I Am J begins as J Silver complains to his only friend, Melissa, that someone called him a dyke again. This insult hurts J even though he is not a lesbian. He has female body parts, but in his head he is male. When he was a small child, he used to pray that he would go to sleep and wake up a boy. Now he is seventeen and he knows this is impossible, so he just covers his body in layers of clothes and tries not to think about his gender. Other people, including Melissa and his parents, think of him as a girl.
Melissa begs J to come with her to a party because she is pursuing a new relationship and wants moral support. When they get there she disappears to talk to her crush, a pretentious boy named Daniel who brags that he is reading Proust. J wanders around drinking straight gin and alienating everyone who tries to talk to him. When he sees Melissa and Daniel kissing, he vomits into a plant. Melissa takes him home to her house, where she comforts him and falls asleep.
For J, the only good thing about being born female is that girls trust him. Melissa, whom he loves deeply, confides in him and lets him share her bed. J inches closer to her, enjoying the feel of her breath on his face. Suddenly they are kissing. At first Melissa’s tongue plays in J’s mouth, but then she sits bolt upright and asks what he is doing. J claims that he was asleep, but Melissa does not believe him. She kicks him out.
A few days later, J gets an e-mail from Melissa that says she wants to put their friendship on hold for a while. She says she has wanted to take a break from their relationship for a long time so she can focus on her dance, which she takes very seriously. She also says that if J were a guy, what he did would be “almost like rape.” J refuses to talk to his parents about his problems, but his mother, Carolina, can tell he is upset. When she tries to comfort him, he realizes she thinks he is a lesbian. He decides that if his parents think he is a “dyke” and his best friend thinks he is a “monster,” he has nothing more to lose. He makes his decision: “I’ll become a real freak.”
For the next several days, J skips school and spends his time researching gender transformation. Following a website’s instructions, he makes a chest binder that makes his chest appear flat, like a boy’s. One day he wears it to a downtown Starbucks and chats with some girls who seem to believe him when he...
(The entire section is 2185 words.)
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