Michael is by no means a queer boy. Well, that's if you take "queer" to mean "homosexual." If you take "queer" to mean "strange," then Michael would seem to be a rather queer boy, and not just because he reads encyclopedias and dictionaries on summer break.
Michael is fourteen and going out with a very nice girl. They have been friends since third grade, and Michael likes her quite a lot. They play video games and bake cookies together. They tell each other all their secrets.
Well, almost all their secrets.
Michael knows it now, he can't tell anyone the truth. He's watched the other boys grow up and grow vicious, throw the word "fag" around like it might make their chest hair sprout faster. He's watched the girls grow up too, and he's watched them capitalize on the "fags," take them shopping and paint their nails. Some of them probably are gay. The rest are just unfortunate and hoping that someday those girls might fall in love with their GBFFs. But Michael's girlfriend had advised him that that never happens, and he doesn't need more girls in his life anyway. Michael knows better than to give anyone any reason to call him a fag.
That means Michael has to be extra careful not to let this side of him appear to anyone. Yes, not even his girlfriend.
Michael loves to cook. Okay, that one's not so bad. Michael loves to take care of kids. Not play with them or laugh at them, but take care of them—he enjoys feeding and cleaning and managing them too.
Michael is a whiz with his baby brother and sister. His parents have been busily rekindling their relationship, now that Michael can babysit the twins. Michael serenely changes them and feeds them homemade rice pudding and washes their sticky hands and if his girlfriend calls, Michael says he is studying and he probably shouldn't go anywhere tonight.
Michael has considered professionally babysitting or working at a day-care when he's old enough, but Michael is terrified of being seen, being outed. Michael took home the course catalog from the high school he will attend next year and his mother said "Why don't you take that child development class?" Michael does not dare take that child development class.
Michael learned in history class about Amelia Bloomer, an 1850s feminist who urged women to wear pants. This makes Michael curious. After several long searches through encyclopedias and archives, Michael concludes that the Western world has never seen a man insist that men should be culturally permitted to wear women's clothes. This gives Michael a crazy idea.
Michael went to a discount department store and picked out a skirt. A nice, simple thing, just one color and down to the knees. At checkout, Michael hastily explained that it's for his girlfriend, even though no one asked. Michael brought it home and immediately stashed it in his underwear drawer.
Weeks later, while his parents were on a date and the twins had been put to bed, Michael tenderly retrieved the skirt. He held it in front of him at his mother's full-length mirror. It didn't look so bad. Michael dropped his pants and cautiously placed one leg in the skirt. Michael placed the second leg in the skirt. He pulled it up to his waist and adjusted it meticulously. It didn't look so bad. Michael examined himself from as many angles as he could. He made a little turn, delighted with the way the air caught the fabric and caressed his legs. It felt almost like being naked. It didn't feel so bad.
Michael can't imagine what's so emasculating about this. Didn't men traditionally wear kilts in Scotland, robes in the Middle East and the Orient? He thought maybe with a few alterations this could even become practical as a men's garment. Michael did another turn and heard his baby brother begin to cry. He instantly traded the skirt for his pants and rushed to tend his brother.
The next morning, Michael's father told him at breakfast that he's grateful to have a son who can take over his electronics store when he passes. Of course, he added thoughtfully, if Michael's heart can't turn toward electronics sales, there's still another son in the family. Michael's mother assured him that they would support him no matter what career he wanted. Michael's father enthused about teaching him everything he knew. "You're growing into a fine young man," he said, "and all that's left is to learn the skills essential for a successful manhood." Michael has a feeling his skills will not be considered essential.
In the afternoon, Michael's girlfriend called to ask if he could come help move her new dresser. "I'm so lucky to have a boy I can count on for this stuff!" she said.
Michael knows it now, he can't tell anyone the truth.