I felt sexy for the first time in a long time when I first wore a binder, like my body was finally something that belonged to me.
I don’t hate my body. This is something that I tell myself and sometimes believe. It feels true and not true.
A friend of mine was running a speculative fiction contest once and I submitted a speculative fiction poem. “This is a poem,” she said. “But it’s speculative,” I said, or thought. This is how I feel most of the time, trying to fit my body in spaces where I don’t always feel like I belong.
Sometimes I have to remind myself that the friends who I’ve made through writing are some of the people who care about me the most, who make the greatest effort to use my correct pronouns and try to include me in conversations, to remember that there are people like me who exist outside of the binary.
Sometimes I feel like I am outside of everything.
I hate being the trans friend, feeling like I am something that will never fit.
I love my friends.
Most of the time I feel like my body is something separate from myself. This is an explanation and it is not.
Sometimes I cry thinking about the people I love using the right pronouns for me.
The first time I felt like I fit in my body was when I changed my pronouns. That’s the only way I know how to say it.
I spent my whole life up to that point feeling like I didn’t fit inside my body and I didn’t know why, and then suddenly I did.
Lately, everything I write turns into an apology, or a list of things that I’m afraid of, which, I think, is another kind of apology.
I am afraid for my body. For what it represents to people who don’t know me, who don’t understand.
I’ve been harassed for using the “wrong” bathroom. Now I’m afraid for that too.
There are things that I want to explain to my friends and one of these things is the fragility of the place that me and people like me occupy in society. If being harassed for using the bathroom is the worst thing that ever happens to me, it’s nothing. This is not the worst thing that could happen to my body.
I want to explain to my friends the look you get when someone is afraid of you. When someone doesn’t know what box to put you in. I want to explain that there is a way that I see this same look in the pause before someone says my name. The look in someone’s eyes as they are trying to say the right things around me.
The thing about coming out is that it never stops. Every time I meet a new person I have to start all over again. I have to explain myself. I have to explain why it’s okay for me to be this way. I feel like I take up too much space. I feel like I am asking for so much for other people just to see me. To exist.
Sometimes I want so desperately to have a “normal” life. Sometimes I feel like this is too much to ask for, or like I’m not a good queer person because I’m not always fighting. Sometimes I am very, very tired.
I work very hard to appear non-threatening in public, like if I can be just a little nicer, just a little kinder, just a little softer, just a little smaller, then maybe no one will notice me. Maybe I will blend in. Maybe today will be another day where I get by without anyone hurting me.
Mostly when people ask me how I identify I say, I don’t. For other trans people, this is usually enough. For others, this is more difficult. But what are you? they seem to be asking. What box can I put you in?
Days where I am inside my body are good days. Days when I am outside my body are just days, sometimes bad days.
Sometimes I wake up after disassociating for a week or more at a time and I see the whole world again. I feel things in a way that I think I am supposed to feel them.
It is impossible for me to talk about my trans self without talking about mental illness. For me, it is hard to pull apart the two. I had a therapist once or more than once who tried to say that the two were connected. That one made way for the other. I learned to put aside that kind of binary thinking a long time ago. Both/and? One or the other? I am afraid and I am afraid for my safety.
I want to tell my friends about what it feels like to be inside and outside of my body, sometimes at the same time. I want to explain how it feels to be afraid of everyone that you see. The fear of other people’s fear. The fear that I will always be on the outside. The knowledge of what happens to people like me.
Maybe this is how I will start.
REBECCA BROWN is grateful to be trans and alive. They are an MFA candidate at the University of Alabama, and the Design Editor for the Black Warrior Review. Recent work can be found in Shabby Dollhouse Review, Pittsburgh Poetry Review, Souvenir Lit Mag, and others. You can usually find them on twitter, @notalake.
This piece is part of a series about the unique experiences in the literary world outside of the binary. As VIDA expands The VIDA Count to include marginalized genders that may not fit neatly into boxes, this series encourages writers to refuse to let our stories be left out as we fight against cispatriarchal discrimination and erasure and imagine what gender equity looks like for us.