Body & Gender Fragments
bodies have freckles,
while some are six-foot-four and near-sighted.
Some grow thick hair,
while others have autism.
Each body comes with a unique mix of experiences —
affordances and constraints.
This body isn’t wrong,
My genitals don't match my gender,
the way some bodies do.
You might need help with insulin.
I need help with estrogen.
I don’t mean to medicalize this experience —
to claim it,
and put it
in my body.
I operate best on hormones I don’t produce.
Most women call that menopause.
I call it transition.
are my own,
not a guide to trans experience.
relate to parts.
There’s a temptation to cherry-pick the past,
emphasize one particular story-arc,
associate myself with the proper stereotypes,
and prove I was born this way —
girl from my first breath.
In the final years before my
I was begging the pieces to fit perfectly.
I wanted a narrative that could prove my gender,
That story doesn't exist.
A friend asks me what it means
to be a woman.
I have no idea.
What does it mean for you
to be your gender?
Dysphoria is a subtle,
subconscious beast —
like an upset stomach,
or the anger you feel when you haven’t eaten.
Gender dysphoria is hangry.
There’s no instruction manual,
or arrow pointing you are here.
doesn’t take the time
to stop and explain itself
driving you mad.
I watch Eddie Izzard,
and think maybe I’m an action transvestite,
but the lazy kind with a beer gut,
who has no time for makeup,
Megan asks if I’ve been a good boy
I’m not very good at being a boy,
if that’s what you mean.
so I attend the
Trans and Genderqueer Poetry Symposium.
Rose asks what pronouns do people use for you?
not the question she meant to ask,
and not the question I wish I was answering.
Neither of us correct our mistake.
Erin asks me point-blank,
but I don’t know the answer.
For a week,
she uses all the pronouns interchangeably,
but I only like the moments of she/her/hers.
It's hard getting anyone else to follow suit.
I think maybe
changing my name
but it doesn’t much.
I tell N— how I’m feeling.
That’s because you’re not on hormones yet.
I believe her,
but there's a waiting
I never felt like a girl.
What do girls feel like?
I didn’t always know,
dream of wearing dresses.
I wasn’t consistent, insistent, or persistent.
I was frustrated.
Even after I pinned that pain
it took years to make sense of the fragments.
Sometimes you don’t know the pain is real
until it goes away.
I first call myself trans
while speaking to 60-some relatives at a family reunion.
Sometimes I do things the hard way.
Everyone is supportive,
but no one notices their pronouns,
and it feels like nothing will ever
Grandma asks if
I'm planning to transition medically,
and I say no. I’m wrong.
Cis women warn me about
emotional terrors of estrogen.
Clearly you haven’t tried testosterone,
That shit’ll fuck you up.
Transition is a
between dysphoria and euphoria.
changes all seem minor,
but the results are
I’m the same person,
not at all.
I lose two shoe sizes,
and twenty-two pounds.
I can't lift my bass amp,
and rarely get turned on —
but when I do it’s electric.
The world is several degrees colder,
to make up for
global warming, I suppose.
Emotions live in my body, taking root.
I'm all nerve endings,
exposed to the elements.
When I pay attention,
I love every second of it.
genders me right,
condescending tone reserved for women.
Many people become frustrated by the trappings of gender —
the rules and regulations imposed by our culture.
We are not the only people
to push against these limits.
boys find their inner princess,
and girls grow up to be president (please),
and everyone else moves on.
As my brother says, cis does not mean simple.
I wanted that story too —
a complex gender,
breaking from tradition
without crossing any lines.
I hoped gender was only
and a change in performance could destroy my dysphoria.
I wanted to express my feminine traits and move on.
But feminine is not my gender.
Painted nails are not what it means to be a woman.
Gender is often performed,
but the performance
is not the whole story.
The play is not the thing.
A visiting trans friend asks where I get my T.
I make it inside my body, I tell him. I’d give it to you if I could.
My doctor doesn’t require a therapist’s approval, but she tells me it’s helpful if you have one. I don’t know what that means. My therapist writes a letter, just in case.
I have to sign a form
that explains the effects of hormone therapy.
They bring me the wrong form:
Consent for Masculinizing Hormone Therapy.
ask for the other form, please.
Probably a clerical error,
but it feels good.
This is called informed consent.
changes in body fat,
and thinning body hair.
changes in voice
or facial hair.
The form is full of typos,
but I sign it anyway.
Later that day,
I take my first hormone pills.
Everyone asks me if I’ll keep dating women.
The better question,
will women keep dating me?
which part of transition
should change who I find attractive.
The name and pronoun,
or a possible surgery down the road?
I was bi before,
I’m bi now,
and I expect to be bi for a very long time.
Some do find that transition
allows them more comfort
in dating or noticing
different genders than before.
Sometimes sexuality is just about
feeling comfortable and paying attention.
set in stone.
I’m still learning to identify as a woman,
and as a lesbian.
Both are over-simplifications.
Maybe a non-binary
genderqueer trans woman
bi/pansexual femme tomboy dyke?
I was assigned male,
and learned to identify as a man —
no matter how odd or painful that felt.
My identity was male
for 33 years.
Even when the label means nothing to you,
it can be hard to shake off.
- My gender identity is frustrated?
- My gender frustration is female?
I'm terrified that all I want is
the mythical teenage sleepover,
I'm too late for that.
The Internet is all tweens and early teens,
afraid they are too old for hormones.
I read all the wrong things,
and cry for weeks.
I told myself I was
too masculine to transition.
I told myself I looked too young without a beard.
I told myself a beard would allow me to be more queer.
I used my beard as a beard,
in the way gay boys and lesbians team up
to throw you off the scent.
I told myself
if you don’t try you can’t fail.
If I have a beard,
no one will think I’m trans.
I was right.
My own fear and self-hatred
became my strongest defense.
I told myself it’s only a body.
I told myself nothing fit right.
friend jokes about the useless buttons
back of my new coat.
Those buttons aren’t useless,
I tell him.
That’s how people know I’m a woman.
gender was only a performance
when my own
gender was a performance.
gender aligns with genitals,
because theirs does.
It’s hard to look
beyond your own experience.
That’s why we have empathy.
I realized I was
gender only made things worse.
I’ve been fortunate
to have the partners I have.
None of us knew
if our relationships would survive this transition,
but both are queer as
and I don’t know how I would have survived
Thank you Rachel.
Thank you Erin.
You mean the world to me.
I’m not trans because of the things I like,
or the people I sleep with.
I’m not trans in order to paint my nails,
fuck boys, join a coven,
or get a free drink on Ladies Night.
exploring my feminine side,
or enjoying the realities of sexism,
objectification, double-standards, mansplaining, and harassment.
I could do
all those things before.
I’m trans because
the doctors called me a man
and they were
I thought I was borrowing a scraper,
but then he just cleaned off the car for me.
This doesn’t happen when you look like a boy person.
The bank ask to see my marriage license.
I don't have one,
they ask the reason for my name change?
I make a list of possible reasons:
- Just in case.
That time of the week.
- I lost my old name, on the bus to Boulder.
- Identity theft.
I can’t use he/him/his for anyone.
I pause before every pronoun, confused.
I don't know how many trans people I know.
After transition, many fade from view.
Cis-assumption helps us blend in,
for our own safety.
Others haven’t come out yet.
Visibility is dangerous,
but without it we’re
monsters under the bed.
"Passing" is not
something I do,
but something that happens to me —
not a way of presenting,
but a way of being seen.
In a single moment
can be seen and not seen,
gendered and misgendered.
Ungendered, and undressed.
I start using the women’s restroom
when others start seeing a woman —
enough to feel un/safe.
the men's room feels impossible.
but I’m waiting for the FF2 from Boulder,
and can’t hold it any longer.
It’s been a year now,
When I say gender change, people only hear genitals.
We talk about socialization,
only ever hear the half story
intentionally directed their way.
As though we’re not all taught
to hate women equally.
As though I can’t see past the mistake
when I’m assigned male,
and build my own
outside your view.
As though I could survive 33 years
without learning to cower.
A friend asks if
I like to dress femme
in the bedroom,
or roleplay with crossed genders.
I don’t think
my pain is that sexy.
I tell my mom on the phone,
I think I’m more binary than I think.
So am I.
I think I need to transition.
I watch a video of Kate Bornstein,
Nothing she says,
just her existence is enough.
Women can be anything.
Transition first, then explore.
Trying on clothes
to see if they fit
is way better than trying on clothes
to see if your gender fits.
I didn’t know there was a difference,
until everything changed.
I can finally hate my body for the normal reasons.
Transgender and Transsexual always existed somewhere else,
in another world.
I felt an affinity
for cross-dressers, drag queens, and trans women alike
(I wouldn’t distinguish until later),
but the connection was fragile.
seemed so fierce and fabulous —
wisp-thin and perfect-femme —
like a thick Indiana farm-boy.
On screen, their stories always ended badly.
Robert spent the
but Audrey wasn’t allowed to.
the boys tell me not to play with her
on the playground,
and I listen.
A stranger asks me if I’m
like, full tranny.
That's not a thing.
Living as a boy,
pink became a symbol of something
I could never fully articulate.
a personal rebellion —
pain played-off as politics.
is only subversive for men.
In the end,
my rebellion reinforced my misgendering.
A month into transition,
I cleared all the pink from my closet.
If you are wondering,
am I trans,
the answer is almost certainly
and you are beautiful.
No two stories are the same,
but what we have in common
is that pain,
and that wondering.
You have options.
- In my dreams,
- In the mirror,
- In public,
I'm a woman.
Being trans isn’t about knowing
even seeing it when others do.
I transitioned on faith —
jumping out ahead of my identity.
I’m still surprised when I look in
but I look as often as I can —
the euphoria of that surprise,
or just to normalize it over
— Ma’am, that account says ‘Eric Meyer’
— That’s my old… boyfriend? Can I change it?
I took a few voice lessons,
for a better sense of
control over my presentation.
I don't worry about a particular pitch,
or gender-socialized speech patterns —
just dropping some of that bass chest resonance.
It was something small I could do
before the hormones kicked in.
This was never a male body,
it was always
a trans body.
My body was trans as a kid.
My body is trans now.
My body will always be trans.
Recently, I had a nightmare about swimming.
First I was worried about the swimsuit I don’t have.
Will I try some on?
Then I saw the locker room doors,
and woke up in a panic.
I change my last name to Suzanne
to avoid identity confusion in my career.
I pick Suzanne from a list of family names
my parents kindly send over.
I'm half-aware at the time
that I should be changing my given name instead.
I move unspecified "M" to the middle,
with a sense that I might need it later.
Given different genital circumstances,
I would have been Miriam Suzanne Meyer at birth,
or Mary Sue,
After three years,
I change my first name to Miriam,
and move Eric to the middle —
a sense of gender-queering history
that I can drop to an initial at any time.
at TSA looks confused.
Is that supposed to say Erica?
My first night out with a new name,
I stumble and hate every minute.
Erin holds my hand and
introduces me to friends.
This is my girlfriend.
I’m trying to be dainty,
maybe, or demure.
and I want to vomit.
Hanson is on the radio.
Why is Hanson on the radio?
I know that
woman is not an action,
but a description —
what I am, not what I do.
Knowing in my mind
and knowing in my body
are different things.
I'm able to relax
and be myself.
a new feeling.
An ex said
she won’t be happy
until I’m dead, gay, or castrated.
going for the hat trick.
After years of
it’s strange to realize
you’re suddenly no-longer noteworthy —
just one more woman walking down the street.
while I wasn’t paying attention:
the queer kids stopped giving me that knowing nod.
made me stand out before,
now only blends me in.
A few months
and flying becomes
The woman checking ID says
I guess you’ll want to get that changed
as she hands back my license.
Another woman beckons me through the scanner,
and presses the pink button as I enter —
then pulls me aside
when the machine highlights
— I’m sorry ma’am, you triggered an alarm.
I mean, excuse me,
we don’t say alarm now,
we say anomaly.
— Yeah. I’m trans.
— I know, ma’am. Is it ok if I pat you down?
I buy PreCheck to avoid the scanners.
Later I learn that a good tuck —
six more months blocking testosterone —
is enough to pass their gender test.
that pink button all you want.
I guess this is what it means to be a woman?
your chosen name has to sue your given name
for the right to exist.
Transition is not a binary.
We all exist on a spectrum,
stretching out in many dimensions.
My transition will never be complete,
and my gender will never be simple or static.
Woman is only one label among many.
None are perfect on their own,
we all live at intersections.
We all contain multitudes.
I don't believe in authenticity,
but I do believe
and doing something
to survive it.
There are some questions that come up again and again if you are trans. A few of those questions are terrible, but most of them are well-intentioned. I’m lucky to have a supportive community around me, so I thought I’d write down my most common answers to help ease your stress about getting it right, and ease my stress about answering the same questions over and over.
There’s a lot of language that gets thrown around, but much of it comes loaded with over-simplified baggage and misconceptions. Here are a few that have been on my mind – from gender identity to biological sex, transition, passing, and visibility.
My friend Maureen Maloney asked to document my reaction to the 2016 election, as part of the America Heard film series…
I wasn’t born in the wrong body. I was born, a body. Without my body, I don’t exist.
Mother finds me at her wardrobe, in her pumps and pearls. What are you doing? Being a mommy. Are you, then? She clips on the earrings (they pinch!), reaches for her lipstick.—Allison Washington
I’ve seen myself in the mirror. I find me… disorienting. What do they see that I don’t? Why aren’t they laughing at me?—Miriam Suzanne
Reflections on the instictive act of gendering, how it can go terribly wrong, and what happens next.
I don’t have many guy friends, but my guitarist is one. Parting, I lean in for the cheek-kiss but he plants a good one right on my lips.—Allison Washington