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“Hey guys.” Derek answered the front door to greet his best friends, his free hand sheepishly scratching the back of his neck. “Uh, come on in.” Derek moved to gesture Sam and Ralph into the front room.

“What’s going on with you Derek?” Sam demanded. “That party was crazy! You got into a fight with Truman, which is valid, but then you left so quickly… Truman sent out a mass text telling everyone you’re really a girl. And most people just assume he’s crazy but dude, what the hell is going on?”

“Uhm..” Derek spun his leather bracelet around his wrist and focused on breathing slowly, keeping the stinging of tears behind his eyes. “Shit.” He whispered to himself.

“Derek? Bro, you know you can tell us anything right? I know you like to be big and macho but something is clearly bothering you.” Ralph offered up to fill the silence.

Derek definitely regretted telling Casey that he would be fine to handle these two on his own. She went with Nora, Lizzie, and Marti, for a girls day at the mall…

“I’m not a girl.” Derek finally stated.

“Well no shit!” Sam laughed, “You’re obviously a guy. I’ve known you since second grade bro.”

“Yeah. But, Truman also isn’t totally wrong.” Derek’s voice barely registered in Sam and Ralph’s ears. “I was technically born a girl, and it does technically have a big F on my birth certificate.” Derek felt his chest tighten under his binder as his breath caught in his throat.

“What?”

“I’m....” Derek trailed off.

“Derek, bro, are you trans?” Ralph asked.

“Y-yeah.” Derek huffed out.

“Oh. Okay.” Sam nodded curtly.

“Bro! That’s awesome!” Ralph announced clapping his hands!

“Do you even know what trans is?” Derek asked, a little confused at his friend’s enthusiasm.

“Yeah! My cousin came out as trans like a year ago.” Ralph’s face dropped. “I haven’t seen her since then… we used to hang out all the time…” Ralph shook his head as if his head were an etch-a-sketch needed erased.

“Oh. Yeah. So, I was born as a girl, but I’m a guy. I mean, that’s why I moved to this school district, so I could be seen as who I am.”

“So…” Sam paused to wrap his mind his next statement. “You’re a guy? But with the body of a girl?”

“I mean.. I’m a guy, so my body is a guy’s body… but it’s more like what a girls body would typically look like…” Derek answered a bit shyly.

“Ah.” Sam answered.

“So, are you gay then?” Sam asked.

“No. I’m attracted to girls, and I am a guy, so I’m straight.” Derek answered. He hated Coming-Out Question Roulette.
“Oh okay.” an uncomfortable silence settled among the three guys. “Oh shit.” Sam’s hand flew to his mouth. “I’m so fucking sorry.”

“For what?” Derek raised an eyebrow.

“7th Grade.” Sam answered. “When your hair got long and I called you “Dereka” that must have been so hard for you! No wonder you looked like you were in so much pain! I’m so sorry!” Sam rambled.

“Yeah, it did suck. I got really dysphoric that year. Hell, I even shaved my head that summer, remember? But like, you didn’t know. I didn’t tell you. I was never mad at you for it.”

“I’m really sorry.”

“It’s fine.”

The silence returned.

A digital beeping sound startled the boys.

“That’s me.” Ralph said as he pulled out his cell phone. “Ugh. It’s my mom.”

“Do not tell her.” Derek glared.

“Hey mom.” “Yeah, I’m at Derek’s.” “Who said that?” “What?” “I have no idea what you’re talking about.” “Yeah, yeah, I’ll be home in an hour.” “Bye mom.” Ralph hung up the phone and slinked back into the Venturi-McDonald’s couch.

“Ralphie?” Sam coaxed.

“That was my mom. She said that I had to come with her to church tonight.” Ralph sighed. “Apparently ‘the devil is in town.’”

“What?” Derek and Sam spoke in unison.

“Apparently her church group got wind of the rumor that there is a trans kid at Thompson.” Ralph said with sincerity. “Wonder who that could be.”

“Dude?!” Derek chuckled, gesturing at himself. “Seriously.”

“Oh right! Don’t worry dude, I won’t tell her it’s you!”

“You better fucking not!” Derek confirmed.

“He won’t.” Sam reassured. “If he does, he knows what will happen.”

Ralph gulped and chuckled nervously.

“Yeah. Well I’ve gotta go. I don’t wanna make her worry or suspicious.” Ralph stated. “I love you bro.” Ralph pulled Derek into a bro hug. “Let me know if you need anything!”

“Thanks.” Derek smiled.

He was really relieved that Ralph and Sam seemed to understand and support him.

“Be safe Ralphie.” Derek bid goodbye to his buddy.

Sam and Derek sat alone in the living room for a bit longer.

“Hey. Um. Not to put you on the spot any more but, uh, do you have any resources so that I can learn more on how to like be there for you?” Sam asked.

“Uh. Not really. I mean Casey has done a shit ton of research, I’m sure she can hook you up with that. I honestly just need ya to keep things the same as much as possible to be honest.” Derek shrugged. “Hell, maybe your sister that’s studying Gender Studies at uni will have some too.”

“Oh! Good idea! Can I tell her why I want the resources? Or would you rather I keep it vague?”

“Uhm. She’s where? Nova Scotia? Tell her.” Derek answered.

“Yeah. Okay.” Sam nodded.

“Wanna play Babe Raider?” Derek asked.

“Yeah sounds good. Don’t think I’ll let you win just because you came out!” Sam teased.

“I’ll win regardless because I’m the best!” Derek laughed, happy that his friends are still his friends.