That Tuesday started like any other day; I woke up, got ready for school, and hopped in my car, destined to arrive 30 seconds before the first bell rang. But by the end of that day, nothing would be the same for me.
Let’s back up a bit. I came to this school in the beginning of 10th grade, about two years ago. I was about a year into my transition and had gotten top surgery over the summer. I had elected to go stealth at this school. Nobody here knew I was trans. I made a pretty good crew of friends, most of whom play soccer with me.
But back to the story, back to Monday. It’s Monday afternoon. Classes have just ended and I am hustling to get ready for sports practice. Sports practice is one of my favorite parts of the day, especially now that I have gotten top surgery. Soccer gives me a chance to slip out of my stuffy school uniform and just hang out with the guys, not really having to worry about performance. I usually used the single stall restroom because of the very obvious scarring from my double mastectomy. The single stall affords more privacy than the stalls in the gendered restrooms, something that was very important to me, at least in the physical sense. Growing up today you can’t really hope for any non-physical form of privacy, but bodily privacy should at least be a bare minimum. This Monday, however, was an anomaly. I had stayed back with a teacher to review some work, and by the time I got around to changing, the single stall restrooms were full. I glanced at my watch. If I didn’t get changed now I’d be late to practice. As team captain, that wasn’t something I wanted on my record. I decided to slip down to the men’s restroom in the science department. It was pretty small, just two stalls and a urinal. I looked the room over quickly and, deciding that there was nobody else in the room with me, started stripping.
But boy, was I wrong. What I hadn’t seen that day was Alec Fulton in the last stall. Alec was my least favorite person at the school, and the feeling was mutual. He took every opportunity to antagonize me at soccer practice, and on top of that he was probably one of the most outwardly homophobic person I had ever come across. He’d never shut up about his bigoted ideals, even when everyone around him was visibly uncomfortable. He and his squad went around terrorizing anyone they might suspect of being queer. Alec was in the stall, avoiding some teacher or other. And there I was, my fluorescent red scars on perfect display for him. I never heard the click as his phone snapped my picture. Again and again and again. I pulled on my shirt and went to practice like any other day.
By Tuesday, the whole school had seen Alec’s photos of me. When I finally arrived at school, people were giving me weird looks and making gestures that I didn’t understand. I wouldn’t find out why until lunch. When I finally got to the cafeteria, my usual group of friends seemed anxious. Nobody would look me in the eye.
“What’s up, guys?” I said.
“Why didn’t you tell us?” one of them asked, hesitantly.
“Tell you what?”
“That you’re a girl.”
I almost shattered. How did they know? Nobody here knows.
“What are you talking about?” I asked, incredulously. In response, one of my friends just held his phone out to me. On the screen was an Instagram post of some boy. Some boy, I realized in horror, that had the same chest scarring as me. That was in the same bathroom as I was yesterday. Some boy that was me.
“Alec posted these yesterday.” The photos had hundreds of likes. The comments section was filled with slurs and threats. Not a single person had spoken up for me. I realized I had two options; deny it being me and fake it until I make it, or come clean and hope that they would accept the truth. I decided I had to go with the latter.
“So what? We all hate Alec. Why does he suddenly matter now?”
“You lied to us, Brendan. If I can even call you that,” my friend said. It felt like a punch in the guts. I couldn’t breathe. I needed to find Alec. I needed to keep myself together. Suddenly, Alec himself strolled into the lunchroom, malice on his mind.
“Look!” he shouted, pointing at me. “The tranny itself!” My face flushed. I felt as though I was burning up. I could feel a hundred pairs of eyes focus themselves on me. I had nowhere to run. So I did what my male brain always defaulted to: fight back. After all, even a worm will turn.
“You got something to say, Alec?” I shouted in reply.
“As a matter of fact, I do, Breanna.” I felt ice in my veins. How did he know my old name? “I did some digging last night and I found out everything. Amazing what they publish these days,” he chuckled. “Name change, previous schools, old social media profiles. I found it all.” He now addressed the wider audience. “Brendan isn’t what it says it is. Its real name is Breanna MacKenzie Manning. It has been lying you for two years. How can you trust a thing like it?” Alec had finally broken me. I ran from the cafeteria before anyone could see my tears. The fact that everyone suddenly knew my most intimate information was not lost on me. I was in disbelief that Alec had been able to find any of that, but I guess it makes sense in the world today. Privacy is an illusion, and as hard as you may try to keep some semblance of it, you’re bound to lose it eventually.