Claim this Chaos

Axons: neural processes that allow one neuron to communicate with another.
Diffuse axonal injury: the brain is shaken rapidly, causing the axons to slide all over each other, stretching and getting damaged.
Recovery from diffuse axonal injury: new neural connections are made.

When I told my college roommate I had just realized last week that I’m attracted to women, she said, “Well that explains why you walk like a guy now. You seem like you’re in your body now. You used to hover around it.”
I don’t remember the hovering,
but I remember feeling like my feet understood their step for the first time.
When I got to my new home in February 2013, my brain hovered terrified.
Maybe our brains are like downtown Minneapolis in the winter –
hundreds of office buildings,
connected by hundreds of skyways,
filled with business suits hurrying from building to building to do their work
some of them are managers, taking in all the reports from nerves and determining what actions should be taken,
some of them are philosophers, some of them are janitors,
tons of them are recorders, writers, journalists.
They write and write all the things that happen so it won’t be forgotten.

Before I knew I was trans, I did a lot of cool things.
I was really smart, especially considering that my downtown Minneapolis was constructed on a city body that was perpetually on fire.
I know what I looked like because of the pictures,
I know what my voice sounded like from some poetry recordings.
But when a high school friend says “remember when we lit that crepe on fire in French class?” the hand I remember flicking the lighter belongs to this body.
When my friend says “remember when you said you didn’t want to go to the homecoming dance because no worthwhile boy asked you?”
I imagine that’s possible. But I never remember.
My journalists had been busy taming the fire that erupted anytime I imagined dancing.
in a dress made to show off my tits,
or in shoes I couldn’t run in,
or in the clammy hand of some awkward boy who couldn’t get a date with one of those straight girls who were actually straight

What would happen if downtown Minneapolis got hit by a tornado that knocked out a bunch of the skyways?
Months after the tornado, I told Jess I remembered them walking out of the room on me talking over and over again.
I remembered Jess telling me to stop talking about the hospital a few times a day.
I didn’t know why, because I’d always only been talking for like 5 minutes.
My journalists were busy building new skyways while I was talking.
I usually talked for 20 minutes minimum, often 2 or 3 hours.
Telling the same story over and over and over.
I’m lucky I don’t remember, I’m sorry that Jess does!

When I realized I was trans it was after looking at myself naked in the mirror
for the first time in my life.
I’d seen myself naked after showering, sure,
but never actually looked at my body to see what all was there
Suddenly I saw this shadow who’d been following me around my whole life, beckoning
“hey faggot, you gonna find yourself in your body some day? Hey faggot, come home.”
I didn’t know exactly how to come home but I knew what felt good
So I figured out all kinds of stuff that no one taught me
The right place to sag each pair of pants
The right way to say hello to strangers so they’d think I was such a nice boy
The right way to indignantly laugh when a stranger she’d me
so they’d apologize for their mistake
Coping mechanisms so I was reminded of the strangeness of my body less
When I went on testosterone I didn’t think my new ridiculous sex drive and absurd appetite
were what was making that shadow materialize,
But somehow, it became flesh and blood
My body.

When I realized I was really brain injured it was after typing an email that read xkksssssw.
After my move to Minneapolis this February, I figured out lots of stuff no one taught me
The right snacks to eat because when hungry, I would fall over
The right “remember” routines to go through so I wouldn’t lose my keys or my jacket or my wallet
The right recordings of myself playing marimba to listen to, so my intimate anticipations of the next notes would be comfortingly correct
Coping mechanisms so I was reminded less of how lonely it felt to miss myself
When I realized my brain injury had affected my ability to feel,
it was after I’d been lying paralyzed in my bed for hours,
unable to think a conscious thought because a volcano of emotions was barreling through me.
I rejected image after image as incomplete descriptions of what I was feeling –
my house being bombed,
me and all my friends falling into giant holes in the ground
Until I pictured an earth, floating in space
A giant set of sheers plunged into to it, and opening, split the earth apart
I watched this happen over and over again
My first thought in hours: “the earth is me.”
When I awoke the next day, I experienced joy for the first time in 7 months
Apparently I had been unable to multi-task emotions,
or have complex feelings like joy
I was aware for the first time of a shadow who’d been following me constantly,
“hey Kris, I know there’s a lot of you here, but you’re still missing something.
Come on, come home”
That morning this shadow was embodied.
My body.

So, why am I comparing being trans to being brain injured?
I guess cuz, I bet I’m here talking to you right now cuz I’m trans.
In other words, I healed way faster than all the doctors thought I would,
cuz trans people are better at everything

We gotta be champions at loving ourselves, even when something is missing
Even when we can’t picture what we’ll be when we’re ALL THERE,
We gotta trust ourselves
We claim our chaos,
When our skin feels like someone else’s wrinkled cotton sheets
When razors ride rigid and we’re sick of shaving every day
When binders sweat and squeeze us
We claim flabby, flopping tits,
We claim hairy faces, hairy inner thighs, and hairy asses,
nose hairs, leg hairs, and armpit hairs
When every hallway blessed by our lover’s hands is decked with flashing exit signs,
We claim flaccid dicks
We claim silicone, leather, and lube
Honey, we claim lots of lube,
When we laugh and they don’t get it
We claim smiles, winks, and teeth
When pitch is the sole determinant of a Maam or a Sir,
We claim booming, and raspy, chirpy, and squeaky, squealing, and thunderous, excited, and filled-with-passion, and filled-with-courage, and
bathrooms, we claim every fucking stall, urinal, and toilet,
We claim ecology of bodies, it takes yours to give mine meaning,
(so baby make me look good),
When we don’t know if they’re afraid to sleep with us
or if we’re afraid to sleep with us,
When it’s easier to undress others than to dress ourselves
We claim the challenge, because we’ll never know how many people we free just by putting on our 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
We claim it all at once
We claim pleasure,
and the 2,735 places on our bodies that are pleasurable to touch, tantalize, torture, and tease
we 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.
We claim gorgeous, handsome, charming, adorable, damn fucking sexy.
We claim pronouns, we claim all the pronouns, or none of the pronouns,
we refuse to claim and make them deal with their confusion,
When it feels like no one will claim us,
we claim each other,
for siblings, for lovers, for children, for parents,
we claim family
when our family has to listen to us babble on and on for hours
when our family has to argue with nurses and yell at us to stop unplugging our breathing tubes
when our family is only still there because they hope
we claim beauty
we claim beauty only found because we know, no matter how much of ourselves we miss
our family misses it too
and they claim us
they claim our chaos
they claim every beauty we are
and every beauty we will become


Published by kris gebhard

Kris (pronouns they/them) is a clinical psychologist, poet, percussionist, and gardener currently residing in Chicago, IL.

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