How To Be Straight

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Spirit Week

I was shaking. I was trembling. Is there a difference? I didn’t know. I didn’t care. It hurt so bad. So badly. I collapsed in my front yard, breathing hard, rolling onto my back.

I lay there for a few minutes before I became aware that it was actually pretty cold out. And once I wasn’t running, I could really feel it. I made myself stand, wincing, and walked back inside.

I walked to my room, and made myself do my stretches before showering, and then getting dressed for my day.


I was sitting on my bed, circling rules in the student handbook that I thought would give us some wiggle room. Rule number 23: Any girl caught wearing a skirt shorter than fingertip length will be given a detention.

I smiled at that one. Interesting wording, I thought.

And so my morning went on, creating a plan for the rebellion I was leading. I called Gracie around 11.

“Hey. What’s up?”

“So I’m looking through the school pamphlet thingy, the rules?”

“Student handbook?”

“Yeah. That. Anyway, I think we should try to remain carefully within the rules, so they can’t actually do anything about it. There’s all these rules that apply to just girls or just boys, dress code things mostly, so if we get enough people of all genders, we can have them dress up to the other genders rule? Does that make sense?”

“I think so, yeah. So like, boys in really short skirts.”

“Mhm. Not sure what to do with Dakota there though. They could get in trouble since they’re legally a girl, but I don’t want to categorize them with…”

“Yeah.”

“Is it stupid? It isn’t big enough. We need something bigger.”

“We need something that demands attention. Something they can’t just ignore. If it comes to a standoff, we need to win.”

I thought for a second. “What do you think we should do?”

“I’m not sure. Oh! What about, like, a spirit week. All perfectly within the rules, but anyone who wants to can participate. We’ll do it the week before Thanksgiving break, so we have like two weeks to prepare. It’ll be great. Okay, hold on.” I heard her shuffling around and then the scratching of a pen as she narrated what she wrote. “Okay, so Monday will be the day where we dress as the other gender, Tuesday we can…”

“We can paint our faces with the colors of our sexualities.”

“Is that allowed?”

“The manual-”

“Handbook.”

“The handbook says that, ‘makeup is permitted as long as worn appropriately and in moderation.’ ”

“Hmm. So I’m guessing full fledged face paint isn’t in that category. But clothing we can do whatever we want. What about people just dress their colors?”

“Not flashy enough. Too low key. What about… wearing their flags as capes?”

“Like where you’re going, but not everyone can afford themselves to buy one, especially not on such short notice. What about… Oh! I’ve got it!”

“What?”

“Read me the rules on hair dye.”

“Uh…” I skimmed through the papers. “Doesn’t say anything.”

“So we buy an ass load of temporary hair dye and get people to dye their hair their colors.”

“You mean like, pink purple and blue if they’re bi, white and pink and blue if they’re trans, the flag colors, right?”

“Mhm.”

“That’s great. Write that down for Tuesday.”

“Kay. What about Wednesday?”

We sat in silence for a second, before I suggested, “Do you wanna try to get Dakota and Abbey and Sofie and Cecilia to meet us? So we can all talk about it together?”

“Sure. Let me ask.”


Which is how, an hour later, I ended up sitting on the fluffy grey rug in Dakota’s room, eating pretzels out of a large bowl while they poured over Gracie’s notebook, shouting out suggestions for Wednesday.

“We’ll doodle a heart on the top corner of every desk we sit on,” proclaimed Sofie, popping a pretzel into her mouth. All I had to say was, “vandalism,” to remind her of the school rules that prohibited her idea.

“But I like the desk idea,” Gracie said, “maybe like, we leave a letter on every desk we sit at.”

“Do we let people write their own letters?”

“We could come up with guidelines, as the leaders of the, what are we calling it- the rebellion, and then people could write notes within those guidelines,” Cecilia suggested.

“I like that,” I announced, “put that down for Wednesday.”

“Kay,” Gracie scribbled in her little red notebook. “Abbey, you’ve been so quiet. Thoughts?” She hesitated, but Gracie, who knew her better than I, said, “Spit it out.”

“I think we need a clearer objective. A clearer message. What exactly is it that we are hoping to achieve?” She sat up straighter.

We all sat in silence a second, pondering this. “We want it to be mandatory for teachers to use correct pronouns,” Dakota began.

“And I think we want more acknowledgment of LGBT+ persons out there,” I added.

“First of all,” Gracie said teasingly, “persons? What are we in medieval times? Second,” she switched to a more serious tone, “what do you mean by that?”

“Just, they can’t pretend we don’t exist forever, can they?” I poked Gracie’s arm gently, “I mean, we’re real. We’re here. It’s not a phase. There have been great queer people in history, and I think our school needs to acknowledge them.”

Gracie scribbled in her notebook and Dakota said, “Hey! For Thursday what about, like, past phases day. Like we dress like one of our phases that we’ve had since we realized we were gay or trans or whatever, as like a, ‘horses was a phase. This is not’ thing.”

We all expressed our excitement and agreement and Gracie wrote that down for Thursday. Now we just had to come up with something for Friday.

“Opposite day?” Cecilia offered after a minute. Like we say the opposite of whatever we mean. 5+5 is -10, what do you mean English, it’s time for Math class, etc. etc.?”

“But what would be the meaning behind that?” Abbey voiced my question.

She thought for a second, “Because we think this is an opposite world, where it is so unacceptable to call someone by their correct pronouns or acknowledge that some men just want to marry men.”

We all look at each other and nod in mutual agreement. While it didn’t have the pizzaz of This-Is-Not-A-Phase-Day, it was good enough.

Somehow, without discussing it, we all put our hands in the middle. “To pronouns,” Gracie announced.

“To our rebellion,” Abbey added.

“To driving our teachers to hell,” I finished.

We all laughed and chanted the chant. “To pronouns and our rebellion and driving our teachers to hell!”

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