Danmark went back to the dance floor, leaving me alone with Dmitry.
As we sat together and talked, reminiscing about the families we had left behind, Dmitry boasted to me about one of his scars. He had gotten it during a fight, he said. Each scar was a story, he said, usually a scary one, and together they made him who he was. He might have been rough-and-tumble, but I found him disarming. He was being vulnerable with me, disclosing pieces of his past unprompted.
Maybe it was all the talk about scars, but then in a moment of stupidity, I felt like I should return the gesture.
“I love that you met Danmark!” I shouted to him over the music, leaning over to put my mouth close to his ear. “He’s my best friend, and you’ve been a good friend to me, too!”
And then the words just spilled out of me before I even knew it. Nonchalantly, naïvely, suddenly: “By the way, I’m transgender, but no one knows, so keep it a secret, okay?”
He pulled his head away to look at me and make sure I wasn’t kidding, but my steely expression proved it wasn’t a joke. His eyes widened slightly for a split second, and then he looked calm again.
“Don’t worry,” he said. “You’re good, you’re good.”
And I believed him. I thought maybe for once someone could just see me as normal, that my transness wouldn’t be an asterisk permanently attached to Dmitry’s perception of me. He had shared with me; I had shared with him. We were cool, right?
I saw Danmark off in the distance, laughing, having a blast as if he were in a Mariah Carey music video, blissfully unaware of the bomb I had just dropped on my own life. Already, only seconds later, I regretted what I had said.
When I saw Dmitry after that, something felt off. We went through the same rituals, our same comings and goings, even grabbing a slice of pizza for lunch after one casting we both attended. While he didn’t acknowledge the secret I’d shared with him, he did act overly reassuring, as if he wanted me to know everything was still cool between us. But the air of goodness he put on felt a little too good. Could this be real? Could I really tell people and be accepted? Was he masking his true feelings with a performance of coolness?
Sharing my secret with Dmitry had come from a place of wanting to feel more connected to him, but the prospect of being fully seen felt too intense, like staring directly into the sun. I had been performing for so long, I wasn’t sure I knew how to be the real me.
From the book Horse Barbie by Geena Rocero. Copyright © 2023 by Geena Rocero. Published by The Dial Press, an imprint of Random House, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. All rights rese
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