Life comes at you fast, but rapid-onset gender dysphoria comes at you faster. I didn’t have much time to think about it, I’ll admit it; the trans women leaning out of the unmarked van were shouting questions at me so quickly I couldn’t exactly make out what they were saying, and I didn’t want to admit I’d said “Yes” without knowing what I’d just agreed to. Plus I wanted to make sure I collected my rewards points. They definitely said something about rewards points.
It was sort of like the bus from Speed, I think, because they couldn’t slow down. I mean both the van and the rate of transition. I think that’s probably why trans people tend to go around in groups, either in windowless vans or broken-down schoolbuses, because as a group it’s a little harder to run out of steam than on your own. Get a trans person alone for long enough and it’s like one of those cars that run on French-fry oil: smells good, and a lot of fun to drive, but when you break down all by yourself in the middle of nowhere, it’s awfully hard to find the energy to keep going.
I tried asking them about it later. They were nice, the van girls. “What do you get out of this? Personally, I mean, driving around in a big van all together and asking cis teenagers if they want to become men. What’s in it for you?”
One of them shrugged and popped her gum. “We don’t tell a lot of people this, but usually they let us keep their old clothes afterwards, so it’s a great way to get more band T-shirts.”
Easier than buying the band T-shirts from the band’s website, or going to one of their shows and stopping by the merch table?
She shrugged. “Oh, no, definitely not. And, you know, a lot of the time we’re not even the same size, so sometimes we just have to throw the T-shirts away, or try to see if Buffalo Exchange will pay for them. But even then they offer you something ridiculous, like twelve bucks for a whole garbage bag full of clothes or twenty bucks in store credit, so of course you take the store credit just out of spite, even though you could have really used the cash.”
“It’s not a great scam,” she added. “But what can you do? It’s such an entrenched part of being a trans woman. You transition, some girls show up in a van, and then you ride around town trying to convince cis teenagers to get mastectomies and start their own catboy YouTube channels and…that’s pretty much it. No one knows why it has to be older trans women talking teenagers into becoming trans men; that’s just how it’s always been. Helps you feel like a part of things, you know? And the one-in, one-out policy, of course,” she added.
I said I thought that made a certain kind of sense. For me it’d just been like – the last straw, maybe. My hair had looked weird that day, and I’d been fighting with my mom again, and being a lesbian doesn’t seem to get under her skin anymore the way it used to, which was so annoying, and I don’t even think I have a safety school when it comes to college which means I’m either getting into all of them or none, and they’d all looked so glamorous and relaxed and they had so much gum. So when one of the girls leaning out of the van said, “You coming or what, kid? We got a lot of other anxious rising juniors we could sex-change today, you know,” I threw my backpack into the gutter and climbed in. I didn’t think much further than getting a ride to Chris’ house. And honestly, if you want to be anybody at Vaginectomy High, you really have to have at least one or two e-girls who can vouch for you, and everyone knows all the coolest e-girls are trans.
They talk really fast, you know; sometimes it’s just a matter of wanting to keep up and not admit that you didn’t catch something. A friend of mine said yes to a double mastectomy thinking they were signing up for AP Chem. “I mean, I wound up enrolling in AP Chem after all,” they said when pressed for comment, “so in that sense everything ended up working out fine. I just didn’t realize the top surgery thing was a separate question. I mean, if I had it to do all over again, would I have just gone through AP Chem and kept my breasts? I don’t know. I did feel more aerodynamic when I was studying afterwards. I guess it did cut down on wind resistance, which is nice when you’re trying to remember all those formulas. But I don’t think you should have to get top surgery to take AP Chem.”
I’m hoping I don’t have to take Chem next year – I’m pretty sure one of the girls mentioned something about being able to opt out of you score enough rewards points, and I know a bunch of stressed-out eight-graders I think I can talk into HRT.