S/He

(for Rem and the rest of IV-Tolkien, as well as every student who has ever gone through this)

He smoothes his short skirt down and adjusts his bra while on his way to the school canteen. He never knew that bra straps could be so itchy on the shoulders, which he leans slightly back because there is nothing in his chest, save, perhaps, for his thumping heart, keeping it in place. At least the skirt feels much, much better, much “freer” than the pants he wears to school everyday. Still, he has to smooth it down every so often, to keep it from hiking up his thighs too much.

He takes a sideward glance at his classmate, who is looking very laid back in her football jersey and baggy pants. This assignment was waaay too easy for the girls: dressing up in guy’s clothes is a normal thing in our society. Not so much for the guy who opts, or is opted, to wear a girl’s clothes, a sentiment immediately affirmed when one of the younger students points an accusing finger, complete with an accusatory wail:

“Hahaha, bakla o!”

He is in no way a homosexual, however. Yes, he has doubted this, asked this to himself before, but he is never more sure of where he stands in the game of genders than he is at this very moment. Ironic, then, that the higher he holds his head up, the more gay he looks. “Pride” comes to his mind, along with thoughts of the sheer amount of ridicule these people have to go through everyday, just so they can live their lives.

We asked for it, he concedes to himself.

What were they thinking, being all a-jitter with anticipation for the activity? Was the chance to laugh at each other’s awkwardness worth being so awkward yourself? It was inevitable in any case, he muses. It was a class endeavor, a culmination for their week of lectures on Feminism and gendering, with a footnote to Nick Joaquin’s “Summer Solstice” in all its wild-woman, crossdressing babaylan glory.

It is at that moment, as well, when he understands: seeing the perceived roles of men and women in society outside of the pockmarked, chalk-marked blackboard’s lectures, seeing that while sex is biological while gender is anything but, and seeing that sometimes the clothes might just make the man as much as everything else does.

He understands, and it is all that matters.

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