I don't call you my sister anymore because you don't want me to. Instead, I try everything else, no matter if it doesn't roll off the tongue as easily as the s word does. Sometimes I wish I still could, because it would be easier for you, for me. But that's not the way it works.
You never liked dresses. You hated the way they hung off your body, as if you had cut holes in a potato sack. You told me you were self-conscious, and I said that was fine. Then you wouldn't wear skirts, blouses, panties, leggings- everything I thought I looked so nice in. You changed, and your clothes did too. But I had always noticed you wanted to be one of the boys. You played with the boys at recess, leaving me feeling like a lonely island in my short-shorts and tank top, my bows and bells and whistles.
Summer vacation was when you told me, sitting in a hotel bathtub, me leaning over the side, that you liked a girl. "She's pretty," I said, because I was too young to hate, and I had never been taught that girls couldn't like other girls.
Years later, you said you didn't feel like a girl. I was older, and I didn't know how to react, but I knew the only right thing to do was support you. You went to a therapist, and she informed our parents that you were not, in fact, a girl. She gave you a diagnosis, not advice. The whole car ride home, our mom didn't speak, and the moment she came through the door she locked herself in the family room, turned out the lights, and cried. Our dad sat back and drank a beer.
The therapist's words stayed with us, never completely forgotten. And so I stopped calling you my sister. I called you by your given name- you hadn't thought of your real one yet. Our mom says it's weird, our dad might not even care. But as for me? I love you the most, and whoever you choose to be is the person I will accept. No matter if mom and dad still call you their daughter or roll their eyes when you talk about your feelings. I don't care who you are. I don't care if it's hard not to call you my sister.