Boxes

There they are
waiting anxiously
in their self-described
‘most masculine attire’
knowing today
they must be ‘he’
so someone else
may clinically approve

We hug, we walk
we drive, we talk
as I try to be
a calming force
and relax my eyes
cynical wrinkles

***

The building is as confusing
as the process
has been to get here
and we bring our spirits
into the lifts in hope
of constructing another parallel

Appointment times
seem as uncertain as names
and pronouns brandished clumsily
twist they (today as ‘he’) into
‘her gender’s still listed female’

And even here
only two tiny boxes scowl

And even here
you use the name
that was never their own

***

We are led into a room
by a doctor confused
that someone might
want support
A doctor who hasn’t
even read the notes
that stand in for the one
who stands before him now

‘How do you see yourself
at the end of all this?’
he gestures at my friend
and at the forms
as if there is a box to check
and call them both completed

I feel a thousand things
unsaid in the space
between his speech,
and as the air crackles
with the birth and death
of replies
he adds
so we all know
where the goal is
‘Do you see yourself
as a straight man?
At the end?’

I nearly laugh
but I realise
he might think it is us
that is not taking this
seriously enough

And I nearly squeeze
my friends hand to say
all that I cannot say
out loud,
but if straight
has its own check box
I dare not scribble
outside the margins
with my touch

***

My friend answers
hesitating affirmative
and this evidence
is noted

Also noted now
is their trauma
as a child
as if abuse and pain
may explain the support
they seek from here

And here
where you tell the man
in front of you
about his vagina

And here
where you ask
a sexual assault survivor
what their IUD is for

And here
when they reply ‘contraception’
you seem confused

And here
where you ask them
whom you boxed up
a straight man
if they have sex with men
where they reply
‘I have sex with people
with penises’

And here
where you look confused
at the clarification and say
‘But that was what I asked’

And even here
your boxes
and your binaries
cloud your mind

And even here
there is no space
for us

***

‘A mental health professional
will have to see you’
the doctor says
‘to diagnose you
with gender variance’
and makes it sound like
something you can catch
not washing your hands
after touching queers

My friend’s own
mental health team
are not adequate
and their identity’s
pathologisation
must come
from this place’s
‘properly trained staff’

I strangle back disbelief
and instead paint each eyebrow
with disillusionment
and arrange them in a line

***

The line lasts only an instant
as the doctor tells my friend
the steps from here

From here
where the professionals
will deem you variant

From here
where the professionals
will read the notes on the page
but not in your voice

From here
where a panel of experts
will decide
who moves on
to the next round

From here
where the entry cost
is your humanity
and the prize
is the official sanction
of your self hood

Because
apparently the real answer
to ‘How do you see yourself?’
is ‘The panel is still deliberating’

***

As we drive away
I tell my friend
we have to laugh
even though
we are seething
and not to worry about it
because we’ll find another way

But as we drive
these confusing roads
I see the ghosts
of others like us
who came here
with their hope
and found no box
to hold that either

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