RAPID ONSET

Freddie clicked from Reddit to their Facebook tab and hit send. It was his coming out post - they'd run it past a few of the guys on the group chat, a few Facebook groups, discord channels. Even some of the remaining Tumblr crowd. He'd settled on they/he pronouns - fae/faer was fun but now Caleb was using them they didn't really like them anymore. He could still use them on discord, if they wanted. He was nervous. Their parents both had him on Facebook. He hoped the section on suicidal ideation wasn't too much. The crowdfund link had even more info, but Lorca said that was standard. They couldn't believe he'd finally done it. The likes started rolling in. All those years of repression. This would end today!

 

Freddie sprayed his body spray in an X from armpit to hip, put on their binder and then a loose, colourfully patterned shirt that he'd picked up at a clothes swap. They pulled on some black jeans, novelty socks and padded downstairs. He could smell Mum cooking porridge in the kitchen.

 

'Hey Mum-'

 

Freddie stopped short in the dining room. Mum was staring at them, holding the full porridge pot in one hand. Tears streaming down her face.

 

'Oh Freddie,' she said, and embraced him. The porridge pot pressed briefly against their shoulder blade. 'Ouch! Mum,' he exclaimed. She brought the pot down heavily on the table.

 

'Oh I'm so sorry my poor baby!' she said, and clutched their face between her hands. Freddie noticed that she looked a little different this morning. She was dressed in straight baggy jeans and a T shirt, had no makeup on, and her hair was pulled back into a low ponytail. Were those dad's old clothes?

 

'Freddie, I'm so happy you could share your true self with us all. Please sit down.' Mum sat at the dining table and tapped the surface opposite her. Freddie obliged, feeling uncomfortable.

 

'Your post has really brought up a lot of feelings for me. you see I…' she trailed off.

'Mum?' they said, quietly.

'I wish you wouldn't call me that, Freddie!' she cried, burying her face in her hands. Freddie looked shiftily to the painting hanging on the wall - it was a watercolour of boats.

'I'm... I'm trans too, Freddie.' said Mum, quietly.

'What?' said Freddie, automatically. Mum? Surely not. She (well... whatever) grabbed his hands and pressed them tightly. It hurt a little.

'I'm so happy we get to go on this journey together Freddie. Would you...would you call me father? Not that I want to step on Dad's toes, but…'

''lll think about it,' said Freddie, tightly. Why did they feel like this? 'I have to go to work now, M...ummm, Father. Sorry. Bye,'

Freddie fled the house, barely leaving time to lace up his Adventure Time converse. Mum stayed sitting in the chair, a thousand yard stare.

 

Walking up the road their phone started to buzz. It was Dad.

'Hi son - son, is that right? Oh I'm so happy to hear from you…'

'Heya it's me!'

'I've been meaning to talk to you for a while son...you see, being able to witness your journey it's...I…'

 

'Dad?'

Stifled, wet sobs dripped down the line. Freddie sighed.

'It just brings up a lot for me, you see - I think...I think I might be transgender, erm, also.'

'Dad!'

'I...would you call me mother, Freddie? Not out of any disrespect for your Mum, but…'

Freddie cut the call and bought his bus ticket. What was going on? And were they such an arsehole to care? It felt strange. This was his moment. Mum and Dad never seemed anything other than totally boring normal their whole life. It's not like either of them had even been supportive. In fact when he started dropping hints years ago they were pretty sure mum freaked the fuck out. He needed to get these thoughts out of his head. They needed to focus - it was his first day at work with this new name.

 

'Hi Stephanie!'

'Its Freddie, actually,'

'oh, I'm sorry! That's cool. I'm non binary.'

'who are you?'

Freddie hadn't seen this colleague before. They worked at a small cafe in the slightly upmarket part of town. 

 

'I'm...Glug,' 

Freddie blushed. He was going to give themself a whimsical name back when he first tried to come out. Mum - Dad? said oh don't be silly. They'd forgotten that until now. How old was he - seven? Eight? They smiled mechanically and went to put on his apron.

 

'Hi Stephanie!' this time it was their boss. He sighed, but before they could say anything Glug interjected. 

'It's Freddie - actually,' said Glug, witheringly, before beaming at him. They smiled weakly.

'Freddie!' said his boss, 'Oh my gosh that's amazing!' she paused and her eyes glazed. A single tear welled and bled down one cheek. She turned to face them. 'Freddie...Freddie...Freddie. I've always loved that name…' her face crumpled and she ran into the stock cupboard. Glug gasped and ran after her.  

 

The bell over the door rang. Freddie steeled himself and walked over to the front counter. A young stylish mother, a regular, was waiting. 'Hi Stephanie!' she called, not looking, rummaging through her purse. Freddie sighed and put on their lanyard, now decorated with a pronoun badge and enamel name pin - a frog, obviously!

 

The mother flipped up her salon hair and caught sight of the pin. She froze, purse in hand, a strand of ash blonde stuck to her mouth. 'I...I…' her breath caught in her throat. Freddie set his face straight. It'd be ok. Maybe Glug would back them up. Suddenly the mother burst into tears. She staggered back across the cafe and landed heavily on a chair. Freddie sighed. 'Can I get you a glass of water, ma'am?' 

 

'NO!' she screamed. She put her head in her hands. Freddie drummed his clenched fists on the counter. Where were Glug and his boss? The mother seemed to have settled a little. Freddie made her usual order - oat milk dirty chai latte with agave syrup - and set it down on the table next to her. She looked up tearfully. 'Thankyou,' she picked up the cup and took a big gulp. Freddie flinched. 'OWw!!!' she screamed again. She slammed the cup back down on the table. Chai latte droplets hit the ceiling. Freddie started to walk away and the mother grabbed their apron. 'Wait!' she cried. She licked her lips, steadied herself and looked up at him. 'I think...as long as I can remember... I've felt like a man trapped in a woman's body.' She blinked, tearfully. Freddie frowned and pulled their apron away. 'That's a kind of bio essentialist thing to say,' he said. The mother wailed and ran full tilt out of the cafe.

'What's up with her?' said Glug, striding back into the room. Freddie huffed and returned to the counter. 'Actually, it's...you know what, never mind.' 

 

'Come on Freddie!' called Glug. Freddie frowned. 'Come on, what? I've been here serving customers having a freak out and you-'

 

'No, sorry, I mean...this Freddie.'

 

Freddie's boss walked out of the stock cupboard and waved, bashfully. Glug reached out to squeeze her shoulder and then turned businesslike to Freddie.

 

'We spoke and your transition has really brought up a lot for them. From now on, please refer to them as Freddie and by they/them!' Glug beamed and their boss mouthed Thankyou. 

 

'But… so we're both called Freddie?' they frowned. 

 

The boss smiled sweetly and sidled up to the counter. They laughed an affected managerial laugh. 'Well, yes, it is a bit awkward! I was wondering, at least while we're at work, whether you'd consider going by Fred instead of Freddie?' 

 

'What?!'

 

'It's just, with us all working here it'll get quite confusing if we're both called... Freddie-'

 

'But I was called it first!'

 

'Now,' said Glug, 'It's not really cool to judge other people's transition journeys. It's not a race…'

 

'Thankyou Glug.'

 

'I actually only realised I was trans 25 minutes ago. But we are trans our whole lives.' 

 

'Wow, that's a really beautiful way of thinking about it, Glug.' The boss wiped a tear from their eye and smiled. 'Isn't that just a beautiful way of thinking about it, Fred?'

 

Freddie scowled and looked down at his feet. They weren't very good at dealing with confrontation. 

 

'I'll make you a new name tag. With a frog on it,' they beamed and walked back to the stock cupboard. They stopped for a moment, poking their head round the door. 'Ooh! Also, don't forget to clean up that mess on the ceiling.'

 

Freddie huffed and got the cleaning materials from under the sink. He checked the time - jeez, they'd only been at work for less than an hour. This was going to be a long day. He checked their notifications. Seventy five Facebook comments??? Oh yeah, the coming out post. He flicked on to the page and started reading. 

 

Go Freddie! You inspire me! I've wanted to add /they to my pronouns for ages and now today feels like the perfect day to start

 

Hi Freddie! Lots of love from Team McDonohue! Hubby in particular v impressed at your courage - says call as soon you can there's something he wants to talk to you about. Wouldn't say what lol! Pls do get in touch he's working from home atm. Auntie Mavis.x

 

WOW 😍 Freddie I'm so happy for you! You know, I have you to thank for my recent revelations...why not ey? I'm trans too...LOL! And that doesn't mean lots of love I do know that now. Anyways, give me a call dearest wishes xx Nana floss xx (he/they) P.S. your grandpa says hi he'd also prefer to use they/them pronouns now

 

Hiya Freddie. Just looked up what this is. Good for you! Going to be thinking about this. Grandpa Joseph.

 

Welcome to the family Freddie! Check out my coming out post I also just dropped mine ;) Lorna XoXoXo

 

Hiya Freddie it's Grandpa Joseph again, although I'm not sure that's the best fit now I think of it. Josephine? I also quite like the sound of those neopronouns but I'm not sure I understand what they are. Do give your old grand pa/ma a call when you get the chance. J. X

 

'Fred?'

 

Freddie looked up to see his boss stood, arms crossed, in front of them.

 

'Oh, sorry...Freddie,'

 

'You know you aren't supposed to use your phone during work hours. And that ceiling still isn't clean.'

 

'Oh, sorry... I'll do it now-'

 

'No bother - I'll get Glug to do it. Follow me please, Fred.'

 

Freddie's boss led the way to the office, which was really just a corner of the stock room with a cheap fuzzy blue folding partition. They sat on opposite sides of a small desk. The boss placed their hands on the surface delicately.

 

'There's no easy way to say this, Fred-'

 

'Do you have to call me that? There's no one else here right now.'

 

Boss cleared their throat and continued. 'Your work has been subpar for months. And today is just the cherry on top.'

 

Freddie felt a lump in his throat and a weight in their stomach. 'Im sorry! I've been going through a hard time, with my transition and everything-'

 

'We're all trans here, Fred.'

 

Glug swung round the corner to pick up a new surface spray. 'Actually, I thought about it more and I don't really identify as trans, just non binary.' they said. The boss nodded gravely. 'Thankyou Glug, sorry about that.' They turned back to Freddie and sighed, laboriously. They put their head in their hands and then pushed their face back up with their fingertips. 'I'm very sorry it had to come to this.'

 

'Wait...what? Are you firing me?' said Freddie.

 

'Fred...Freddie, you only had a temporary contract. We're not going to renew it. I'm offering you your holiday pay now so you will have time to find something else-'

 

'But...but...I like it here!' he said, unconvincingly. They racked his brain, desperate for something to back his case. 'We're all...trans…'

 

Boss slammed their first on the desk in frustration. 'Fred, this is what I'm talking about. Glug just said they don't identify as trans! It's that lack of attention to detail...I'm afraid you're just not a good fit here.'

 

Freddie sloped out of the cafe, bag and jacket in hand. 

 

'Bye, Fred!' called Glug. He saw their old boss walk up behind Glug and wrap their arms around their shoulders. Glug smiled stiffly.

 

What now? Freddie didn't have anything planned until his doctor's appointment in the afternoon. They decided to kill time by walking. It was chilly so he put on the jacket and held it around themself for comfort.

 

He cut through the park, half of which had been sold off to developers. The shallow mosaic tiled paddling pool they used to play in was now a manicured green lawn with extremely narrow yellow brick terrace blocks plonked on top. Miniature white picket fence encircled the whole thing. A young man riding an electric scooter zipped towards him, staring. Freddie edged away, but he only scooted closer. Freddie panicked. They hopped over the short fence and ducked behind one of the new houses. He wondered if anyone would be home, should they need to seek shelter. A loud crashing sound startled him and smoke drifted around the corner. Freddie sighed. They crept back around the edge of the house, to see the young man lying on the ground under his scooter bust up and entangled in the fence. The young man saw him and reached out a hand in desperation.

 

‘Please!’ called the young man. ‘Are you…are you a boy or a girl?’

 

Freddie spluttered in rage. ‘What?!’

 

‘Are you a boy or a girl, I just-’

 

‘Are you hurt or whatever,’ said Freddie, edging away.

 

‘Yes, I’m hurt! I’m hurt!’ cried the young man. Tears welled in his eyes. Freddie sighed and approached him. The young man reached out and grabbed the sleeve of their jacket. ‘Please…please tell me…’

 

‘I’m not a boy or a girl!’ snapped Freddie. ‘Well, I kind of feel maybe a bit demi boy sometimes but. Gender is a spectrum, so. I’m trans. You shouldn’t really ask people that it’s…it’s rude!’ Freddie pulled his jacket away and stepped backwards. The young man stared at him in amazement.

 

‘Wow.’ he said, ‘I’ve never met one in real life. Can I…Do you think I could be trans?’ he asked, then looked away shyly. Freddie sighed. ‘I don’t know. Yes, probably.’

 

‘I watch loads of trans porn. I…can I ask, which one are you, are you the-’

 

‘I have to go!’ shouted Freddie. ‘I have a doctor's appointment!’

 

‘I’m sorry, can you just help get this scooter off me?’

 

Freddie pulled the lightly smoking scooter off the impudent stranger and then darted back against the nearby house. As soon as they saw the stranger get up unsteadily he ran through the park as quickly as they could.

 

‘Hey! Wait!’ called the voice behind him, words carried on the wind ‘Do you have s n a p  c   h   a  a   a   tt  t  ?   ?   ?’

 

Freddie wrapped his jacket around themself even tighter and marched on with renewed purpose. Not a soul else was in the park now, thank god. Freddie made it through to the housing complex where their doctor’s surgery was and checked in at the reception.

 

‘Ok lovely,’ said the cheery receptionist, ‘What’s your appointment for darling?’

 

Freddie blushed and picked at his nails. ‘Erm, isn’t it written down already?’

 

‘We just need to confirm it with you sweetheart, all right?’ said the receptionist, busy sorting papers.

 

‘It’s…well…I’m transgender and I want to talk to the doctor to get on the list and stuff.’

 

The receptionist looked up. ‘Alright my lovely, thanks so much. Please take a seat.’ Her cheeks were flushed and her eyes were wide. But if she was judgemental, she was doing her best to hide it. Freddie appreciated that. 

 

Freddie breathed out slowly and sat down on a moulded plastic chair. It was only them and a talcum-powdered old lady in the waiting room. He looked across and smiled, but she didn’t see. In fact, she’d nodded off. They drummed his hands on their knees and rehearsed the statement. The last time he’d done this they’d been younger and foolish and nervous. Told the truth and got spooked. Started crying and begging and the doctor just never put the referral through. This time he had rehearsed - a few choice lines taken from the gender dysphoria diagnostic criteria and a couple of trans youtubers who everyone on the discord called truscum but on whom Freddie secretly depended. 

 

‘Ok dear, in you go,’ called the receptionist. Their deadname and a room number flashed up on the waiting room screen. Freddie made his way nervously through the corridor. They could feel the receptionist's eyes following him. The journey seemed to get longer the more they walked. Finally, he turned a corner and found room 216. It looked more like a broom cupboard from the outside. The doctor looked up at them nervously from behind a computer screen, and gestured to the seat opposite. 

 

Freddie sat, and tried to conjure an air of relaxed masculine cool. The doctor finished typing something and then stared him dead in the eyes. ‘What can I do for you today?’

 

Freddie took a deep breath and started. ‘I’d like to be referred to the gender identity clinic. I’ve been out as transgender for 3 years and I’m ready to take hormones and get surgery. I’ve always felt like this and my parents know and they support me. I’m a guy.’

 

The doctor paused and swallowed. Began to type something and then stopped. ‘Right,’ cleared her throat. She pulled at the rainbow lanyard around her neck. She finished typing and then turned the computer screen around. ‘Can you just check that’s all right?’ she said. Freddie examined her notes and then nodded, surprised at her compliance. The doctor bit her lip and clicked her mouse a few times. ‘Ok,’ she said, voice wavering, ‘was there anything else?’

 

Freddie squirmed in his chair. Did they dare? ‘Well…’ he said, ‘It takes ages to get anywhere on the list, you know, it’s like 5 years. It is legal for you to give me a bridging prescription in the meantime, you know, while I wait. I have a document here, it explains it.’

 

Freddie rummaged in their bag. When he looked up, the doctor had her face in her hands. ‘You know I used to hate people like you,’ she said. Freddie froze. The doctor looked up. ‘I don’t know why, I mean, I do, but. Oh god.’ the doctor pushed herself back from the desk in her office chair. ‘I feel strange,’ she said. 

 

Freddie stared, began to put two and two together. ‘Do you ever feel like, weird in your body?’ he said. The doctor stared back at them. ‘Yes,’ she said. 

 

‘Do you ever wonder what things would’ve been like if you were different? Not even like gender but in general. And do you feel kind of cut off from everything like it’s all a haze and you’re looking down on yourself and you don’t really recognise anything?’

 

The doctor began to cry. ‘I know it, I know it’s true. I just can’t stand it.’

 

Freddie shifted in his chair. ‘It’s ok,’ they said, ‘I mean, you’re a doctor! You can prescribe yourself everything you need, you can just refer yourself…and me.’

 

The doctor shook her head, ‘I don’t know, I mean - I would need to look into it more. Testosterone is very strong. I think the people at the GIC know what they’re doing.’ She wiped her eyes with the back of her sleeve.

 

‘It’s actually not, like, strong, I don’t know I mean, you could also just give me gel…’

 

‘I think, maybe, I could just talk to the team at the GIC and get some of this sorted out. I imagine they’d listen to my perspective. It’s a difficult subject, we have to admit that. And we can’t just go around acting like we know better.’

 

‘I don’t think I know better!’ implored Freddie. ‘Please, I just can’t wait anymore!’

 

The doctor was muttering to herself. ‘I don’t feel ready to start yet, you know, I mean, there’s fertility to think of. And what if I go bald? I’m not sure how Gerald would feel about me growing a moustache. What if I’m ugly? I guess I could start on a low dose. And with surgery there’s always risks. Maybe if I start working out a lot more. Those female bodybuilders have very small breasts. I’ll introduce some more protein into my diet, too. Make sure I’m in the right mental state to start, it’s going to be quite a journey. Best to get settled. Maybe up my sertraline for a few months, see how that goes. I’ve always had quite a strong jaw, maybe I don’t even need to go on T. If my hips weren’t so fat, I’d already look quite androgynous. But I’m so short! I’ll never pass, I don’t know maybe it’s better to stay where I am than get stuck in the middle…’

 

Freddie backed out of the room, away from the doctor’s poisonous thoughts. She barely even noticed he was gone. The door slowly swung to a close. Freddie stumbled over the backs of their shoes and tumbled back down the corridor into the waiting room. He slipped on the floor and landed face down on some kind of thick, dark red liquid. There was a queer aroma to the air. The liquid was hot and sticky and felt unpleasant on their skin. Freddie grimaced, squeezed his eyes shut and then rolled themself over. He pushed themself back against the wall, and opened his eyes. 

 

The receptionist sat in one of the plastic waiting room chairs. Her uniform blouse was open and blood was seeping from a huge wound on the left side of her chest. It dripped onto the floor, adding to the pool of blood spreading across the glittery turquoise lino. She held a scalpel in her left hand. By Freddie's feet, was a single white breast.