A Famous Moment
Trigger Warning (TW): This piece uses sexually explicit language.
Content Warning (CW): This piece names sexual violence.
Content Warning (CW): This piece is not prescriptive, nor does it attempt to define the (entire) trans experience.
I have been meaning to hold a conversation with you for a while. Long before my transition. Long before my surgeries, hormone treatment, and probably long before I was born. It seems this conversation, a final prayer before meeting with yet another death in the bodily sense, this conversation is vital given the moment, possibly because of the times. At the opposite side of the door there is a group of police officers waiting for me. I expect, well — since I identify as a trans femme woman, dark-skinned, melanin-rich, blue-Black considered canonically ugly, non-canonically beautiful otherwise known as “ethnic” — I expect those officers will kill me because of how I identify, a dark-skinned Black trans femme woman in the bathroom. In white space.
Penis, I need you to know my last prayer is not a stand-in where I swap stereotype for stereotype. Nor extend them. Nor reach beyond them for a liberating vision in the near future so that, right after this conversation, I end at or arrive in some conveniently packaged note of closure where I am complete, whole, standing firmly on sacred ground within celebrated spaces, or in a better, newer body before death. No. I’m not anticipating that place for me. Not because I have learned to tame hope or dance with despair thanks to oppression. But because that is not why I am praying to you at the end of my life here.
This is a conversation where I get to talk to intention then listen to my body for the sensory information it is offering the here and now. At times, yes, I will refer to stereotype, those bastards of metaphor. If and when I do, it is because this language, English, is so wanting, so deficient for those of us who are the most vulnerable, most pained members of society. The places inside me that were and are silenced remain voiceless thanks to English; the parts that are erased feel invisible, even numb at times so that when they are screaming their language, fluent pain, I am inarticulate, unable to find, feel, fondle, caress ancient wounds.
Penis, you know this to be our truth: pain is its own language. It sounds like violence. Like Ahhhhh screaming. Like Huh huh huh fast gasps. Like I am not a boy I am not a boy I am not a girl I am not a girl I am not a man I am not a woman I am not binary I am not enough I don’t know what I am but I am I am I am I am that I am. Sounds like fists falling, knives slashing, surgical terms, intense light when hypervisible because of invisibility, anatomical disruptions, violent ruptures, body dysmorphia, gender dysphoria, racism and, and, and. Wrapped in its fluency, I fail. Inarticulate, motionless, I’m jolted out of this world. This is not an excuse. The language, English, is fluent in my erasure and in that way is universally acceptable because the world claims me in time to kill me. And, thanks to English, I cannot speak to those parts of me that have learned to live unlovable, so I die more than once. Know that whenever I can’t find the “exact” word at the “right” time that “corrects” the situation, know that all this may not be possible or probable, know that it is also a colonial project where doing the impossible falls squarely on my thin shoulders. Still, I yearn to be vulnerable, the bravest act of all considering who I am (— and am not).
Yes, in speaking English, a language that refuses to interrogate itself, I am burdened with questioning myself over and over:
Without a language, do I have meaning? If so, what am I? Am I lovable? I mean, how do I speak to the parts of myself that are unspoken for? Those vulnerable, hurting, shameful parts …
Are those parts gone or are they dead? Like you Penis, are you dead or were taken to the land of our Ancestors post surgery? If dead, where do you live? Is there a home for a Black penis without a Black body? Outside stereotype, free from labels because the intimate body cannot conform.
Am I transsexual? When do I become a woman? Who gives me permission — God, my Ancestors, me?
Was I born or created?
Was I created when I was born? When was I born? When I transitioned, before, after? At what time?, since my past and present are indistinguishable. Am I all time? How old am I? Or does my experience recreate Time?
Who is my mother and father? Am I? Is God?
Am I God? Am I the Creator? Can the Creator be the Created? Is that the definition of creativity? Or does that make me God as Savior?
Because Creation is born from imperfection. Because some people cannot invent themselves. Because the world demands we hold together brutal contradictions. Because linear time is a fabrication. Because my experience collapses Time and Space. Because it honors all Time in celebrated space. Because language has been emptied of meaning, communication of connection. Because it need not be real to be so alive. Because the purgatorial loop that is the human condition is quite real. Because Reality is the fiction of our lives. Because that fiction — since I am Black and queer — makes of my life a caricature moving towards stereotype within oblivion.
Penis, you were a beautiful asset. You’re really beautiful to look at in an ugly sort of way. Much like me, I think your strangeness makes you attractive. Makes me want to reach for you, touch you because I can never hold you. I’ve thought of fucking you. Is that incest? Is masturbation the root of all incest? And, Penis, if I could fuck you, I would fuck you like the femme I am which is to say with greed, disregard, disrespect, verging towards rape for all its assault and male glamour. And you’d like me to fuck you like this. (“Fuck” is a beautiful word, by the way. A lot like you — beautiful, dirty, beautiful because dirty…?)
Shit, I hear the colonial project fast approaching.
They break down the bathroom door.
Because my politics is housed by my body. Because reclaiming my femininity gifts me balance. Invites cruelty, punishment.
“Out with your hands up!”
I am a dark-skinned Black trans femme woman who, every morning, puts on hir mask. Makeup, dresses, heels, bra, panties: this is my armor. Preparing me.
“I said come out!”
Because the white gaze swallows my complexity. Because the world is crazy-making for (Black) queers. Because madness invites divine intelligence.
“Final warning! Police inside the ladies’ bathroom! We’re fully armed!”
Because there is a near imperceptible, almost unnoticed divine moment that barely announces itself to those who are most vulnerable, damaged, rejected, falling, exiled even from their own bodies. Because sometimes this divine announcement comes in the form of death. Gender police, I come prepared to die.
Because I have come to think of death as one big cosmic orgasm — BANG!
“Out with your hands up, Nigger!”
Because transmisogyny is a lived pain. Because the living parts keep dying without breathing life back into the dead parts. Because I would rather die than disappear.
I am a dark-skinned Black trans femme woman prepared to die. Ready for death. The thing I am not prepared for …
The thing I am afraid of…
The thing that scares me because it has no language for me so I have no language for it or myself. The thing that kills, always, is love.
Copyright, Nick Mwaluko 2016