Four new poems for the "Becoming Transparent" series

“In reality, only 33 percent of transgender people have reported undergoing some form of gender-confirming surgery, with 14 percent of transgender women and 21 percent of transgender men not interested in ever having genital surgery.” – from the Human Rights Campaign

 A Pantoum for What Everyone Needs To Know

Not everyone has the surgery
Why do you keep asking?
Some only take hormones
Many transition without surgery

Why do you keep asking?
Being who she is, is what matters
Many transition without surgery
and it’s none of your damn business anyway

Being who she is, is what matters
It’s not unusual to be who you are
And it’s none of your damn business anyway
Know that personal safety is a big issue

It’s not unusual to be who you are
If what’s under the skirt surprises you
Know that personal safety is a big issue
Do not be afraid of what you do not know

If what’s under the skirt surprises you
know that some only take hormones
Do not be afraid of what you do not know
Not everyone has the surgery.

What Happens

Middle School kids on the street
follow our daughter who is walking home.
They shout out: “Hey! Are you a man or a woman?”
And our girl crosses over to the other side of the street,
keeps walking, ignores their words. Keeps walking.
“Hey! Hey! Are you a man or a woman?”
until she reaches her apartment,
opens the door and locks herself inside
to make dinner for her wife.

Shopping in the store, the sales person asks,
Can I help you, ladies? That feels better.
While a man walks past us, looks, and looks again,
his eyes go up and then down,
he keeps looking, keeps walking.
Tall, she’s tall, for a girl.
That’s all, just tall.

I Never told you

I never told you there’d be days like this
for I didn’t know about,
this --
and you said you didn’t know either
until you learned of the possibility,
until you asked the right questions,
found answers that opened a new path--
not the easy road either, but the right road.
Some days you may find a highway filled with
obstacles like bathrooms and bigotry, but also know,
there are main thoroughfares of acceptance.
I wish for you a safe journey and
will do all I can to make it safer.
I will give directions to others, all others
so they can learn from this pathway
and not be afraid of the unknown.
Even if they don’t agree, I will teach them to understand.
I never told you there’d be days like,   this
until now, yes, there will be days like this, thankfully,
where you are sure of your journey, happy again
where you are valued for your intelligence and kindness.
There will be days of welcome and ordinariness
days to make a living and a life, yes, days like this.


I wrote this a few weeks ago-- it's a narrative--poem. too long?

Epigram: “Many transgender people take hormones to transition to their identified gender. Some undergo gender-confirming surgeries, many cannot access this kind of healthcare, and others live happily without pursuing surgery at all. There is no one 'right' way to transition."  (From a transgender person)


Under the Sheet

 It started with a cough, tight and rough
ragged edges, then a fever.
For anyone else a trip to urgent care or
the family doctor would be routine.
But in a small-talk town, where people give “second” looks
and where she keeps to herself,  she worries.
The cough is getting worse.
She is a three hours away from her
physician specialist in transgender health.
This cold has gone hard into the chest,
nagging at night, so it’s time for the local clinic.
She waits anxiously on the crinkly exam table
paper ripping as she shifts from one thigh to the other.
She hears rubber soles squeaking closer and closer,
her chest tightens even more. The door opens,
my daughter pulls the sheet up to her chin,
white knuckles curled around the paper drape.
If what's under the sheet doesn't match what's in your mind,
remain calm. Do your work with the same love and care
as you do for everyone else.
Many trans people do not seek health care because
they fear your gasp or even worse, your judging look.
(What if this was your daughter?)
The doctor listens to her chest,
Thinking, “Obviously female under that bra.”
“Bronchitis,” he says.
My trans daughter gets a script for an antibiotic
from the doctor who advises her
“Eat some yogurt to prevent a yeast infection”.
Our daughter leaves the exam room shaking… with laughter.
“Not an issue, no issue here”, she whispers to herself.
Next time, don't be surprised
if she asks about a mammogram
and a prostate exam, in the same appointment.