This story is by Daniel Hobbs and was part of our 2021 Spring Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Raymond and Christine Caldwell are newlyweds and are now about to become first-time parents. The pair read every baby book they could get their hands on and took every parenting class they could. When their baby was born, the doctor happily passed the newborn to Christine to hold and assign it a name based upon the doctor’s expertise on reproductive organs. Raymond and Christine thought long and hard about a name, and decided to name their newborn after both of their grandparents. The baby is named after Christine’s grandfather and Raymond’s grandmother. Morgan Riley Caldwell.
Years later in pre-K, Morgan began withdrawing from their peers and favorite activities, the teacher would point out at parent-teacher conferences that Morgan, over time, has become withdrawn from class and has been acting out as of late. Morgan fought with both boys and girls in the classroom, one day they had enough and pushed Timmy away and knocked him flat on his behind. The two had an argument over whether Barbie could join GI-Joe on its secret spy mission.
“ Barbies can’t be spies, it’s a girl toy!” Timmy sneered at Morgan, taunting them. Morgan’s face turned red with embarrassment and anger, “Well GI-Joe is a doll not a action guy!” They retorted back at Timmy, and as Timmy was about to argue back, he was suddenly shoved hard by Morgan. Shocked, Timmy began to cry and it alerted the teacher, Mrs. Abrams, to come investigate.
The School’s policy was to notify both parents and have a meeting to discuss the incident. Mrs. Abrams pointed out to Morgan’s parents that this wasn’t the first time Morgan had started a fight or shyed away from their classmates and not participated in recess. Mrs. Abrams and the parents brushed it off to typical mood swings and lack of naps as toddlers tend to grow out of it, not realizing there’s a bigger issue ahead.
As Morgan grew older, panic and anxiety began to get stronger, causing them to get waves of panic attacks, stemming from them questioning why they hate their body, why their friends and family all brush off Morgan’s belief that their gender is wrong and then be told that God designed them perfectly as they are and shouldn’t question it. Being told it’s wrong to question that God couldn’t make a mistake.
It was Saturday night, and the family were having dinner together. Raymond had enough of Morgan’s whining and constant crying and began to chastise them out of spite to stop the behavior.
“Mom, please, can I have some more money to buy the clothes I want for school? I’m old enough to pick out my own clothes! One of my classmates, Ethan, started picking out his own clothes when we were in 3rd grade! I’m in 5th grade now, I should be able to pick out my own clothes. I’m not a baby anymore.” Morgan pouted and scowled, looking down at their plate.
Taking a bite of dinner, Raymond glanced at Morgan, fed up with this attitude coming from them, “Morgan, you should be lucky you have a roof over your head, toys and clothes that I worked hard to provide for you, don’t be selfish.” Raymond curtly said to Morgan, as he was sick of hearing them whine about trivial things.
Morgan glanced away from their dad, stabbing the food on their plate. Christine reached over and softly held Morgan’s face and gazed in their eyes, “We love you, you only get one chance at life, be grateful god gave you to us. We just want the best for you.” Morgan wrenched their face out of their Mom’s hands “I’m not hungry”.Morgan quickly grabbed their plate, put it in the sink and marched upstairs to their room.
One day, Sunday, late in the afternoon after coming home from church, Christine called out for Morgan. They all agreed that Morgan doesn’t have to attend church for the time being, it was Raymond and Christine’s way to avoid another fight, and the fights have been constant since that argument at dinner weeks ago. Christine called again and after no response she began looking for them.
As she reached Morgan’s bathroom, knocks softly “Sweety?” She swung the bathroom door open after hearing small sobs, to her horror, she caught them with a pair of bloody scissors on the bathroom floor, silently screaming in pain. Christine let out a wretched scream, shouting Morgan’s name. Raymond heard blood curdling scream rushed to his wife’s side and saw Morgan motionless on the floor as the puddle of blood started to grow. He urgently scooped up Morgan in his arms and rushed his family to the hospital.
In the ER, Morgan was tightly wound up in a ball, refusing anyone to touch them, the doctor administered medicine to put them to sleep to quickly administer first aid. In horror the doctor discovered they had self mutilated and the attending psychiatrist was called.
Morgan’s parents watched from behind a two-way window, listening to Dr. Goodwin, the psychiatrist, and Morgan discuss what happened today. Morgan angrily yelled at Dr. Goodwin as tears streamed down their face, “I don’t like this body, I wasn’t supposed to be born like this, I don’t like my body and I wanted to change it, I wanted to match how I felt, I want to like my body and myself and I can’t.” Morgan began to hyperventilate and cry harder as they suddenly realized the severity of what they’ve done to their body.
“I don’t want to be here anymore” Morgan sobbed, and buried their face in the pillow on the gurney, wrapping the blanket around themselves in a protective cocoon..
“Morgan, this isn’t your first time, is it?” Dr. Goodwin softly asked. Refusing to look at Dr. Goodwin, Morgan silently nodded yes. After gathering more information from Morgan about other failed attempts they took, Dr Goodwin then described that it’s sometimes the brain’s way of checking to see if we really want to live, that’s fine when your brain does it once in a while, but not when its there at every waking moment, constantly giving you morbid ideas on ways to simply stop existing. The two had a long discussion about body image and how sometimes bad thoughts can make us do dangerous things.
“Morgan I know it’s tough, you’re young, you have a whole life ahead of you, and your brain isn’t supposed to do what it did today. I’m sorry it happened.” Dr. Goodwin reached over to pat Morgan on the back and felt them flinch at the touch.
“I’m going to go speak to your parents, ok? Thank you for talking to me.” Dr. Goodwin left the room and went to the waiting room window where Raymond and Christine were watching.
“You have a bright child, Mr. and Mrs. Caldwell. I’m sorry for what happened to Morgan today.” He said as he looked at Morgan through the two-way mirror. Dr. Goodwin dutifully explained to Morgan’s parents that their child is transgender.
“The reason Morgan took drastic steps is due to gender dysphoria, Morgan does not align with the gender that was assigned to them at birth.” Dr. Goodwin spoke with a serious look on his face and was trying to convey to Morgan’s parents the seriousness of the situation.
Raymond let go of his comforting embrace of Christine and his face turned beet red. Christine turned white in shock and immediately turned to look at Morgan in the two way mirror and tears fell silently.
“How dare you tell me that my child is broken and ruined.” His face got redder by the syllable as he coldly replied to Dr. Goodwin. Raymond continued to vehemently disagree with the doctor that their child does not have this illness, and that they know what’s best for their child. Christine broke her gaze from Morgan and pleaded, medication to suppress these urges.
Morgan, now a teenager, remembered the anguish they felt years ago on that day in the ER. Filled with resentment and hatred not only toward themselves, but for their parents and the action and inaction they took that day. Morgan’s eyes were hollow and expressionless, and their heads fogged, thanks to a cocktail of medications to prevent Morgan from feeling suicidal and to suppress gender dysphoria. Life seemed bleak and pointless to Morgan, and the hate and despair of who they are was the only fuel left to keep them alive, yet also want them dead. They felt like a husk, an empty vessel, and societies laws and rules regarding gender take priority over all aspects of human life. That it’s better to be an empty emotionless shell of a person, than to live life and enjoy it to the fullest. It’s better to be a husk, a husk to do the bidding of its fellow man, to ignore oneself to appease others for the sake of the other person’s comfort. Death is Morgan’s only comfort, but it won’t come.
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