A little backstory here. I set out to write a modern adaptation of the Beauty and the Beast story. Mostly it was the challenge of coming up with an imprisonment scenario that wasn’t problematic, but I thought there could be intriguing parallels in a character being condemned to inhabit a body that they never wanted between the Beast and what many transgender individuals feel and face every day.
That mostly fell by the wayside and instead I set out exploring a story about a main character who is trans, but doesn’t have a story that revolves around them being trans. I wanted to focus mainly on that character’s life outside of transitioning. Of course, being trans is a large part of that, but there is so much more to trans individuals. Sadly the diversity in trans stories is severely lacking.
I also didn’t want to write an LGBTQ story where the main character dies. Too many of those already so, spoiler alert, everyone lives.
I’m not trans, but my partner is, and I’ve been with him through much of his transition. Almost all of the information in this story comes from being with him through those experiences.
Anyway, here’s the first (unedited) chapter.
The Fall from Grace
The church leadership came for Pastor David R. Abernathy on a warm spring Sunday afternoon. They couldn’t allow him, a man who had given nearly three decades to the church, the quiet dignity of being removed from his post on a Saturday when he was in his office and the church was nearly empty. No, they had to do it at the end of the afternoon service, when the majority of the church members were around, to see his humiliation and shame. He had no doubt that was intentional. It wasn’t enough for his relationship with the church to end. His congregation, his flock, men and women that had come to him for guidance for years had to see it end, had to see his disgrace. Local churches had autonomy, they said. Until David Abernathy had the gall to love his son.
The New York Baptists weren’t like the Southern Baptists. So they said. Abernathy’s church was upstate and, well, rural New York could look a lot like rural Kentucky sometimes. Abernathy was already a bit of an outcast, a black man leading a mostly white church. It had taken a bit for him to win the congregation over, but in due time they grew to love him. But they loved him because he was one of them, not the other way around. Still, it wasn’t their decision to see him go.
For David, the last straw was supporting his transgender son. Miriam Abernathy hadn’t meant to come out to his father. Not then, and perhaps not ever. You weren’t gay in the church and you sure as hell weren’t transgender.
He had played the wild child for a while, acting out, trying on hat after hat after hat in the hopes that some would fit. He started drinking when he was eleven, finding the stores of communion wine unlocked one day. The church switched to grape juice shortly thereafter “out of respect for the congregation’s recovering alcoholics.” Few knew the real reason.
Puberty hit and he bought baggy t-shirts to hide his breasts and men’s jeans to hide his hips. That felt a little better. He began wrapping his chest with bandages to make it more flat and sometimes when he looked in a mirror that way he almost felt like he didn’t want to die. Almost.
He’d had the bottle of pills the one night. Cap off, cotton out, spilled over his desk almost like candy. But he couldn’t do it. His father would be the one to find him and every time he grasped a handful of the tiny white capsules, he saw the horrified look on his face.
It was fucking Facebook that forced the issue. A note that was supposed to be private had turned to be not so when a mutual friend of his father’s had commented on it. He came home from a walk one day to find his father waiting for him in the living room of their expansive house.
“Son, I saw your note,” he said softly in that voice of his that he used right before he was building up to the climax of one of his sermons. Only this time there was no crescendo, at least not in volume.
A thousand excuses and protestations came to mind, but couldn’t quite pass through Miriam’s lips as he went into panic mode. It was only several long seconds later that he realized that his father, the formidable Pastor David Abernathy had started their conversation by calling him son.
Then it was only tears that came as he rushed into his father’s arms and they held one another. It had been a long time since he’d given his father a hug, Miriam realized, his growing dysphoria having made him loathe physical contact more and more. He sunk against his father’s powerful arms, comforted by them, but also hoping that he might one day be in the opposite position, a father consoling his child in their time of need.
“Why didn’t you tell me?” His father asked, and that only produced a fresh wave of tears.
“I didn’t think you’d understand.”
“Understand…I’m your father.”
“And The Reverend,” the church had pastors, not reverends, but the nickname had stuck.
“The message of the church is one of love,” he said. “Jesus didn’t say anything about, what is it, transgenders, but he did preach love. And he especially preached it to the meek and the destitute.”
Miriam had a fresh retort, but The Reverend held up his hand. “Now before you get all macho on me, let me tell you this. The first thing I did when I saw your note was read all I could on transgender folks and, well, I don’t know what you’re going through. But I do know what some ugly people put you through and I know that you and yours need love perhaps more than anyone.”
Miriam couldn’t contain himself anymore and embraced his father again, sobbing into his navy t-shirt and soaking it through to the muscled chest that had softened with age. So had his father’s stance towards the LGBT community, transitioning itself from opposition, to confusion, now apparently to acceptance.
“Have you decided on a name yet?” Miriam’s note had made mention of the difficulty. How do you name yourself?
Miriam thought for several long moments. “I was thinking ‘Marshall,’ after Marsha P. Johnson,” he said after several moments. “Or Martin.”
“Well Martin is a name that has served black men well,” his father answered with a smile. “Who is Marsha P. Johnson?”
“She was one of the leaders of the Stonewall Riots and the push for gay and trans rights that followed,” Miriam explained.
“Was she black?” Miriam nodded.
His father frowned. “I should have known that. Who she was, I mean. We can’t afford to let our heroes be forgotten.” He turned his attention back to his son. “How about…Marshall Martin Abernathy? Has a nice ring to it, don’t you think?”
“I’d like to keep my middle name,” Miriam said.
David beamed. Miriam, despite being assigned female at birth, had the same middle name as his grandfather’s first name, William. “So then keep it. Four names are better than three don’t you think?”
Miriam nodded. That was the day he left Miriam behind and became Marshall Martin William Abernathy.