Family in Chaos

Maybe it’s cuz I’m trans that
I’m really good at making meaning out of things that used to mean biology
Family’s a – *gasp, or *schooo, or *eyebrows raised head nod, or *shudder – for a lot of us
Maybe family’s that place where you feel so familiar and so alone
Or maybe it’s that place where you’ve practiced for years to construct your engagement
Just Right
Maybe it’s a place you never go,
for good reasons, or bad reasons,
or cuz they’re fucked up reasons
maybe family’s where you were first treated like a human
or where you were first dehumanized
Maybe some of your family is with you for life,
And some of them are out there, wherever
Maybe you feel like you don’t have a lot of choice about this family business
Maybe you already made your choices

I think we can find more choices
or that sometimes the best things choose us
I tried to find all kinds of words besides gender
when I saw myself naked in the mirror the first time,
and didn’t know what was going one with me and my body
Eventually I figured out I didn’t have to be a woman or a man, I could be trans
I tried to find all kinds of words besides family
when I realized how much we’re missing that could be making us better
Community, friends, besties, BFFs
But something just feels good
when I think that all the things I’m about to say

in relating, engaging, loving
trust so full we’re not scared to make ourselves uncomfortable
honesty that’s refreshing and sometimes brutal
Continuity, forever

Family rides the bus with you
Sitting a few seats back from you to yell at creepin men,
or so you know you’re not alone
so you can try telling him to shut up without being scared he’ll follow you off the bus
Or 6 people in drag get on and off at different stops so when you get on
you think you didn’t dress well enough for this bus
Family curses out your boss when he’s misog,
Or shows up with 10 people to curse him out when you quit cuz he’s a transmisogynist
Or hangs out outside on the curb, quietly telling every customer who goes in that the manager has a foot fetish so he makes everybody knead the dough with their feet
We ask what your dream life would be,
we ask as a demand that you keep dreaming,
that you keep demanding we make it real
We expand your potential
We require that you’re funny as hell
Because for all the shit we do for you, we deserve a good laugh
We are always there in court with you
We always give the cops shit for you
And if you’re misogynistically charged and the district attorney doesn’t drop the charges,
he loses his next election and whoever takes his place knows it was us.
When you’re in the hospital we spend every night with you;
if you can’t advocate for yourself, it’s covered
When your doctor is trying to put you on antidepressants
cuz that’s what he does with all the trans people he sees,
we fight for your hormones,
or we’re so proud of you that you don’t believe you need antidepressants either.
When you’re writing your dissertation and you just need someone to talk to,
We read a bunch of your books so we’ve got the knowledge to have a helpful conversation
We take self-defense classes together,
because none of us deserve to be scared of some tripped up insecure dude,
We find places to live
so that all of us who need family on the daily have it
family that will claim our chaos whether or not we’ve figured out how to claim it ourselves
family that helps us create chaos
Thanks to family our hair is always cut better than we could have imagined it,
Our make-up is always done when we want it,
whether we’re pro’s with eye-liner or learning to be
We’re always the best dressed
cuz family doesn’t let us leave the house unless we’re perfect
our ears are pierced however we want,
our tattoos are gorgeous whether we can pay for them or not
Our bodies are held

We get that job we need because our resumes and cover letters are edited perfectly,
We’ve got the old job references we need
because we’ve got the best actors answering their phones
We get that baby
when we’ve been thinking we’re good and grown up enough to raise some sunshine,
Some of the family signs some legal guardian contracts
All of us change diapers like any uncle or aunt should
All of us raise our babies the way we raise each other:
We’re part of you.
You don’t ever feel like you need to hold us accountable
because you hold us the same way you hold yourself accountable.
We’re straight, we’re gay, we’re fly,
we’re your color or not your color,
we’re from the kinda money you had growing up or not,
our bodies are like yours or they’re not
we understand the world in ways that make your understanding of yourself in the world
more sophisticated, creative, and empowering.

Who you are is interwoven
When who we are is family,
We’ve got it
We’ve got what all those married types have been looking for for years
We’ve got what all those kids with divorced parents find in their friends
We’ve got some shit that’s gonna make a lot of people jealous
till they figure out how to do it themselves
We’ve got sirloin steaks instead of Big Macs
We’ve got home
A home made just for us

There’s a shitton of ways we can make this home I’m not thinking of,
so thank god ya’ll are smart,
we gotta grow this list
We gotta grow what we need
because we might need things we’ve never been vital enough to know we could have
We might dream things we’d never dream
without the demand

We deserve a community of families
I need ya’ll
to trust in our chaos
because I need your family-made beauty
just as badly as I need my own


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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