This story is by Diane Kane and was part of our 2018 Spring Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Senator John Bailey’s shocking secret was the furthest thing from his mind on a warm spring afternoon in Washington, DC.
“Senator Bailey, where are we going?” William, his legislative assistant, asked as he struggled to keep pace with the congressman’s stride through the hallowed halls of the United States Capitol Building.
“Outside, William, to inhale the sweet aroma of the cherry blossoms,” Senator Bailey said over his shoulder while his Martino leather dress shoes clicked on the well-polished floors. “I need to clear my head of this infernal den of deceit.” Bailey turned and straightened his silk tie in the reflection of William’s starry-eyed admiration.
Bailey cut left into the entrance hall and exited through the tall double doors with his assistant chasing after his illustrious coattails. Descending the broad marble stairs, he shielded his eyes to adjust to the daylight. Disoriented by loud shouts and clicking cameras, he squinted into the crowd, making brief eye contact with a pretty young girl. A swarm of reporters, with video camera operators and microphones in tow, parted to let the young girl step forward.
The senator’s eyes lingered on her bulging belly as she jabbed her finger into the air toward him and screamed, “He’s the one. Senator John Bailey, he’s the father of my child!”
If Senator Bailey had actually possessed male genitals, they would have shriveled at the accusation. Instead, the nipples of his bound breasts hardened in denial. John Bailey had spent practically a lifetime rejecting his female identity.
As a toddler, his parents had coerced him with stereotypical girls’ clothes and toys, eventually having to accept the obvious. His father, an influential lawyer, helped to make the necessary legal changes that transformed Joan into John, for all extensive purposes. Not long after, he divorced his wife for another woman, a trophy wife he had called her. John led a sheltered life with his mother, all the while, longing to follow in the footsteps of his strong and powerful father. His mother homeschooled him and by the time John entered college he had buried his female identity forever, or so he thought.
A reporter pushed past the capitol police, jolting the senator from his childhood memories. “Senator, what do you say to these accusations?” he asked, sticking a microphone in Bailey’s face. “Senator, Senator!”
Bailey wiped the sweat from his brow. He did know the pregnant girl on the steps pointing her finger and claiming he fathered her child. He had befriended her in his last reelection campaign. Not even old enough to vote, she had worked tirelessly stuffing envelopes with campaign promises. Bailey was well aware at the time that she had an adolescent crush on him, or rather on the pretense of Senator John Bailey. He had felt sorry for the forlorn girl living in the projects in an unsavory part of the city. When they worked late at the campaign office, Bailey had given her rides home in his BMW convertible.
‘I was only trying to protect her. I never tried to encourage her feelings.’
“Senator Bailey, we need to get you inside,” William shouted over the chaos.
Bailey’s eyes blinked as ticker tape of thoughts streamed through his head. ‘All I have to say is that I’m really a woman and couldn’t possibly have gotten this young girl pregnant.’ It sounded so easy, but Bailey knew that nothing is simple in politics.
His mind raced with thoughts of his rise to power. One of his goals in running for office had been to spearhead changes in the laws and prejudices against people like him. He had studied political law at Harvard before he ran for Massachusetts State Representative in his late twenties. He went on to win his first bid for the United States Senate, serving four consecutive terms. Senator John Bailey achieved his desire to emulate the image of his father in wealth and power. With one big difference, Senator Bailey used his prestige, with the honor that his father’s character so sorely lacked. Bailey championed for the LGBT community. He filibustered for the rights of same-sex couples. Senator John Bailey became their ‘man’ in Congress.
‘How brutally ironic, I’ve lied to everyone including myself.’ The senator self-consciously brushed the front of his double-breasted Italian suit.
William steered Bailey back up the capitol steps away from the rush of reporters. The senator stumbled and fell on the cold stone dais attempting to escape the horde of blood-thirsty media. Bailey glimpsed some of his fellow congressmen and women gawking at the scene. A weak laugh escaped his lips as he realized that not one of them would step forward to defend him. Whether they believed the adolescent girl or not, they knew as well as Bailey that it’s not always the truth of the accusation that kills a career, sometimes it’s only the uncertainty of the idea.
‘Why should they risk their careers to defend me?’ Bailey’s stomach churned.
Two police officers broke through the crowd and picked Bailey up under the arms, whisking him through the massive double doors. Leaving him in the empty Rotunda chamber, they hurried back outside to help contain the growing unrest.
William sat beside the senator on the bench under the large mural depicting the baptism of Pocahontas. Bailey smiled deliriously at the image of the Indian Princess, lying on a dais, her head bowed, and her hands clasped before her, as the assembled audience looked on with an array of emotions from power to pity.
“Senator, no one is going to believe that girl,” William said. “Everyone knows your distinguished reputation.”
‘Would William think as highly of me if he knew that the real reason I always use the stalls in the men’s room is that I don’t have the equipment to use the urinals?’ Bailey blinked back tears and began to weigh his options.
Demanding a DNA test would only have confirmed his female identity. ‘Can I save my career if I take responsibility for the girl’s child?’
Bailey thought back on some of his collogues who had faced similar accusations and politically survived the aftermath. Still, he had seen other lengthy careers crash and burn in the media frenzy. It was all up to the whim of the news mill, and the chance of a more prominent headline drawing the spotlight away from his sorted story.
William returned from talking with security. “The police have contained the crowd. I think we can leave soon,” William said.
Bailey turned away to avoid William’s eyes. ‘Is it safer to tell the public that I’ve misled them all along in believing that I’m a man?’
Bailey could admit his deception and beg for the mercy of the voters. The LGBT community might forgive him knowing what he had achieved for them in the guise of a straight male. But Bailey was well aware that the vast majority of voters that kept him in office were men. If he told the truth, he did not doubt that the good ole’ boys would seek revenge in the ballot box.
“Senator.” A guard approached. “We will have a car for you in a few minutes so you can leave.”
Bailey pressed his hands to his face. ‘I can leave, but where can I hide? The press will already be outside my condo.’
Bailey reflected on his choices. He thought about the poor pregnant girl with pity. ‘She has to be destitute to bring herself to this public forum.’
Even so, he knew that taking responsibility for her child could ultimately prove to be the destruction of his career.
If Bailey revealed that he was a woman, he would be admitting to deceiving the whole country. ‘Either way, I very well could be speaking my last words as an elected official.’
“Come on Senator,” William prodded him. “Let’s go.”
‘The choice I make today will change my life, as I know it, forever.’ Bailey breathed a sigh of resolve. ‘There is only one decision that I can live with.’
The guards stood at attention as the senator squared his shoulders and walked across the hallway. They opened the entrance doors to the frenzied media. The crowd turned from the pregnant young girl and strained against the police line.
“You don’t have to go out there Senator,” William pleaded.
Bailey grasped the boy’s shoulder. “William, there’s a child about to enter this world who needs the full support of a father,” Bailey looked into his eyes. “I have to stand up and be that man.”
Bailey faced the crowd with political prowess, while his feminine feet struggled to fill unfamiliar shoes.
‘Sometimes, truth and honor are not the same things.’
“Ladies and Gentlemen,” Senator John Bailey looked straight into the cameras and spoke clearly. “I am going to be honest with you today just as I have been for the past eighteen years that I have been in Congress.”