Dear Birth Gender

I wrote this poem after a weekend traveling from my small college town in southern New Jersey to Baltimore, Maryland. The car was driven by my friend Becca, and I stayed at my friend Alain’s house. I met Becca through one of the queer/straight organizations on my university’s campus, and Alain through competing at the 2014 Individual World Poetry Slam in Phoenix, Arizona. The purpose of the trip was to explore the city with one of Becca’s high school friends, and then go to a spoken word event with Alain. However, I didn’t realize the emotional impact this trip would have on me. Hanging out with queer folks and poets was a very cleansing experience, but it forced me to rethink the energy I’m putting out into the world, as well as some different facets in my life.

I’ve recently been struggling with depression and anxiety related to my gender identity and sexuality, as well as some other miscellaneous factors. This poem is an open letter to the different parts of my gender, and it strives to bridge the chasm that has opened within me over the past few months. I wrote it also as a reminder to myself; you are allowed to change your identity as you grow and gain new experiences, your feelings are valid even if they’re confusing, and society has this weird way of putting gender and sexuality into boxes that are not accurately representative of the way they work in the real world.

I’ve included both an audio file and the text for this poem. I’m proud of the work I’ve been producing recently, and good gods, I want other people to be proud of themselves too. If anyone would like to talk about their gender identity or instances of uncertainty, feel free to contact me. I’m always down for a conversation.

“dear birth gender,”

 

to the girl I used to be,
you knew all along,
didn’t you?

that your gender was not
the blood sacrifice lotus-bloomed
across our bedsheets every month,
because we are never prepared.

you knew you were not a boy
when every shopping trip included
a small child, or a fitting room
attendant, or a stranger in the
bathroom making circus-eyes at
your freak-show binary;
“are you sure this is the right
room? are you sure you’re not
a boy? tell us—where do you
really belong? explain yourself—”
I don’t want to.

dear girl I used to be,
it was so easy to realize
you were not a boy,
so dear body I am now,
why was it so hard to realize
you are not a girl?

to the gender I am
still trying to figure out,
I am sorry. you are not
a cheap metaphor when
I have already bartered all
my other identities, not
the slack-jawed snarl my thighs
ensnare, the moon beckons
“female,” and I
do not turn.

I am still my father’s daughter,
still going to girls’ night out
karaoke with my best friend,
still my girlfriend’s girlfriend;
my girlfriend still calls herself
a lesbian, because it is easier
than explaining that her girlfriend
is not a girl… anymore. see,

my gender is never wanting
to be a boy, but always wanting
to not be a girl—

when you decide not to
embody goddess, when the binary
makes a mockery of the way
you tender relationships,
when there is no english language
for the jut of my body against
another’s body when neither of us
are sure of what monster we
really are, my gender is all
the firsts that have nothing to do with
the open wound of my innocence—

the first time I bound
my breasts without knowing
what it really meant,
the first time someone used
“they” pronouns for me without
being asked, and I cried
in the car on the way home, because
I had never been considered
“human” before anything else,
the first time I was in a room
where every person was not
the gender they were assigned
at birth, I am not the gender I was
assigned at birth, dear birth gender,
goddess gender, female—

I have a younger sister;
my grandmother got her
girl grandchild, dear girl
I used to be, you are
so much of me. you are just
no longer the
biggest part.

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