“A Prisoner In My Own Vessel”

I’ve been mulling over a line that I wrote in a poem called Desolate Lands where I explained that sometimes I view myself as “a prisoner in my own vessel.” I wanted to deconstruct all the thoughts and emotions that I was processing in that moment. Though, Before I delve into the nuance of trans issues and the relationships that we have with our bodies, I wanted to explain a more about the method I use to write poetry. To me, the creation of an authentic and visceral experience in my writing requires me to allow my various thoughts and emotions to travel through me to fill the page untethered with any doubt for what I am feeling in that precise moment. This means that I will often return to something I wrote in the past and learn that my thoughts and feelings on the topic have dramatically changed. This is the reason that writing is so cathartic to me, because it is able to help me learn about who I am as a person and how I traverse the world. It also helps me deconstruct complicated thoughts, emotions or opinions, and thus it functions as a catalyst for me to process trauma and my overall experiences in life. Thus writing is a healing activity that allows me to be able to move forward and understand who I am.

I think we’ve all heard it before, the overtly common and limited narrative that suggests all trans people feel trapped in their own bodies, or as “prisoners in their own vessels” as I described in Desolate Lands no more than a day ago. I understand that there are many trans people who might feel this way about their bodies, and that’s valid and real. In fact, I know that this is a feeling I have harbored towards my own body that comes from dysphoria, hence the inclusion of the line in my recent poem, and I’m not here to debate the reality of those experiences, quite the opposite. However, I do want to emphasize that many trans people, including myself at times, don’t always feel this way about their bodies and also might feel totally comfortable in their bodies, and that doesn’t make them any less authentic.

There is a quote from Alok Vaid-Menon who explains that “[they were not] born in the wrong body, [they were] born in the wrong world.” This quote has always resonated with me as I’ve tried to come to understand my feelings towards my body. Alok Vaid-Menon draws attention to a toxic gender status quo and encourages us to move beyond a “Western colonial system that’s invested in categorizing everything about us.” I’ve realized since writing Desolate Lands that I don’t necessarily feel like a “prisoner in my own vessel” but rather lost in an ocean of stereotypes an false assumptions about my body and how this supposedly defines who I am or how I traverse the world. There is no monolithic trans narrative, and we all have unique relationships with our bodies. I agree with Janet Mock when she explains that the “trapped in the wrong body” narrative can inevitably function to “place [us] in the role of victim, and to those who take mainstream media depictions as truth [we are] seen as a human to be pities because [we are] someones who needs to be saved, rather that a self-determined [human] with agency and choice and the ability to define who [we are] in this society and who [we] will become in spite of it.”

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