“Excuse me, sir,” says the middle-aged woman in the bookstore
who is trying to get the book I am standing in front of.
Three letters, s-i-r, a simple statement of my perceived masculinity,
puts a smile on my face, which looks its most girlish when I smile,
so I duck down and move so she won’t realize her beautiful mistake
and call me “hon” instead.
“Good morning, son,” are the words I long to hear from my long-suffering mother
Who doesn’t yet know she only has one daughter, not two,
And who is still unaware of the birth of her son, sixteen years overdue.
Can you hear me aching as you tell me how pretty I am?
Would the word handsome burn your tongue?
Would you still love me if you knew the truth,
That when the doctors pronounced to you, “It’s a girl!”
That both they and God had blindly guessed wrong?
That a mere glance at my genitalia had not betrayed the fact
That I was not as I seemed, that I was more than met the eye?
Would you cast me off as a stranger if I tried to show you,
Look, mother, this is who I am.
I dress in the morning with my back toward the mirror,
Struggle my binder over my still-widening hips
And don’t look down at my chest until it is smashed into submission
By the thirty dollars of confidence I can call my own.
No more, no less.
I try to hunch my shoulders into invisibility as I slink through the store
Furtively glancing at the boy’s button-ups, aching to try just one on
Imagining how my body would look in clothes not meant to accentuate curves,
That curse word of femininity that I am burdened with.
Whenever I am forced to put on a dress,
Paint my nails, paint my face with colors I was not born with,
I am painting over a mask, do you understand,
I was born playing dress-up and what you call drag, I call identity.
This is not about sex, about the vagina I don’t think about or the penis I don’t want
This isn’t about the chest you are not allowed to touch when we kiss
This isn’t about the lips that you kiss and whether I am your girlfriend or your boyfriend
Or whether you would want to be just friends if I ever got the courage to tell you the truth.
This is about who I am and who I have always been
This is about gay versus bisexual versus boy versus girl and
How I don’t fit in any of these boxes that have been created for me to fit neatly into
You cannot fit my colors into a shape, or a pattern, or a word
So fit me into a song, sing me loud as the roots of the magnolia tree
That lived in front of my grandmother’s house.
We used to hide inside its branches and wait for storms to pass
Wait with me for the storm to pass, if this storm will ever pass.
I am more than the word girl or boy, I will never grow up to be man or woman
These things were not written in the stars I wished on
And I refuse to let another judgment pass on what I am not enough of.
Not strong enough to be a man, not delicate enough to be a woman,
Not loud enough to be a boy, not sweet enough to be a girl
But I am soft enough to love and open enough to be loved
I am strong enough to throw your names and qualifiers back,
To transgress the boy-girl rules tying me to the ground where I can be stepped on,
I am transcending everything I know to become something I wish to learn
I am transforming from my mother’s daughter to my mother’s son
And maybe someday she will be able to call me handsome
And buy me a suit for prom
And greet me with the word I ache for.
I am her son, I am her sun, I am burning brightly in the morning sky to wake all of us up
From the delusion that any of us are simple enough to be categorized like this
I am burning white hot to remind us to let our hearts burn for each other
And I will scoff at boy, scoff at girl, and maybe even find the courage
To scoff at transgendered, that tentative title I have only recently found the courage to consider
Because I am her son, I am my own sun, we are all suns
And we all will burn through our titles of male and female, our chains of pink and blue
We will transcend the walls of gender we have created to tie our hearts to the tracks
And my mother will raise her face to the sky
And feel my love for her in the light I shine and greet me with,
“Good morning, son.”