Trans

death of the author

every time i try to write poetry, it sounds the same. 

 

procrastinating) fucking with my fingernails and that’s rust not dirt that’s 

from last night, i never minded needles but sometimes i 

still have to get drunk to make myself do the shot and then it 

bleeds bleeds bleeds 

like (not enough of) an exchange 

 

in every mousehole/trashcan/outhouse/pillbottle where i almost glimpse profundity it 

turns out to be another hidden mirror and jesus christ, 

i’ve seen enough of “my” own face i’ve seen 

enough 

already 

 

my favorite scenes to write (genre:fantasy) were ones with daggers (“darksilver”) 

and jewels and mead and gossamer and sacrificial lambs and 

“holy” water and “green” moss and 

CISGENDER men and CISGENDER women i was always 

enchanted by the idea of eating one’s fill. 

 

all art is quite useless but it is so exhausting to think that 

the artist is as well.

Running and Gender

Once again, I find myself staring at the online registration form, forced to choose between two genders, male or female. I stop every time I come to this question because neither option fits. But to complete my task, I have to choose. I get that sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach as I finally check the box marked “female,” my gender assigned at birth.

You see, I’m a runner. I love the feeling of toeing the line at the start of a race and challenging myself to do things with my body I didn’t think were possible five years ago. However, I always get tripped up when I register for races …

What I Owe Aladdin

Image result for aladdin disney

August 11th, 2014, I was getting ready to board a plane when I heard that Robin Williams had killed himself. My mom shared the news in hushed tones over our airport dinner; my sister was only six at the time, and none of us wanted to explain to her.

I wished that the news had been kept a secret from me, as well, for just a little longer. Instead, reality sunk into me, layer by layer, as we boarded the airplane. Memories of Aladdin and Jumanji on our old basement television crowded their way past me along with the other passengers. Rewinding VHS tapes, the technicolor plastic cases where I would replace them after every viewing. Our Disney collection — I don’t know what happened to all those old tapes. I hope they aren’t in a landfill. Their covers were so bright that sometimes I would just look at them, try to conceive the world painted in bold lines, a world so much easier and more colorful than the cold gray of the basement where I crouched.

It wasn’t that he was my favorite actor, or even close. I almost think it would have been easier if he was. But this way, I had no excuse for the silent contemplation that my mind and body demanded of me. As I got sandwiched on the plane between two large, loud men, without a single armrest to myself, I felt like an idiot. They tried to talk to me, to joke with me, over and over and over, and I felt scrutinized and hollow and ugly and lost. I didn’t want to cry, but I wanted to be home. I wanted to understand. I wanted to watch Aladdin.

If I owe that movie anything, it has more to do with Jasmine than the Genie. She was — you guessed it — one of my first “girl crushes.” I didn’t realize it at the time, of course, but I was obsessed with her and her tiger, her long hair, her thick eyebrows and her little curly-toed slippers. So maybe, that afternoon in 2014, I was lamenting that little bit of my self-knowledge. If not for the thrill of the Genie, perhaps I wouldn’t have watched the movie, wouldn’t have fallen for the princess, wouldn’t be the flaming queer that I am today.

I know things don’t really work that way. But things also aren’t meant to work in a way where the comedic light of so many childhoods can off himself with a rope around the neck on a random August day. The best I can do is try to find solace in the butterfly effect.

It was a hard afternoon. In the least glorified terms possible, I felt like shit. And I don’t think that ever really went away.

 

Farther back, now. Another time — I don’t know the year, but I must have been six, seven, eight. Introversion and social anxiety set in pretty early for me, so I was pretty quiet most of the time. Well, all of the time.

My parents took me camping pretty often. My mom, especially. And there’s this one story she likes to tell, about her and me at a campground — in fact, she mentioned it just last week. It was evening, but the campsites around us were lively enough. The two of us were walking past them, on our way back to our own tent. Well — she was walking. I was parading. I was also singing, and if anyone reading this was in one of those neighboring tents that night, I’d like to offer my sincerest apology; no one should ever be subjected to my atrociously off-key shrieks. But somehow, in that moment, I wasn’t self-conscious at all. “That one bizarre time that your introversion just vanished,” my mom calls it. I think she was baffled at the time, too, by this musical fiend that had suddenly possessed her shy, nervous daughter. But I didn’t have time to be confused by my own actions. I was ecstatic.

The song, of course, was from Aladdin. Which one? The best one: “Prince Ali,” a gloriously theatrical romp through the streets of Agrabah. Aladdin, in disguise, is all at once reinvented, and becomes the focus of what seems like the whole kingdom: pretty girls flounce and swoon, children cheer, shopkeepers stare in wonder. All of them are in awe of Ali, a persona that radiates confidence, wealth, glamor, and — most importantly — masculinity. “Prince Ali, mighty is he, Ali Ababwa! / Strong as ten regular men, definitely,” Williams’s Genie belts. A verse later, a gaggle of starstruck young women join in with a catchy counterpoint: “There’s no question this Ali’s alluring / Never ordinary, never boring / Everything about the man just plain impresses / He’s a winner, a whiz, a wonder / He’s about to pull my heart asunder / And I absolutely love the way he dresses!”

Ali is, in a word, a paragon of the male gender. The Genie has impossibly, wondrously transformed a shaggy “street rat” into a strong, handsome prince who provokes the envy of every other man in Agrabah. Charming, confident, and cocky. Euphoric.

So euphoric, in fact, that he overcomes his skittishness, his well-learned tendency to stay in the shadows. When he is allowed to reinvent himself in the presence of strangers, he absolutely dazzles.

That isn’t to say that I dazzled any of our poor neighboring campers that night. But, God, I felt great. I didn’t connect it to gender at the time. In fact, I still don’t, not really. Because even though being trans is about gender by definition, it’s also so much more. It’s about the understanding and appreciation of oneself as a person, a prince, a protagonist. That night, for the first time, I felt it.

 

When Robin Williams died in 2014, I started seeing the world differently. It was colder, somehow. I didn’t know him and I didn’t even miss him, not exactly. But I think I owed him something that I never got to appreciate while he was still alive. It’s a silly moment to hold so dearly, but I wouldn’t possess confidence like that again until I started introducing myself with a new name and pronouns.

Everything is so much brighter when I can be proud of myself. Sure, I’ll never be a prince. But also, in a way, I think I already am.

 

Clues

Nothing anyone told me about being a girl felt right for me.

Who made the rules saying I had to be, like, and act a certain way anyway?

 

I was jealous of girls who had names that could be shortened to boy’s names, like Sam or Alex.

Wearing a name like that felt comfortable, like a flannel shirt in winter.

 

The only Barbie doll I ever owned ended up dismembered under my bed.

I don’t remember ever playing with her.

 

Wearing dresses felt like punishment.

Plus they made it hard to climb a tree.

A Love Letter To My HRT

It’s been six months since the last time I had access to my hormone replacement therapy. Though I was already prescribed and had been on testosterone since 2016, when I moved to a new state no doctor would continue my prescription. Until now…

To my HRT,

Hi.

It’s been awhile.

I’m sorry we haven’t seen each other since October of 2018.  I know you’ve been waiting for me and I didn’t mean to keep you in suspense for so long.

I feel like I owe you an explanation.

Long story short – I moved. Long story long – I moved to a place where the reception was really bad. It’s not that I haven’t wanted to see you – it’s just that any channel I tried to reach you through was static. I don’t know what you did to piss off a whole bunch of old red state doctors, therapists, nurse practitioners, and endocrinologists, but they really, reallydon’t know what to do when I bring up your name. Every day they cut another line and the frequency got a little fuzzier between you and I until finally there was just silence.

A Hometown Never Stops Being Home: Growing Up Trans In A Rural Area

I thought my hometown would have my back when I came out as trans…but when you offer up your own truth, you are often met with the harsh truths of the world around you.

Trigger warning: brief mentions of sexual assault, anti-trans violence, LGBTQ hate speech

I grew up in a myriad of little towns scattered across the Hudson Valley. I was 40 minutes from the infamous Woodstock, about two hours from New York City, and surrounded by the exact type of people you’d suspect would exist between those two extremes. It was a liberal area, even if it felt like I was constantly boxed in by the Catskills that raised high above me always, on all sides. Every town I moved to – and I moved a lot – had a different flavor of rebellion and grunge.  In upstate New York, I grew up thinking I could be anybody. 

I knew the Hudson Valley like the back of my hand. I knew what towns I could leave my car doors unlocked in. I knew where all the swimming holes were. I knew what Kingston, my hometown, looked like before gentrification started to plant its roots in the historic streets, sprouting new bars and antique shops and putting up fences so the weeds of the displaced, impoverished many wouldn’t taint the fertile soil. I knew the safest streets to walk on at two AM. My hometown was full of friends and enemies and my past and future and I could read it like you could read the oldest, most worn book on your shelf. 

I felt safe. 

Justification

I won’t to be your princess

I rule my own damn castle.

 

/I refuse to be your statistic/

I am flesh, blood, bone, human.

Hear me fucking roar.

 

Don’t make me the object

of your hidden desire, sheathed

neatly, behind excuses

and defenses,

 

you paint them like I give a shit

or asked for this

or asked for you ––

I fucking didn’t.

 

It’s not me who begged for the validation

of your desire,

didn’t ask to press my stomach to yours in defeat

at the gravesite where you bury

your secrets like me,

 

I’m not your therapist,

won’t fix your broken wing

won’t justify myself to you.

 

Today

for the last time

she will make her bed in defeat

 

Tomorrow

for the first time

she will raise her arms to the heavens instead

 

She will live

with no justification.

Beings Trans in the Healthcare System: A Poem

Today I visited a doctor
and was surprised when he actually addressed what was wrong.
I was able to look him in the eyes,
joke with him about where we went to college,
and know that the tests he scheduled for me
were meant to address my worries and wellbeing.
I left with the unfamiliar feeling
of my needs being met.

Yesterday I visited a doctor
and he told me to undress for an audience.
He told me he wanted to examine my genitalia for growth
after telling me we were all going to become a family.
He held me hostage for six hours,
I was asked if I had grown a dick yet,
if my father was okay with this decision,
if I ever had an identity crisis,
if my transition made me want to stop having sex with men,
if I ever tried to kill myself,
what my breast size was –
while he was examining my breasts.
he laid me out on his examination table
and when I refused to continue to be his science experiment
he sent me for an ultrasound and told me
to come back in three weeks.
If I had shed all my clothes
and bore my naked self in front of him
like he had requested me to do,
he would have molested me.
How do I know?
He told me.

Drowned

I took a day to choose my name

To make my voice shake loud

They tell me that I’m just the same

 

They lay the bricks to place the blame

To feel no reason to be proud

I took a day to choose my name

 

The fortunate will win the game

To fit into the crowd

They tell me that I’m just the same

 

They laugh and start to take their aim

Their anger still avowed

I took a day to choose my name

 

All the advancing changes came

I feel as though I’ve drowned

They tell me that I’m just the same

 

You find our truth is just a game

A reticence endowed

I took a day to choose my name

They tell me that I’m just the same.