Cut off

cut down
the trees
of empathy
to fuel
the fire
of progress?

Death mask

She dies
and they dress her
again in the death mask
since birth she tried
to claw away
And success found breath
and first open smiles
and a mirror that finally
told her the truth
But finger nails bloody trails
led hate to her door
closing only again
on her casket
Dirt may cover up her bones
But shame covered up her face


How about remembering
not just the violence of the world
but remembering the violence
of the words
that build our graves?

How about remembering
who is really dying
and the systems of control
that bury them alive?

How about remembering
not just the violence of the system
but the violence
this world taught us
we should do
to ourselves?

How about remembering us
before we are dead?

Making a scene

When I questioned
was affected
by the thrashing
of the world
This child’s words
would pound
against the walls
resentful glances

Stop making me
unblock my ears
to listen to you ask
Stop pointing
at the things
that I do not
want to see
Stop hurting
as they hurt
Stop crying
as they cry
I am happy
to ignore it
to go
about my day
And here you are
making a scene
I’d rather
was not

I never stopped
wondering why
I just stopped
out loud


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
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

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

Paper voices

The paper voices
of the people
spoke in poisoned ink

Chose the key
to the door
of the dirty room
already seen

Sold the light bulb
to the collection
of the few
who can afford it

Instead of give it
to the people
who know how
to turn it on

Many paper voices
lost in corner shadows
growing longer

How long till we see
the paper voices
of my people
burnt in private pyres?


There is something wrong with me

There is something wrong with me
she tells herself in the mirror
as she looks into eyes
from drink and purging
the bags underneath
carrying more
than broken sleep

There is something wrong with me
as she sees the pale bony
road map of her body
intersected with highways
she scarred the landscape
with herself

There is something wrong with me
as she cannot make herself
stand up
any more
and the dripping walls
and wet lino against
her cheek feels
more real
than her skin
has her whole life

To say she is dying
means she is alive at this point
But how do you realise
you’re drowning
if you don’t know
what it feels like
to breathe?

There is something wrong with me
and she knows this
but she doesn’t know
what it is
and she won’t know
until she sheds
this invisible armour
of lies
and lets the truth
fight it’s way
to the surface

The man who gasps
for the first time
gasps again
at the body
she has left him
There is something wrong with me

There is something wrong with me
he tells himself in the mirror
as he looks into eyes
from crying
the bags packed by the door
carrying more
than broken hearts

There is something wrong with me
as he sees the newly rebuilt landscape
the new growth on his face
above the twin hills
on his chest
watered at their presence

There is something wrong with me
and he cannot stand this
any more
and he did not escape
one ocean
of expectations
to be swept under
in another

There is nothing wrong with me
I tell myself in the mirror
as I look into my eyes
I see the fire of my resolve
and I carry with me
the knowledge
that it is the world
not me
that’s broken
and a map
that holds
the homes
of the dear friends
hands I hold

There is nothing wrong with us
as we look at our love mirrored
as we look into the bright eyes
burning an honest flame
There is nothing wrong with us
as we unload our bodies
as we set down the logs
we kept
and carried
of guilt regret and shame

There is nothing wrong with us
as we light our bonfires
not to evaporate the oceans
but to show there’s air
to breathe

There is nothing wrong with us
There is nothing wrong
with us
Let the wind
carry this truth
and thank the truth
no longer hiding

Because although
our fires
not always
There is nothing
with trying