or maybe I should. I wished I was home alone. Clicking through to some of my new online friends’ blogs, I read updates of their lives, their transitions, and my heart was racing.

I desperately wanted it all to happen in time for the next occasion I was in public, which would be next Friday at that show. But that was impossible. Transitioning took at least a couple of years, and maybe longer. Being out in public never bothered me before. Marla and I had both dressed up in crazy costumes at shows and protests before and loved every minute.

We were unforgettable in green straw and mud as two of the Three Little Green Pigs for sustainable housing. Last New Year’s, Marla’s Militant Mutant Microbes was our best creation and the most fun. We’d captured it on her phone. Forwarded everywhere online. More hits than my Fossil Fuel hat or Anti-War Naked Fish. This was different. I would have to bring my ‘inside me’ to the outside, and I had no idea where to start.

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