Roland/Laureline, from Cercle Hermaphroditos, by Shualee Cook

Roland/Laureline: Tell me something first.  Before tonight, did you know there were others like Ambrose? Then, so far as you knew, he was a complete anomaly. And back when you supported him, you quickly found out you were alone too? I spent most of my youth that way. Only child. Only one I knew who couldn’t take their body for an answer. I did my best to hide that difference. Tried for a while to fight it. But then I discovered that it gave me special powers. My tongue could explain men and women to one another in a way each understood. My eyes could detect an invisible burden on someone’s back, or a secret in their heart. And most importantly, my face was etched with an openness to outcasts that only they could see. People felt safe in my presence. Would reveal themselves to me. Tell me things they’d never whispered to another soul. It’s then I saw that Loneliness, this monster hovering over my whole life, was a horrible liar. There is no such thing as aloneness. Only isolation caused by fear. There will always be someone who feels on the outside too, and understands. The trick is to find them. So that became my mission. I made connections, quiet introductions, weaving misfits together into one great colorful tapestry. You wanted to listen to who I am? Well, here it is, far more precise than man or woman or androgyne.  I am a knight in the war against Loneliness. Wherever I find it, I push back and make a family. I am a recruiter in the campaign for the meek to inherit the earth. I am a warrior of the unity of God. What is or isn’t beneath my skirts will always be secondary to that.  So you’re welcome here, Bertram. And free to be whatever version of yourself you wish.

Context: Cercle Hermaphroditos tells the story of a real-life social club for gender misfits in New York City in 1895. Roland/Laureline, the founder of the club confides to Bertram, who has just discovered that the gender-bending games he used to play with his younger sibling Violet/Ambrose were more serious than he thought, and is trying to understand this new world he finds himself in.

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