transgender

retrace: a poem in 5 parts

 

i.

last night, in 2012, it was raining and you were outside, 

this morning, 11am 12pm 1pm morning, you sit at the window eyes diverted and try to remember 

when the weather would weather your skin and pierce to whatever 

sits beneath, when the rain would hit the muscle only anymore reachable 

by your testosterone needles, every friday, today friday, yesterday morning friday but 

last night always something else. 

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.

 

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.

Little Gay Comix: #4 – Creative Block

Been a little low on brain fuel lately, but I’m working on it!

Little Gay Comix: #3 – Reminder

Take care of yourselves, friends!

A Girl’s Lunchbox

First grade, first day, six years old. I have golden locks that fall to my chin and a pink shirt. My lunchbox, soft fabric, is covered in tiny purple and blue and red flowers. I place it in my cubby with my backpack. There’s probably a sandwich inside. Pretzels, apple slices, a bottle of water. It’s a normal lunchbox. I’m a normal kid; this is a normal first day.

So when we go to lunch I’m surprised at the angry voice that comes from across the room.

“You got a girl shirt and a girl lunchbox.” Forgetting these words, or their impact, is not an option for me.

Angie is a tall girl with plastic clips in her hair and a shirt not too different from mine. She is well-liked by everyone, even the teacher. Her voice, the cutting edge of her words, take me aback. She’s not the first person to police my expression, and she’s not the last. But it is a delicate moment of first-day fragility. I am scared. And because I am different, I’m vulnerable too.

Shame. Shame is what I feel. Shame for who I am and the clothes I wear. I put my lunchbox back into my cubby without eating and I fold my arms across my shirt for the rest of the day. I feel like I’ve made some crucial mistake. I feel like a joke.

 

Little Gay Comix: #2 – Clothing Confusion

I am an enigma when I wear a skirt.

Visbility: A Two Sided Sword

Queer visibility is something that that I’ve always considered to be positive. It excites me to see gay and trans folks represented in the media. After reading an article titled “For LGBTQ Regugees in the United States, ‘Visibility is a Two-Sided Sword’” by Oscar Lopez, I found a new perspective on visibility. I realized that visibility is a complex, multifaceted subject. Blinded by my privilege, I hadn’t considered the ways that visibility differs from person to person.

Little Gay Comix: #1 – Mood Boost

Sometimes one person is all it takes.