Carefully placing his tablet on the desk, Charles clenched his fists. He wanted to throw the thing across the room, but Orel would sigh about the expense to replace it. They’d just bought a new one after Charles had flung the last one against a wall last week. And he’d been tempted to smash this one a few times since then. With his strength, it wasn’t easy not to smash it.
Charles sighed and rubbed his temples. Orel would say it wasn’t the device’s fault the news was so infuriating lately. And he had a point. But it was just so maddening.
‘Transgender Military Ban!’
‘Trans Lobby After Kids as Young as 3’
‘13 Cops Posted anti-LGBTQ and Racist Comments Online’
Closing his eyes, Charles leaned forward until his forehead rested on the desk, his fists clenched against his thighs. The door opened behind him, and he recognized Orel’s familiar heartbeat and scent. Charles didn’t move, but some of the tension in his muscles drained away at his partner’s presence.
Soft footsteps crossed the room — Orel wasn’t wearing his boots so it was not an emergency that brought him down here. He was probably just checking up on Charles. The soft scrape of the tablet against the desk indicated Orel had picked up the device. Charles’ broad shoulders tensed again. Orel was reading the headlines.
A moment passed, then Orel put a warm hand on Charles’ arm. “Are you okay?”
Charles lifted his head and met Orel’s kind brown eyes. “I have to do something.”
“I know.” Orel lifted his hand from Charles’ arm and laid the palm against Charles’ cheek. “I know. You can’t turn your back on injustice. It’s why I love you.”
Charles wet his lips, and his heart started to pound. “I have to come out.” He put his hand over Orel’s. “Not just as gay. I have to tell them everything.”
Orel bit his lip, his eyes worried. “You could just say you support trans rights?”
But Charles was already shaking his head. “No.” It wouldn’t be enough. Not even from the Silver Champion.
“I’m just worried about you.” Orel sat on the edge of the desk and took Charles’ hands in his. “I want you to be yourself, but I also don’t want you to be hurt.”
Charles smiled a little crookedly. “I’m invulnerable.”
“Physically, yes.” Orel shook his head.
Charles squeezed Orel’s hands. “Orel, when you were a kid, how much did it mean to you to see gay role models in the media?”
Orel bowed his head. “Everything,” he whispered.
“If I can be that example for a trans kid out there, how can I not?”
Orel met Charles’ eyes again. “If you’re ready, I’m ready. Let’s do this together.”
Flashbulbs flashed and feedback squealed as an aide adjusted the mics below Silver Champion’s chin. Charles stood tall and stiff in his silver suit, cape rippling behind him in the breeze. His pulse pounded in his ears, and he focused on his breathing and on keeping his face impassive as he looked out over the sea of reporters.
He really wanted to reach out and take Orel’s hand where he stood beside Charles in his bright orange Spitfire outfit. But not yet. First, there was a speech to make.
The aide stepped back, and it was time.
Charles rested his hands on the edges of the podium, reminding himself to take care not to break the wood. He looked out at the faces turned up toward him, waiting. How many of them would lose respect for Silver Champion after today? But, how many of them would have their minds and hearts opened by what he said?
“Good afternoon.” Silver Champion’s voice projected out into the clear summer air. “You all know me as the hero who protects your city. But you don’t really know me.”
A murmur susurrated through the crowd.
Charles continued, “I was not always as you see me. I did not always look like this.” He paused and took a deep breath. “When I was born, the doctor told my mom I was a girl.”
The murmur grew into a rumble.
Charles raised his voice. “I cannot be anything but myself. I am a transgender gay man.”
The rumble erupted into a roar, journalists shouting questions at Silver Champion, at each other, some even shouting at Spitfire.
Orel’s slim hand slid into Charles’ larger one. Charles turned toward his partner, and Orel stepped up and kissed him.
The roar became deafening and the flashes from the cameras blinding. But Charles didn’t care.
‘Gay Superheroes: Silver Champion and Spitfire Kiss!’
‘Silver Champion: Spokesperson for Trans Lobby?’
Charles groaned and pushed the tablet away. He let his body fall back in the desk chair, slouching in a way he never would in public as Silver Champion.
“Hey, love, have you seen the emails?” Orel asked. He was leaning forward, reading something on his laptop screen.
Charles shook his head. “No. I haven’t had the stomach yet.” The headlines were bad enough. Oh, some were positive, even delighted, but the negative ones outweighed them.
“Listen to this.” Orel’s voice was soft, but excited. “‘Dear Mr. Silver Champion. I am a big fan of yours. I’ve always wanted to be just like you, but I never knew how much like me you are.’” Orel’s voice broke, and he swallowed hard before continuing. “‘I watched your press conference with my mom and then I told her I’m really a boy. She took it better than I expected, I think because of you. Thank you.’”
Charles lifted his head and met Orel’s wet eyes. His heart felt too tight for his chest.
“There’s more like that.” Orel shook his head slowly. “You did it. You’ve given them hope.
“Oh, God.” Orel pressed his fingers to his lips before reading the next one. “‘Dear Sir. I want to thank you for speaking out. My child told me she is a girl a few months ago, and I haven’t wanted to accept it. I didn’t want to lose my son. But now I realize that I am in danger of losing my daughter. Because of your words, I see how bigoted I was.’”
Pushing himself to his feet, Charles went to stand over Orel’s shoulder. “Read them all.”