Last night, I finished reading The Difference Between You and Me by Madeleine George. I really enjoyed the book and the diverse perspective that George brought to YA, but there is one thing in particular that has had my mind spinning nonstop ever since I put the book down.
From almost page one, I knew that Jesse was a transgender woman. Now, if you haven't read the book, this is not a spoiler, because it was never confirmed as true or untrue. I know in my heart of hearts that this is absolutely true. I believe this so hard that I searched through pages and pages of reviews on Goodreads and google and went to the author's website and could find no confirmation that this is true OR that anyone else read this the same way.
There were three factors that made it 100% clear to me that Jesse is trans.
1. Her name. Jesse is traditional a name given to boys. Girls often go by Jessie (note the i), which is typically short for Jessica. Because this sounds so much like the female nickname, I was under the impression that she chose to keep the spelling of her name. This is not a overtly masculine sounding name so it would not raise any red flags.
2. The bathroom. In the opening scene of the book, Jesse is hiding in the girls' bathroom in an attempt to avoid attending the pep rally. When she is confronted by some stereotypical mean girls when she is trying to escape, they point out to her that this is the girls' bathroom. Jesse's internal monologue explains that this is something that happens to her a lot and she has to explain that she is a girl. Yes, this could potentially be the case based on Jesse's butch appearance, but I read deeper into this. On top of that, bathrooms play a huge role in the novel. Whether on the third floor of the library or getting busted by the vice principal, most major events in the book happen in a bathroom. Of course this is a place this is so, so significant to the trans community given the political climate right now.
3. When confronted by the mean girls in the opening scene, one of the repeatedly uses masculine pronouns to insult Jesse. It is clear that these are meant to hurt her.
I read the whole book, waiting for some kind of reveal to the reader that Jesse is trans, but it never came. I'm kind of okay with that. It didn't matter at all to the story, and the fact that it just wasn't an issue is almost better.