Kelly Stapleton
Today I am a Man

"Goddamn, I was an ugly woman," Larry thought, as he eyed his photo on the table. His mother had brought the framed picture from home and set it on the table when she came to visit that afternoon. He wasn't sure what she hoped to accomplish with that little gesture. Was he supposed to look at that molded hairdo and forced smile on his young face and wish to be that person again? Even if he did, it's not as if the doctors could put his ovaries back in and refashion a new vagina.

His mother didn't stay long. After some small talk and feigned concern— "Are you getting enough to eat?"— she made her excuses and took off. She never looked him in the eye, not even as she hugged him goodbye and told him she loved him.

Larry was finally where he wanted to be. After years of therapy, hormones, and surgery, he was there. He had no regrets. But all it took was half an hour with his mother, without her saying anything outright critical, to feel as if his very existence was a cosmic mistake. There was no need for her to say anything. It was what she didn't say that spoke volumes. His mother was his very first critic, and she could make him feel worthless with a gesture as seemingly benign as rearranging the magazines on his coffee table.

All the therapy in the world couldn't stop him from wanting her approval. The only thing that dulled the pain for a while was booze. He twisted open a beer and sat at the kitchen table to watch TV with an ache deep in his gut. By his second beer, the pain began to subside. By the third, he couldn't give two shits about the old bat.

Larry suddenly realized he was mindlessly watching baseball, a game he didn't particularly enjoy. He grabbed the remote to change the channel and caught his reflection in the window —a middle-aged man in a wifebeater, watching the game and drinking beer— and laughed. He leaned back in his chair, grabbed his prosthetic balls, and took the last swig of his beer, enjoying being a man.


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