Wednesday is "gender bender day," which Simon explains really just means that kids cross-dress. Mr. Wise shows Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night in English class, and Simon watches soccer boys including Nick, Garrett, and Bram squeeze onto Mr. Wise's couch in tiny cheerleading uniforms. Simon is surprisingly attracted to the muscular soccer legs in tiny cheerleading skirts, and is especially surprised that Bram, who is extremely quiet and shy, dressed up. Abby arrives late to class, laughs at the boys on the couch, and accuses Simon and Leah of not dressing up. Simon explains that Leah always dresses extra feminine to be subversive, and he felt no choice but to cross-dress a tiny bit with hair clips.
Twelfth Night is one of Shakespeare's most famous plays that features cross-dressing and messy love triangles. Meanwhile, the different ways that the students interpret the dress up theme reinforces again that costumes can entirely change a person into something they're totally not—Bram, for example, is quiet and reserved but goes along with the other soccer boys’ plan to boldly dress as cheerleaders in skimpy outfits.
Simon thinks that it's funny that the straight guys end up going all out for this day because "they're secure in their masculinity," but he thinks that that's not the same as being straight. He also tells the reader that he used to love dressing like a girl. He'd dream about Halloween starting in April and try his costumes on multiple times before Halloween. Now, he's just mortified by how much he loved wearing dresses. Martin enters the classroom, a cheerleading uniform barely covering his tall frame. He even stuffed the bust, and the other kids laugh and whistle. Mr. Wise sends Martin to the office to get a late pass.
Simon's astute observation about the intersection between masculinity and sexuality again points to the way that people make assumptions about their peers based on their gender or their sexuality, and that these assumptions aren’t necessarily true. Simon's mortification at his own childhood love of wearing girls' clothes illustrates how he too is growing up, coming of age, and changing as he thinks about his sexual identity.
On Friday, some of the hallways are covered in hay to go with the country music theme for the junior class. Simon loves it. At lunch, Simon pointedly avoids Martin and sits down in the middle of an argument between Leah and Garrett. Nick sits down and suggests they go to the game later instead of going to Waffle House like usual. Simon agrees, excited to be in the stands with Blue, but Leah looks angry. When Abby sits down and starts talking about the game, Leah abruptly leaves.
Again, Nick's suggestion that they go to the game appears to be an unprecedented decision, and therefore is one that reinforces that Nick, Leah, and Simon are changing and are, especially in Leah's case, not necessarily happy about it or comfortable with the changes.
As Nick and Simon return to school that evening for the parade, they discuss that they're on Leah's "shit list." It's both boys' first time at a football game, and Simon is struck by how pretty and bright the stadium lights are. The excitement in the air makes Simon understand why Blue likes homecoming. Abby races up and asks Nick and Simon if they want to walk in the parade, so they follow her to the lot where the floats are staged. A girl on student council arranges the junior class and instructs them on what to chant. Though Simon thinks it's ridiculous, he enjoys feeling like a part of the group.
The tone that Nick and Simon use to talk about being on the outs with Leah indicates that this isn't necessarily a new development. This suggests either that Nick and Simon aren't as kind to Leah as they could be, or that Leah holds her friends to impossible standards and is frequently mad at them. At the very least, it's clear that Leah is adamant about rejecting any changes that come her way, which implies that this is an issue rooted in her own anxieties.
After the parade, Simon and Nick head to the bleachers to find the soccer team. The team is able to make room for Nick, but Simon decides to sit with the drama club. He sits next to Cal and can barely think, given how attractive Cal looks. He thinks about saying something to see if Cal is Blue, but decides against it. Martin slides in next to Simon and quietly says that Abby turned him down when he asked her to the dance. He miserably asks Simon to let him know if Abby's seeing someone next time, and Simon almost feels bad for him. He thinks about what might happen with the emails if Martin never wins over Abby, and thinks it'd be awful to have that hanging over his head forever.
Even though Martin is absolutely the antagonist in Simon's story, it's important to pay attention to the fact that Albertalli doesn't make him an entirely unlikeable character. By doing this, she makes it clear that Martin's identity is also multifaceted, just like Simon's is, and it shows that he's also dealing with a great deal of anxiety as he navigates adolescence. When Simon is able to empathize with Martin, it shows Simon beginning to recognize his humanity, even as he remains unable to recognize Abby's right to choose her own romantic partners.