that time you took your shirt off

It was a Thursday and the sky was a shade darker than your silverware. You took your shoes off and slung your fingers inside each one as you let your toes feast on the sand, full of cracked shells, twigs and occasional cigarette butts and remainders of glass.

You were with the one you love. The one who searched for the perfect spot to rest blue bed sheet and stack of sandwiches to house your testosterone-fueled appetites.

You placed your sneakers on the corners to hold the sheet down, took a deep breath and inhaled the Atlantic. You kept it in your lungs until you had to let go. All that salt. Waft of seagull wings swirling down your throat.

You look around and see bare breasts and strings of fabric covering up the other parts. You love seeing bodies being celebrated, uncovered and unapologetic.

You look at your lover, who is blinking in the ocean.

And then. You remove your Batman black t-shirt. You remove your binder. You are bare chest and excited nipples.

Your lover removes his t-shirt. Then, binder. He is bare chest and hairy nipples.

You leave your green bandana on, which hugs your neck.

You leave your gender behind for an afternoon at this beach, which is far more gay friendly than the one you usually go to. Several hours later, when you both decide to ride bikes for awhile and explore the nooks, you shake off the sand on your skin, flatten breasts back beneath binder, with Batman t-shirt back on.

You think about Nebraska. Skinny dipping beneath that dark sky. Allowing yourself to be self-conscious for only fifteen seconds. Then, recognizing that these humans– these poets, these artists, these magic makers– see past what your parts look like and recognize you simply as human.

Nudity can be like a shout-out: Hey, look at me! Look what I got. This is what I am!

Nudity can also remind us and others that we are not what we think/feel we are: Hey, forget all this. It’s just the scaffolding protecting the best parts, the parts you cannot see.

On a Friday evening, one day later, you walk on stage and tell a story that is yours, but in someone else’s voice. The audience does not know that it is another human speaking on behalf of your memories. Sometimes it is easier to relay the messages of your mind through a different medium: oil painting, collage, choreography, sculpture, song, poem.

Even all those times you were in various stages of nude, the audience never really saw you.

Then on Saturday, several hours later, you wonder when you might finally take that scaffolding down.

what is included.

From a recent article in the NY Times magazine featuring Jill Soloway, the writer of  the new Amazon program, “Transparent”, Ian Harvie, a transgender actor was quoted saying: “…We’re all trans. Don’t you see that we’re all trans?”

The writer of the article, Taffy Brodesser-Akner said, “But we aren’t, except in this way: We all struggle to become comfortable in the skin we were born into; we all try to uncover an identity beneath what was assigned to us at birth.”

And here I agree. So much of this life is about remaining. We are encouraged (by some) not to alter. Not to change what has been “given” to us. But so much of it is beyond changing hair color or attire. So much of it comes from a need to feel complete. To unite one’s insides with one’s outsides. And it is painful. And risky. But far better than living inside a construction site that you feel unwelcome in.

Trans is to move into another state or place.

Trans is to transform.

Trans is to translate. To surpass. To transcend.

I think more visibility is what is most important. To ask. To never assume one’s pronoun or gender marker. To allow space for someone to exist between binaries. To give humans space to be inconsistent if that is what permits them to live out loud. More and more movies and television programs with transgender characters and actors and genderqueer humans existing as well, is what we need to further educate those who are unaware or unsure.

There is never going to be just one way to be. There is not one kind of gay person or trans person. Or human.

We (can) exist to educate and inspire one another. So, ask. And respect one another’s vocabularies. It takes some people a lifetime to find their inner dictionaries and understand how to enunciate the body.

texture of a mushroom

“Who were these kids? What right had they to be born into a world where they were taught to look endlessly into themselves to ask how the texture of a mushroom made them feel? To ask themselves, and not be told, whether they were boys or girls? You eat what’s there or you starve.”

–Kim Fu, “For Today I am a Boy”

After reading the unique and beautifully written book, “For Today I am a Boy”, I found my thoughts stretched in directions I was not expecting. I inhale gender and exhale gender. And inhale. And exhale. I think about procedures and practices. I think about posture and the differences between how I am perceived and how I perceive myself.

I acknowledge the wince I feel in my bones each time I am called Miss or Ma’am. I am trying to exist beyond the borders of pronouns and just walk along as human.

Throughout the book, I recognized the ways in which gender is not always chosen. It can be hidden. It can become shameful. It can become the drawer of unmentionables that becomes like a haunt. The word transgender (as far as I can recall) is never used in this novel. And it doesn’t need to be. It’s aroma is there the entire time. What moved me the most is how community just naturally forms, which shapes our comfort level allowing these drawers to slowly open and let limbs rummage a bit.

For some, gender is not a second thought. It just is. All these options that we have (which are growing) are not necessary for some. For others, it has become like spending a lifetime (or what feels like such) for the right word and finally finding it.

whose body is this.

I am working on an academic-ish paper on the ways language holds its breath as though it is waiting to identify itself within the moment of exhale. As though it is building and marinating within its bones until it is ready to announce its sexuality and gender. Basically, how language becomes us and how we embody language.

I am still…….coming out. 

I realize this with each poem, each sneeze, each incorrect labeling of who I am by a stranger and one who (thinks they) know me.

I am still…….coming out.

I am careful with my pronouns of others, knowing how frustrated I feel when someone calls me miss or ma’am or pretty or words than are not necessarily a pronoun but they are gendered; in 2014, I believe we need to start thinking of humans as more than just gender markings. We cannot be placed into pink and blue boxes anymore.

I am still…….coming out.

There is a human who regularly holds my hand who reminds me that my body is like a carousel that is turning and making music and sometimes my shape changes and that’s ok and if tomorrow I call myself something else, I will still be loved.

I am still…….coming out.

I don’t need to understand all of this. I just need to keep moving along the path of picking it apart as though it really is music. And even if all the chords remain the same, if I experiment with the strumming pattern, suddenly I have a new song. Suddenly, I have many songs on and in this body.

I am still…….coming out.

There are so many ellipses inside us that sometimes we forget to be okay with this continuation of body. We long for that end.

Some of us feel ready for the period, while others need to investigate longer, commit to a few trial runs or test out different elixirs in order to feel closer to what all of this is called.

I am still…….coming out. I am still arriving at my clarified footnote. Take your time while working on yours.

shopping for facial hair.

(photographs by/of Ana Mendieta)

We sit on a saturday in a part of brooklyn where farmers gather and, with coffee and crushed-up pretzels on our breath, we shop for facial hair. You wonder what it will be like when yours grows in; I wonder what it will feel like against me.

There are men with six o’clock shadows at noon and there are men with beards long enough to braid or bunch up into knots called dreadlocks. There are men with grey stuck to their dark. There are short ones and red ones. There are beard/moustache combinations. There are intricate moustaches that curl up and those which curl downward.

I gaze at the hairs you’ve got, the ones I’ve named, the ones I’ve poem’d about.

We sit on a bed sheet in the middle of brooklyn bridge park on a thursday where humans wait for outdoor movie to begin and, with ice cream and curried popcorn on our breath, we shop for facial hair. You wonder if yours will have interruptions of silver like you’ve got against your scalp; I wonder what it will be like to kiss you with new texture against your skin.

There are thick ones and beards like confetti sprinkled over cheeks. There are hipster beards and shadows of ones still growing. Facial hair becomes like cloud formations for us, as we search for images we see in each one.

I shop for chests. Wonder what it could be like to have a shirt that fits me exactly the way I long for–without intrusion of curve below collarbone. Men take off their shirts this time of year and we lust after the shape we desire on ourselves.

We point to the ones with slight musculature. I notice variations of nipples and ones with hair like a standing ovation all over chest. I tell you that maybe one day I’d like to have that one or that one. You tell me that however my body exists, I’ll be just as handsomely beautiful.

We sit on a concrete bench not too far from the chanting Hare Krishnas on a wednesday in manhattan and, with pickles and no-sugar-added sour cherry juice on our breath, we shop for our gender, ripening against our bones. You tell me that tomorrow, if I decided to wear a dress, you’d look at me just the same.

With our painted toe nails from that time we sugared our tongues with rainbow ices beside neighbor’s garden, we search the crowd for others like us. The ones experimenting with all the ways in which one could exist.

i am in between the sentence structure of this body.

None of this is easy to explain. I am called girl or woman or miss everyday.

How to explain: I know I look like all those words, but actually I am none of them.

How to explain: Can you ignore the length of my hair and yes, these pants were purchased in the “woman’s” section of nearby thrift shop, but that is just thread. And measurements and hairstyle shouldn’t declare my parts.

How to explain: There is not just one way to be or exist. Seven days arrive in each week and we can take on a new shape every hour, if we so choose. Not everything…not everyone needs to make sense. Boxes hide things and we should encourage one another to be out and take up space.

How to explain: I know you touched me there yesterday, but today I want to pretend that away. Today, I want to be closer to another gender, not the one I was assigned or the one you think I look most like, but the one I feel.

How to explain: Actually I am not in search of beautiful or pretty but handsome and hearty and smart.

How to explain: My genitals have nothing to do with my gender and asking about them only shows how boxed-in you are.

How to explain: Pronouns have begun to feel like masking tape, silencing my flesh.

How to explain: Sometimes bladders grow into force-fields of superhero strength because entering a room with a silhouette of a “WOMAN” or “MAN” feels unsafe or inaccurate. We need more gender-neutral spaces where we don’t have to choose.

How to explain: You can ask. You can make mistakes, but let’s allow room to discuss this. You can have gaps in your knowledge but how about we glue them with words so that we can all understand each other better.



Oh, like that.

where are you traveling toward

Transgender: An umbrella term (adj.) for people whose gender identity and/or gender expression differs from the sex they were assigned at birth. The term may include but is not limited to: transsexuals, cross-dressers and other gender-variant people….Transgender people may or may not decide to alter their bodies hormonally and/or surgically. (“GLAAD Media Reference Guide”) 

It isn’t quite enough to collect words and press them to skin as an announcement of all the things we are and have been and might be and question. Words that mark one’s gender and the blur that has begun to birth its way out. It is also about taking the time to take these words apart and search out their gestures and movements. 

Here is the thing. There are gaps between bodies and what is learned and what we need to learn about. We search shelves in order to understand what keeps shifting in us and around us. What is unclear should be questioned.

Before, bodies were left to disrobe against a vocabulary that was not always their own. The impact of owning an alphabet that feels as honest as one’s skin can be. The necessity to find a sound that sounds like what one feels like….

Trans Bodies, Trans Selves is a comprehensive, reader-friendly guide for transgender, gender non-conforming folk and trans allies, with each chapter written by transgender or genderqueer authors. Inspired by Our Bodies, Ourselves, the classic and powerful compendium written for and by women, Trans Bodies, Trans Selveis widely accessible to the transgender population, providing authoritative information in an inclusive and respectful way and representing the collective knowledge base of dozens of influential experts.

This is not just a book; It is a movement of history, a clarification of voices, a reconfiguration of gender on a body. Each full-figured chapter takes the reader through an important transgender issue, such as race, religion, employment, medical and surgical transition, mental health topics, relationships, sexuality, parenthood, arts and culture, and so much more. There is no text as thorough as this. Hopefully this is just the beginning of many more books such as this.

Get your shelves ready!



what to call this: gender.

Imagine body as a tree. It begins as a shape that never remains just that. It hardens and expands. It changes color and thickness. It lets go; it disrobes; it houses other living things inside it; it mourns like a weeping willow; it has many names and occupations.

This treebody drips its sap into mouths and palms. This treebody exists in various ways all over the world. This treebody has no gender and it has many genders and it loves through shots of slurped up sun and rain and is rooted through the rings which wrangle it open.

We’ve got all of these options now of what one can be called and ways to bend and love and present. What happens when we exchange our customary outfit from masculine or feminine garb to something else.

How to harvest the hybrid of genders within us.

It is a Monday. I am suited in tie and vest and button-down shirt. My pants are tight, but could be worn by any human in search of warmth down there. I’ve got boots on with unnecessary laces and a zipper on one side. My hair is messy and unbrushed. It houses several yells inside each knot that are stored up from the ones who cannot seem to understand why I have decided to wash my hair less. I wear no make-up, nor does my skin glow. I might feel comfortable if you called me androgynous or even boundless.

I present a vocabulary of stereo-types in front of a room full of learners. We disrobe what we expect boxes to look like. I ask them to remove their swiss army knives from pockets (for those who carry them). I ask them to cut open the ninety-degree angle squares that force us to choose. I tell them that suddenly, we are no longer expected to choose from just two options or [gasp] other. I said that now we have options that represent the spectrum in which humans have always been but never had the opportunity to announce.

I want to out myself as the type of human some people have a difficult time understanding. I try to explain to my mother later on that day that gender is not something we should wait for people to learn. In order to remove the hate from speech, we must educate each other as to the impact of understanding one another.

As humans we come out many times in our lives. Sometimes it is just our names we change. For some, it is more bodily. Shapes and voices and language of parts change. Some of us change our sexual orientations.

There is not just one closet that we come out from and then IT is over.

I have been closeted by lovers; I have been closeted by myself. I understand the impact and necessity to be as loud as I can in order to pave the roads beside me for others to come out and make noise.

I have intentionally surrounded myself with humans who are gender construction workers. Smart, sexy humans who have taken these boxes into their hands, crumpled them up and turned them into other shapes. I have fallen in love with the ones who celebrate hybridity.

This earth may be over-populated, though it is big enough to hide. But who would want to do that when there are so many ways to seek out the truths and translations of our selves.



how to take up space.

It can be difficult to spread out. To offer oneself permission to take up space. On New York City subways, men spread their legs, bang knees up against the humans on either side of them. I often find myself, pressing my thighs together, backpack on my lap, feeling like a piece of paper: crumpled. Lately, I look at these limbs of others and how they spread. Male. Female. Gender non-conforming. Transgender. There is a spectrum of bodies and there is no one way to present it.

you called my chest a slide/like a carnival ride/slid palms over the smooth and flat.

We apologize for the ways in which we walk around. Say I’m sorry when others bump into us. When we bump around inside ourselves, who do we apologize to? Spreading out is beyond just space. It is how one experiments with movement and presentation. Nothing is constant; nothing remains the same. Even maps must be revised and floor plans and weather patterns. Bodies continue to flux and should be encouraged to do so.

and in that moment of collision/our bones were genderless/we were shadows entering each other/we were a climax of vocabularies

now, what do you want to call yourself.

It is no longer one or the other. Humans have been peeling off the labels of malefemale for years now, arriving at new vocabulary and hybrid forms of what one can be. It is illuminating and awe-inspiring.

Recently, during a conversation about gender, my mom said: But I don’t have to announce I am straight. 

And I responded: Because people already assume. But imagine if you weren’t, and people thought you were. Wouldn’t you want to let people know they are wrong? 

So, we come out. To newspapers. To co-workers. On television. Online. To our lovers. To our friends. Over text message.

But it is never just one time.

When I came out at nineteen, I thought I was done.

Phew……that was rough, but they [my parents] seem to be ok about all this. Now I can just live.

But we are labeled in more ways than sexual orientation. I am no longer a lesbian. I am queer. And my gender is complicated and still arriving at a movement of letters. For now, I call myself genderqueer.

I am re-arriving at my body. Knocking my way in…ringing its doorbell. We aren’t as friendly as one might think. I am tentative inside of this core.

Recently, a popular social networking site called Facebook (which I am not on and would normally not give extra time toward, but learning of this made me feel a slight admiration for), added almost 60 different options for users to identify their gender. I was deeply moved. It is no longer just male or female. It never has been, but so many of us have been checking off boxes that were the lesser of two wrongs. Now, people can actually see their self-identified gender.

For anyone who has had a difficult time connecting to the ridiculous sign on the bathroom door of a public place, this is a moment of clarity. In fact, a few nights ago, I was performing in a bar where the female restroom identified itself with a high-heel on the door. I thought: I am not a high-heel. So, where can I safely go to the bathroom? How has shoe wear become our identifiable gender markers?

urlThe list is long, but it is even longer and will continue to grow. Here is what Facebook users can now choose from:

  • Agender
  • Androgyne
  • Androgynous
  • Bigender
  • Cis
  • Cisgender
  • Cis Female
  • Cis Male
  • Cis Man
  • Cis Woman
  • Cisgender Female
  • Cisgender Male
  • Cisgender Man
  • Cisgender Woman
  • Female to Male
  • FTM
  • Gender Fluid
  • Gender Nonconforming
  • Gender Questioning
  • Gender Variant
  • Genderqueer
  • Intersex
  • Male to Female
  • MTF
  • Neither
  • Neutrois
  • Non-binary
  • Other
  • Pangender
  • Trans
  • Trans*
  • Trans Female
  • Trans* Female
  • Trans Male
  • Trans* Male
  • Trans Man
  • Trans* Man
  • Trans Person
  • Trans* Person
  • Trans Woman
  • Trans* Woman
  • Transfeminine
  • Transgender
  • Transgender Female
  • Transgender Male
  • Transgender Man
  • Transgender Person
  • Transgender Woman
  • Transmasculine
  • Transsexual
  • Transsexual Female
  • Transsexual Male
  • Transsexual Man
  • Transsexual Person
  • Transsexual Woman
  • Two-Spirit

Recently, I have become friends with a human who is finding their way in and around themselves. They are transitioning from how they feel on the inside toward something more visible on the outside. I have begun to dig around inside myself toward what I have been feeling and finally they are offering me a safe space to do this.

I have been inside this body for decades. Finding the right word to name my feelings is enormously empowering. However, when we get past the labels, the hard part is daily translation. Some people wake up inside their bodies and feel complete kinship. Even love.

Imagine waking and feeling so lost, you wonder how it is possible to get misplaced inside something that has always been there.

Humans are incredibly complicated, constantly evolving creatures. We are incorporating new words into formal dictionaries. Boxes are being added as languages develop. The language of our body. Of our sexuality. Of our gender.

Be more open to people blurring the confines of male  /  female   because that list is going to continue to grow.