Why does Melissa strip in front of J in I Am J?

Melissa strips in front of J to encourage him to do the same.

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In I Am J , Melissa feels a strong bond with her friend J and becomes anxious as she feels him slipping away. Earlier in the narrative she pulled away from him, but later she looks for ways to recover their former closeness. When J comes out to her as...

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In I Am J, Melissa feels a strong bond with her friend J and becomes anxious as she feels him slipping away. Earlier in the narrative she pulled away from him, but later she looks for ways to recover their former closeness. When J comes out to her as transgender, then, she wants to understand what makes J “different.”

Part of J’s struggle is concerned with the attitudes of his father and mother. Both have difficulty accepting what J is communicating about his gender identity, so his mother suggests that he leave their home for a while as his father processes the idea of hormone treatments. This results in her taking J to Melissa’s home. It is during this period that Melissa strips while the two of them are alone together in her bedroom.

One of the points that Melissa is trying to make is that everyone experiences identity-related difficulties in their lives. Her own problems manifest in cutting, and through revealing the fresh cuts on her body, she aims to show J that he can—and, in her opinion, should—feel free to reveal himself, too. This is, however, all prompted by Melissa’s misunderstanding what J means when he describes himself as transgender: believing that J’s body must be different from hers, she thus feels he ought to feel comfortable showing her that difference.

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