1. Pretend it’s okay that your birth certificate labels you as female. You know perfectly well you’re not.
2. In high school, fall for a girl whose photo you see in an old Life magazine. Carry the magazine from place to place, through six moves and three girls and a handful of boys and various missteps and seven years.
3. Get a job at a bookstore. Read OutWeek Magazine. Wear a pink triangle. Wear a red ribbon. Cry for lost friends.
4. Fall for a girl who works at the bookstore.
5. Discover that she’s the girl in the picture in that magazine. You’ve carried her from place to place, through six moves and three girls and various missteps and seven years, and now here she is, with creases ironed into her jeans.
6. Try. Maybe a mixtape will help. Keep trying.
7. Give up. Move away. There’s another girl. She’s smart and funny, and she likes you a lot. Fall for her and make a family.
8. Are you still pretending it’s okay that you’re not a regular boy? Yes? Fantastic.
9. Do not drown. Write. Ignore the Pacific Ocean when it tells you that drowning is better than writing, and much better than pretending. Refuse to drown.
10. Discover the internet. Discover Kate Bornstein. Discover that it’s not just you.
11. Cut your hair, but only a little.
12. Fall again for the girl in the picture in that magazine you’re still carrying, after seven more moves and one amazing partner and three splendid kids and all those years.
13. Stop pretending.
14. Blow up the world, clumsily. Break hearts, including your own.
16. Drive from West Coast to East with a cat and too many books. Cut off all your hair. Buy a suit. Change everything except your last name.
17. Discover men who look like lions. Men sway-surfing on the subway. Gus Mattox. Jesse L. Martin. Poets. Artists. Heath Ledger. Johnny Damon. Men.
18. Stare. Endlessly shoot needles full of syrupy testosterone into your body, trying to shape yourself into something like those men.
19. Look away when friends, or people you hardly know, ask what kind of junk you have in your pants, and what you like to do with it. Your body is theirs. Or they think it is.
20. Stand in the vaulting, crowded loneliness of Penn Station, trying to understand which bathroom to use. Give up. Make a map of every Starbucks in Manhattan with a single-user bathroom. Stay safe.
21. Go to Chelsea to get coffee and write. There will be men there too.
22. Remember to breathe when cisgender friends who think they’re being supportive describe trans men as “female-bodied.” When cisgender gay men insist on gender as a construct but only want to sleep with “real” men. When friends and relatives ask why you bothered transitioning if you just want to sleep with men. When you go to Chelsea to get coffee and write.
23. Be vague. Use gender neutral pronouns when you talk about the girl from the magazine, now the woman with whom you’re sharing your life. People finally understand you’re not a girl. Now you have to convince them you’re not a straight man.
24. Don’t think about that man you know. Really. Please don’t think about him. He’s not your type. I promise.
25. Pretend you don’t care that the girl in the picture in that magazine that you’re looking at right now, after all these moves and so many missteps, and almost thirty years, isn’t a man. That she doesn’t want to be a man.
26. Replace “denial” with “abstention.”
27. Keep pretending.
Rumpus original art by Lauren Young Smith.