Do You Dare

for Sax Quartet and two Narrators
2015

*trigger warning*

When I was 16, I was dating a...man-shaped person. And my friends would ask me the typical questions. "Where did you meet?" "How'd you start dating?" "Have you said I love you yet?" Fast-forward 8 months, I have a few more things figured out, and I'm dating someone who at the time identified as female. You'd think the questions would be similar - "Where did you meet?" "How'd you start dating?" "Have you said I love you..." But these aren't the questions we were asked. Actually, the questions were much, much different. So I started writing those questions down and when I finished writing down the questions I'd been asked, I started writing down the questions some queer person somewhere had been asked before. Then I began writing down the questions that I wanted to ask, that I wanted to ask of...perhaps...straighter people. I wove these questions into music, using sax quartet (the most flamboyant of chamber ensembles) and finished with what I considered a challenge. As if to say - Do you dare imagine what this is is like for us? Dare you ask? Dare you help? And most importantly, dare you do something about it?

Her Body is a Book

for Electric Cello and 3-6 dancers
2014

My exposure to dance has always been from a place of release. Even when I first started dancing blues, it was about feeling the music in your own body rather than memorizing any particular steps. The summer of 2014 was when dance became something much more therapeutic. I started exploring Gabrielle Roth’s 5Rhythms and discovered that dance helped me live authentically in my own skin.

“Her Body is a Book” attempts to illustrate this journey. It begins with reluctance, hinting at a chaos that hides beneath. This chaos builds through soft-spoken spurts of lyricism and relentless, rhythmic pizzicatos. When the chaos has amounted to full expression, the piece withers into calm, though not entirely content.

With improvisatory dance cues, one dancer is cast as “She,” representing the journey of a dancer from fear of dance to surrender. The other dancers act as supporters, each with their unique way of interpreting the music. The cues for the dancers outline the 5Rhythms to show the progression in and out of the most intense parts of dance. However, the final section is dedicated to a partner blues dance as a way of illustrating the calm of surrendering and the necessity of compassionate human connection, especially after an intense emotional journey.

The title “Her Body is a Book” describes my own mental shift in viewing my body. First I viewed it as something on loan, something transient and destructible. Dance has helped me view the body as something powerful, something that has the capacity to express who I am and where I’ve been.

we taste queerness on the twilight

This is a poem about how a community collects trauma. I read this poem as part of Golden Bridge's "Youth, Truth, and Talent" show July 29th, 2017. *This poem contains content on substance abuse, sexual assault, and suicide.*The dancing was a collaboration between all the performers. Much thanks to the dancers Michelle Wilkins, Laurel Hauck, Grace Slocum, Christina Shore, Keva Victoria, and Miranda Gerzon. 

Here is the text of the poem:

 

This poem brings Whipped Cream Burnett’s to parties.
This poem loves to make straight people uncomfortable. 
This poem isn’t afraid to correct the Chancellor’s interpretation of their gender pronouns on stage in front of a thousand person crowd.
This poem used to listen to a song called “Hegemonic Blowfish.”
This poem’s favorite band is PWR BTTM.
This poem used to have wet dreams about Jesus.
This poem doesn’t give two shits about white gay cis men theorizing in ivory towers. 
This poem wasn’t born this way.
You can bet your sweet ass this poem knows when to take a laxative.

This poem shaved off all her hair the day after the election.
I walked this poem home from the straight bar after he got kicked out for yelling “Fuck Donald Trump.”
This poem cried when we got home.
This poem is scared of men.

You wrote this poem on my collarbone with your teeth.
This poem would fuck you all night long, and all day long, regardless of substance.
This poem sobbed the first time she kissed a girl.
This poem doesn’t believe in healthy relationships.
This poem once got a ride home from a stranger on Grindr in exchange for sex.
This poem knows that being campy is a survival tactic.
This poem knows it’s less dangerous if straight people are laughing at you.
This poem wouldn’t say no to a line of coke from a stranger at the club.
This poem smokes a packet of cigarettes when he’s drunk.
I held this poem’s hair back as they were vomiting at the bar.
This poem will get fucked to forget.
This poem hates how sometimes fucking leads to remembering.
I see this poem in my lover’s sad eyes after they give me an orgasm.
I cried after this poem fucked me so hard I had to look at the sandpaper pillar of fear in my spine.

This poem called me at 4:45am to say “I legitimately overdosed. My dad found me in time.”
This poem has Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Or Bipolar I. Or Bipolar II. Or maybe Borderline - they haven’t decided.
This poem knows the differences are invisible but the consequences are deadly.

This poem likes to take a couple shots before performing a drag show.
This poem gets double takes in gendered restrooms.
This poem hates when servers end their “What drinks will you have” with a “ladies.”
This poem defines dysphoria as an intense current under which you have no grounding.
This poem doesn’t want your pity.
I am devastated that I can’t even protect this poem in my own bedroom.

I started writing the poem the day a man in a pick up truck asked me and my high school lover to take our sick shit elsewhere.
I knew I’d never stop writing this poem the day my ex-lover stuck a bloodied note in my locker.
I knew this poem could never be unwritten the night she was crying silently in my room and whispered “I think they make that word sound ugly so that no one will ever want to say it.”
That word was rape. This poem is about rape.
This poem isn’t going to forgive you.
This poem isn’t about you.
None of this poem is for you.
None of this poem is fictionalized.

This poem was once angry but is getting tired.
This poem is weary but awake.
This poem keeps going.
This poem writes itself.
This poem never stops.
We will never stop.
We will never stop writing this poem.

when my body becomes the art

mixed media

2018

“when my body becomes the art” is a reflection of my process leading up to the decision to go on testosterone. It uses recordings of my voice from different months of T, reflecting on my experience of gender. The performative elements of the piece include different gender expressions, ripping up the letter from the therapist, taking off a binder, creating ritual space, and injecting myself with testosterone, ultimately showing how testosterone is an ongoing surrender to continual shapeshifting and self-love. The incorporation of my physical body in the piece demonstrates how the ritual of gender is enacted on my physicality. My body cannot be separated from the art. My body has very real implications for the way I experience the world. This is my way of survival. It is the creative way I make art out of my life.
 

excerpt of text

 

Prologue

It is Tuesday, March 28th and they say this is my rebirthday. That I might remember this day for the rest of my life.
[underneath Days of Testosterone]:
Here’s what I know so far:
Woman and man are archetypes for whom gender is meaningful.
Masculine and feminine are unattached to the aforementioned labels.
Gender is a social construct particular to time and place.
Masculine and feminine are divine and exist in everyone.
Masculine and feminine are meaningless and non descriptive labels.
Trans as a prefix means moving away.
We are always moving towards and away and between and through.
People assigned female at birth who later go on testosterone
typically experience a growth in sex drive,
possible increase in appetite,
possible need for more sleep.
Some people going on testosterone experience an attraction to men, sometimes for the first time in their life.
Being on hormones is not required of any specific gender, even and perhaps especially, trans.

I am:
Transforming
Transcending
Transitioning
Translucent
Tranceiving
Transcribing
Transversing
Translating
Transecting
Transferring
Transporting
Transgressing
Transfiguring
Transfinite
Transfusing
Transient
Transilluminating
Transitting
Transitive
Transliterating
Translocating
Transmigrating
Transparent
Transshaping
Transmitting
Transmuting
Transpersonal.

If I find ways to use this prefix, can I claim it as my own?

I ask - where is my voice?
With me, all along but -
Can you hear me yet?

Where is my voice?
Can you hear me yet?

 

1. Departure

I’m supposed to write a poem right now
(Then I will tear it apart).
I stutter because I want to make it impersonal,
but this manila folder on my desk keeps staring at me.
I’d like to pretend it means something,
That in going this far I have become trans enough.
(How will I substitute this?)
But maybe this journey
(towards, away - the prefix trans doesn’t actually specify direction)
is just an ongoing argument for external validation.
I know it doesn’t have to be that way.


In this poem, I have used the word “I” 
ten times.
Tell me this isn’t self-absorbed.
Tell me everyone is on a journey of becoming
and no one is done transitioning.
Tell me we just talk more about our journeys because they can often be more visible.
Tell me my trans is in the right direction.
Tell me it’s not all in my head.
Tell me
Tell  .  me
Tell m . .e.

Right.
The letter in the folder uses my birth name.
(I could make some “deal” out of this, but it is my professional name after all).
The letter never once messes up a pronoun.
It uses words like:
“strongly and persistently”
“desire to be less feminine”
“a 21-year-old biological female”
“androgynous identity”
“significant mind/body conflict”
“genderqueer, nonbinary, demiboy”
                    (I wish they’d used an “i” for “boy”)
“gender neutral pronouns”
“masculine attitudes”
“significant reduction of personal distress”
“persistent gender nonconforming identification”
“goals for transition”
“presents as nonbinary in areas of school, work, and social circles”
“not fully disclosed their gender identity or goals for transition with their parents”
“align their physical appearance with their psychological identity”
“increase the likelihood of being gendered as more masculine or androgynous”
“criteria for Gender Dysphoria in Adolescents and Adults, (DSM-5 302.85)”
“insight and judgement are within normal range”
“psychologically sound decision making capacity”
“has met all the criteria outlined in the official World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH) Standards of Care v7 for treatment of individuals diagnosed with Gender Dysphoria”
“psychologically ready to proceed with hormone therapy”

If this was a queer theory class,
we would discuss how
identity is unstable,
reaching for meaning pushes it further away,
longing for a sense of self destroys the sense of self,
(long)ing for . a. sense of
.. se . l . f.
d / e  /  st / / ro  / / ys
              ///
the (sense) of
[self]

we must allow room for contradictions.

Perhaps my contradiction
is the numbness of reading this letter
and the urgency with which I will deliver it.

 

2. Threshold

It’s in my throat,
an itch,
like I have to keep clearing it
or drinking water,
a weight
like everything yet unsaid
is collecting there,
preparing the cords for song.

I return to the railroad tracks because I thought I would meet someone there.
Brown hair swinging in the wind,
blue dress and bare feet
waving at me.
She wasn’t there though.
I think I left her on a vision quest
sitting in the woods with twigs in her Earth-tangled hair,
reflecting jungles in her eyes,
crouching by the river, sharpening a knife.
She flits out like candle flame if you look too closely at her.

Instead I stare into the eyes of Pan
stalking the crest of a hill,
an impish grin on his face,
asking me why I summoned him.
I dance,
jumping around and through him
all chaos and flow
pinning him to the ground
panting as his laugh shakes the Earth beneath me.
His smile tastes like a secret he will never tell you.

My voice cracks
and the world pries in
to open me wide.
I am Ritual
enacted. 

I don’t know who I’ll be tomorrow.

 

3. Return

If I could,
I would stop writing
poetry about being
trans enough.

I would accept
the changing
fluid motions
of understanding
and identities.

I would surrender
to Mystery between
my atoms,
rejoice in the unknowing
as a way of becoming
again and again.

If I could,
I would accept
this body
as is, 
as grows,
without injecting
my shapeshifting
into its biology.

(Sometimes, even,
I do accept Her. 
It is only by outside,
the others looking on,
that I fear I will
never be seen in
entirety.)

I am not substituting this journey.
I am not forsaking my past.
I am not letting go of my feminine.
I am reverently listening to all parts of me.

I am making room for my contradictions.

 

Epilogue

Sweet boi -
Breathe.
You are here.
You do not have to be good -
You only have to stay.
Stay,
Stay, love -
Patience with your becoming.
You are enough.

Leave me to my
     eyes welling up
Shapeshifting
               and feeling all of it.

               Follow if you wish -
                    We’ll trace the circuits of time
                          lean into divine.
                                Softly surrender
                                      our animal.