The Secret Silk Dress

Cira Boutique | Google Maps

“What is this?”

Mama held the dress high, pinched between her thumb and forefinger.

I’d found it at Cira; used the money from six months of chores to pay for it. A dress, to tuck in a drawer—to only pull out when I was alone—to imagine who I could have been. Who I should have been, but wasn’t. A secret so unutterable I’d never said it, not even to myself. My mouth fell open, helpless to answer her.

Her dark eyes flashed. Her look said she knew—that maybe she’d always known, but she needed me to say it. When I didn’t, she draped the dress, fold on fold onto her lap. The fingers of one hand caressed the silk. “A beautiful dress. For a beautiful girl,” she said.

I was neither. I stared at my lap.

“Child, when I said you could be anything, I meant it.”

This has been an edition of What Pegman Saw. To read more stories inspired by the prompt, click here.

This story was inspired by reading about Michelle Suárez Bértora.



  1. Wow – the story unfolded with interest.
    I clicked the link to read about
    Michelle Suárez Bértora – looked at some Pictures – and then came back.
    And when I did – I reread your story and “got even more” especially the ending part! Well done

    1. Thanks so much, glad you liked it. I was so inspired when I read about her. Thanks for reading!

      1. I did not get to read too much – but saw the photos and well – good for them for having diversity in the leadership there

  2. And k –
    Please tell J I cannot leave a comment on his recent post! I sometimes have a
    Glitch in his blog but this time it keeps asking me to log in but I am – and when I do it asks again/ I will try again tomorrow thx

    1. Thanks prior! I, too, can’t comment. He’s been doing some troubleshooting. I will let him know!

      1. Ok – thanks – I appreciate the reply

  3. This is superb. “to imagine who I could have been. Who I should have been, but wasn’t. A secret so unutterable I’d never said it, not even to myself.” Stunning work.

    1. Thank you so much! That means a lot.

  4. You’ve written an excellent story, Karen, introducing so many of the elements of being trans – the secrecy, the difficulty in admitting the truth, the lack of words to say out loud what you feel. Kudos!
    Thank you, too, for the link to the biography of Michelle Suarez Bertola. How lucky she was to have such a supportive mother – your story captures that well too.
    I’m delighted you wrote on this topic. It’s good when cis-allies write such positive things about our experience.

    1. Thank you so much Penny! I’m delighted you felt the story worked. I was so moved reading about Michelle Suarez Bertola.

  5. This was beautifully done. Josh highlighted the passage that struck me as well… Kudos not only to her, but to her family for supporting her. Not all are so lucky.

    1. Thanks Dale! It is a shame not everyone has support like she had.

    1. Thank you Kelley, I’m glad you liked it.

  6. Great writing Karen- love the subtle storyline leading us from assumptions – girly shopping – to the deeper understanding and acceptance. A beautifully honed story.

    1. Thanks for your kind words Francine 🙂

  7. peterkirsch

    Tears to my eyes.
    Just masterful, Karen. the depth of both characters, revealed so artfully…and patiently.
    So many emotions tied up and then unraveled through the course of this one.

    Love it!

    1. Aww, Peter–that means a lot. Thanks for reading and commenting.

  8. With a mom like that, i believe she can do anything. Very real interchange ending in relief.

    1. Your comment made me grin. Thanks so much for reading and commenting.

  9. Such a wonderful positive ending, that was so well set-up to be anything but. You tapped into the uncertainty of your narrator wonderfully. Hopefully this circumstance is a lesson in trust and belief.

    1. Thanks so much for reading and commenting. 🙂

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