Fiction by Ann Garvald
It was only my second meeting with Social Services so I didn’t really expect much. I smoothed my skirt, sat down and looked enquiringly across the desk at Greg. “Well Jan”, he said with a big smile, “I wish all adopted sibling requests moved along as easily as this. The fact that you knew you were a triplet made it easier. And the new provincial regulations don’t create many obstructions for adults who consent to identify themselves. So here’s the deal: I’ve located a sister and I have her permission to put you in touch, even although she’s still a little uncertain. She’s suggested that I just give you her first name – it’s Debbie — and her e-mail address. Then it’s up to the two of you to take it from there.”I guess my delight showed and Greg’s grin got broader. “She also,” he said,
“grew up with your other sibling, so if you and Debbie hit it off I guess you’ll be meeting him too.” Which was more than I had ever hoped for.
We went over the forms, he gave me the e-mail address, and I got up to leave. “There’s only one other thing” he said as he opened the door for me. “Someone must have screwed up when the three births were registered. The records show two boys and one girl, and you say that’s what you were told. Since you will all be reunited it probably doesn’t really matter now, but it’s obvious there was a mistake. It must have been two girls and one boy.”
Well Greg, I thought to myself, you may think that, but I don’t. Kind of glad you didn’t check out my past. You would have discovered something quite surprising about the demure Jan shaking your hand right now. No, Mom didn’t have it wrong. Two boys and one girl it was.
More thanks, a hug which he obviously enjoyed, and I was on my way.
Debbie, as it turned out, didn’t seem uncertain and after a couple of e-mails it was agreed we’d meet the next Saturday in the Starbucks that’s part of the Chapters store at the local mall. I told her I would hold a copy of “Great Expectations” so she would know who I was. “Great Expectations?” she e-mailed back. “Well maybe.”
Maybe she didn’t sound unsure, but I certainly was. I’d been living full time as Jan for seven years and I thought I was pretty comfortable in almost every situation, but the closer it got to Saturday the more anxious I became. What if she and her brother — my sister and my brother — wanted nothing to do with me when they found out the facts? I’ve known a lot of families that have been accepting of gender transition, but I’ve also encountered and read of utter and hateful rejections. Was that what I would face?
I don’t think I’ve ever dressed so carefully as on that Saturday morning. Very conservatively of course — this girl’s no vamp. A light blue shirt, not unbuttoned too far because I don’t have much to show. A beige jacket and a matching short skirt . Yeah, I know, it’s so Belinda Stronach. But I don’t care. I love the look — it’s me. Anyway, I spent a long time on my make-up and my nails, I trimmed my bangs and brushed and brushed my long, ash blonde hair – bra-strap-length as one of my girlfriends calls it. Sheer pantyhose, discreet heels and I was ready.
When I saw Debbie coming towards me I knew that the “Great Expectations” idea had been quite unnecessary. Fraternals don’t always look alike but we sure did. Our choice of clothes wasn’t the same but she was very chic, in a cute little red dress, cut lower than I would dare, enough to show some cleavage. The benefit, I thought wryly, of having what comes naturally. About the only thing that was different was her hair, also natural ash blonde, but longer than mine in a waist-length pony-tail. It was spooky and took me back ten years to my closet days when I’d spend hours in front of a full-length mirror trying out different wigs and dresses, looking for the Jan I wanted to be. But this was no mirror image. This was my sister Debbie and, wow, did she ever look like me.
Our incredibly close resemblance obviously registered with her. Her eyes widened and she hesitated for a moment. But then there were no signs of friendliness. “Well” she said in a cold voice, “I certainly didn’t expect a girl. I wish the Social Services fellow had told me this. I always thought that it was two boys and one girl. I was expecting Jan to be a guy.” She didn’t even offer to shake the hand I held out. What’s with this girl, I wondered. She hadn’t read me – that I knew . Ten years as Jan, seven of them full time, had taught me to recognize all the signs, no matter how subtle. So why the frigidity, bordering on nastiness?
I soon found out. “Sit down”, she said curtly. No friendly suggestion that we get coffees. “We have to talk.” she went on. “I don’t think we need DNA testing to confirm that we are sisters. As soon as I saw you I knew that. But there’s no way Chris and I want to take this any further until we know you have the same sort of values as we have. Particularly on the important moral issues.” We sat down and she looked at me coldly. “Let’s not play games” she said. “I want to know what your attitudes are to certain people. Like homosexuals, lesbians, transvestites, transexuals. What do you think of that sort of …. behaviour?” she said, almost spitting out the last word.
I was shattered. I’d worked so hard to find her and my brother. They were the only family I had and what was I finding? Hatred, prejudice, bigotry. I wanted to cry but I was also getting very, very angry. “Okay Debbie” I said. “I won’t play games. Gays? I think they are people who should be allowed to get on with living the way they want. The ones I know are good people. Last time I checked, none of them were starting wars, bombing villages or throwing people into prison without trial. Gender-crossing? If a person is unhappy with the gender he or she was born into, why not? I have no problem with that. At all. And I know a great deal about it. A hell of a lot more than you do, I’ll bet. So I guess you don’t like that. Well tough. I’ll leave.”
I was absolutely furious by now and was ready to deal with the intolerant reaction I knew would follow. I sure didn’t anticipate what actually happened. She got up, came round to my side of the table, and to my total surprise a huge smile was spreading across her face. “Yikes, Jan,” she said, “Remind me not to get you upset too often. Jan, I’m so sorry I seemed like such a bitch, but I had to do it. We needed to test you. We have a very sensitive issue you will have to know about and we really had to be sure about you. Wow, did you ever ace that test! Big time!” she exclaimed, laughing now. “Shock tactics work best when time is short” she added apologetically. And she put her arm around me. “Welcome Sis,” she said. “I’m sure we can trust you.”
By this time the emotional roller-coaster had got to me and I was crying. I got up, and we hugged, both of us crying now. And she started waving over my shoulder to someone. ”Here’s Chris.” she said.
I looked round and gasped. More shock tactics? This was Chris? My brother? Shoulder-length blonde streaked hair? Slacks, a white silk blouse, a strand of pearls and matching earrings? And heels? “Chris, you’re a girl?” I stammered. And then a joyful exclamation, “Wow Chris, you’re a girl!”
“Christine” said Debbie, laughing, “Meet Jan. In case you haven’t noticed,” she added with another laugh, “Jan’s a girl. I guess our parents had it wrong. It must have been two girls and one boy. Anyway, Jan’s okay. In fact,” she said, giving me a big smile. “ I think we’ve found a sister we’re really going to love. And trust. We have to tell her everything. So let’s get coffee and talk.”
While she was saying this I was both laughing and crying, looking from one to the other and hugging them, a three-sister show causing considerable amusement to the Saturday morning Starbucks crowd. And all the time I was trying to make sense of how this could fit in with two boys and one girl. Because I knew my Mom hadn’t been wrong. Then it hit me. There was only one explanation. Of all people, I should have been able to figure this one out.
“Chris”, I said, when I had recovered some composure. “You have absolutely no idea how wonderful this is for me. It’s an incredible, incredible coincidence. I came here quite sure that that Chris would be Christopher. But I find you’re a girl. How long have you been Christine?”. More bewilderment for me as Christine looked over at Debbie and with a mischievous grin raised her perfect eyebrows. “All my life Jan,” she said. “Since the three of us were together in the tummy of the mother we never got to know. Trust me, Jan, I’m a GG. I think it’s time for Debbie to tell you about that sensitive issue she mentioned.”
The fact that Debbie, not Chris, had been the other boy now registered with me and I looked at her. Only to find that she was staring back at me with a look of wide-eyed astonishment. “Coincidence?” she said wonderingly. “Incredible coincidence?” The truth was dawning on her. Like me, she’d just figured why we two looked so much alike. She’d also just figured out that two boys and one girl had indeed been right. And her astonished look was changing to one of absolute delight.
“ C’mon” I said, “let’s get those coffees. We have lots of experiences to share.”