The Adventures of the Boi Wonder: Summer’s Closet
“Catching butterflies, line drives, watching TV
I had seven good years ’til they noticed they were looking at me
I didn’t like what they see”
–“Free to Go” by Folk Implosion
I have back from school for less than a month, and already I am feeling antsy and stifled. This is one overheated and stuffy closet that I’ve been forced back into, and not just because the air conditioning has been broken for a few years now.
College can be a wonderful thing, the chance to experiment, explore, learn, and be open about ourselves. However, let’s not forget the fact that it doesn’t last year-round. Come May or June, most of us have to pack up and go back to our families and hometowns, and depending on where you’re from and your situation, that’s not exactly a good or exciting thing.
There’s the stuff that tends to happen when you come home regardless of situation. Your mom tells you that you’ve gained some weight; your grandmother says that you’re too skinny and she’s going to feed you; Dad’s raising his eyebrow at your grades and choice of classes; the siblings think you dress funny/badly now. You’re worried about the length of your sleeves because you don’t want your family to know about that tattoo you got over Spring Break. But if you’re queer, it can be more precarious, possibly even hostile.
Of course, there are some families that are perfectly fine and accepting, and some people who live in a place with a thriving community (there isn’t one where I live, but there are two about an hour away). For those not as fortunate, we often have no other choice but to go back into the closet until Fall Semester starts up again.
If you’re gay, it means avoiding all those prying questions about your love life back in college, and late-night phone calls or Skype sessions to your sweetheart while trying to keep your voice down so your family doesn’t overhear. It also means that you should probably hide that rainbow “Recruiter” t-shirt until you can sneak out for Pride (tell your parents that you’re “just going out to hang with some friends”). If you’re trans, it is even more intensive than that. Either way it just sucks, often with various levels of suckage at different times.
I must say, it is a real switch from the euphoria where everyone on campus calls you by your chosen name to going home where barely a handful of people even know about that name. It becomes painfully obvious any time I hear my family refer to me as their “daughter” or “older sister” in a statement, like a bad note that causes you to cringe. I have to purposefully remind myself to NOT automatically say, “Hi, I’m Levi” when I am introduced to people, just like I had to train myself over the semester not to refer to myself as my birth name. It can be seriously stressful. After a drama-filled Winter Break involving my mother and her various accusations, I am really not looking forward to three months of the unpredictable.
I’m lucky enough that my wardrobe doesn’t really change between school and home. I’ve always been a jeans and t-shirt/button-down kind of a guy. But it does for many other trans students. Whether it be women’s shirts and underwear hidden away, or hoping your binders and boxer-briefs are not seen in your open suitcase. Pronoun use returns to the ones that feel alien and uncomfortable.
We’re forced back into roles and/or clothes that we don’t identify with. We bite our tongues when comments are made or we’re asked uncomfortable questions. We count the days until we pack up again and the summer heat starts to wane, then we breathe some relief.
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