I Am

They didn’t fucking know

They didn’t fucking think about it

They didn’t see it

They didn’t see it

They didn’t see it

They didn’t see it

They didn’t see it

They didn’t see it

They didn’t see it

They didn’t see it

Or else, they did, and they actively expunged it

They didn’t see me

Or else they did, and they actively expunged me

There are days that I feel pretty. And there are days where I feel like a faggot.

Today, I feel like a faggot.

When I was fifteen, my mother struck me with that word because I had painted my nails black. Such behavior was not permitted for, nor expected of, a boy like me.

There were many such behaviors that were not permitted for, nor expected of, a boy like me. Wearing makeup and painting nails were obviously taboo. Wearing a beard was taboo; the deans at Catholic high school would make me dry shave in the bathroom if I missed a day. Smoking weed was taboo; the vehemence with which my parents detested cannabis made me walk that much farther to smoke it. Having tattoos was taboo; my uncle had one for which he was chided my entire life. I had three by the time I was eighteen. I think all the things that I am now was taboo. I am the walking taboo of my childhood. Fuck the people who define what was taboo when I was a kid and is still taboo in society. There are many things that I embody now that I cannot talk about with my friends. I have to say that coming out or even talking about trans identities was and, in many ways, continues to be taboo. There are spaces I cannot talk about how I would like to be a chick with a dick. Or even where I could have the space to consider the idea freely without judgement or inherent bias.

To be trans feels so much more commonplace now but back when I was growing up, the process was spoken of in hushed tones and largely mythologized, never in good ways. I attribute that absent oral history to the lost generation of LGBTQ+ people that our country callously let die in the AIDS pandemic. For myself, I had heard of and would imagine inducing castration with rubber bands but the process seemed just too gruesome. Such perversion of process would help cauterize ideation and incur more transphobia. Considering how afraid I was, I would have been the bravest to step forward at the time and claim my identity openly and start that process at seventeen. But I was such a coward and I really did not understand what it meant to be trans the way I do today. That, and I came out to the wrong fucking person.

I think that is one thing that I will always regret: coming out to the wrong person. I do look back and recognize that we were both ill prepared to have the conversation: I disadvantaged with years of self-hate and no community, no scripting for either of us to fall back on. I remember having the conversation in their bedroom where we would often hang out, a safe space where we would share in quality time. I told them I identified as a female and how I was confused by a lot of the things going around my head about gender identity. My friend was ill-equipped to help me and offered the advice of just accepting that I was a man and how my feelings were inherently wrong. I wish I could go back to that conversation in time and just tell myself that it was OK. That the feelings I had were normal and that I didn’t have to fit into somebody else’s box.

Today, I wear a nice spaghetti strap cami, my nails are painted red, and I did my eyes in a light mascara-eyeliner combo because I had a couple crucial conversations at work later. I knew that if I did some eye makeup, I would be less inclined to want to cry, or at least I would fan my eyes harder.

And I told myself I looked cute. But for some reason, it was queering. Jarringly homosexual. I knew I meant it kindly. That I was, in fact, cute. Hell, today, I was sexy as fuck. And yet, the inner voice told me that I needed to stop saying positive things or that eye makeup that I had prepared for my meetings was going to be undone by paying myself a compliment.

Because underneath the women’s clothes and makeup, I was nothing more than a little faggot.

After that encounter with my mother, I used the word as a sword. I would be mean with it, to savage my friends. I brandished it. Used the word to “Other” people and call them out as queer. But at the same time, I was totally queer with the word. I was probably more homosexual than I realized but I would deny the labels and the advances of men because of my own homophobia, my own fear of what my family might say, of what my community might do.

Today, as I wear this outfit, I hesitate to even take a picture. Do I document it for myself? For my friends? To feel sexy? To express myself? To take it all back?

I don’t take the picture. I capture the feeling I’m having on paper. To take it all back for myself. To figure out why I didn’t just feel cute. To start to use the word as a shield. For myself.

I did dress up like a faggot today.

And I should have been doing it for years.

I will not be torn aside

I will not be rent asunder

You will know My Name

I am Lightning; I am Thunder

Photo taken September 15th, 2001. Sent to me on May 12th, 2021. I had no idea this photo existed until then but it's the moment I was getting my nails done. I wrote this piece July 12th, 2020 so to have this photo brought up so many emotions again. But it is so nice to have. So much has changed. And, too, so little.