Title

Ani & Jackie

Semester of Graduation

Spring 2020

Degree

Master of Fine Arts (MFA)

Department

English

Document Type

Thesis

Abstract

Ani Khera has returned to her tiny Maryland hometown to live with her parents, both Punjabi doctors, after dropping out of medical school. She meets Jack Miller, a barista and manager at a local yoga studio and café, and the two quickly develop a strong bond and enter a seemingly heterosexual friends-with-benefits relationship. However, Jack privately struggles with gender dysphoria he doesn’t know how to name and tries desperately to deny. Hurt and confusion ensue as Ani tries to read the mixed signals of someone she is falling for harder than she expected. Jack deeply values their friendship but experiences dysphoria triggered by Ani’s sexual expectations and performing as a man in bed.

The benefits part of their relationship ends as Ani moves to Seattle to attend art school and pursue her dream of becoming a painter. Jack, whose family has long struggled with addiction issues, moves to upstate New York to pursue his dream of working at a Zen-based recovery facility. This does not provide the relief from dysphoria he was hoping for. As Ani plans a visit to see his new life, Jack panics and ramps up a relationship with a younger white woman, desperate to believe this new “love” will finally alleviate gender issues. Ani arrives and is blindsided and once again hurt by this, while falling even more deeply for this person and beginning to intuit their gender struggles. The situation results in a blowout fight and estrangement of almost two years, though Ani makes it clear she would still love Jackie as a woman.

Jack sees a gender therapist and, after breaking up with the other woman, comes to understand that “he” is a transgender woman. She adopts the name Jackie and she/her pronouns. Before she comes out to her family and begins physically and socially transitioning, Ani returns to town for her debut art exhibit. The two reconnect and discover they still have strong feelings for each other. They work through the hurt and enter into a stable and loving long-term relationship.

Committee Chair

Buch, Jason

Available for download on Wednesday, March 10, 2027

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