Wyatt doesn’t have the vocabulary for his gender identity, so he simply calls himself “a boy who wants to be a girl” or “a girl in a boy’s body” or “a boy-girl.” Other first graders don’t seem to mind this definition, though some second graders occasionally call him “girly” to be mean.
Wyatt starts to have his first experiences with discrimination based on his gender identity. But the fact that this prejudice comes from those who don’t know Wyatt reinforces the idea that ignorance breeds hatred, whereas if they knew him, they might think twice about their bias.
Jonas doesn’t think there’s anything unusual about Wyatt’s behavior, but they occasionally get into fights—usually with Wyatt lashing out at Jonas. Wyatt explains these incidents with this answer: “because he gets to be who he is and I don’t.” Yet despite these occasional fights, their closeness is unmistakable. Every day, they act out TV shows or stories.
Jonas’s viewpoint demonstrates how having a transgender sibling can affect the other children in the family as well. This is the first hint that Jonas’s life will feel largely defined by that of Wyatt—yet despite this, Jonas still loves and supports him in any way possible.
Wyatt and Jonas get involved in soccer, but Wyatt rarely moves on the field. When Wayne, who is coaching the team, sees this, he pulls Wyatt from the game. Once after this happened, Wyatt runs across the field and into the street. Wayne yells at Wyatt to never do that again, furious. He explains that all he wants is for them not to get hurt.
Wyatt’s discomfort at being on the soccer team stems from the fact that he feels like he doesn’t belong in the group of boys. He so loathes being forced into a group of boys that he acts out in order to show his parents that they need to find a different activity for him.
Kelly worries about the kids’ safety, particularly Wyatt’s, and so she enrolls the kids in tae kwon do. Kelly also stays updated on news about transgender people, most of which involves violent attacks. In October 2002, a 17-year-old transgender woman named Gwen Araujo had been stripped naked, strangled, and beaten to death by a group of men because she was transgender. Stories like this make Kelly anxious.
Nutt provides another example of the dangers of being out as a transgender person—at this time, so many transgender people are targeted with violence and harassment, which makes it difficult for people to be open about their identity and advocate for themselves.
Kelly makes efforts to protect Wyatt in school and at friends’ homes. She explains to his teacher before he starts school that Wyatt likes girls’ things, which the teacher fortunately understands. One of Wayne’s friends told him that her sons had corrected her when she said the “Maines boys.” The boy had insisted, “Wyatt is a girl, and she just happens to have a penis.”
This anecdote demonstrates how kids instinctually understand an idea that Nutt proves in later chapters: sex and gender aren’t as binary or black and white as most people believe. It’s telling that adults, despite having much more life experience, are less open to those who do not fit the mold of gender norms.
Later in the year, Wyatt illustrates a safety book called “Things to Be Careful Of.” The cover shows a man-eating shark and a mermaid perched on an underwater rock. Inside are drawings of things to avoid, like strangers, slipping on ice, vampires, and playing with matches. But the first words in the book are the most realistic: “Bullies are mean to you so stay away from them.”
Wyatt once more invokes the symbol of a mermaid to represent himself, caught between two worlds and yearning to be a girl. The sharks, on the other hand, represent the bullies who discriminate against him.