Susan LaFontaine sat on their bed, their legs curled under them and their laptop sitting comfortably on their lap. The slightly-glitchy computer screen (a result of one or two science experiments regarding the inner workings of the computer's circuits) was open to a biology assignment that had been assigned four days ago, but Susan had other thoughts on their mind. And besides, they had enough time tomorrow to quickly complete the assignment before it was time to submit it online.
Perry had stopped talking to them. After the two had gotten into an argument over the ethics of reanimation of dead consciousnesses, it seemed to have ended with her refusing to speak to them while she went off and buried herself in another one of her cleaning projects. And while Susan couldn't care less about which type of bleach was the best to clean the grout of their floor's communal showers, they definitely wished that Perry would be as invested in them as she was with her cleaning supplies.
Susan, or LaFontaine as they found they had taken a liking to being called- had been friends with Lola Perry for as long as they could remember. And yet, after all the time the two had spent together it still felt like Perry didn't seem to want to be bothered with all the chaos that Lafontaine seemed to find themselves in.
Susan had been mulling over their identity for quite some time; she had come out to Perry as bisexual back in high school and Perry had been more than supportive- but they didn't know how they'd manage to tell Perry about their gender identity. Every time they thought about saying something they felt as if they'd just swallowed a live bomb; their stomach would feel as if it were ready explode at any second, and the hammering of their frantic heartbeat in their ears would make it impossible for them to get any words out of their mouth.
Even with the new girl Laura and her more-than-possibly-a-vampire roommate Carmilla- people who hadn't even met them before and likely wouldn't even question someone asking them to use gender neutral pronouns -Susan had missed their chance thanks to Perry jumping in and throwing around "Susan" and "She" like it was nothing. Truthfully, LaFontaine knew that, to Perry at last, their best girl friend Susan's pronouns weren't even a question. Which was why LaFontaine needed to get it together and just tell her why they had been so distant lately. Tell her why they changed their phone background to a yellow, white, purple and black striped flag. Tell her why they had stopped wearing the blouses their mother had gotten them, and why they had started binding their chest.
Tell her that they wanted her to use they/them pronouns.
A tiny voice in the back of their brain told LaFontaine that they were just making this all up, that they were just a confused butch lesbian and that they could just keep letting Perry and everyone else use female pronouns for them. It wouldn't be any different than the rest of their life so far. They could handle it.
But then they thought about never getting to put on their binder, about never having anyone see them as anything other than a girl, about never getting to see if gender neutral pronouns would make them feel as happy as they thought that they would make them. They were unsure of so much, but everything about their scientific studies told them that you had to test your hypotheses or you'd never know if they were correct or not. Telling Perry about their pronouns was just part of the scientific method. Yes, that made this whole ordeal seem a little more manageable.
LaFontaine screwed up their courage, and after taking a few breaths and closing their laptop they got off their bed and went off in search of Perry.
They found her completely engrossed in scrubbing god knows what off the floor of the bathroom, and LaFontaine couldn't help but wonder how long Perry had been sitting on the floor under the row of sinks.
"Uh, hey Perr."
Lola Perry, while she did genuinely enjoy cleaning and didn't see a problem with enjoying things, was currently using her Lysol and sponges as a way to avoid all the icky feelings that were swimming around her head. She'd been struggling with feelings of…attraction to a certain red-haired biology major. Less friendly-best-friend feelings and more of pining-crushing-wanting-to-kiss-you feelings; and Perry had absolutely no clue what to do with these sensations. Her solution, at the present moment, was to just throw herself into anything that didn't put her into close proximity with Susan.
However, Susan was currently standing behind her and clearly wanted to talk.
Perry decided to just pretend like was too involved in her cleaning project to hear her.
LaFontaine, on the other hand, was growing desperate- and if they had to wait much longer for Perry to talk to them they were considering just dropping the issue and bringing it up another time.
Now she felt horrible- and she knew that she couldn't continue to ignore Susan; feelings or not, she was her best friend- and Perry feigned surprise as she turned around to look at her.
"Susan! I-I didn't see you there."
LaFontaine fidgeted slightly with their shirt collar.
"It's okay… Ah, listen Per…can we talk for a sec?"
Lola Perry's heart began to race, and she nearly bumped her head on the sink she was sitting under as she got to her feet; gathering her cleaning supplies as the two headed back to their dorm.
"Of course, Susan. What's the matter? If this is about the squabble we had earlier today I can ensure you that I'm not one to perpetuate disagreements longer than is necessary and-"
LaFontaine looked up at her, and they must have looked panicked enough for Perry to realize that they had something very important to say.
"…Hey, what's wrong? Susan, you can tell me."
LaFontaine felt like they were going to throw up. Come on, LaFontaine… Just SAY IT already. Perry opened the door to their dorm and LaFontaine made a beeline for their bed, sitting down on it and crossing their legs. They took a breath, realizing that they were too anxious to sit and got up instead, pacing around the dorm room as they tried to make something, anything come out of their mouth.
"Did you know that kangaroos can't walk backwards? Apparently it's due to the heavy musculature that makes up their tails, and while they can't walk backwards they sometimes hop backwards while fighting. Isn't that weird?"
They continued pacing, barely looking up at Perry at all and trying to force themselves to keep talking.
"A-and there's also crocodiles, who can't lick or stick out their tongues because of the structural makeup of their jaw and mouth muscles."
"Also there's several species of fish that can willingly change their sex and reproductive organs based on how many males or females are present at the time. It's just like *poof* they're a different sex and none of the other fish care because they do the exact same thing, and it really makes you think about how gender is really just a social construct and how if fish can do that why do people make such a big deal about humans doing that, right? Because in the animal world sex is really just a determiner of survival- and since humans are at the top of every food chain ever it doesn't really make sense that we have to adhere to these strict rules and guidelines based on what's in our pants…"
"I-It's LaFontaine, actually." They spit out anxiously, stopping pacing and finally turning to look at their best friend.
"I-I want you to call me LaFontaine. L-Like a nickname…Except all the time."
Perry took a moment.
LaFontaine beamed, receiving enough encouragement to continue their rant.
"A-And since we're on the subject, I wanted to talk to you about my…pronouns."
"M-My pronouns. I know that you call me Susan and when you talk about me you call me a girl and-"
"-Because you are a girl and your name is Susan."
"Y-Yeah, I know, that's kind of what I wanted to talk to you about; because recently I've been doing a lot of thinking and a lot of research and a lot of experimenting and, well…I-I just don't think that I'm a girl.
Perry looked at them, eyebrows raised. LaFontaine couldn't read their current emotion for sure, so they just decided to keep talking as they sat down beside her on the bed.
"But I'm not a boy either. I just, I feel really weird when people call me a girl because I just don't feel like I fit the label of "Girl" and even though people tell me I'm "pretty" and even though I was born biologically female it doesn't mean I feel like that's really authentic and true to me. I want to just be myself as a person and not have to worry about being a girl or a boy because I don't feel like I'm either of those things. I'm just me. A-and I know that this is a lot and I know it'll take a long time to get used to but I just wanted to tell you because you're my best friend and it's been killing me carrying this junk around and not being able to talk to you about it."
They finished their word-vomit-esque rant and looked up at Perry expectantly. She fidgeted her hands in her lap, staring down at what LaFontaine assumed was a dusty spot on the floor. In reality, Perry was trying to figure out what to say.
She had known Susan…LaFontaine for a very long time, and if there was one thing Lola Perry was not good with it was change. Sure, their best friend had always been a little…unconventional, but Perry didn't think that Susan's refusal to wear anything feminine and her desire to cross-dress almost every Halloween when they were kids made her not a girl. Was that why Susan insisted on calling her "Perry"? Was it because she secretly hoped that Perry would call her "LaFontaine"?
Perry knew all about nonbinary gender identities and knew very well what LaFontaine was asking of her, but she didn't feel like she'd be able to be the kind of friend LaFontaine needed right now. Right now, Perry was trying to come to terms with the potential loss of her friend Susan and the sudden appearance of LaFontaine's gender identity as the elephant in the room. She could understand a person wanting to identify as neither a boy nor a girl, and she'd certainly do her best to try and support any person who told her this- but why was it different with Susan? She was still madly in love with her, and the matter of LaFontaine's gender made this whole business that much more uncomfortable for Perry.
"Uh, Per? You've been really quiet…"
"Oh! Sorry, I just…I…" Perry frantically searched her mind for something, anything to say that wouldn't let Susan know how shaken she was by all of this.
"I'm so glad you decided to tell me, uh, LaFontaine. And you'll always be my best friend too."
Perry enveloped them in a hug, hoping that LaFontaine couldn't feel their heart beating out of their chest.
"No matter what, I'm here for you."
LaFontaine pulled away, smiling.
"Thanks Per, I don't know why I was so scared to tell you this."