While some of them thumbed through the playbooks, the guy who called the stage play a “faggot play” left the room.
Mrs. Fetcher continued: “Claire, I’d like you to play the role of Min; Chase, the role of Kevin; Carter might be a good fit for Gunnar and Gareth, would you mind playing Russel? I thought a lot about who might have the right qualities and skills as well as being challenged just enough.”
“Of course, Chase would make a great fudge packer!” a boy commented.
“What do you mean by that?” Mrs. Fetcher asked incensed.
“Well, there were rumors from his old school. I just say that I wouldn’t be comfortable having him in the locker room in PE if you know what I mean.”
“I see,” Mrs. Fetcher sighed. “We’ve got a lot of work to do.”
She assigned the remaining roles by asking for volunteers for the specific character. When that was done, she drew a timeline and on a whiteboard to emphasize the plot points, give some hints on how she’d like them to play them, and answer questions. After that, she ended with some homework: “Please read the script until next week. I recommend doing that in pairs or groups—whatever you prefer. The pairs or groups should—obviously—consist of characters who have the most scenes together.”
While most students left the room, Chase talked gesticulating to Mrs. Fetcher. Finally, he said goodbye to her and closed up to Gareth.
“Hey …,” Gareth started.
“Ehm… I talked to Mrs. Fetcher, but she didn’t let me change the role.”
“You don’t want them to call you names?”
“I am not gay!” Chase shouted.
“So, it’s you and me then …”
“There is no you and me. After everything.”
Chase gaped at him, “So you still don’t know!?”
“I don’t” Gareth was confused.
“You haven’t changed a bit.”
Chase walked faster to get away from Gareth, who hadn’t a clue, what just happened.
When he left the school building, he spotted Stella sitting on the waist-high wall. He didn’t know why he approached her, but maybe because he was confused.
“Nice skirt,” he said.
“Honestly?” she asked cautiously. “Or do you want to make fun of me like all the others today?”
“Honestly. Listen, I wasn’t very supportive the other day, hmm?”
“More than most of the others.”
“I’m not good at this. It’s all so new to me …”
“You call me ‘Stella’—not all of them do that. If you have any questions … I don’t know if that’s a good idea, but I need some coffee right now. Would you like to grab one with me?”
A couple of minutes later, they were sitting at the Black Cup coffee shop.
“You don't like … become trans when you're a teenager or so. I've always been, I just realized that when I was a child. Even the human brain does work like the brains of their actual gender. For example, a trans woman’s brain works like a cis woman’s brain.”
“You know, Cis is like … the opposite of trans. Cis people identify as the gender they were assigned to at birth. Trans people don't. Can you imagine that, when you look into the mirror, the person you see doesn’t feel like you at all?”
She searched his facial expression for understanding and as she couldn’t find it, she continued: “Like I as a woman stand in front of the mirror and look at a man’s body. Just like … how would you feel if you had breasts and no penis?”
“Right. And I would feel whole. That’s why you are a boy, and I am a girl.”
“So you don’t just like dressing up as a girl?”
“I am a girl, so no. Some trans people actually don’t transition but what you mean are probably crossdressers and drag queens, but they are different from trans people. Both of them don’t have gender dysphoria. They mostly do that for some sort of fun.”
“Dysphoria—the thing with the mirror: It’s not just too much weight or too few muscles because you don’t work out enough. It’s something that cannot easily be changed because hormones make us the way we are. Do you know Alan Turing?”
“The enigma guy?”
“Yeah, he cracked the code of enigma. But not just that. He was gay. And at this time it was illegal to be gay let alone serving as a homosexual. But they needed his expertise. So they forced him into hormone therapy. They called it ‘chemical castration’. He made fun of his breasts when they got bigger and bigger, but he actually was in mental pain and got depression which eventually later ended in suicide. Imagine, your body would do that to you your whole life.”
“That’s cruel. I haven’t seen trans people that way until now,” Gareth admitted.
“Maybe you’re not as bad as people say,” she replied.
“Well, I guess, I was. Frankly, I’m currently not quite sure what I know about myself and what not.”
They talked for a bit longer and finally exchanged numbers for another coffee someday soon. When he got home, he got a text from Chase asking him if he had time to go over the play tomorrow after school. He agreed and they arranged a time.
“'We can still be together. We just have to … keep it a secret.' — I don’t know why Russel is pushing Kevin so much. Why do you have to come out at all? Straight people don’t come out either. So why is that so important to these people?” Chase asked while they were sitting in the back of the Writer’s Block, a café and bookstore in the Spenard neighborhood.
“Maybe,” Gareth started “because they hate to be asked if they have a girlfriend yet and don’t want to rate girls bottoms.”
“Yeah, it can be challenging to find the right girl. And men don’t like to admit that they still haven’t found the right one. Anyway, I want to say sorry for what I said yesterday. I think we can get this drama club and the play over without all that.”
“Okay, me too.”
“By the way,” Chase said with a smirk on his face. “Did you know that this place used to be a porn shop?”
“No, he’s right,” a man said. It was one of the barkeepers at the Writer’s Block of Hawaiian descent. “Can I get you guys a refill?”
“I hope, it’s not a problem for you,” Chase hawed, “but could we meet someplace more quiet and less crowded next time? I don’t feel comfortable around these people while reading the script out loud.”
“Okay. But you know, there will be an audience when we make our appearance,” he teased him.
“I know. When I’m comfortable with the play and the auditorium is darkened, that shouldn’t be much of a problem. And different from these people here, they actually come to see the play.”
“Let’s hope so.”
The next drama club meeting worked without any problems besides the fact that a few students didn’t show up.
“We have half an hour left,” Mrs. Fetcher announced. “Let’s meet the GSA and ask them questions on how to portray your characters.”
They arrived at another classroom and were welcomed by the teacher who supervised the GSA, whom Gareth didn’t know.
“Hello, come in everyone, take a seat. My name is Mr. Matthews. I’m openly gay as some of you might already know. It was pretty clear to me that I had to set an example if I want to support LGBT+ students in this GSA and the school in general. But this meeting will be less about me and more about you. Not every one of our GSA is here. Some of them didn’t want to face non-LGBT+ students. Don’t feel offended—this meeting is an opportunity to understand that better. I’m going to get some coffee with Mrs. Fetcher while you get to know each other a little better. Oh, and there are some rules in here.” He pointed to one of the walls with a poster with a rainbow-colored background that said: “Everybody decides when to come out on their own. We don’t use offensive language. We use the correct pronouns and ask for them.”
Gareth looked around and saw Stella sitting in the back of the classroom, so he sat down on the chair next to hers.
“Yeah, we are a safe space here,” a girl said. “For those, who don’t know what GSA stands for: It’s “gay-straight-alliance”. But it’s somewhat outdated because it’s not very inclusive. At least we do what the group is meant for: Dialogue between gay and straight people if you will. You had questions for your play, right? As Mr. Matthews told us, it’s “Geography club”. That club is much like a GSA—so that you can imagine what we do.”
They began to ask questions when suddenly someone tapped Gareth's shoulder.
“Hey, didn’t expect you back here”, the person, the finger on his shoulder belonged to, said. Gareth didn't know that person—or did he?
Once the lesson was over, he wanted to leave the room as fast as possible, because he felt uncomfortable around people who pretended to know him. On the school yard they met the boys again who were misgendering and deadnaming Stella a few days ago.
“Hey Corey!” they teased her. “I hope, you wear boxers under that skirt. Otherwise, your lie can be proven wrong too easily. Or is your cock so small, it doesn’t make a difference?”
Gareth wanted to help her this time. He knew so much about trans people now, and he started befriending Stella.
“Gareth, why do you support his lie?”
“It’s not a …” Before Gareth could end his protest, the group leader cut him short.
“Quite an interesting question, isn’t it? Maybe he’s like Corey or just something similar. Or he gets horny when guys dress up like girls.”
Gareth felt like he couldn’t move his tongue. His courage left him.
The guys formed a circle around Stella while separating her from Gareth, and he couldn’t help but starring and letting them continue. After a while, Stella sat on the ground crying. A few moments later, the guys were gone. Gareth could move again. He touched Stella's shoulder asked: “Are … are you okay?”
“I’m not!” she cried and whispered: “How could you …? I thought we were friends.”
Gareth didn’t know what to answer. Stella got up and went away fast.
The Writer's Block is an actual place in Anchorage and my favorite café—I absolutely love this place. The barkeeper is also based on a real person—that guy is amazing.