One Story Issue #285: Lydia Conklin’s “Sunny Talks”

Our new issue was discovered and edited by contributing editor Will Allison, so I’m turning the wheel over to him. Steer us on, Will! — PR

In Lydia Conklin’s extraordinary new story “Sunny Talks,” the world knows forty-seven-year-old Lillia as a frumpy, asexual, boyish woman, but in truth, Lillia is nonbinary, inhabiting a middle ground between the genders—a secret they’ve been keeping all their life. The problem is, Lillia doesn’t want it to be a secret, but they’ve never worked up the courage to come out to anyone.

Enter Sunny, Lillia’s exuberant fifteen-year-old nephew. Sunny is also gender non-conforming—a trans boy—and when he invites Lillia to a Philadelphia convention for trans YouTubers, Lillia intends to finally tell him the truth.

But things don’t work out quite as planned. While finding inspiration in the Gen Z kids at the conference, Lillia is also pained by a generational divide. Lillia grew up at a time when you were more or less stuck with the gender you were assigned, whereas Sunny and his peers came along in an era when early medical intervention was an option. In Lillia’s childhood, to be gender non-conforming was to be ostracized, whereas Sunny and his friends celebrate their gender identities with thousands of YouTube followers.

“I’m glad Sunny got hormone blockers,” Lillia says, “[and] I’m proud of my sister for realizing what was going on, for getting him to a specialist before puberty started…[but] sometimes I can’t bear the fact that, if I were born a bit later, all I would’ve needed was injections. That my body never had to bloom into these curves.”

I’ve been an admirer of Lydia Conklin’s work for years, but “Sunny Talks” might be their warmest, most heartfelt story yet. If you enjoy it as much as I hope you will, please keep an eye out for Lydia’s first book, the story collection Rainbow, Rainbow, due out in May from Catapult.

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