Everyone has secrets. Some secrets come out of a sincere desire not to hurt the ones you love the most, while others come about because you’re ashamed, and still yet others come about because you are afraid of how others might judge you. But no matter how a secret comes about they are usually terrible things to bear.
I kept the secret to myself for years, but once I hit my teenage years it became increasingly difficult to hide. Growing up in a very tight knit, religious family it was an irreproachable sin and as a result I chose to repress it or deny it. It was necessary in order not to shame my family. So even once I reached high school I still denied what I’ve always known – how I always felt.
“Congratulations Alex! Have you decided on what college you’re going to” was the question I was bombarded with the day I graduated from high school.
“Yes.” I had applied to no less than a dozen colleges in the states and abroad. I was fortunate enough to get into all of them and be awarded full academic scholarships to a few schools in the states and abroad as well.
“Every one know in due time,” was my coy answer to their inquiries.
That night my parents, brother, sisters, and I went out to dinner to celebrate my graduation.
“So,” my dad said a bit hesitantly as he took a sip of his wine “what college did you decide on?” Consciously or subconsciously he knew that I would not attend his alma mater – The University of Tulsa, but I knew he held out hope that I would go there. My mother wanted me to go there as well only because it was close to home. But that was not an option as I knew that going there would still hinder me from being myself.
I sat there rather nervously and looked around the table at my family. My mother was pretending to drink her water, looking up at me over her water glass, which created a small furrow in her brow; my brother was slurping the rest of his soda with his straw; my sister, Grace, was sitting staring at me in hopeful anticipation that her big brother would be just an hour away; and my sister, Anna, was picking the red onions out of her salad, patiently waiting for me answer; and my dad was holding his wine glass firmly but gently.
“I decided – “ I said nervously. “I decided to go to the University of Glasgow.”
“Glasgow!” My mother said as she plopped her water glass on the table.
My brother, Phil, who didn’t particularly care what school I went to just as long as I was getting out of the house, so he could have the room to himself was shocked as he stopped slurping his soda and looked at me with his mouth gaped open. “Glasgow! Wow!”
“But that’s a million miles away!” Grace said. She was the most visibly upset about my decision and I could tell she was about to cry. Grace is the youngest of us kids and we have always been really close.
“It’s not a million miles away and I’ll be home on holidays and other school breaks.” I knew she was thinking that she would never see me again, but I guess that’s to be expected from a 11 year old.
She bowed her head and whimpered quietly. Anna surprisingly didn’t have anything to say. She’s usually the most vocal of us all, but she just sat picking at her salad. I looked at my dad waiting for him to say something. Anything. But to no avail. He just put his wine glass down and simply said, “The decision was yours to make. And, I’m sure you’re making the best decision for you.”
We ate dinner quietly and traded glances periodically, but not a word was said.
After graduating from the University of Glasgow, I decided to stay. My life had gotten so much better while in Scotland. I have been free to be me and the friends I have here are open-minded enough to be understanding and supportive and they don’t even mind when I go out dressed in women’s clothing. My girlfriends readily help me pick out shoes and clothes, makeup and wigs.
Daniel, Troy, Angela, Erik, Stephanie, and I decided to go on a three country backpacking tour (France, Switzerland, and Austria) in the summer. It was an opportunity for us to distress and do something we knew we probably wouldn’t do once we got settled in our new jobs and lives. It was an awesome time. It gave me an opportunity to reflect on what I wanted out of life and even though I was considerably happier since coming to Scotland I still wasn’t the happiest I knew I could be and I didn’t really know why. I decided to take this backpacking opportunity to see if I could figure it out.
One night I woke up in a cold sweat and realized that even though I was the happiest I had ever been in my life I still wasn’t the happiest I knew I could be. That night I packed my bags and headed to the train station and bought a one way ticket to Switzerland. It was there that I began to have a cathartic feeling. I rented a small one bedroom flat and got a job waiting tables under the pseudonym Alexandra Quinn and lived my life full-time for several months as a woman.
I didn’t attempt to make new friends. “Not yet,” I thought. I can’t risk anyone knowing that Alexandra Quinn is actually Alexander Morrison. After about six months I finally made the decision that it was time to make the transition from being a man to a woman. It was horrifically painful as I decided to undergo the entire surgical transformation at one time, but at the same time it was incredibly liberating. After my surgery, I spent my recovery time in a recovery center since I didn’t have anyone that could help me with the day-to-day functions and they also helped me to become more aquainted with my new body.
Since my backpacking trip with my college friends, I have not been in contact with those who so greatly encouraged me to be me. Nor have I been in contact with members of my family, who so greatly suppressed me. I would love nothing more than to reach out to those who love me, but I know that even those that encouraged me would more than likely not approve of the lifestyle I have now chosen to pursue and I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that family would disown me.
Christopher and I have been together for almost a year and a half now and for the first time I am in a happy healthy relationship. He is not aware of who I once was and I plan to keep it that way, even though there are times in which I wonder what it would be like if he knew. But this is a secret that is going to have to stay secret.
One day while I was waiting for Christopher at our favorite cafe this lady sat down and said to me, “I know who you are.”
‘I don’t think your parents would be happy with you if they knew what you had done to your body.”
“I’m sorry, do I know you?”
“No, but I know you. And your secret is out.”
For the IndieInk Writing Challenge this week Kirsten Doyle challenged me with “Tell a story in which you discover that a complete stranger knows a secret about your life that you’ve never told anyone.” and I challenged Caroline Gerardo with “The following is the last sentence of the Icon Thief by Alec Nevala-Lee. Write a story that begins with this sentence. “Then he turned back the ay he had come, walking out of step with the others, and headed alone into the city.’”