by Barbara Lynn Terry
I was never very tall. When I was in grade school, I was even with the smallest girl there. Yes, the boys made fun of me, and the girls protected me. Now I am in high school, and I am a whole five feet, two inches tall, I weigh in at one hundred and eighteen pounds, and my face is oval, my hair is down past my shoulders, and is a chestnut brown with natural highlights. I was never able to get on any of the boys teams because of my height. But who likes sports anyway?
My name is Leigh A. Smythe. The "A" doesn't stand for anything, at least not yet, but my mother thought it should be there, and I will find a name to go with it. Now as we have seen through our years growing up, boys kind of lumber along using their shoulders like bulldozers. Girls we have seen kind of glide along, and don't seem to be in a hurry like the guys do. I take after the girls. I walk with my hips, keeping my shoulders back and my head straight. I don't try to look over people taller than me, and I don't push past a crowd just to be able to get somewhere. I just take my time.
When I leave for school, I leave in plenty of time, so that when I get to the school, the first bell is just ringing. I go to my locker and get my morning books, and then go to homeroom. I have not been tardy once this whole semester. My grades are B honor roll, and I am liked by my teachers, which earns me a teachers pet tag from some of the more jealous kids in my classes. Well, anyway, it is now February 17, and it is a Friday. I have gotten through the morning, and decided to see what the over rated school cook made for us today. I never liked school food, and always brought my own lunch. But today, for some reason, I wanted to see what they were serving.
When I got to the cafeteria, I saw they were having cardboard pizza, so I got a yogurt and a thing of juice and went to sit by myself. As I was deep in my thoughts, Patty Langston decided to come over with the entire girls tennis team.
"Hey Leigh, may we sit here and talk to you for a bit?"
"Sit down if you want to. What do you want to talk to me about?"
"As you know, Janey Mitchell is out with a sprained elbow and won't be able to play in the tournament games. We were talking, and since you know the game inside and out, would you like to do us a favor?"
"Uhm, I have a feeling I'm not going to like this, but what is the favor?"
"Would you please fill in for Janey on our tournament tour?"
"You want me to play on your team as a substitute for a girl on a girls team."
"What about changing rooms, showering, what name would I use?"
"You would use your name silly, and don't worry about changing or showering. The way your first name is spelled is the girl's spelling for Lee. You once said that the A in your name doesn't stand for anything. So what if we were to call you Leigh Anne?"
"Alright but there is one more thing. What about tennis clothes. I don't have any. When my friends and I play at the neighborhood courts, we just wear our shorts and tees."
"We will get you a couple of tennis dresses. You will need a couple of gaffes too. That way when you lob those shots over the net, nobody will see anything but a cute female butt. Please say you will help us, Leigh. Please!!!"
"I will have to talk to my parents about this. I may have a problem with my father, but mom may just allow it. If you want me to help you, you have to help me. Come home with me tonight after school, and help me tell my parents that I am going to be a girl tennis player for the school. We also need to have your coach and the principal in on this too, so they know."
"Not a problem with our tennis coach, we already talked to her. Mr. Thompson we will see on the way out today. I have a scheduled talk with him right after school lets out. So then are you going to be our substitute girl?"
"I might as well, I can't play with the jocks because of my height."
"There is another reason you can't play with the jocks either."
"What is that?"
"You don't act like a boy. Everytime you walk, you sway your hips like we do, when you eat, you take small, dainty bites like a girl." She moved a little closer so only those at the table could hear. "When you use the restroom," she whispered, "do you sit or stand when you pee?"
I think I turned a thousand shades of red, pink, purple and back to red again before I answered her. "I sit, and yes, I even wipe myself before getting up."
"So you see Leigh, you can't play with the jocks because you're not a jock. You play tennis with your friends because you like the game, but you don't brag when you win, and you don't get angry when you lose. You play to have fun. That is what sports is supposed to be like anyway."
Patty Langston wasn't your cheerleader type, anymore than I was a jock. But she knew how to play tennis, and she knew how to play volley ball and badminton. I loved playing all three of these games. The bell rang for the start of the afternoon classes, so we all went to our lockers to get our books. All through the afternoon, I was thinking about what Patty had asked and what she had said. Maybe she was right. All I am good at is playing on the girls teams. At least it is a school sport.
After the last bell rang ending the last class for the day and the week, I went to my locker, and got the books I needed for homework. I clutched them to my chest, and went by the office. Patty and the girls were just coming from the other end. I waited for them before going in.
"That is another thing too, Leigh, you carry your books like a girl. But hey, being a girl isn't so bad. Not really. Lets go and talk to Mr. Thompson."
We went in the office and Patty told our secretary that we had an appointment to see Mr. Thompson. Reginald Daly Thompson was not exactly playing with all the cards in the deck and many times he has been out classed by a dim witted student even. If I knew Patty, this was going to work out well. After a few minutes, we were called into his office.
"I thought I was only going to talk to you, Patricia."
"Well Mr. Thompson, we have a small crisis on our hands with the girls tennis team. Janey Mitchell, one of our star players won't be allowed to play in our school tournament games at home and away, because she had a bad case of tennis elbow. She actually sprained her elbow badly. But we think we came up with a solution."
"What solution is that, Patricia?"
"We would like Leigh Smythe here to fill in for Janey for all of our tournament games. If we do this now, we can get her on the sub list and file it with the MHSAA before the deadline."
"Leigh, what do you say about this?"
"I say I should go for it, sir. I mean, I am a student here and I can't play with the jocks because of my height, and I do have the height necessary to play girls sports. My parents will approve and I will bring you a signed letter from them on Monday."
"Well, this is irregular, but I don't see any alternative. Patricia, you have tried to get other girls?"
"Yes, but they all said no."
"Very well, I will want that note on my desk first thing Monday morning. I also want a doctor's certificate saying you have had a complete physical and you are capable of playing sports. Those are my terms. Meet them, and you can play sports on the girls teams."
"Yes, sir, and thank you."
"You are quite welcome, young lady." When we got out in the hallway, we breathed a very heavy sigh of relief.
"Let's go to my house and break the news to my parents they now have a daughter."
We walked the six blocks to my house, and we all trumped up the stairs, and in to my apartment. We have a four bedroom apartment but there are only three of them being used for bedrooms. Mom is using the fourth one as a sewing room. We sat in the dining room, because it was the only room that had enough chairs. I went to get mom and dad. When we were all in the dining room, I sat down, and started talking.
"Mom, daddy, I want you to know that there does come a time in someone's life when they have to make a stand. Mother, you told me that I could use my middle initial for any name I wanted to go with it. Well mom, daddy, I want you to meet Leigh Anne Smythe, girl tennis player for our school girls tennis team."
"Leigh Anne, That sounds really pretty. I like that."
"Leigh Anne, hey. You can't play a boy's sport?"
"No daddy, I can't. My height is officially five feet, two inches. I miss the mark by four inches according to the school and the MHSAA. But I do meet the height requirements for girls sports. Janey Mitchell is out with tennis elbow for the rest of the season, and the girls need someone who knows how to play the game well, so we at least have a chance of winning the state tournament title. Daddy, you may not agree being all macho and things, but I am never going to be as tall as you. I may grow maybe another inch or two, but that is about it. Also daddy, didn't you notice that my voice isn't getting any lower. In fact, since puberty started, my voice seems to be getting higher. There is very little hair on my legs, no hair on my chest, back, face, and just a patch here under each arm and in the pubic area. No daddy, I need to play this tennis tournament as a girl, on the girls tennis team."
"You just wait, you will get your growth spurt, maybe even a couple of them."
"Mom, can you explain it to him? He doesn't seem to be getting it."
"Dear, you let me handle this one. You go and do your thing, whatever that is."
"Let you handle this, and allow him to go traipsing around in a dress, I suppose."
"Yes, daddy, a nice tennis dress. Maybe even a couple of them so I have a change of clothes."
"I don't believe I am hearing this. You are a boy, and boys should do boys things."
"Like what, daddy? What can a five foot, two inch boy do that would be considered boy things, daddy?"
"Well, you could ... well, you just could, that's all."
"Mom, we will let you talk to him. Mr. Thompson said he wants a signed letter by both of you on Monday and a doctor's certificate saying I had a complete physical and that I am able to play girls sports. I will also need at least three tennis dresses. A set of gaffes, and maybe even a packet of panties to put over the gaffes."
"What the hell is a gaffe?"
"It is an undergarment especially made to keep certain male bits hidden and the groin flat. Stage actors use them when they have to play female roles.
"Daddy, I don't care how macho you were in the Marines, but this isn't the Marines, and you are not the colonel. This is our family and it is about time you started seeing what is going on around you, even in your own home."
"But, I don't understand. Are you saying that there isn't one boy sport that you can play at school?"
"Mr. Smythe, my name is Patty and I am one of Leigh's best friends." Well that may have been a fib, but if it works then more power to her. "Our star player is out for the rest of the season with tennis elbow. This couldn't have come a worst time, because we have our local and state tournaments coming up. We would like Leigh to fill in for our injured player, because Leigh knows the game from every direction. But, because we are a girls team, we need Leigh to play with us as a girl. There is one sport that Leigh can play as a boy or a girl and that is chess. But we are tennis players, and we would like Leigh to join us as Leigh Anne."
"Well, what about the other kids at the school? I don't want Leigh to get beaten up because somebody doesn't like seeing him in a dress."
"Mr. Smythe, my name is Darlene, and I am one of Leigh's best friends too." That was news to me. "The other kids at school think Leigh is a girl anyway, a tomboy, but nevertheless a girl. If she were to be allowed to play with us on our team as a girl, then yes, she would have to go to school as Leigh Anne Smythe. But the way everybody sees her, there won't be a problem."
Darlene Haskins was as smart as she was pretty. Her sun golden hair just gleamed in the sunlight, and her smile was as bright as the sun. But even though she was a siren, well, I thought so anyway, she was not stuck up or prudish.
"Are you saying that everybody sees my son as a girl?"
"Yes, sir, we are."
"Dear, if you look at Leigh very closely, you will see that she doesn't even look like a boy, even dressed as she is right now. The only thing we can do, is let her take the path that is going to make her the happiest."
"Well, I guess I am out numbered, even by my own son. Since you have everybody's support, I will sign your consent letter, and your mother can make an appointment with our doctor to have your physical. You understand this though. From the first day you put on a dress in this house, is the day I will disown you. You are a boy and you need to act like one. But, I will sign the consent letter, because I don't need your mother making it hard on me."
"Oh Thank you so much, daddy!!! I exclaimed, giving him a big hug and a kiss on the cheek.
I think it was at that moment when he saw that I may be a male, but I am not a boy.
"Uhm, you're uhm, yes, uhm, quite uhm, welcome."
We had him. His little threat of disowning me also went out the window, I think.
"Mom, we need to talk about this in my room so I can get set up with the clothes. I have my tennis racquet, but I will need new shoes that screams girl while I am playing."
We went to my room and I sat on the bed with Darlene while mom sat in the chair and Patty and the other girls just stood. I was the first to speak.
"Mom, if I play on the girls tennis team as a girl, and register with the MHSAA as a girl, I will have to attend school as a girl. The only thing that will need to be changed is that I am a female. I mean, mom, when you named me, you spelled my name Leigh. I don't think you intended to do that, but that is my official name. So since my first name is spelled like a girl's, I should be designated a female on my school records too. That means we need to go shopping for new clothes. Clothes the girls today are wearing."
"You know your father will not support you."
"Mother, he has to learn that the world does not revolve around him. He may be the man of the house, but I am no man. I'm not even a boy even though I have a male body. If my body is any indication, I may be what the doctors call intersexed. We can find out when I have my physical. I mean, my voice is getting higher, I am developing a figure, and even though I am not developing breasts, yet, I bet that is coming in the not too distant future. So you see, mom, I need to do this. I need to play on the girls tennis team because that means I am accepted by my peers."
"Honey, I have always known that you were different from the boys I see in the neighborhood. You have a more feminine way of doing and looking at, things. I will support you too, and I will stand for no abuse of you by your father. You are right about one thing, though. You definitely are not a boy.
"Now about this consent letter, is it already written?"
"Not yet, mother. I was going to write it tonight, with the girls help, and have you and dadd sign it tomorrow."
"Alright, and I am going downstairs right now and call Dr. Sam. I am sure I can get you in before Monday. Hopefully. I will be right back up.
Dr. Samantha Haggar, MD OB/GYN is a very nice lady. She has been mom's doctor even before mom was pregnant with me. If anybody could get me a physical excuse saying that I can play girls sports, it was her. Besides, she has always called me a young lady anyway. So we will see what mom says when she comes back up. Mom came back to my room after about fifteen minutes.
"Dr. Sam said she can see you tomorrow, and I also told her what you said too. She said that was entirely possible, and she will check you out from head to toe. She said she will also give you a prescription note for radilogy to have an MRI done too. That is where they put you in this tube thingy and take pictures of the inside of your body. But it is better than an ultra sound or even x-rays, because the MRI machine sees everything. The MRI will be done at the hospital after we are done seeing Dr. Sam. Then Dr. Sam will let us know how the MRI turned out on Monday or Tuesday. But you don't need that for the physical excuse. So, since it is early yet, let's go shopping to get my daughter her new wardrobe."
"Alright. Uhm Patty, do you have to go right home?"
"Not if I call my mom and let her know where I'm at. I will just tell her I am going to go shopping with my best friend and her mother."
"Me too, Leigh," Darlene added. "Mrs. Smythe, may we use your phone?"
"Yes, it is in the living room, next to the couch."
"Why don't you use your cells?"
"Because Leigh, I might say something I don't want others to accidentally hear."
That was an all too big possibility with cell phones. They were after all just walkie talkies on the phone frequencies that go out to a repeater we call a cell, and then it is retransmitted to the other caller. Even though it takes nanoseconds to retransmit, it seems instantaneous to the callers.
Patty and Darlene went to call their moms, and mom and I just talked.
"Leigh, if I support you, will you act like a lady at all times?"
"Yes, mother, I will."
"Then I will support your decision to be my daughter, and to be a girl tennis player for the school girls tennis team. You know, sweetie, that you take after your grandmother. She was short and angelic looking too. Do you know your weight, sweetie?"
"One hundred and eighteen pounds, mom."
"You weigh less than I do. I am one hundred and twenty two pounds. Well, let's get ready for shopping."
We went to the living room, where Patty was still on the phone with her mother. She hung up as she saw us coming.
"My mom said it was about time that tomboy you talked so much about is going to start being a lady. She said I can go shopping with you."
"My mom said I could go, too."
"You told your mom I was a tomboy, Patty? I thought you didn't like me."
"Whatever gave you that idea? Yes, I did tell my mom there was this girl in my class that dressed and acted like a tomboy. I was talking about you. Leigh, I have always liked you, and envied your free spirit. I knew you were a male, but I also knew that the way you acted, you weren't a boy."
"What's the difference? If he is a male, of course he is a boy."
"Mr. Smythe, Leigh may be a lot of things, but being a boy isn't one of them. You see, it is who you are inside that counts, and people need to learn how to get to know someone before they go and say anything about that person. You have lived with Leigh her whole life, and you don't know the first thing about her. How she thinks, does things, what she likes or doesn't like. Mr. Smythe, get to know her before you say anything."
"Well, my father taught me that males are boys that grow up to be men, and any boy or man who acts effeminate is a sissy."
"I can say one thing about Leigh, Mr. Smythe. She is definitely no sissy. Mr. Smythe do you know about people who are transgendered, or even intersexed? Leigh is one or the other. Have you listened to Leigh when she talks? Have you ever noticed the tone of her voice? Have you seen the figure she is starting to get?" Daddy's face had a look of surprise on it, and his mouth hung open. "I didn't think so. Just because Leigh has your genes that made her a physical male, does not mean that she is a boy."
"Well my father..." He didn't get to finish before mom cut him off.
"Dear, your father isn't here right now, and we have to look at the facts of this situation. Leigh is five foot, two inches tall and weighs one hundred and eighteen pounds. That is normal for a girl her age. It is not normal for a boy her age. I myself weigh one hundred and twenty two pounds. Like it or not, Leigh is our daughter, and she will be treated with respect as such in this household."
"I give the orders in this house."
"Dear, marriage is a two person partnership. I have as much say in this house as you do. I am going to support Leigh in her journey to be who she is. If Dr.Sam says she is intersexed, or just transgendered, then we will respect Leigh for who she is."
"I'm going to go and lay down for a while. This is too much for me."
"You are lucky today is Friday. I am taking Leigh shopping for new clothes, because her figure will soon make the clothes she has unwearable. If what I see keeps happening, Leigh will fill out in the hips and chest. That my dear husband, will make her intersexed. If Dr. Sam says she is intersexed, I am going to do everything I can to see she becomes the girl she is. If Dr. Sam says she is transgendered, I and going to see she becomes the girl she is. So, dear, you have a decision to make. Do we support Leigh for who she is, or is it just going to be me?"
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