He Dreamed of Being a Princess

When I was a little girl my best friend, a boy, used to dress up as a girl. We liked to play princess and perform shows in which Maxime (not his real name) always played a young woman, wearing a dress chosen from his immense costume chest.

By Geneviève Raymond

Extravagantly dressed, balancing on high heels, we’d lip-synch Nathalie Simard songs played on an old record player in the basement. We’d also interpret the 1989 hit “Mon mec à moi” by Patricia Kass. Maxime’s dad, Jean (also not his real name) with his booming tenor voice, would sit in the front row and warmly applaud his son, who he called mon homme (my man).

The Voice of God

At their chalet in the Eastern Townships, Jean would kneel in front of our bed to pray, rosary in hand. At the time, the Hail Mary full of grace prayer was fresh in my memory. And I’d fall asleep to the final words of the Lord’s Prayer.

Sunday morning, Maxime and I would accompany his family to church. I’d get lost in my imaginary world while looking at sunbeams setting the stained glass windows alight. Uncomfortable on the wooden pew, I’d wait for the sermon to end while exchanging knowing glances with my friend.

Looking back, I realize that Maxime’s parents were pretty liberal to buy him Barbies and My Pretty Ponies in the middle of the 1980s, rather than trying to repress his tastes. Silently, Jean accepted Maxime’s differences, despite others’ resentments. Jean’s religious convictions could well have poisoned their relationship.

On the contrary, Jean prayed with love to protect his son who, in all his youthful innocence, was a princess in a castle teeming with little girls’ toys.

Maxime finally came out at age 20, even though his family had always tried to avoid the subject of his gender identity.

Away from People’s Stares

I saw Maxime again a few years ago. He was waiting for me, leaning against the outside wall of a bar. Very tall, head down and back a little slouched, I quickly sensed that he was introverted and especially lonely. He brushed against the walls to try and pass unnoticed as he went off to the bathroom.

I imagined that he was subject to a lot of mocking because of his feminine mannerisms. I recalled that my brother – a little pest – would call him “Fraisinette” because he used to walk to school wearing a tuque with strawberries (fraises) all over it.

This was the first time that we talked openly about his homosexuality. We took great pleasure in sharing our tastes in men. Maxime also confided that he loved women whom he idolized, icons like Dalida and Céline Dion.

I was happy to see my childhood friend again. He spends his spare time watching movies and TV series. Maxime seems to prefer the comfort of his apartment to the company of others. He still doesn’t have a cellphone.  

From Yesterday to Today

At age 6, I saw no problem when Maxime dressed up as a girl. We would run around outside as the neighbors looked on, perplexed. He was a great play companion. We let our creativity run wild, right up until our paths diverged in high school.

Since the dawn of time, those who don’t fit neatly into a pigeonhole have aroused scorn, and sometimes, fear. In displaying their singularity, members of the LGBTQ+ community upset heteronormative purists who think that only boys and girls are born and that all people are, by definition, heterosexuals. As I see it, it’s more of a lack of education, and of openness of spirit, when faced with the unknown.

I’m all for “live and let live,” a formula in use during the First World War when soldiers would fraternize during truces. Far from the trenches, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects all Canadians, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Every human being has a fundamental right to live according to their deepest identity, their values and their sexual desires, just so long as they respect others’ integrity and freedom.

I wish Maxime and other members of the LGBTQ+ community only the best. Let’s hope that one day, homophobia and transphobia will be things of the past. We must show solidarity in educating those close to us, and in denouncing all reprehensible behavior towards people who are too often marginalized.

(Note: Some of the facts in this story have been changed to protect Maxime and his family)

First seen in Reflet de Société, Vol. 29, no. 5, juin (June) 2021, page 6

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