As puberty drives a wedge between twelve-year-old nonbinary Ollie and their lifelong friends, they dive into a research project to understand what defines womanhood in hopes of fitting in. But when a trans classmate invites them to join her queer book club, Ollie must choose between the safety of conformity and the risks of finding their own voice. A modern, queer ARE YOU THERE GOD? IT’S ME, MARGARET.
I don’t even need to unfold the paper to know what it says, but I take a breath and open it anyway, desperate for no one to realize I’ve just drawn my own question out of Mrs. Johnston’s super anonymous sex-ed question box.
And I have to read it.
To the whole class.
This is my naked-in-public dream-come-true in the worst way. Like a perpetually-molted mantis shrimp, I’m soft and vulnerable in all of the wrong places. These little six-inch neon crustaceans have whip-fast claws called smashers and pack the fastest punch on the face of the planet. Their smashers come down on prey at almost fifty miles-per-hour and can even break through the glass of a fish tank.
They can break a human finger.
For all of history, I’ve held up my smashers like everyone else. I mimic my hard-shelled classmates and create the illusion that I, too, have a nice protective shell. The first rule of defensive mimicry is to never show off your squishy smashers when you’d be just fine running away.
So why, you ask, after a perfectly good run of never having my useless soft shell smashed, did I write down this absolutely ridiculous question, drop it into the sex-box, and think everything would be okay?
I’m just tired of wondering: Am I the only person in this whole school who feels this way?