“What? Why?”, I ask him. The time and place vary, the questions vary, his specific displays of stress, shame and discomfort vary. His answer does not.
He doesn’t know.
He doesn’t know what it is that he wants. He drops his head, refusing to look me in the eyes. Mumbles, “I don’t know.”
He doesn’t know why he wants to be seen as a woman. But this is what he wants. He wants “to be” a woman.
“Why?”, I ask him.
He doesn’t know. He squirms on the other end of the couch, twisting away from me, stares out the plate glass window.
“What do you like about being seen as a woman?”, I ask.
He doesn’t know. He picks at the cuticles of his fingernails.
“What do you dislike about being a man?”, I ask. “I don’t know!”, he snaps, exhaling heavily, rolling his head back, eyes searching the ceiling.
The truth arises as the questions pour from my mouth:
“At what average age are prostituted women first commercially sexually exploited? How many incarcerated women are survivors of incest? What’s the average pay gap between women and men? How many women per week are killed by men? What percentage of college women will be raped? Why are the majority of prostituted people indigenous women and women of color, and why are the majority of their johns white men? What percentage of girls suffer with eating disorders? In developing countries, what percentage of AIDS victims are girls and women? What’s the annual profit of the pornography industry? How many women and girls per hour are raped in South Africa? How many tens of millions of girls are denied educations simply because they are female? What percentage of trafficked humans are prostituted girls and women? How much does the morning after pill cost?”
He doesn’t know.