Friday, October 31, 2014

Just Bea*cause

I just made a date with a guy I met on Tinder.

When I told him I thought that he was good looking he said that I was pretty. I had to double check.

“You read my profile right?”

“Yeah,” he said.

“I get a lot of ignorant guys who don't jive with the whole trans thing,” I replied. 

I hate that I have to check these things. I hate that I can't just believe when someone tells me that they could be interested.

“It's a simple concept actually. At least the way I view it,” he said.

It's to know that there are more than just motherfuckers on dating apps.

Friday, October 24, 2014

A Boy for Bea*

Once, in high school, at the conclusion of a late-night dinner in Chinatown with a group of friends, I declined a ride the twelve miles home back to Rogers Park to instead wait with the last person at the restaurant: the boy on whom I at that time had a serious crush.  He would not come out as any kind of queer for another three years (but we knew, as people who don't actually understand how gender and sexuality intersect tend to do), but his continued professions of heterosexuality did not sway my affections.  I wanted him.

His mom arrived just ten minutes later, which didn't give us in total much time to talk, or fall in love, but I hoped he'd appreciate the gesture nevertheless.  Bea, he would think, although that wasn't the name with which he would have thought, that's a girl I could see myself ending up with, although that wasn't the gender with which he would have thought.

On the train home then, alone, after midnight now, I felt the air in my chest compress with everything I didn't say, then surging and swelling within, unable to burst.  How long was I to ache, to thirst, to placate my soul with hypothetical poems while the real world of romance rumbled on and brusquely without me?

My dad picked me up when I finally got to Howard—now after one in the morning.  I must have told him some small fib to explain the lateness of my return, but I've long since forgotten what.

* * *

Sometimes, I think in some ways, I haven't aged at all.  I still crave the attentions of those I cannot in rationality have; I still chase after those who have made no indication of wanting me, or have, but inconsistently, or have, but live across the country; I still can’t help conceiving of going to bed as conceding defeat.

Recently I’ve been talking with one of my trans sisters about the idea of untouchability, that for people in the transfeminine/transwoman cluster of identities who happen to love men (to debunk the common misconception, No, not all transwomen started out as submissive gay men; some, in fact, are sexually dominant, or even identify as lesbian!), the only socially acceptable space for men to love us is in the private, festishized compartments of their double-bolted apartments, or preferably (forbid we enter their homes! forbid their neighbors spy us!): ours.  Straight men cannot publicly date and love transwomen, because that would make them gay, apparently, and gay men cannot publicly date and love transwomen, because that would make them straight, supposedly, and maybe we’d have a better shot with bisexual men but do they really even exist in the first place?

Consequently, we often constitute a population of vulnerable, unloved, untouchable human beings.  The glances and words we receive on the street are the ten-foot poles that prod us, the torches and pitchforks; our gender is our leprosy.

I do not wish to imply that life is peachy and fine for people in the transmasculine/transman cluster of identities, nor for those delightfully culturally unintelligible non-binary individuals. However, in a patriarchal society where manhood is valorized more than life itself (ask any man who's ever murdered a transwoman sex worker), those of us who dare cash in our masculinity for a worse chance at capitalism and still audaciously hope for happiness are considered dangerous, considered freaks, considered mentally deranged.   And for those of us, further, who dare to also love what once we were, now threatening to bring the rest of them down with us, only ever go down ourselves, at the hands of those who, ironically, in a different time and place, we might have loved, and loved well.

* * *

Which is precisely how yesterday, in the arms of someone I never would have expected to find myself arching, blissful, ignorant of the very near future when it would definitely end but loving the fleeting present as it ephemerally passed in kisses, kissing, being kissed, my hands tracing his ribs, his hands making a home in the small of my still-arching back, loving (in a way, in the way that happens only for a short and perfect time), touching, being touched, every caress disproving the stigma of my illness, every press an admission into the realm of humanity, I felt myself for the first time in a long time becoming whole.

His mom arrived just ten minutes later, which didn’t give us in total much time to kiss, or fall in love, but I hoped he’d repeat the gesture before too long.

Sometimes, I think in some ways, I've aged just the slightest bit. Because for once, rather than the surge and swell, the inability to burst, the air in my chest dispersed with the whooshing satisfaction of actually speaking:

“I don't mean this in a weird way,” I had said, “and obviously feel free to respond however you want to, but would it be totally weird if we made out right now?”

“No,” he had said. “That would be okay.”

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Friendsbea* [WARNING: mature content]

I recently downloaded a dating app called Friendsy on my phone with the hopes of finding romance.  The app does not allow you to fill out any sort of profile, only upload up to six photographs and answer several demographic questions.  The first question, of course, asks for your gender, but they strangely (1) only give two options instead of a, say, fill-in-the-blank, and (2) don't even provide actual gender categories, electing sexual ones instead: male or female.

I begrudgingly selected female although I do not identify as either, but since at least that way people would be closer to understanding who I am.  In other similar dating apps/websites, I make sure to publicly identify as trans where I can, to avoid the hassle that this app has very quickly provided me.

Last evening, I began speaking with one handsome young gentleman a couple years my junior.  The conversation began normally, nicely, and eventually got to the point where I had to have the dreaded reveal.

The following is an almost direct transcription (edited slightly for typos and clarity) of the conversation from the moment I claimed my identity.  It is a perfect example of how never to speak to trans people.  If any of you notice any similarities between his diction and how you have spoken about these issues (either directly to transgender people or not), please note that he never once exercised kindness nor political correctness.  I will refer to him as A (for asshole, obviously) and myself as B (also obviously).

B: Friendsy does not have a very ample understanding of gender so I put female because it's closer to true but I identify as transgender

B: Which a stupid amount of people have problems with

A: Wait wait so you're a dude

B: No

B: And that is a prime example of how not to speak to trans ppl

B: I am a lady

B: I use feminine pronouns

B: My ID documents all say female

B: Referring to me as a dude is injurious to my dignity

A: Idk

A: I'm from Texas we don't have that

B: Yes

B: Yes you do

B: Please stop treating me like another species

B: I am a human being

B: I am not a that

B: If you're done insulting me I think I'll go

A: Will you chill when you say transgender I think that you are a male turned female

B: Ok that's the problem

B: You're goin off what you think

B: Instead of what I'm telling you

B: It's my life

B: I'm the expert

A: So what's the deal

A: Are you a girl

A: Or a boy turned girl

B: Neither

B: You're being simplistic and reductive

B: Take a gender studies class

B: I am not here to teach you

B: I'm here to find a date or a fuck buddy or something

B: Not explain myself to ignorant people

B: You're more than welcome to read my blog

B: Which is a proper venue for educating yourself on these issues


B: But be a fucking decent human being next time around

A: What the fuck do you mean

A: If you're a boy fucking tell me

A: I can't hook up/ go on a date with a dude

A: If it's not heterosexual I can't deal

B: Did I say I was a boy? Did I say I was a dude?

B: No

A: Idk you said transgender

B: I said very plainly I am a transgender lady


A: Do you mean bi sexual

A: I can do THAT

B: You are now systematically insulting me

A: Jesus lady

A: You are sensitive

B: No

B: You're just incredibly rude

A: Am not

A: Come over and we can hash this out

B: Why the fuck would I ever want to meet up with you now?

B: I'm sorry I don't fit into your nice little packaged idea of sexuality

A: Sorry for checking to see if you were a girl

B: Not interested

A: You said transgender

B: I am not a boy

B: I am not a girl

B: I am not male

B: I am not female

B: I am feminine

B: I am transfeminine

B: I am a lady

B: I am a translady

B: You may refer to me as she

B: Happy?

A: Okay so you were born a girl and just are bisexual

B: No

B: You are not listening

B: Your narrow-mindedness is frankly astonishing

B: Have I even mentioned my sexuality? No

B: Where do you get bisexual from?

A: Okay give me the plain Jane version

B: I just did

A: What is transgender I'm so confused

B: Transgender refers to many people with many identities

A: What were you born as

B: I was born a baby

A: Male or female

B: Why does it matter

A: Umm one makes me gay the other doesn't

B: If you have sex with a lady

B: How does that make you gay?

B: Also

B: What's wrong with being gay anyway

B: Plain Jane version

B: I am a queer, Christian, transgender, white, creative, redheaded poet, activist, playwright, and lady

B: I am able bodied and middle class

B: I am a younger sibling

B: I like to run and bicycle

B: My parents are married

B: My biggest fear is losing my memory

B: And my body is none of your fucking business

A: Well move the fuck around

B: Honey I was just answering your question

B: I moved the fuck around 20 minutes ago

B: I really hope you do check out my blog

B: xo

A: Fuck outta here

Although I obviously could have treated him with more respect and fewer expletives, I was also blown away by the fact that each time I thought I had made a solidly clear point he only retreated further into nonsense.

The impetus should not be on us as transgender individuals to have to explain and defend our existence in every space of our lives.  The necessity is exhausting.  I am personally working on establishing an overall less defensive mindset, because it frequently prevents me from enjoying my life to the fullest. Unfortunately, interactions like this make that harder.

Relevant musings:

  • In what world could cisgender people actively educate themselves on trans identities and issues?
  • white people on identities and issues of people of color? 
  • straight people on queer people? 
  • men on women? 
  • the wealthy on the impoverished? 
  • the able-bodied on the disabled? 
  • Christians on everyone else?

But even more concerning:

  • Since when do privileged people of any kind like to acknowledge the things that have helped them in life over others?
  • Since when do we thank the circumstances into which we were born as opposed to our own supposed intellect, or talent, or shrewdness?

I am at an impasse.  It seems to me the solution to the problem is one that can never naturally come about in this society.  It seems to run contrary to the ways capitalism has taught us to think, and short of proposing anarchy, I am at a loss for answers.

All I can ask is please.  Please educate yourselves.  Please remember where you came from and where those around you came from.  Remember and be cognizant of what is necessarily different and seek and what is the same.  Embrace them both.  It is not a loud revolution that I suggest; it does not trumpet from the ramparts with exploding cannons; it is quiet; it is simple; it is the slow accumulation of doing the right thing; it is human.

For now, I have undermined the heterosexist regime that is Friendsy by adding a photo to my profile of the following phrase:

I am transfeminine
and not interested
in your ignorance

Monday, October 13, 2014

On the Occasion of My One-Year Transiversary, Pt. IV: Bea*hold

One year ago today I stood on the top of a hill somewhere deep in the Andes and wept.  I wept because I had actually considered the possibility that maybe the way my life was meant to be lived was worthless, or at least impossible, and I wept because I had hope that maybe I was wrong.

If I could go back in time and give advice or encouragement to me one year ago, I don't know that I would.  I think me now is hell of a lot stronger and more resourceful for having to relearn how to live without much in the way of examples.  If I could go back in time and give advice or encouragement to me one year ago, I don't know that I could.  Me one year ago looks different and talks different and doesn't know nearly so much.  She hasn't written hundreds of pages of poems and essays and plays because she hasn't experienced the hurt and the joy that will demand them to be written.  She hasn't yet lived.  She hasn't yet learned how to be.

And as I look ahead now towards another year forward, I realize with a dawning certainty that even me now has a long way to go, that she has no idea where life will take her anymore.  The compass has cracked; the road maps have gone up in flames. There are goals I have, of course, like going to Madrid with a Fulbright Fellowship or doing advocacy work and playwriting in Washington, D.C.  Getting married someday in a beautiful dress.  Having kids.  Growing old even though I can't even imagine what that looks like anymore.  Making a difference.  Living happy.

A year ago on another continent, a moment passed in which none of these dreams existed.  October 14th didn't exist.  Just right then.  And to think about the sheer amount of shit (good and bad and hard and lovely) that has happened since then only makes me surer to be wonderfully unsure about the rest.  My five-year plan is a solid, achievable one that I believe will fulfill me, but so were past plans and look at what happened to them.

I guess what I'm saying is to plan for the future while by living in the present.  Be open to the things that scare you.

It's worked out pretty damn well for me thus far.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

On the Occasion of My One-Year Transiversary, Pt. III: The Long Lament of Unbea*longing

/ /

I left Jujuy on a bus on the evening of Tuesday, October the 15th, and arrived back in Buenos Aires, exhausted, a full twenty-four hours later, on Wednesday, October the 16th.

I took a taxi to my host mom's apartment.  As the driver swiftly weaved through the streets of Retiro, Recoleta, and Palermo, I marveled at the city where I had by that time lived for two and a half months.  It was familiar, of course, yet in so seemed strange: I felt as though I had been gone much longer than just eight days and the change I experienced in that small time made the old city seem new once more.

After dinner I retreated to my bedroom to Skype with my parents, and two days later, again with my brother.  They all received the news well and without too much surprise; I had kept them all relatively abreast of my own observations and progressions toward the queer and feminine, and now everything had simply culminated at the end of its natural trajectory.

I published the third and final draft of the letter on my blog on Saturday, October the 19th, on my way to a trans* depathologization conference, and nearly a thousand people have read it since then.

At about five in the morning on Sunday, November the 10th, I returned home after a long night of dancing after La Marcha de Orgullo, wearing a dress.  I had not done this before.  Although she had been fairly supportive until this point, especially for someone who was really out of touch with this side of life (I frequently had to remind her of what the LGBT acronym consisted), my host mother forbade me ever do it again, for the sake of her reputation with her neighbors.  When I explained to her that it was degrading to my humanity to “just wait three more weeks,” as she had suggested, she did not budge.  I arranged to move to another host family's house for my remaining time and told her in frank language the ways in which she hurt me.  A crack appeared in the vase in my chest.  We never said goodbye.

On Monday, December the 2nd, my older brother Andrew landed in Argentina, followed by my parents on Friday, December the 6th.  I had not seen them in four months.  It was comfortable in its bickering familiarity; it was awkward in that the name they had used for decades had shifted, and the pronouns had amassed an s.  They came to learn, slowly.

I flew home to Chicago on Monday, December the 23rd and arrived on Christmas Eve.  It had been in the 90s in Buenos Aires, which didn't exactly lend itself to the seasonal spirit.  I owned two dresses and only foundation for makeup.  I was shaving every day.  I was excited to return back to my college campus and re-meet all my friends, as it were.  The winter awaited.  On New Years' Eve, I saw the first of my friends, wearing what was now my third dress.  They were happy to see me, they treated me normally, but I felt out of place amongst them, these people that loved but did not look like me.  I missed my trans family back in Buenos Aires.

Throughout the third coldest Chicago winter ever and the slow thaw that followed, amidst excelling at classes and actively involving myself in extracurricular activities, the vase in my chest kept cracking: I played a ciswoman and a transwoman in the very same play and loved it, but the relationship experience I drew on for those characters was already getting dusty, because the only boy who expressed an interest in me since coming out as trans quickly and without explanation retreated into hatred; I met Laverne Cox and dozens of other wonderful trans people at the Trans 100 and felt empowered and beautiful and part of something bigger and I went home to an empty apartment that couldn't tell me how to feel anything but alone and so I went online until I found someone who could come over at four in the morning and tell me for me; I told my story for a documentary and in doing so felt cathartic, until I returned into the world and its instances of street harassment, and thereafter considered suicide; I fought and I fell; I pulled myself up with the love of my family—both blood and forged—and the recognition that it would only be by pulling up and continuing to fight that living would happen at all from now on.

Other things that happened: CeCe McDonald was finally released from prison; a trans actor actually portrays a trans character on television, and I'm not talking about Laverne Cox; Laverne Cox was featured on the cover of TIME Magazine and Martine Rothblatt was featured in NYMag; Tiq Milan got married and it was real fucking cute; Obama signed ENDA, which did not only affect gay people, like many publications claimedAustralia, India, and Denmark passed more progressive legislation in regards to trans folk, following the examples of South Africa, the UK, Spain, New Zealand, Argentina, Germany, and South Korea; a 15-year-old transgender girl was stabbed in the back for riding a train while trans.  Alejandra Leos, 41, was shot outside her home and misidentified by Memphis police as a man.  Her killer was apprehended.  Tiffany Edwards was shot to death outside Cincinatti and subsequently misgendered in local newspapers, as was Cemia Dove, 20, stabbed to death near Cleveland and left in a pond to rot a year before.  Cemia's killer has been found; Tiffany's killer turned himself in while pleading the infamous trans panic.  Zoraida Reyes, 28, Anaheim, unknown cause of death, unknown killer.  Kandy Hall, 40, Baltimore, massive trauma, unknown killer.  Yaz'min Shancez, 31, Fort Myers, burned (either alive or after having been murdered via other means), unknown killer.  Mia Henderson, Baltimore, unknown killer.

When Chicago finally emerged from hibernation, I instead fled to Berlin and met and interviewed many trans people.  I felt comparatively comfortable riding the train alone at night in a dress without a bra.  A month into the trip I hung out with my flatmate and her group of friends, and realized that the reason I felt strange was that it was my first time hanging out with a group of people that were not primarily trans.  I did not feel abnormal always.

I traveled south through Eastern Europe (I have now been to a total of nine countries in my life, and all of them in the past year since coming out as trans) as a man for safety's sake, but ended up coming out to someone in each country along the way.

I came home again, excited to be somewhere again where they speak the same language I do, and was street harassed within six hours of touching down at O'Hare International Airport.  I missed my trans family back in Buenos Aires.  I missed my trans family back in Berlin.  I moved into a new apartment, one that did not have to tell me how to feel anything but alone because I now had a roommate and kitten.  I tried to surround myself with people.  School started once more.

And now that we arrived safely at Wednesday, October the 8th, one day before I turn twenty-two years old and one year after leaving on a bus for the Andes, we return to the present tense. Now, I question the utility of sitting in a class discussing poetry and Judith Butler when I think about the work I could be doing in a trans rights organization in Washington, D.C.  Now, I try to focus on my homework, on my blog and poems, on my one-lady play.  I try not to think about how long it's been since I've been kissed, or the stupid shit guys have been saying to me on dating apps lately.  Now, I try not to think about how the trans women and transfeminine people who love men are largely untouchable, because our society has not yet created a space for girls like us to be publicly loved by those men—only ever in secret, rather, and frequently involving a gun. I try not to think about how even today, over a year into living as a transgender lady, I am lucky to see someone who looks like me one day out of each month.  I try not to think about how many people do and will not even recognize me as a human being because, as Judith Butler usefully and in rarely plain language points out, we only ever enter into our own humanity with the assignment of a gender, exemplified in the doctor's infamous phrase “It's a girl!,” so for those of us who live as neither boys nor girls, but rather something that is at once both and neither, we are instead left to abjection and violence, much less feeling beautiful, beloved, and worthy, even in places where people tell us that we are.  I try to be human.  I try to remind people that I am not so different, that I hurt in the ways that they do.  I try not to hurt so much.

* * *

A couple queer/trans people have contacted me in the last few days in times of crisis.  The accumulated stress of being necessarily closeted in certain spaces—family, the workplace—had produced sensations of helplessness and degradation in them, sensations with which I am all too familiar.

When LJ first messaged me upon reading my blog they commended my bravery, then proceeded to detail several spaces in which they could not be themselves. “When we are ourselves, especially in the queer community,” they wrote, “we break rules, we break boundaries, and if we don't, we end up breaking ourselves.”

“But I'm not the only brave one,” I wrote back, and later reiterated to a second friend after they had gotten through a particularly emotionally upsetting night. “While you may not be able to tell certain people things you'd like to tell them at this specific point in your life, just remember that you've already told the most important person, and that's yourself.  So much of queer and trans identities requires a life's worth of unlearning everything we've been taught as natural and true, and then learning new things on top of it.  The ground opens up beneath us and the world is completely changed and we are completely changed in relation to it.  Family and friends and coworkers and everyone are important, of course, but for any one of us to admit that to ourselves, let alone to ANYONE else, that is already a victory.  That is already survival.  You're doing it.  I'm doing it.  Everyone who identifies anything like we do is doing it. I have faith in you and everyone else because we've already done the hard part.  The greener pasture is fucking hard sometimes but it's also fucking greener.  We've already won.”

The vase in my chest is mending.

Tomorrow I am twenty-two.

/ /

Sunday, October 5, 2014

On the Occasion of My One-Year Transiversary, Pt. II: Bea*sons I Climbed the Mountain

/ /

In the morning I ate breakfast (cereal and tostadas with dulce de leche) and wrote the first draft of my coming out letter.  I sent it to five of my closest friends and went on what was now a very poorly timed first date with an Argentine guy I met on OkCupid (it was fine, we got coffee, we never spoke again) and then to Spanish class.  I carried on through my days as if a universe wasn't creating itself from the space dust in my mind.

By the time Tuesday rolled around (and now it is October the 8th), I had revised the letter and sent it to sixteen more people. I was itching to publish it on my study abroad blog and just get it over with already, but I waited.  Something still wasn't right about the identity, and I thought I might figure it out in the Andes.

At about seven or eight that evening, I boarded an overnight bus at the Estación Retiro headed for San Miguel de Tucumán, a city in the Northwest region of Argentina.  I was headed for the Salta and Jujuy provinces, a vast and diverse desert through which the Andes run.  For the following week I was to hike and write and travel and pray, spending each night in a different town as I worked my way farther and farther up toward Paraguay.

When I awoke on the bus in the morning (Wednesday, October the 9th) it was already my twenty-first birthday.  I had left my native city and country, and now even left the new city I was calling my home.  With my new gender identity only six days old, I had embarked on an adventure through the mountains. There was no going back.  I neither saw anyone that I knew nor had a single drink of liquor that day, but I hiked to the top of a hill and screamed “SOY ELLA” down into the valley and then bought myself a few rings.

On the fifth day of the trip (October the 13th—a Sunday, fittingly), I arrived at the farthest north point in my expedition in the tiny town of Iruya, population 1,070, but that on this day held many more for an enormous and annual religious festival. Blue tarp tents filled the valley with those who had come. People were looking at me strangely the whole day, and not only for the uncommon color of my skin.  My transfemininity was already seeping outward like a glow I could not control, and so I went hiking alone.

By then I had grown weary of this impossible revelation: if my life was to change in a self-actualizing evolution, then why was I still so unhappy?  The substance that had by now circulated through the entirety of my veins and arteries and made itself a home in my body still felt everything like light, but still something like poison as well.  I felt sick constantly, scared of the shit that was surely awaiting.  I thought about how deeply discontented I had always been living as the wrong person, and I thought about much easier that was.  There was no one around, now, just me, the mountain, the Lord, and the wondering what would happen if I were to fall and no one came to look for me, if life stopped here, on the brink on something big and never stepping over.

And as I reached the top of a hill (the mountain still stretching far above me), the lingering unease dissipated with the swooping alight of another revelation, one that explained the years of chasing after men for all the wrong reasons; for trying to vomit when the food and fear of Something was all too fucking much; for trying to make myself into many things, none of which I ever was, nor could be, and hating myself when I couldn't; for being small; for being wrong; for being that which is not; for not being; for needing to stop—I stopped.

Compressing and quelling my transgender identity for twenty-one-years-minus-six-days had disastrously ruined any semblance of self-worth in my psyche, a trauma from which I am still and slowly recovering.  But as I stood there, in the sun, I finally saw that I had blamed this familiar and unknown force for so very much in my life when really, all she wanted to do was to be.  To bea.

When I came down the mountain I revised the letter one last time, scratching out entire paragraphs and adding entire new ones.  I will keep those three heavily edited papers forever.

I finished my empanadas, my bottle of Malbec.  I looked out over little Iruya at night—not so well lit now, still noisy from the religious revelers, protected above by a glittering dome of all the stars you never see in Chicago.  I went to bed.

Tomorrow I would begin my slow return southeast, toward Buenos Aires.  Toward real life, toward coming out.  Toward a life that did not end on a mountain, but rather began.  No longer on the brink.

I was already living in the something big.

/ /

Thursday, October 2, 2014

On the Occasion of My One-Year Transiversary, Pt. I: Scratches Bea*neath the Surface

One year ago today, I was lying awake in bed at about four in the morning in the small bedroom of my host mom’s apartment in Alto Palermo, Buenos Aires, Argentina—a room whose femininely floral wallpaper was in just a couple of minutes going to be quite apt.

I wasn’t doing well.

This was the third or fourth night that week I had stayed up that late. I was still heartbroken over the end of what had been a deeply fulfilling relationship with a boy who had loved the parts of me that I didn’t know could be. He had only broken up with me twenty-eight days beforehand, on my parents’ wedding anniversary, and although my best friend on my study abroad program took me to get our nails done that Friday, and although I was in Argentina, and seeing and doing things I had never seen nor done—like working with transgender sex workers and dancing the tango, for starters—and although I told him when we Skyped that Thursday that it must, in fact, be for the best, I missed him. I had started laying the plethora of my host mom’s pillows alongside me when I slept just to remember what it felt like to have a human being breathing and wanting beside me, but even so, I was running out of things to hold onto.

Something else was nagging me too. As part of the Gender Studies Concentration I was completing as part of my program I was interning with Capicüa, a local LGBT grassroots organization. There were buena gente, all of them, and truly became a family for me while I was gone. I had chosen Capicüa to work with after reading about Argentina’s Ley de identidad de género, which enables transgender Argentines to legally change their sex on all their documents instantly, for free, and with no medical and/or psychological requirements. I was intrigued by the incredibly Catholic country that had somehow passed the most progressive law for transgender citizens globally. As a Gender Studies major, as a Christian, and as someone who had recently started identifying as genderqueer (I had recently for the first time seen the option when signing an online Human Rights Campaign petition, and decided it fit more than “male” or “female”) but without really knowing what it meant (but knowing that the now two times I had done drag, something strange—a familiar and unknown force of some kind—drilled an iron pipeline straight down through my ribs into the thick of something deep, dark, and small, and I felt truly beautiful for the first time), I wanted to study these Argentine transgender people, work with them, understand how it was they came into being in a country that didn’t seem like it would let them.

About half the staff of Capicüa identified as transgender, and not one of them had done all that “stuff” I had always associated with the term: hormones, surgeries, exaggeration, abjection. They were mysteriously happy, as they were, living and working and falling in love and fucking up and starting again, like anybody else, only living in the opposite gender of the one everybody told them to be when they were growing up.

But without having changed a single biological characteristic of their bodies.

* * *

When I was a sophomore in high school, I was still having crushes on girls. I emotionally pined after one after another, without ever finding reciprocation. I tried my best—with increasing failure—to ignore those irksome hormones, those that had for years already been sending me lusting after boys, which made no sense, of course, because I only liked girls.

After church youth group one Wednesday night, a realization dawned joyously on me that I had somehow developed a crush on Sam (–uel, not –amantha) over the previous weeks. The feelings I felt for him from across the basketball court or from the beaten-up sofa adjacent to his and wishing I were closer were not solely sexual, I understood. They were more. I wanted him in a full-bodied, rom-com cuteness, happily-ever-after sort of wanting.

“I can have crushes on boys?” I thought as I waited for my dad to come pick me up. “That makes everything so much fucking easier!” I didn’t have to be torn in two directions anymore, so I followed the one that fit.

The following week, I started coming out to my friends—slowly, secretly—as bisexual, and a few months later as gay. Things would never pan out with Sam but it didn’t matter in the scheme of things. I was already someone different that I didn’t know had been possible. I was thrilled.

* * *

After a few weeks of working with Capicüa, another very similar-feeling realization began scratching beneath the surface of the iron pipeline, pleading to be joyously dawned.

But I wasn’t quite ready for it.

* * *

At 8:43PM on Wednesday, October the 2nd, 2013 (only seven hours away from where our story begins), I began talking to a friend on GChat.

“oh i guess i should tell you something,” I typed. “i'm kind of changing my name / not legally / but like / in my life”

“to what?” asked Scott.

“b.” I said, explaining how I preferred its androgynous vibe.

“b it is,” said Scott. I thanked him.

“how are you feeling Genderwise?” he asked.

I told him about recently referring to myself with gender-neutral pronouns.

“i'm feeling pretty terrified,” I wrote. “every step i take in this direction is a terrifying one and i think about how much more comfortable is being [old name] and not shaving every other day as opposed to once a week like before”

He asked me how else these changes were manifesting themselves in my daily life. I told him about my growing hair and how I was finding new things to do with it. I told him how “i've been going through my canon of poems that i've written / and slamming them to myself / when i'm alone / but in a higher octave / just to see how they change” and how I didn’t really feel gender neutral like the pronouns I had tried but not really like a woman either, so until I had figured this conundrum out a little more I didn’t want to label it.  We left it at that.

* * *

I couldn’t tell you what transpired over the course of the next seven hours, only that by four in the morning (and by now we have moved safely into Thursday, October the 3rd), when I still hadn’t gone to bed, something inside me—the iron piping, perhaps—at long last collapsed, and amidst the rushing substance now flooding throughout my frame that felt something like poison and everything like light, I said to myself,

“Well, that’s that.”

/ /