Martin,

I'm sorry. I really am. Running out on you… and after all the nice things you said about me. I know how hard it is to tell someone you like them. But all the things you said were wrong. Brave? Smart? Honest? I'm none of those things. I'm not brave enough to tell you this in person, for one thing. And smart? Smart enough for an award, maybe. But not smart enough to be true to my own feelings. Being top of the class doesn't matter much. In real terms, I'm no more than a dunce.

Honesty… I've never even known the word. I'm not even honest to myself. Do you remember when I used to tell you about my life in my previous town, how I'd alternate from being a boy and a girl each day? Mondays I'd do dresses, Tuesday's trousers... I was always pretending. I'm still pretending. The school council, class representative, the transfer program next term… all acts. Because I'm afraid of being isolated, afraid of being alone. Because I know what loneliness is; that it's far more lonely to be abandoned in a crowd than it is when you're on your own.

Martin, please don't tell me you love me any more. Please. The more you say it, the more I'll start wondering, start hoping, start imagining 'us'. I'd rather not hope at all than have my hope crushed- because there will be no hope left when this letter is finished. None at all.

The person you like; Maati. Female Maati. Maati the girl. But that's not who I am. I'm not a girl, Martin. We've known each other for what…? Eight, nine years… and for each and every one of those years I've lied to you.

But—please try to understand. I was afraid. It's no biggie telling a stranger a secret. But someone you care about is much harder. And the more you care about them, the harder it gets. Until it's impossible! Laying yourself bare, showing your faults… yes, it's much harder.

It's called intersexuality. Or hermaphroditism if you like… I don't really care. You're supposed to be the science wiz; look it up in your textbook. I'm a girl and a boy rolled up into one huge mess. Both chromosomes. XXYX. You always used to wonder why I never went in the pool; I said I was anaemic. Though really, I never lied. I get dizzy and weak often- the doctor stays from lack of hormones. It hasn't been particularly hard to pretend. I look like a girl, right? With my clothes on, anyway. Evidently enough for you to think you're in love with me. I'll spare you the gory details; I'm sure you're disgusted enough already. You can tear this up and resume your normal life if you like. We can pretend we never met if you like. I wouldn't be upset- the part that I show to people wouldn't be upset, anyway.

It's so funny… I used to think that my body was a blessing. Neither male nor female; I could be anyone I wanted. It was my mother who taught me that attitude. She doesn't talk about it, but she never got to fulfil her dreams. Singing, a career destroyed by pneumonia. She went through her years disappointed, always bored, always expecting- no, waiting for something more. You've seen what's she's like. And so when I was born, different, I think she must have thought that was okay. That I wouldn't be forced down the path of desperate women with destroyed dreams; marrying, children, with men they only 'settled' for. That being as I am, it would mean I'd fight for my ambitions. Forge a new path. She must have thought it would be… interesting. That's why she decided against the gender reassignment surgery, despite what the doctors said, what my father wanted. She wanted for me to able to decide for myself, and not take my choices away from me, as hers had been taken. Sometimes I wonder if it was the right decision, but at the same time, I think I would have resented her if she had chosen differently.

Yes, I liked being 'special' as she always called me. It gave me self importance, allowed me to place myself on a pedestal high above my peers. Till I realised that 'special' meant 'different' and being 'different' was not something my peers could accept. Because of my mother's openness about what I was, I became known as the he-she child. I was bullied and teased and torn apart, and my proud behaviour was ripped from me. We had to move, and after that mom kept quiet. So did I. We'd learnt our lesson. That's why I moved down your road- not because mom was tired of the city.

But sometimes I wonder… what's wrong with being both a girl and a boy? I am… comfortable with who I am. Male and female are just labels; we're all human beings, all still people. Why do we have to use such words? Even intersexual, even transgender… words that point and label and say, This is what you are. Still mom's morality keeps coming back to me; You can be whoever you want. And what's wrong with that, Martin? What's wrong with it? I don't feel female, but then, I can't imagine being male either. I can't imagine being anything other than I am. I guess I am still proud, really. If everyone except me was dead and the world was empty, I could be satisfied with myself and my body. But then, that would be very lonely, wouldn't it?

The real difference, the real difference that matters, is the sex ed video. Back in the fourth grade, remember? They said it was just like a jigsaw puzzle. That men and women fit together like two perfect pieces. That's when it really hit home, I think. I thought; I'm not like that. I wouldn't fit with anyone. I'm a broken jigsaw piece, with bent tabs and missing bits. Or even worse- a piece from a different puzzle entirely. Maybe not even a jigsaw. I used to call myself the Cluedo girl in my head.

Yes, if I were alone it would be fine. If I didn't feel… get myself involved with others. If I could just be me, and live for me…

If I couldn't love…

But then, that would be so lonely.

I can't do big warm happy families, Martin… I can't have children… I don't think I'd ever even be able to- you know…

When it comes right down to it, I'm just a broken jigsaw piece.

Maati