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Guess Who?

by Gabriel

"I was born in Bologna, I'm 35 years old, and I started my transition some months ago. I am a biologist and a teacher. I love writing and reflecting on everything that surrounds me. This story is a reflection on the board game "Guess Who?" - a parallelism between the game and reality, a surreal metaphor. In this way, I've told a piece of my story, of how I feel."


Hi, I'm Gabriel. I was sorted from a list dedicated to the new identities around. This way I ended up inside a game in a box. A classic game, but still relevant: "Guess Who?"

Every draw breaks me. All of the times that a boy or a girl grabs that plastic frame, my heart jumps out of my chest and I stop breathing. There is no moment in which I feel ready.

Moreover, that photo doesn't exactly represent me. A hodgepodge passport photo. They have put me in a totally unsuitable outfit. You see my face and, just below, the red collar of a jumper. It is not my preferred colour. It's not even in my top three.

There is a trial month in which the outfit is assigned by default.

Moreover, I would like to be able to choose suitable clothes for every day of the week, or for every moment of the day. If they judge us during the day, when the sun is shining? Or in the evening at sunset? Something could change in the eyes of those who scrutinise us.

I’ve been inserted in the new version with my chosen name, at least, but no hairs on my face. I still haven't managed to start T, so I was not given a beard.

It was also important for me to fall in the right line. See, they let me decide. One of the few advantages to being one of the new characters. I positioned myself between Olivia and Liz.

Olivia with the long tied-back hair that falls on her face, and Liz with her loose greying hair and glasses. In this way, I thought, I won’t stand out. Me with my short curly hair, with a fringe that falls perfectly over my eyebrows. A bit of a bowl cut, one might say.

“Between them, surely I will stand out as a boy. I can feel it, it’s the right spot to be recognised as such by most boys and girls.” Like when in a group of people there are so many diverse identities, and you blend into the crowd. Without being noticed. Well, it has almost never happened to me. I don't know what it means to go unnoticed. I know, however, that I have been longing for it all my life.

I was fished from the pack of cards. Let's begin.

Is it a male or a female? Here is the first question, always the same.

I'll leave you with a question: why is this always the first question? Is it the first thing you would ask too?

Let’s continue.

He answered: a female.

"But how can that be?", "my name is Gabriel! G A B R I E L, that's a boy's name. No?" Who knows, maybe the olive skin doesn't help. Maybe they believe that outside of Italy it is a gender neutral name, or just a girl's name?"

Enough! Let's move on.

Has she got dark skin? Yes.

“Great, another characteristic that is always taken into consideration, if not first, then second.” For the purposes of the game I suppose it helps to finish faster. And to win.

But outside these twenty or so boxes instead? I mostly walk with my head down in order to avoid the scrutinising gaze of the people. It seems they all have the need to place me in some mental schematic that makes them feel more safe. But what is it that makes me feel safer? Who and what protects me from getting stuck in these schemes? Who helps me not to mirror myself in the eyes of those who look at me, and lose some of my identity in them?

Let's resume the game.

So, to recap: it’s a girl (mistake) and they have dark skin (this is so in fact). The choice is therefore falling between Gabriel (myself) Laura, Farah, Mia, Lily and Sofia. But even at a glance you can see that, no, something doesn't add up. Or is it just me seeing it? It's true that it can't be taken for granted that I feel like a boy, but that's exactly how I feel. And as much as I am ashamed of it, sometimes I do wish it was obvious to everybody. I would like to be everything that reminds them of a boy. I prefer, of course, to be unique. But what is the price to pay for uniqueness?

I am stuck in one box among many, without being able to interact in any way. And it is the same pain I feel when I am walking, when I am in a public place and people’s gaze is fixed on me. If I don't have the opportunity to interact then you don't have the right to investigate for an answer. Ask me. Ask me how I feel, ask me how to address me so that you do not hurt me, so to make me feel human.

I would like to help that child, but I cannot give any clues. Otherwise I would say: look at other details. Dwell on the colour of their hair, their facial expression, their accessories. Try to figure out which figurine you see yourself in. That's what I would say.

They told me that I will only be able to self-determine when most of the other kids will have acknowledged me as a boy. Then, in a few months, the beard or moustache will arrive too. I will be able to decide. And then, there will be no more doubt. I will be able to conform. For better or for worse. Someone will give me permission.

One can only see as far as the neck, the boxes are small. They cannot contain our immensity. Otherwise I would have much more to say about it. But I'll stop at the face. At my face. It's nothing but a ‘me face’, and I, if it wasn't clear, am Gabriel. A boy who has been denied the privilege of being a boy. A boy who is struggling and elbowing his way into a place where he can be left alone, in his own identity.

To end up in the crosshairs was not my choice. I just happened into it. With all due respect to Olivia and Liz, my game mates. They accept me and support me. But here, I would gladly give up my seat to someone else, to get a breath of fresh air.

The game is over. In the end, they didn't guess. They put me back in the box.

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