On paper, my life was perfect. My name’s Tahsin. I’m 18 years old and I’m a high schooler. I come from a well-known family with plenty of connections in Dhaka, and we live pretty comfortably. I’m a good student, I play football. Unfortunately for me, I’m pretty popular at school as well. I don’t when or how or why it started, a short time after I started puberty maybe? My physique changed and eventually I went from the shy, quiet kid in the corner of the class to being invited to parties, girls sending me crush confessions on the confessions page on Facebook, and being more liked than I was ever previously used to. And if I’m gonna be honest? I hate every single second of it. I’m what they call an extroverted introvert. I can be an extrovert for certain situations, but other times? Not so much. Enough about me, let’s get back to the story. It was a typical summer afternoon. The sky was blindingly blue, not a cloud in sight. The sun oozed warmth into the atmosphere – just enough to make you sweat. If you were lucky, you got caught in a cooling gust of wind and had your hair frazzled into a completely new hairstyle. I was sitting underneath a banyan tree on campus, freshly played a match of football with a tennis ball. I had decided to get some water, since I was sweating buckets. Games periods at school usually met that everyone abandoned the classroom to do whatever their particular clique was into, and our class was no exception. I took this opportunity to pull up my desk chair and sit under a fan with my eyes closed. “Ahem,” I heard a young girl’s voice. Upon opening my eyes, I saw one of my classmates, Neha, standing in front of me with her hands behind her back and her eyes looking anywhere but at mine. “Oh hi,” I smiled politely, “did you need something?” “Y-yeah,” she said, “Tahsin, I really wanna come clean about something,” “I… I…” Oh no. “I really like you!” she blurted out in a burst of energy, “I really, really like you. I’d like to ask you out on a date. Would you like to go to the graduation party as my date?” I sighed deeply, and then looked her in the eye, and her eyes foretold that she already knew my answer before she had asked. “Neha, you know that I don’t date,” I said with as soft as an expression I could muster, “I’m not taking anyone with me to the graduation party, I’m sorry.” “I…” she said, a crack in her voice, yet she was a champion that kept her composure, “I understand. Thank you for hearing me out, though,” I smiled and nodded my head, “I’ll see you around, okay?” Without another word, she turned around and left the classroom, and left me to drink my water. It’s not that I don’t want to date people, it’s that the people are not interested in the real me. A week later, the graduation party was held at our school – and it marked a very important day for me. The day I would come out. The dress code was simple, yet formal. Saris for women and suits for men. So, I asked my sister to do me a favour and get my parents out of the house. With them busy, I turned on YouTube and draped on my first sari, and had a bit of an emotional moment in front of my mirror when I was done. At the convention hall, I arrived in a red sari, my mother’s heels, and my sister’s purse. I wobbled to the door – and it’s a miracle I didn’t slip and fall. I opened the door and went up to my usual circle of friends. “…Tahsin?” “Dude what the hell?” “Is this some sort of prank? Bro…” I took in a deep breath, inhaling through my nose and exhaling through my mouth. My poor heart felt like it was about to beat right out of my chest, but I pushed on. “Guys, I’ve been lying to you for so… so many years,” I said just loud enough to hear, “I’m… I’m sorry I didn’t tell you. I’m still the same Tahsin. It’s a girl’s name too, you know? I’m…” Silence. “I’m transgender. Please, don’t treat me differently.” “You’re fucking kidding us, right?” “No, my pronouns are-“ “You fucking tranny!” One of my friends said, standing suddenly and slamming a fist on the table. He and the others at the table glared at me. I could feel the hatred wash over me, like a tidal wave about to wash over me and drag me into the depths of the ocean. I closed my eyes and felt tears swelling in my eyes. I wanted to run away and never turn back. “Don’t fucking call her that!” A familiar voice retorted. Before me stood Neha, her arms extended in a protective stance, the only barrier between me and a group of aggressive men who were never really, truly, my friends. “What’d you say?” My standing ex-friend said. “I said,” she approached him, “Do not fucking call her that slur. Did your parents never teach you basic decency? Shame on you!” “Neha, everyone knows you’ve liked tranny over there for a long ass time,” he laughed, “looks like you still like him, even in this state,” “Her! She’s a WOMAN, you cumstain!” she shouted even louder. Neha, was amazing. She shouted and defended me through all the insults and the slurs. She defended me no matter what was said, besides me barely knowing her. I just stood there, speechless, for what seemed like hours. The tears that formed leaked down my eyes and before I knew it, I took her by the hand and pulled her away from the commotion. We left and didn’t come back to the party. “Thank you,” I said to her once we were outside, “for defending me,” “Tahsin, it’s okay. You’re a wonderful person and didn’t deserve any of that,” she smiled, as she wiped my tears away with her hand, “you deserve better friends,” “Will you be one? A new friend? For this new identity?” “Of course.” Maybe some people are interested in the real me.