Three generations of women
a conversation about our lives
our shared feminine experience
But one doesn’t feel as though
she belongs in this discussion
an outcast not recognized
Because she was raised a boy
her identity and reality denied
unable to express her truth
Two women and one erased
no voice among loved ones
an exile in her own home
But she fights to be heard
and her elders turn to listen
unsure but filled with love
Their son becomes a daughter
as a beautiful tale unfolds
a child’s truth now recognized
After a shower I stand naked in front of a bathroom mirror
vapor and steam swirling around the enclosed private space
as it conceals all the horrible aspects of my own masculinity.
For once I do not turn away in disgust at my reflected visage
as clouds of water droplets present a much softer appearance
I’m now able to imagine what it would be like to feel feminine.
Unable to see body hair, an Adam’s apple, or broad shoulders
and more apparent is the luster and beauty of my supple skin
through the mist I can imagine myself as a vulnerable woman.
At first this brings me shame and guilt in denial and misogyny
but then I come to realize that there is some hope in this image
the desire to accept who I am and grow into my own reflection.
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.”