Mr Twelvetrees

‘What did you just say?’ Mr Twelvetrees says. ‘Repeat what you said.’

The R.E. room falls silent, and we aw look roond tae see who’s bein shouted at. David Warner seems tae be the guilty party. He swings on his chair.

‘I only said fenian,’ he replies, pointin at Noah Wilson sittin next tae him. ‘He calls me a hun bastart aw the time. It’s no a big deal.’

Mr Twelvetrees adjusts his tie and walks through the narrow aisle between the desks. He stops when he reaches David. Sunlight shines through a poster stuck on the windae and lights the teacher’s face up purple and blue.

‘It’s good to know you and Noah here have solved sectarianism,’ he says. ‘D’you think your mother would be okay with the language her young man is using?’

David snorts and scratches at the desk with his pen.

‘Comin fae it,’ he says, avoidin eye contact wi Mr Twelvetrees. ‘You’re no even a man.’

The rest ae the class inhales and gasps and makes worried eyes at each other. Naebody ever speaks aboot it. No tae his face anyway. Mr Twelvetrees looks roond at the rest ae the class and we quickly turn and put oor focus back on oor religion comparison essays.

‘No, it’s okay,’ he says. ‘You can listen in. This is important.’

He walks back tae the front ae the class and rubs his hands thigether.

‘David, join me at the front of the class, please.’

We turn tae look at David. He folds his arms. Noah tries tae push him up off his seat but he shrugs him off.

‘Stay there, then,’ Mr Twelvetrees says. ‘Right, class. Put your hand up if you think I’m a man.’

Aboot two thirds ae hands shoot straight up. Then the last remainin few feel the pressure and stick their hands up tae. The only yin that doesnae is David Warner, who stares at the desk and pretends he’s no listenin.

‘Okay,’ Mr Twelvetrees says. ‘Now keep your hands in the air if you think David is a man.’

The speed the hands go doon could gie ye whiplash. It’s hard tae tell whether folk are tryin tae support the teacher or slag off David.

‘Interesting. And why’s that?’

There’s chuckles. David’s cheeks and neck are pure red at this point but he’s still no lookin anywhere but his desk.

‘A man would’ve went up tae the front ae the class,’ Sally Evans says, and aw the lassies in the room murmur agreement.

‘When does he become a man?’ Mr Twelvetrees goes on.

Cammy Reid speaks up.

‘When he turns eighteen?’

‘Good answer,’ the teacher replies. ‘So when our David here turns eighteen, he’ll become a man. It’s lucky for David that he can become a man later, since he doesn’t seem like one now.’

David shakes his heid and aggressively starts kickin at the table leg.

‘Sally said a man would’ve come up here,’ Mr Twelvetrees continues. ‘But I’m not sure I agree. A brave person would’ve come up here. Men don’t have a monopoly on being brave.’

There’s silence in the room for a while, as naebody wants tae say the wrong hing.

‘There’s a lot of things people expect from a man,’ the teacher says. ‘Because that’s just how it is. They’re men, they can deal with it, right? They shouldn’t talk about their emotions! If they’re upset, they should keep that girly crap inside. Real men don’t let that out.’

Mr Twelvetrees puts his hands in his pockets and sighs.

‘People didn’t used to think I was a man, but they do now. This is what we call being transgender. I’m sure that’s not a shock to you all. But David, lad, you don’t get to tell me I’m not a man. You might just need to rethink what being a man really is.’

David is still in a huff but at least looks like he’s payin attention at this point.

‘No one in this room put their hand up when I asked them if you were a man.’

David pushes his jotter off his table. It lands wi a papery crunch.

‘I dinnae gie a fuck whit they hink,’ David finally says.

‘Because you’re a man, no matter what other people decide, right?’

‘Aye,’ he says, then calms doon suddenly. He stands and picks up his jotter, then makes eye contact wi Mr Twelvetrees. ‘But my dad still says you’re a tranny.’

Mr Twelvetrees smiles and goes back tae his desk.

‘Maybe you should try thinking for yourself and not copying everything your dad thinks. And trust me, I’ve met your dad. I’d call him as thick as mince but that’d be an insult to mince.’

A collective yassss comes up fae aw ae us. Ye can see it in Mr Twelvetrees face he kens he shouldnae huv slagged off his dad but naebody’ll back up David if he tries tae clipe anyway.

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