Tiffany Valcourt

I have always felt like an outsider peering into a prison, one that many cannot escape. The few that can have enough money for bail. I watch a prisoner day by day struggling to get out. Pacing around his cell just looking for a crack in the wall to start planning his freedom.

My best friend Dexter is the prisoner in this case and I am just his watchman. Dexter has to struggle with the imprisonment of his body. He is a female-to-male transgender, which means that he was born a girl but on the inside, he feels like he should have been born a boy. Dexter was born as Mariah, a healthy average girl, and has always felt like he was in the wrong body.

I’ve known Dexter for years. I met him when he had long dark brown hair and wore awful turtle neck sweaters every day. Dexter never seemed to have a problem with who he was, or so I thought. It wasn’t until we started dating that I knew anything was wrong. At first Dexter was my girlfriend because I thought that was what he was, just a really masculine girl. For a while that is what we were, just two girls. That all changed a few months down the road. Dexter and I began to get to know each other more, connecting on levels that I don’t think many people ever feel. To this day there is still a bond between us that is indescribable. This bond makes us feel like the ideal people, he feels like the ideal man and I feel like the ideal woman. I knew when he was hurt or upset, I knew everything on his mind. I had noticed for a few weeks that Dexter had had something on his mind, something big, a feeling that was eating away at his soul. I had to find out what was bothering him. So one day while we were hanging out, I noticed he seemed distracted and asked What’s wrong?.

Oh, what? Nothing, he replied.

You’re lying.

That’s what started this whole thing, I asked him a simple question. Of course it took a while to get it out of him, because he was so stubborn and did not want to answer me. I was a nosy girlfriend and I knew I could break his stubbornness eventually. I kept asking what was wrong and why she couldn’t talk to me. I kind of guilt-tripped him into telling me. He finally got fed up with me asking him over and over again and he finally told me. Dexter told me that he did not feel right in his body, he was disgusted by the way it looked, and that he lacked some things. He hated that he was trapped in this female prison. He wished he was a boy and would rather be known as a boy, be called a boy and finally be named Dexter, not Mariah.

I tried to be cute and asked him, Does this make you my boyfriend?

Dexter liked that and we just started to talk about his past and how everything happened to make him want to be a boy. We talked about how he felt being a girl. He hated everything in his body, his breasts and genitals mostly. He told me he wished that just once he could wake up and be a boy and experience everything that a boy does on a daily basis. Dexter told me the ever since he was a young child, he never felt attracted to boys. He told me he was actually not attracted to anyone, and thought he was asexual. I remember he laughed and said, Until I found the magic of boobs. That thought always made me laugh.

I asked him if his parents knew, and how they felt about it. Dexter told me when he had told his parents that he was a lesbian they thought it was just a phase that one day he would grow out of and that he was too young to know what he would be interested in sexually. I knew how that felt because my parents had told me the same thing when I came out to them.

Later on, after that conversation, Dexter told his dad that he wanted to be a man. His dad, of course, did not believe him. Also his dad was mean to him and told Dexter that he did not want a son and that he would always be his daughter. Dexter told me that made him feel empty inside, that he did not have the support of his own father through this hard struggle. I could not believe that his own father would be so mean and closed-minded to someone that he loved. I felt lucky at that time to have such open-minded parents.

It took almost a year after coming out to his father for Dexter to tell his mom. I remember Dexter was on vacation with his dad when he told his mom. When he told her, Dexter thought she would be more understanding than his dad. He was wrong. Dexter’s mom thought that Dexter just wanted to be like his father. That hurt Dexter dearly to hear that from his mom. Dexter’s father is a complete jack-ass and the last thing Dexter wanted was to be like his father.

Whenever I hear anything about Dexter’s struggle with his parents it breaks my heart. I never thought anyone’s parents would not support their child through something like that. I had told my parents all about it, and my mother was outraged at the fact that his parents didn’t support him. My parents have always been open-minded. When I came out of the closet they did not believe me but of course I was fifteen and had not experienced anything. I asked them what would happen if I came to them with this same issue. My mom told me she would be in shock but would want to know more about how I felt and would try to help me. My dad kind of did not say anything because he did not know what he would do. All in all, my parents fully support Dexter with his decision.

Since that talk I have watched this person close to my heart struggle in this prison. We did research to help Dexter feel more like a man. Dexter already had the boy clothes and hair but he still had to deal with the girl chest.

Dexter drove to Wal-Mart one day and bought an ace chest bandage and started to bind down the mounds of fleshy padding on his chest. I remember how happy and excited he was not to have breasts. He was so excited that he danced around his bedroom with his shirt off. His happy spirit made my day. I wish I caught it on tape to put it on America’s Funniest Home Videos. I bet we could have won. This was his little crack to freedom from his prison. He loved how flat and manly he felt. The only down-side to this was that he had a hard time breathing.

As his girlfriend, I watched and saw the pain he went through. I fell asleep next to him while he was wearing the bandage to hide his hideous scars, and I woke up to him gasping for air because his bandage had gotten too tight around his lungs. I could not imagine the pain of the whole process. It hurt me emotionally as it did him physically. I wanted to feel his pain just once so I could taste what he was going through. Dexter and I took his ace bandage and bound me up tight. It felt like a train ran over my chest and my lungs were gasping for just a drop of air. That was my only time being in the orange jump suit.

Months had gone by and it was the middle of summer vacation and Dexter was sick of having the girl name Mariah following him around everywhere. He did not want to go to college with the name Mariah. So Dexter and I took a whole day trying to find a place in New Hampshire that he could legally change his name. We finally found it and got the form to fill out. It was a lot pricier to get your name changed than Dexter thought. His friend had changed his name for thirty dollars, but in New Hampshire it costs ninety dollars. Dexter got very discouraged because he did not have a lot of money and did not have a job. Dexter and I sat in a Dunkin Donuts looking at the paper and trying to fill it out. I kept encouraging him to do this, it was his dream to get it changed before college. I even told him I would pay for it, if money was the issue. Dexter hates taking money from me, he tells me it makes him feel less manly. I guess it’s a guy thing. Dexter had to get his court date mailed to my house because he did not want his parents to know. I told my parents about it and they understood and did not mind.

Dexter ended up going through with getting his name changed, though I wish I was there for his court date. I was in Virginia at this time dealing with not only this issue, but a major family issue. Dexter got up early that morning and went into his court session more encouraged than I had seen him in months. It was about noon when it was over and I got a text from a very upset boy. Dexter had got what he wanted, but the judge did not believe that he was a transgender because he did not use the boys’ bathroom. Dexter had told his dad by this point. Dexter’s dad flipped out at him and did not talk to his son for almost a week. Dexter was beating himself up emotionally. He kept saying that he was such a bad person for ruining his father’s life and that he would end up ruining his mother’s life after he told her. I remember I was on the phone with him one night while I was in Virginia and he was in tears. I wish I could have held him close that night. I kept telling him how good it would feel to tell his mom, and that his mother would be more understanding than his dad. Dexter got the courage to go tell his mom that night. He went with tears streaming down his face and told his mom. I was right, of course, his mom did not mind that he changed his name. She thought about it the same as me, what’s in a name? They ended up talking about it, and he got a lot off his chest that night with his mom.

Eventually his dad came around. They had a good heart-to-heart talk with each other. In the end, they talked about getting a breast reduction and eventually hormone treatment for Dexter. This made me happy to hear that his father got a little less closed-minded in the end and how even a jack-ass has feelings once in a while.

I always try to reach into Dexter’s cell to break him free, but my hand is always just a few feet too far. I try to look for enough money for bail but I always come up a few cents short. All I can do is drop a spoon for him to try to make his path to freedom. To give the encouragement and support that he needs to get through his time in jail. Also to beg for the support of his parents, the ones who turned him in to the police. I hope that one day Dexter will be able to walk out of that jail cell a free man.