Leaving the Closet By Way of Baby Steps
After spending that night and the next day pouring over websites, and even ordering a few books online with Kurt's credit card,it was another few weeks before Kurt comes home from Dalton. While Kurt was away in Westerville, he did some more research to help Finn. And to help his family. He and Finn had a long talk about why Finn had always acted the way he had, so homophobic, so 'heteronormative,' which was a word Finn had trouble getting used to at first. Kurt thinks about Finn's answer and is a little sad. “Mom said I was the man of the house. I had to fill my father's shoes,”
Finn had said. The pained, hateful look on Finn's face when she'd said it had broken Kurt's heart.
She. His sister, not his brother. The gender pronouns would take a while to get used to, especially since Finn looked so much like a man. But the more they just talked about things, Finn opening up and being honest, the easier it was for Kurt to see the girl inside the hunky male body. And when they talked every night on the phone, it was easier to hear the girl, no matter how deep her voice was. Kurt had been surprised when Finn had said she envied Kurt's voice. It was usually something Kurt was teased for.
Kurt drives home, excited to tell Finn what he's found out. There's a transgender support group support group in Toledo, and another in Columbus, but the one in Toledo has a meeting this Sunday, and Kurt is going to take Finn there, and be good moral support. He remembered how scared he had been when he first came out, and if Mercedes, Tina, Brittany and his Dad hadn't been there for him, he might not have made it. Kurt remembers how sick to his stomach he felt when he read the statistics about suicides among trans youth. They were even higher than the statistics for gay youth. Kurt knew he would do whatever it took to make sure Finn had all the support she needed to be herself.
Kurt pulls his Navigator into his driveway. Burt and Carol have gone away for the weekend again. Since they used their honeymoon money to get Kurt away from Karofsky, Burt was trying to make sure Carol didn't miss out on too much, and had started taking her on mini-honeymoons at various B&Bs once a month or so, whenever they could afford to go. He parks the car grabs his bag, and goes inside. He's thinking about Blaine as he walks inside. Blaine had wanted Kurt to stay on campus and go out with him again this weekend—they weren't officially dating yet, but they had gone on a few dates—but Kurt had told Blaine that since his parents were out of town he was going to go home and keep Finn company.
Kurt walks into the house and sets his bags down before looking around for Finn. He doesn't have to look long, it's hard to miss the great big wall of red that is Finn lounging in her Gaga dress.
“Hey Finn,” Kurt said, “What's up?”
“I quit basketball today,” Finn says beaming. “I talked to Coach, and told her that I hate basketball, and only play because people told me I had to. She says she doesn't want anyone on the team unless they really want to be there. So I don't have to wear those horrible basketball shorts anymore.”
“Good for you,” Kurt says, leaning over to hug Finn. Hugging was definitely something they did more of now. Kurt told her about the trans group in Toledo, and she seemed excited.
“I was thinking,” Finn says. “I hate my name.”
“You can pick a girl's name that I can call you by. You can even introduce yourself with it when we go to the trans group on Sunday.”
“What sort of name should I pick?” Finn asks.
“Well, are there any girl names you like? Is there any girl name you call yourself in your head?” Kurt asks. Finn shakes his head and frowns.
“Well,” he pauses, “Sometimes Puck calls me Finnessa. He thinks it's an insult. But Finnessa isn't a real name.”
“But Vanessa is,” Kurt says. “How about Vanessa? With Nessie or Nessa for short?”
“Vanessa,” Finn says, rolling the name around in her mouth as her eyes lit up. “I like it.”
“Then Vanessa it is,” Kurt says, sitting down next to her on the sofa. “So, you want to tell me why you're wearing your Gaga dress on a Friday afternoon?”
“It's the only dress I have, and I wanted to feel pretty for a little bit,” Finn answers, staring down at her lap.
“We're going to have to increase your wardrobe,” Kurt says. “Come down to my room, I'll take your measurements and we can order some girly clothes for you on the internet, and make any minor alterations we need to on my sewing machine.”
“Do they even make girls' clothes big enough for me?” she asks. “Mom had to help me make this last year.”
“There are websites that sell female clothes specifically designed for male bodies,” Kurt says, “for drag queens and trans girls and cross dressers. I bet we can find some clothes you like.”
“You think so?” Vanessa asks, her voice so hopeful that Kurt can't help but smile.
“I know so. And you know how much I love shopping for clothes.”
“Where do you get the money for all your designer clothes?” Vanessa asks as she follows Kurt down into the basement. “I mean, Burt's not exactly loaded.”
“I have a trust fund,” Kurt says. “Some of it's an inheritance from my mom, and some of it is the malpractice settlement we got when she died.”
“How did she die, if it's okay to ask?”
“She was in the hospital for stomach pains and a doctor screwed up and gave her the wrong medicine. The hospital paid us a bunch of money, so that we wouldn't sue, and most of it went into my fund.”
“That sucks,” Finn says, wrinkling her nose.
They look at clothes for a while. Vanessa is awkward and nervous at first, but she opens up more to the idea when she realizes Kurt is absolutely not going to make fun of her. He helps her take measurements and explains the different terms for the different accessories. Once she finds out what a gaff is, her eyes light up and she absolutely wants one. Kurt orders her three different ones so she can see which one works best. On one of the sites, she just stares at the fake breasts.
“Do you want some?” Kurt asks. Vanessa just nods, not saying anything. “There's different kinds. You can get one of the bras that are already stuffed, or you can get inserts that you can put in lots of different bras. Of course, those run the risk of sliding and shifting.”
“Which should I get?”
“I'd get this one,” Kurt pointed to a bra that already had fake breasts built inside of it. “It's feminine, but understated. It'll fit well under the tops you picked out. I don't think you'd look so wonderful with really, really big ones.”
She agrees, and after their internet shopping trip finishes they head upstairs to make dinner. Vanessa changes out of her dress, not wanting to ruin it, and into some sweats and a baggy t-shirt. Kurt makes them chicken quesadillas for dinner, then they sit in the living room and watch Disney movies. Finn's only seen the older Disney movies, like Peter Pan
and he Fox and the Hound
because Carol had declared Finn 'too old' for Disney movies after he was ten, so Kurt puts on The Emperor's New Groove
since Kurt has never seen it before, and they sit back. Kurt notices partway through the movie that Finn keeps scratching at her leg.
“Vanessa, is your leg okay?”
“I shaved them, and I think I got razor burn,” she grimaces.
“What kind of razor did you use?” Kurt asks.
“One of the orange ones,” Vanessa replies, “Was that wrong?”
“They have better ones now that are specifically designed for legs and armpits. Also, you should put lotion on your skin whenever you shave it. We can go shopping tomorrow and get you some.”
“Thanks,” she says.
“No problem,” Kurt says, “Skincare is kinda my thing.”
“Not just the skin. You're being so cool about all of this. I don't think I'd have the guts to go through all of this without you. I'd never even be able to say, 'I'm a girl' out loud without you. And I don't deserve your kindness, not after I called you a fag and treated you like dirt for so many years.”
“I get it better now,” Kurt replies. “I understand why you freaked at the idea that I had a crush on you, and I get that you thought you were just doing what was expected of you like always. I forgive you for all of that Finn...Vanessa. Although, it's Finn I have to forgive, and apologize to for coming on so strong at first. Vanessa's never done anything to me. So, clean slate. Vanessa's going to be the coolest sister ever.”
Vanessa beams at him, and in that instant it's easy to see the girl under the surface, now that he knows to look for her. He keeps thinking of that awful moment when he saw Finn in his bedroom, and saw just how much she hated her body. That image won't leave his head, and it breaks Kurt's heart. Nobody should hate theirself so much. Kurt makes a promise to himself right then to do whatever he can to make Vanessa's life easier.
They go shopping and Kurt goes a little crazy. Now that Vanessa has asked Kurt to help her feel more girly, physically, Kurt buys all sorts of lotions and make-up and products and other things. Vanessa just sort of goes with it, letting Kurt take charge. Usually when Finn goes to the mall, it's with Carol for school things, where Carol complains that Finn has gotten taller, yet again, and she has to buy him all new jeans. But Kurt isn't like Carol at all when it comes to shopping. He definitely doesn't push Finn to buy masculine things. As they walk through the mall, they pass the wig shop, and Finn stops and looks at the wigs in in the window.
“Do you want to go inside?” Kurt asks. Finn looks around quickly, making sure he doesn't see anyone he knows nearby before going inside the wig shop. Kurt has a few wigs at home, for plays and costumes, and Finn has the ones he wore for the Hair number and the KISS number, but he doesn't have any really feminine wigs. “Come on, Nessa, there's somebody I want you to meet.”
Her eyes widen a little. Kurt just used her girl name in public. What if somebody from school overheard them, and told everyone Finn was a girl? She wanted people to know, eventually. But not yet. Not until she looks like a girl. Nobody would believe her right now. Not while she still looks like Frankenteen. But Kurt grabs her hand and pulled her toward the cash register, where there was a tall, pretty woman with big earrings, bright make-up, and a sparkly dress that looked a little like the old Glee costumes. Vanessa looks closely and notices the woman's adam's apple, and the slight masculine edge to her facial features.
“CeeCee, I'd like you to meet someone. This is my sister, Vanessa,” Kurt says in a low voice. “Nessa, this is CeeCee. She runs this place.”
“Hi, Sugar,” CeeCee holds out her hand to shake Vanessa's and shows off her beautifully manicured nails. They're so long and sparkly and pretty. Then Vanessa notices for the first time, that CeeCee is almost as tall as she is.
“Hi,” Finn says awkwardly. He's never met a drag queen before, but she seems nice.
“CeeCee, Vanessa just bought some dresses yesterday, but she doesn't have any nice hair to go with them. I thought you could help her come up with some nice wigs,” Kurt said.
“Of course I can,” CeeCee says. “Come with me Sugar.”
“Fi—Vanessa, I'm going to go get a pretzel, do you want one?”
“Sure,” Vanessa says, she's a little nervous about being left alone with someone she's just met, but Kurt trusts CeeCee, and Kurt is a good brother.
“So, Sugar, do you want dark hair or light hair?” CeeCee asks.
“I don't know,” Vanessa replies honestly. “Brown? Not very dark though, lighter. Or maybe blonde?”
“I think you'd look good in a rich honey blonde. I have a couple here that would be great for your skin tone.”
“Okay,” Vanessa says “I don't really know what I'm doing. This is all very new.”
“You haven't been out long, have you?” CeeCee asks
“I'm not out,” Vanessa said. “Kurt's the only one who knows I'm a girl. He's being so awesome. I couldn't have asked for a better brother. He's taking me to a trans group tomorrow.”
“In Toledo?” CeeCee asks. Vanessa nodded. “I'll be there. Don't be nervous. Nobody cares what you look like or anything. If you feel like a girl, you're a girl.”
“Thanks,” Vanessa says. “I wish I was as brave as Kurt. He told everyone he was gay, and he walks down the hall, not caring that everyone knows he's different.”
“When you're out of high school, it won't be quite as scary,” CeeCee promises.
“Does it get easier?” Vanessa asks, fingering a beautiful long wig with a slight wave to it.
“Absolutely. I'm not saying it's all kittens and rainbows, but once everyone knows, once you start wearing what you want to wear, and start being yourself, people get used to it,” CeeCee says.
“How tall are you?” Vanessa asks.
“I am six foot one, and I still wear inch heels,” CeeCee says proudly. “Don't let your height get you down, Vanessa. You are beautiful.”
“Thanks,” Vanessa says, smiling slightly.
“Your body doesn't have to be a cage, Vanessa. Turn it into an amusement park,” CeeCee grins, and gives Vanessa a kiss on he cheek.
Vanessa smiles at CeeCee before picking out three wigs. The wavy, long, honey blonde wig, a shoulder-length caramel-colored one, and a straight black one that reminds Finn of Santana's hair when it's straight and down. It has triangle bangs, like that goth girl on NCIS. The wigs cost a fair bit, but she decides it was worth it. CeeCee gives Vanessa her cell number in case she ever needed to talk, and she and Kurt went home.
Saturday evening, Vanessa and Kurt sit on the floor together. Kurt was going to town, giving Vanessa a pedicure, and painting her toenails a pretty pink color. Vanessa wanted her fingernails painted too, but she was scared somebody at school would see. So for now, they were sticking to the toes. Kurt had also given Vanessa a facial and washed her hair. Even though they were just watching TV, Vanessa was wearing one of her wigs, it made her feel pretty. Vanessa felt a little bit of pride when she learned her feet were smaller than Kurt's.
“Kurt,” Vanessa starts, “Have you ever kissed a boy?”
“Yes,” Kurt said. “A few times. Though the first one doesn't count. But Blaine and I have been on a few dates. We're not dating officially yet, but on the last couple of dates we've kissed. It was really nice.”
“What was the first one?” Vanessa asks, and Kurt gets quiet.
“You can't tell anyone, okay?” Kurt says.
“Okay,” Vanessa agrees.
“In the fall, after Karofsky was bullying me, I got in his face and asked him what his problem was, yelling at him. I thought he was going to hit me, but instead, he kissed me. That's why he threatened me. He said that if I told anyone he'd kill me.”
“He's gay?” Finn asks, shocked and angry. “That's
why he beat you up and called you a fag and did all those horrible things? I'm going to kick his ass.”
“Just leave it alone, Finn. He's scared and he hates himself for being gay.”
“I think you need to get in his face, tell everyone, it's not okay,” Finn says.
“Think about it. How would you feel if I went to McKinley and told everyone you were a girl, before you were ready for people to know? It wouldn't be fair to out him. I'm not going to let him get away with terrifying me anymore, but I'm also not going to ruin his life. He'll come out when he's ready,” Kurt says.
“I'm not ready to tell people,” Vanessa says.
“What about Dad and your mom?” Kurt asks.
“Not yet. After my stuff comes in the mail, and I can look like me.”
“Sounds like a plan,” Kurt smiles. “Can I help you with your make-up?”
“Okay,” Vanessa smiles back. “So, with Karofsky it was a bad kiss, but with Blaine it's better?”
“Yes,” Kurt says. “So much nicer than with Brittany. He's strong, and he smells like cologne and aftershave, not perfume. Kissing boys is nice.”
Vanessa doesn't say anything, but had a hopeful look on her face. Kurt recognizes that look from when he used to think about kissing Finn, or other boys.
“Are there any boys you want to kiss?” Kurt asks.
“You can't tell anyone,” Vanessa says.
“Promise. I'll take the secret to my grave,” Kurt promises.
“Puck,” Vanessa says in a tiny voice. “I like Puck.”
“I can see it,” Kurt says. “I don't have any interest in him, but I can see why you do. Can I ask you a personal question?”
“Do you like kissing girls? Like Quinn and Rachel?”
“I care about both of them. And I do enjoy kissing them,” Finn says, “And cuddling. It's very nice. I liked making out with Rachel a lot except...”
“Except?” Kurt asked
“I don't like getting turned on,” Vanessa says in a quiet voice that's practically a whisper. “It can feel good, in my body. The nerves or whatever work. But I hate it
. I don't want it. I never wanted it. It's not mine.”
Kurt nods. He can't really empathize, but he can sympathize. He changes the subject, and when Finn's toenails dry, he sets up the DDR pads and they play High School Musical 3 DANCE!
and Kurt doesn't bat an eye when Finn picks Sharpay as his avatar. Kurt likes playing as Ryan anyway. They spend the rest of the night playing video games.
Vanessa is practically shaking when Kurt pulls up to the place the trans group is in. She's wearing her boy clothes, because her girl clothes haven't come in the mail yet. But it doesn't matter that she looks like a boy right now. She's about to go into a whole building full of people like her, and Kurt is going to keep her company. Kurt watches Vanessa, he can tell she's scared, but also excited.
“Come on, Nessa,” he says, “let's go inside.” He rests his hand on Vanessa's arm to comfort her as they enter the unfamiliar situation. Kurt spots CeeCee right away, and she flocks over, greeting them. In the corner of the room, Kurt sees someone he recognizes from Dalton Academy, one of the kids from the LGBT alliance on campus, Liam. Kurt waves and his classmate walks over.
“Kurt,” Liam says. “Hi!”
“I almost didn't recognize you in a dress, you look very pretty, Liam.”
“Lisa,” she corrects him. “I didn't know you were trans, you never said.”
“I'm not. Lisa, this is my sister Vanessa,” Kurt introduces.
“It's nice to meet you, Vanessa,” Lisa holds her hand out, and Vanessa shakes it.
“How do you know each other?” Vanessa asks.
“We're both in the LGBT alliance at Dalton,” Kurt said.
“They let you go to Dalton?” Finn asks.
“Yeah,” Lisa said. “I'm the only transgirl at Dalton right now. I have to wear the uniform, like all the boys, but the zero tolerance policy is nice. Nobody's allowed to bully me.”
“That sounds nice,” Vanessa smiles.
“Alright, we're going to be breaking up into groups soon. The boys meet over there, us girls meet in that room, and the family and friends meet back there. After the group sessions, we'll all come back in here for pizza and hanging out.” CeeCee directs, and Kurt can't help but smile at the way Vanessa's face lights up at being referred to as one of 'us girls.'
Kurt follows CeeCee's pointing finger to where the partners and families meet. He is clearly the youngest person in the group, since it's mostly parents, and partners of older trans people, but he pays careful attention, learning names when he's introduced to people. Everyone circles up, and people started talking. A couple of parents talked about fighting with insurance companies to agree to pay for surgery, or fighting with school administrators to treat their children like their chosen sex at school. At one point, one of the older men looks at Kurt.
“Would you like to talk about anything?”
“I,” Kurt pauses, “I just keep thinking about how weird my life has been lately. A year and a half ago, I was one of the more bullied kids at my public school. I'm gay, effeminate, and my voice has never dropped, so I was always a good target for the bullying. But one boy, the star quarterback, was a little nicer to me than the others. He'd let me take off my designer jacket before throwing me in the dumpster. Anyway, he eventually joined the glee club with me, and I had a crush on him for a while, but he was never comfortable with my sexuality. I didn't know why at the time, of course, so I just thought he was homophobic. Then all this stuff starts happening. His mom and my dad started dating, and he became my step-brother back in November. And then over Christmas vacation, he tells me he's really a girl, in his head. So the boy who used to throw me in the garbage is now my sister. It's thoroughly fucked up.”
“That is a little bizarre,” a woman says, and a few people chuckle lightly.
“Has she told your parents yet?” the first man, who Kurt remembers is named Craig, asks.
“No. I mean, I don't think my dad will have any problem with it. He doesn't have any problem with me being gay, and I know I was effeminate enough as a small child that he wondered at times if I was trans. Apparently the only think I wanted when I was three was a pair of sensible heels,” Kurt says, and people laugh, but there's no animosity behind he laughter.
“So I think my dad's going to be fine. He'll love both of us no matter what. Finn—I mean, Vanessa, sorry, still getting used to that—“ Kurt corrects himself and the others smile and nod, slipping up on names and pronouns is something they're all familiar with. “Is scared of what her mom is going to say. Vanessa's dad died when she was a baby, so her whole life Carol has told her 'you're the man of the house,' and encouraged her to take after her father. She's the star football player, and was the star of the basketball team until she quit last week. And she plays baseball too. Carol always buys Finn the most masculine clothes, and pushes him to date pretty girls.”
“That's pretty common,” Craig says. “I mean, when Vanessa was little, your step-mom probably saw some early signs that she wasn't conforming to heteronormative gender roles. I'm guessing she pushed hard enough for Vanessa to conform that she did, completely repressing her feminine instincts and over-compensating by being the star athlete and a bully.”
“That sounds about right,” Kurt says. “But now that Vanessa's figuring out who she is, I hate leaving her behind at public school. After one of the bullies escalated to sexual harassment, and threatened to kill me, my parents sent me to a private school with a zero-tolerance anti-bullying policy. And Vanessa's still back at a school where people—including faculty members—call her 'Frankenteen' for being so tall and throw things at the unpopular kids.”
Kurt listens as some of the parents try to solve his problems. He mentions at one point that he goes to Dalton and he meets Lisa's mom, who seems very nice. It's nice to talk about himself and about Finn without having to keep secrets, or be afraid of negative reactions. The partner of one of the older trans men is a lawyer, and offers to help Kurt out if he wants to confront the school about the bullying. When the separate groups break up and and they head back into the common room for pizza and mingling, Kurt feels like a weight has been lifted from him.
“You must be the amazing Kurt,” a girl says to him as she walks over.
“Well, from the way your sister gushed about you, I expected you to be made from gold or something. I'm Allie,” she shakes Kurt's hand.
“She talked about me?” Kurt asks, surprised. He would have expected Vanessa to just talk about herself.
“Yeah. She practically gushed. You're her hero, man,” Allie says, grinning. Kurt blushes. He's never been called a hero before. He makes his way over to Vanessa and they partake of pizza and talk to people. Vanessa exchanges phone numbers with a bunch of people before they leave. CeeCee gives her the phone number of a really good doctor after she mentions that she's afraid of the doctor, because she hates her body. This doctor apparently treats half of the trans people in Ohio. Kurt is grinning at how happy Vanessa looks as they climb back into the Navigator.
“I want to tell them,” she says. “But I want my clothes first, and I want you to be there. When can you come home again?”
“Well, I have stuff planned the next two weekends, with studying and he Warblers, but I can come home in three weeks, if your stuff is here,” Kurt says.
“Okay,” Vanessa says. “If everything goes well, I'll tell Mom and Burt in three weeks.”
Kurt knows it's not safe to take his hands off the wheel, but he moves his hand anyway, and gives Vanessa's hand a little squeeze as they drive back to Lima.
*End chapter 2*