It was eight or nine years ago, maybe more. We were at Conneaut Lake Park, which was torn and frayed and holding on by a thread, but I loved the tiny old amusement park just the same. Eric and Jessie and I were bumbling around the Devil's Den and Tumble Bug and Blue Streak.
At some point, Eric and I sat down on a bench while Jessie ran off to a ride. A gram was seated next to us. We engaged in small talk.
Two little boys, soaking wet from the Cliffhanger Falls water slide scampered up to her. One was in trunks, the other wore an over-sized tee that hung almost to his knees. They were somewhere between nine and 12 years old.
"This is Tommy and Brenda," said Gram.
"I don't know why she's hiding her pretty swim suit. I just bought it for her."
The kid tugged at her sagging wet tee. "It doesn't look right, Gram," she said.
"Why are you always so funny, sweetheart?" Then Gram turned to us. "You should see her when I get her dressed up, which isn't very often. All the pretty dresses I buy her ... "
She fumbled through her purse and pulled out a handful of snapshots.
"Aw Gram," said Brenda. "Don't."
"She hates it when I show the pictures."
"Gram, can we have some more tickets?" said Tommy.
The kids ran off to the water slide. Gram showed us the pix. They broke my heart. This poor unhappy kid in pink and ruffles, looking down.
They struck me as rural people of modest means, so did most of the people that went to Conneaut in those years. It was in decline and very inexpensive.
We saw the trio several times during the day. Each time, the kid was looking down, tugging at her clothing and folding her arms over her chest (she was not overweight). The vibe she gave off was unmistakeable.
I'd never encountered such an obvious and innocent case of transgender. I swear, I could not find the girl in that little girl. She was a little boy, despite the first indication of breast development.
Unwarranted relief, of which I am not proud, washed over me each time I saw Brenda. Thank god Jessie does not have this problem, I thought. Thank god she is will not have to face persecution.
I hope that kid made it. I hope that kid didn't end up hanging from a rope or strung out on heroin. I hope and hope and hope with all my heart.
I'll be honest, folks. I do not care much for Caitlyn Jenner's money and celebrity, but I respect the fact that she has made life easier for little boys like Brenda.
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