Many people had had the foresight to bring extra clothes, which they gave to anyone else who saw us and thus wanted to join. Those people changed in the bathroom and began walking with us through classes. Whenever anyone asked us what we were doing, which was often, we explained our cause, and offered to give them hair spray for tomorrow. We gave away a lot of straight ally colors.
I was giddy with excitement all day, basking in the sun of the attention. The boys got more attention, they were the ones wearing the skirts, but several people did ask me why I wasn’t wearing my usual makeup (I hadn’t realized so many people paid attention to me).
Even the principle stopped a couple of us walking down the halls and asked us what we were doing. We explained how we were calmly and peacefully protesting the use of incorrect pronouns and the lack of LGBT representation in the curriculum.
He frowned, furrowed his brow, and slowly walked away.
I was called to the dean’s office 3rd period. When I entered the room, (I had never actually been there before) Gracie was already there, as well as the dean and principal.
“Hello Jamie. Take a seat please.”
I nodded and pulled up a chair. “What’s up?”
“We would like to talk about your- er, what do you call it?” Said the dean, Mr. Jacobs, “Peaceful protest?”
Gracie began to speak, but I squeezed her hand. I had been trained to deal with people from a very young age. I could handle this.
“What about it?”
“It is completely inappropriate. It is a violation of every second school rule and it will not be tolerated.”
“With all due respect, Mr. Jacobs,” I began. “I reviewed the student handbook multiple times. Nowhere does it prevent anything that we are doing.” “First of all,” he answered, “skirts above fingertip length. This has been a rule as long as New Redmen High has been-” He stopped when I pulled my handbook from my pocket and opened it, reading aloud.
“ ‘Rule number 23: Any girl caught wearing a skirt shorter than fingertip length will be given a detention.’ Emphasis on girl. None of the girls in our grade are doing such a thing, none of the trans girls in our school are doing such a thing even. There is nothing in the school rulebook that prevents boys from dressing as girls, or the other way around. There is nothing that says we cannot calmly protest an injustice, and, unfortunately, there are no rules that require that faculty and staff use student’s preferred pronouns and names. There is no content in all 12 and a half years I have gone to this school that have required or requested highlighting the work and progress made by powerful and strong LGBT+ people. We intend to change that, and there is nothing that can stop us. Are we done?”
The principle shrugged. “If your only plan is to dress as the opposite gender than fine, go ahead and see if I care. And yes, you are dismissed. Go back to class.”
I smiled as I stood. “Oh we plan to do more than just dress up. We aren’t children and we aren’t playing around.”
He sighed. “I expected more of you, Jamie.”
I smiled. “That’s funny. I expected more of you.”
And I left the room without another word.
At lunch that day, the teachers did stop us from pushing the (now six) tables together. We didn’t complain, just sat at our respective tables, and ate our lunches in silent protest of this unfair ruling.
We were quiet and careful all day, no passing notes, no talking to each other in class. That day there were no fist fights. People did their respective thing, and despite the stares, we got through the day just fine. After school, after we had all left the school a little different, and with a third more people than before, we all decided to go out for coffee.
I was so happy. We looked like a troupe of circus performers, all of us walking into the cafe in an unorganized blob, pushing together half the tables and all sitting around them. People stared. We didn’t care and no one tried to stop us. When the person came to take our order she paused and asked us what we were doing. We told her and she hesitated, thinking for a minute. For a second, I thought she was going to throw us out, which wouldn’t be good for morale, but she told us to wait here a second, and returned wearing a fake mustache and holding a couple dozen bright red pins, which she dished out to the group.
“They can show people who are protesting,” she said simply. “And you should get some of the town adults involved too. If the principle can’t walk home without encountering a handful of adults wearing these same pins, then he’ll eventually have to listen.”
I stared at her in awe. “That’s so smart.”
I handed everyone a bundle of buttons. “Anyone and everyone,” I said as clearly as possible. “For the revolution.”
“For pronouns.” Gracie called out.
“For driving our teachers to hell” Abbey added. I hadn’t even known she was there.
And so, the same as last time, we raised our hands and toasted to the revolution and to pronouns and to driving our teachers to hell.
I became slowly aware, through the haze of way too much sugar and caffeine, that I was holding Shay’s hand. I glanced down at the pale skin and decided I didn’t want to pull my hand away, and so I left it, glancing up at Gracie to see what she thought. She was sitting with Abbey, laughing along with her. They would be a good couple, I thought. I took a few minutes trying to combine their names into one ship name, but decided that it wasn’t worth the time and glanced back at Shay, studying her bright blue eyes while she laughed alongside all these people. Our little group of friends. I squeezed Shay’s hand under the table. “Hey,” I whispered.
“Hey.” She whispered back.
“How are you?”
“Yeah.” I wasn’t really that bored, but I didn’t want Shay to know that.
“Do you wanna go?”
I smiled at her, even though I didn’t want to go. “A couple more minutes. It was sorta, you know, my idea?”
I turned my attention back to the main group conversation where they were discussing TV shows that they liked and hated and that contained a high volume of gay characters. It was quite entertaining. It was also a world I hadn’t really been exposed to before-so open and clear, nothing to hide and no one to hide it from. No one to impress and nothing to do to impress them. It was a world of equals, or at least, it was for now, until tomorrow when they would consider me (me!) a leader again.
I looked back to Abbey and Gracie, who were entertaining themselves by throwing powdered sugar in each other’s hair. How had this happened? When had their awkward stand off between friendship and more changed so quickly? I turned back to my hand in Shay’s and wondered what was happening. I still didn’t pull away. I found I really just didn’t want to.
I shook my head to myself, glancing at the clock on the wall. Wow, was it four already?! How was that even possible? I stood, and Shay was forced to let go of my hand. “I think I have to go now. I have homework to do, and my family will be wanting me home anyway.”
“Wait, Jamie?” Someone asked.
I looked at the speaker. “Mhm?”
“Ms. Silvanto scheduled a test for Friday. If we have it be opposite day then we’ll have to fail the test and…”
I nodded. “We’ll switch past phases day and opposite day.” I looked across the people. “Objections?” When no one spoke I said, “It’s settled then,” and left the cafe, leaving my share of the check on the table as I did so.
I was leading a rebellion. The words seemed to haunt me, to exist inside of me, to light me up in a way I had not been lit up before. I was part of something big, something exciting, something that could change something. I could leave New Redmen a little better than it was when I was born.
Or I could fail, and leave it thinking that nothing was possible and there was no use in even trying to make things better. That was always an option too. There was always a chance of oh boohoo you failed now get back in that closet.
We’d just have to wait and see.