When I told my therapist I wanted to be a man, I did not say I wanted hairy nipples.
I still don’t want them but I’m growing some kind of nipple hair garden under this shirt so sometimes I try to hide it from the sun
Sometimes for just a second I want to hide it from you because it’s not Christian Bale’s chest, but then I remind myself,
When I said I wanted to be a man, I didn’t actually wanna be a man,
I just needed some vindication for the furnace I woke up inside of every morning, and I knew the games I needed to play to get the ‘scrip
were the same games folks of my type have been playing since the ‘50s.
Back then they named us transsexuals so that everybody else could be assured
they were properly sexed.
Back then you had to get a letter from a doc explaining that you were ‘cross-dressing’ because you were on your way to surgeries, or the cops would arrest you
I worry that nowadays we police ourselves:
Welcome to this disordered body.
Diced and Divided,
Distributed and Dyslexic
Disease drenched and drudgerous, discontent
Dysphoria: the cornerstone of gender identity disorder, a severe disassociation from aspects of one’s body that relate to biological binary sex
Let’s dissect it:
When I told my therapist since I wasn’t a woman I guess I had to be a man,
I didn’t know my melting skin could be of the holy ghost.
Thought my body had been plumbed and electrified by a lunatic. Hallway light switches turned on garbage disposals, bathtub faucets flooded bedrooms;
I wasn’t shameful, but I was desperate for resolution and my therapist presented a male savior so I promised her dysfunction.
Wept at least once a day.
Called it all dysphoria:
20 lashes before bed, front and back,
therapists who patronize and doctors who fear,
30 sit ups and push ups repeat, check mirror, repeat,
A nurse who says I don’t need a pap smear and shoves the speculum so roughly inside me I am bruised afterwards
outlets set fire to toilets, clogged drains bottleneck and blow
Being taken for 7 years younger than I am,
Maam’d and sir’ed and boy’d, she/he’d and it’d
Knowing prison means solitary confinement cuz they just don’t know what else to do with us
Having my passport delayed for 9 months because my genitals are an issue of national security
Daily counting the pronouns and sobbing if the she’s outweighed the he’s
Blood staining every pair of my underwear because I never expected to bleed there,
My first lover asked me to imagine who I wanted to look like. I couldn’t.
She went on, “Well, if someday people think you’re a dude, you gotta tell ‘em,
I used to have a nice rack”
Is for all of us who embody dissonance,
All of us who absorb images of people like us only in context of “transition,” to some elusive and ridiculous ideal
This is for all of us disordered
We are named transgender so that others can preserve the illusion of being properly gendered,
We are named fat and defined as unhealthy so that others can pretend they are in health,
We are expected to starve or to purge and it is even our friends who compliment our shrinking,
We are rewarded as long as we strive for gender perfection.
Many of us have terrible posture. Maybe because we hunch to hide breasts, or because we feel lacking, or because they bring us the wrong kind of attention;
I think we’ve been taught who should stand.
Sometimes we try 4 or 5 or 12 outfits on in the morning and when nothing fits it means we should stay in bed for the day, but some days turn weeks or months and prozac will trick you into indifferent jeans and t-shirts,
and if you’re alive inside them maybe it’s for the best.
Somedays we don’t leave the house
Sometimes we’re petrified of grocery stores
and malls, and Macy’s, and Walmart, and changing rooms,
and mirrors, sometimes we shatter them, sometimes we pray to them 25 times a day,
Or turn off all the lights
Sometimes we control our eating, sometimes it controls us,
Sometimes we can control our bleeding, sometimes we cannot
Sometimes we bleed to control something, anything that won’t talk back
And sometimes we have hidden the profoundness of our naked bodies from even our closest lovers
We fear because we know, we have all been pitied.
We have all been told, by someone or another, that our “condition” is imagined
That we should suck it up and get on with it like the rest of them.
We have all been called traitors
Whether of race, or family, religion, money, fame, or health, natural, or normal, and gender, and gender, and gender, gender is our most heinous betrayal.
We have been dogged
Been tagged too big, too tight, short, loud, broad, thick, soft, fat, scared, weak, long, young, flashy, flamboyant, hyper, extravagant, political, outspoken, too much
And not enough, although the not enoughs is a short list:
Not feminine enough,
not masculine enough.
For this we endure much.
We are ripped and rung, kicked, fired, and evicted, prodded, poked, laughed about, and ignored, beaten, and stolen.
At the bottom we ask, what of this body is mine to own?
What marrow remains after others have digested their fill?
When we do not know how to thrive, we cope. We breathe shallow, we conform, we accessorize, we surgery after surgery…
We dream of shedding these bodies.
We learn quickly how to bleach histories, promise pathological, and fit in.
Passing is sheer reward.
We call it all dysphoria and search for the fix,
Doctors, therapists and dieticians extend prescriptions.
But for every one of us who disappears their differentness to assimilate to absurdity,
Those of us who cannot disappear must pay the consequences.
Dysphoria is the ax swinging back and knocking you unconscious;
the block of wood: your beauty.
stop trying to split it into two genders,
can’t you see? We are splinters of each other.
We are warriors
When our bodies seem strangers to our souls, we must learn from each other how to breathe.
Summon our sacks of mucus and blood, muscle our mountains upon backs and journey,
This is a claiming:
Thank Goddess for our bodies, all disarranged as they seem.
We are an eco-system of pumping, flowing, beating, moaning, yelping, exclaiming:
Claim this chaos,
When your skin feels like somebody else’s wrinkled cotton sheets
When the gym is your purgatory,
When you chisel a sculpture to crawl into instead of a fountain to dance within
Claim oil and water dressing your body in comfort, claim fat, claim fortunate
When you harden too easily,
Claim muscled elegance
Claim space, whether your physicality requires it or longs for it
When you buy the wrong sized bra on purpose,
When you cry in dressing rooms
When you won’t let anyone shop with you
Claim every department in the stupid store
When no one carries your shoe size
or anything size
Screw size, start a sewing collective and clothe our flows righteous
Or find somebody who ships free and send it back as many times as it takes
When razors ride rigid and you’re sick of shaving every day
Claim hair, hairy faces, hairy vulvas, hairy inner thighs, and hairy asses,
nose hairs, leg hairs, and armpit hairs
When binders sweat and squeeze you
Claim flabby, flopping tits,
When every hallway blessed by your lover’s hands is decked with flashing exit signs,
Claim flaccid dicks
Claim silicone, leather, and lube
Honey, claim lots of lube,
When you laugh and they don’t get it
Claim smiles, winks, and teeth
When pitch is the sole determinant of a Maam or a Sir,
Claim booming, and raspy, chirpy, and squeaky, squealing, and thunderous, excited, and filled-with-passion, and filled-with-courage, and
bathrooms, claim every fucking stall, urinal, and toilet,
Claim childhood, every moment you felt unsafe, and every day you chose your own clothes,
imagine yourself with perfect posture, because children are taught
how to slump in their chairs by adults,
Imagine yourself with perfect gender,
because children are taught
Claim ecology of bodies, it takes yours to give mine meaning, (so baby make me look good),
When you don’t know if they’re afraid to sleep with you
or if you’re afraid to sleep with you,
When it’s easier to undress others than to dress yourself
Claim the challenge, because you will never know how many people you free just by putting on your favorite fancy pants, and skirts, and scarves, and metal through skin, and glitter, and ink
and femme, boi, butch, dyke, fag, queen, queer, king, pansy, pussy, bottom, daddy, bear, twink, flaming, and fabulous
Claim it all at once
and the 2,735 places on our bodies that are pleasurable to touch, tantalize, torture, and tease
Claim ears, and shoulders, and armpits, and eyelashes, and the insides of knees,
and big toes and little toes, and calves, and hips, and tongues, and lips, and nipples, and fingers and wrist and hands, and teeth, and tongues, and hands, and lips, and tongues, and hands.
Claim gorgeous, handsome, charming, adorable, damn fucking sexy.
Claim pronouns, claim all the pronouns, or none of the pronouns, refuse to claim and make them deal with their confusion,
If you cannot tell me what name will curve your flesh home I refer to you as dazzling
If you cannot tell me what cloth will cradle your skin safe I dress you in wonder
When you are too tired to shout
for the 434th time at the bully,
link arms with us,
we roll millions deep,
we are yelling red rover
and anyone who wants can join our line
There is nothing more dangerous than loving ourselves exactly as we are.
We are may be terrified.
But this is our time,
This is our time.
*Originally published as the closing piece in 20% Theatre Company’s production, Naked I: Wide Open. Written winter 2011; performed Feb. 2012.