Our mother’s sister, Aunt Sally, lived in Nova Scotia, and every summer we’d go down east to stay a couple of weeks. Aunt Sally would tell us bedtime stories when we were still small, and there was one she told us, when we were about five, that stuck in our minds. The story was about a beautiful princess. “You know, Meredith,” Aunt Sally said, “when you grow up you’ll be a beautiful lady just like the princess.” At which point I piped up: “Aunt Sally, when I grow up I’m going to be a beautiful lady too, and I’m going to have a white dress and I’m going to be called Joanne.” I probably said it quickly in one long breath — I don’t recall that depth of detail — but I do remember Meredith nodding in agreement and Aunt Sally’s reply: “Oh no Joe. You can’t be a lady. You have to grow up to be a man.” Well I didn’t think that was fair, and I said so. But Aunt Sally just laughed and as I wanted to hear the rest of the story I didn’t say anything more.
Because we are different genders, physically anyway, Meredith and I are, of course, fraternal twins. But in looks we were very much alike — still are — almost like identicals — and we were very, very close to each other — still are — often telepathically sharing thoughts and feelings. So quite a few times after that we talked together about what Aunt Sally had said to me. But as we grew older and got into grade school it began to dawn that things might not work out the way I wanted. The possibility of me becoming a beautiful lady faded from our talks together. But I never gave up dreaming.