Stories for Pearl: Being Strong in the Real Way

It was the Summer of 1987. I was eight years old, almost nine in three months coming. Up to that point, gender was a thing that I mostly ignored. It didn’t affect me, or so I thought. My heart was only ever about one thing: making art.

Early art by Little Rose, circa 11 years old ❤

Since forever, I just wanted to be a cartoonist and live in a world of dancing ice cream cones and adventurous milkshakes outrunning giant onion boulders and killer hamburgers. There was even an irritating soda straw that may or may not have been my annoying little brother in disguise.

Then I discovered polka dot overalls. That’s when everything changed.

It wasn’t wearing the overalls that did much of anything. Yes, I was adorable and happy with my colorful outfit and pixie short hair. And catching a glimpse of my true self reflected back at me in the mirror made my heart soar in a way that few people can even begin to understand. But that wasn’t what changed me. Instead, it was my mother’s rage when she saw me.

“What the hell are you wearing? What the fuck is wrong with you?”
“If your dad ever discovered what you did, he would disown you.”
“Nobody can ever find out this ever happened. NOBODY.”

Fast forward 29 years. There is a young child in my life, whose story is not unfamiliar to me. Her name is Pearl. Each morning is different, but always starts with a tiny knock on my door. Sometimes she is simply looking for cuddles, other times for help picking out one of her many fabulous outfits. But every night is the same; that part never changes. At bedtime, she wants me to tuck her in and read the same short story that I wrote for girls like her, girls like us. It’s about a star princess who never stopped believing she was more than just a human being, despite everything and everyone around her.

The allegory is not lost on Pearl. She could hear me tell that tale a million times and never get tired of it.

Rose and Pearl, members of the Crystal Gems ❤

For women like me and kids like Pearl, there is hardly anything written by, and for, girls like us. They simply do not exist, unless you look into the deepest corners of the Internet. Pearl is lucky in this respect; she’s got me, a close, creative caregiver who also happens to be a trans woman and a writer. I can tell her the stories she needs to hear when facing the horrendous obstacles that only transgender women and transgender girls deal with. But most of us don’t have that option, and I can say from firsthand experience, as both a caregiver to a sweet transgender child and as a transgender woman, this needs to change. Lives are depending on it.

In one month’s time, I will be joining 25 other trans women and two world class instructors in rewriting history. Our mission: to explore strange new worlds, to boldly go where no one has gone before. But instead of traveling to outer space, we’ll be headed to our own personal frontiers. We will be braver than ever before, break open our writing devices, and share heartfelt, vulnerable stories about being women, and sometimes being girls, assigned male at birth. For five days, we’ll be writing together, for each other, and hopefully for generations after.

Help support girls like Pearl have more stories about girls like us. Learn more about The Workshop and donate now:

Rose is a queer cartoonist and writer currently residing deep in the Pacific Northwest. When not making art, she is happily being an auntie to the many beloved children in her life.