this poem deals with medical gatekeeping, transphobia (incl. internalized) and dysphoria, from a transmasculine perspective. it also touches on mental illness, hospitalization and relationship abuse.
you fumble with, stumble over
the words, the letters, the lines
the genderbread drawings and
new permissions –
“you could be a boy, if
you really wanted to-”
if you wanted to enough.
you make bold declarations, fold them back
you try again, no one believes you
you wonder if you just
or if you just dreamed saying anything at all.
your boyfriend (your girlfriend)
used to promise you
that you’d transition together.
silly little dreams.
move out, get an apartment
open the bedroom doors each day
to see what changes had been wrought
in your opposing physiologies
your eroding landscapes.
your ex-girlfriend, the ex- part still doesn’t
feel right, or real, or genuine
(nobody ever taught you how to
move on from firsts, or
be a person, or
be a past)
she’s gone, gone, gone
the girl she is now has forgotten you.
you run away and don’t call it running away.
maybe if you change your name
and move to another city
and don’t talk to anybody you knew
and pretend that you’re Normal –
maybe this will all go away.
maybe you won’t have to be this anymore.
maybe you’ll know how to be a girl.
(maybe you’ll learn how to be a boy.)
with your tail between your legs
with a bruise upon your heart
pressing the stopwatch once again
on yet another fresh new start.
year five –
the name has started to fit but
the clothes don’t, and neither does
the silence at home that stretches
around the absence of gender.
you live a double life.
mostly so as not to force the issue
but sometimes you want to-
just so that your throat will stop burning.
you got a house and a boyfriend
you pretend he doesn’t slip on the important words
when he thinks you aren’t paying attention
you pretend he doesn’t think “trans boys are hot”
because it’s nice to be wanted, after all
you pretend he isn’t using your credit card –
or that it’s short-term, at least
you pretend he’s here only because he loves you.
everybody wants to be loved
and you pretend you’re here because you love him
and not because you need something to hold on to.
three, or four, or five overdoses later
when they’ve asked you your Preferred Name like its
a nickname on a radio show
and keep calling you a girl anyway-
why do they do that?
anyway, after you’ve tried and failed to get it over with
maybe this is dysphoria.
(the floor lurches after you think that, which could
be a sign that you’re right, you’re right, oh god,
or that the sedative they gave you is
finally kicking in-)
you’re too busy recovering
to worry about little irrelevant things like
the core of your identity, or
hating everything yourself.
you’ll get to that later.
(it’s fine, it’s fine, it’s fine
treading water because you’re coping
scooping handfuls of suppressed panic
through the drowning gulps of your self-possession
sonar hiding in suspiria
there to hear, if anybody were listening.)
you’re too busy recovering
not to notice
how you stand a little taller
how your back’s a little straighter
how your eyes glow a little brighter
every time somebody gets it right.
“alright,” you say, “alright,”
“if it’s as easy as you promised”
it’s more than just the words, the lines, the letters
more than some clumsy genderbread drawing
that you’re sketching in desperation
to explain a feeling that makes no more sense to you
than to your parents or your friends;
this time, this time, this time,
you won’t fold it back or hesitate.
(if only, if only,
you really felt this brave.)
a medical appointment a decade in waiting
you list out all the things that are wrong with you
if something will disqualify you, you’d rather
know ahead of time
no nasty surprises
you’re going to put it all upfront.
you’re holding your breath and hoping
that nothing will come up – and it doesn’t –
but even after all this time, it’s here
in the one place you don’t expect it-
they ask you your Preferred Name like its
a handle on a game show
and call you a girl anyway.
year ten in waiting. and part of you
(so much of you)
just wants to run away.
(you’ll come back –
but maybe if you’d been braver,
or more certain
you would have been here sooner
and all that Girl and She and Wrongness
wouldn’t be trapped upon your face.)