What if it were possible to synthesize hormones in the kitchen? Imagine if this was as easy and simple as cooking a meal. “Housewives Making Drugs” is a fictional cooking show where the trans-femme stars, Maria and Maria ( played by yours truly, and Jade Renegade) teach the audience at home step-by-step how to cook their own hormones. They perform a simple “urine-hormone extraction recipe” while amusing the audience with their witty back-and-forth banter about body and gender politics, institutional access to hormones, and everything problematic with heteronormativity. Choosing the kitchen as the appropriate battleground for tackling body/gender politics and institutional access, the cooking show challenges and subverts patriarchal society while speculating on a world with greater body sovereignty for all.
The politics of "passing" for trans people is a topic filled with complexity, nuance, emotion, and not just an academic think piece kind of pursuit, but something with real life consequences. Trans people all over the spectrum have different ideas, and relationships to the concept of "passing" as a cis person in their day to day life. For some it is a matter of safety, for others it is a matter of access, and for others it is not even a desire or something to attain to. We all have different proximities to "passing" and for many of us, it is something that changes from day to day. This is true for me at this current stage of my transition, as some days I wish I passed as a cis woman in the world, other days, I am more than proud to be a visibly trans woman.
I was once told once during my early days as a baby trans that there would be a moment in my transition when everything would begin to change and the person that I was, (assigned male at birth then socialized into masculinity) would no longer be the lead actor in the role that is my life. It made me happy to hear these words from someone who had been through it herself, and it gave me hope for something better in the future, something closer to my understanding of myself and the world.
Other trans girls like to remind me that some day soon the “Excuse me Sir’s” and “What’s up Bro’s” would begin to drop like flies all around me. That the misgendering would start to get less and less frequent until maybe some day it would go away all together and I would be able to live my life just as I see myself, a beautiful trans woman worthy of love and respect.
One time my best friend (a passing trans girl herself) told me that I was going to start being seen as pretty and that eventually I would begin to get attention from men whether or not I wanted it. She gave it to me directly, saying “Trust me boo, You are gonna be having problems some day, and I know you don't fuck with boys, but they sure as hell are gonna want to fuck with you”. Since then, I have spent every moment I can trying to figure out how to be attractive enough to women I can still get dates, but ugly enough to men that they would leave me alone, but just attractive enough to them that they don’t start clocking my T. I’m still working on nailing down this aesthetic to be honest, some days I feel closer to it than others.
It has been a little over 4 years since I first came out to myself as a trans woman, it has been just a little over 1.5 since I started on Hormone Replacement Therapy, and I still wonder if those days I was told about by all my friends would ever come to fruition for me.
Don’t get me wrong, there are some days when I don’t get misgendered at all, sadly those days usually involve the condition that I never leave the house, or don't run into any cis heteros, but for the most part I still get called sir and bro, and that boy I was socialized as since birth, still takes the lead role when I step out in public most days and I am forced to think about how I would be lying if I told you that I never wanted to pass as a cis woman. Or how sometimes I wish I would get catcalled on the streets by men, just to know that I’m being seen as a woman, even if it means they see me as prey for them to hunt instead of being seen as a predator scamming his way to some dick, and y'all already know, I don't even fuck with boys like that.
These sporadic fantastical hopes churning around in my head often catch me off guard, and before you know it I am spiraling into thoughts about how even in my refusal to perform for the male gaze, I cannot escape its reach, its violence, its burning demand for approval. I think about what a twisted world we live in when being subjected to the violence of patriarchy for a trans woman is often the clearest signal of our “arrival” into womanhood.
This feeling and thought is so pervasive that even when I am absolutely am proud to be this self proclaimed baddie scorpiheaux trans woman cougar, that sees herself as a mix of sporty spice femme on her worst days and a Posh/scary spice hybrid femme on her best days, there are still some days, when the world feels particularly cruel, when being a visibly trans woman in a physically transphobic society has me feeling worn out. When I spend hours applying this full beat of makeup, then shave off all the hair on my body, painstakingly scrubbing away any remnants of my masculinity coercively assigned to me at birth simply to leave the house and the first person I see still says to me “What can i get for you today Sir?” My heart drops, and I just want to yell at the top of my lungs at the "trying too hard to be polite but ending up hella rude" barista at Starbucks “Can i get some damn respect please? But can I also get a venti double shot espresso caramel frappuccino extra caramel with coconut milk no whip please!”
On days like that I really do fantasize about what it would feel like to move through the world
without having to carry all this transness with me everywhere I go, I wonder what it would be like if I could just exist passing as a cis woman and all the lovely things that would come along with it. While most days I don't pass, and I have no real clear path towards resolving this dilemma in the meantime, I’ve determined I am too stubborn to believe that I am the one that needs to change just to be seen as a woman instead of everyone else needing to expand their definition of what a woman is and can be.
The other day while I was in line at Target, a white, appearingly cis hetero woman was holding up the line waiting for an item being brought to the counter, so she told the cashier, “You can ring her up first while we are waiting.” as she was pointing towards me, I stood shocked for a second, hit with the realization she was talking about me. She follows with “No need to make her wait too!” and smiled my way. “Is this real life?” I thought to myself. I flipped my hair, said thank you, and walked up to the cashier with a confidence I have never had before in public. I can't lie and tell you that it doesn't feel good to be seen as a woman by a stranger I have never met. And I guess the best I can do is hope that I’m doing something right
It’s complicated I know, and I don’t know how to end this piece or put a ribbon on it properly
I don’t really have any answers, or happy endings, I don’t know if I’ll ever consider my transition complete some day. Or if there's even a destination to arrive at in the end. Does transition even begin to describe what I’m doing? So instead I’ll just leave you all with a poem at the beginning and my outlook to the future.
As a child and through my adolescence
It never really occurred to me that i wasn't supposed to be a boy
It never crossed my mind
That I had been born in the wrong body
Nor do I have any recollection
Of any traumatic gender dysphoria
Most of my childhood i can remember
Enjoying the mischief of boyhood
(Which i now refer to in hindsight as my tom boy phase
Only it was like a 25 year phase)
So if you were to ask me the origin of my trans identity
I would honestly have no clear answer in response
No “Eureka” moment to speak of
No “Genesis” to my transition
When pressed for an answer
The best I can do instead
Is cite how poorly i grew into my masculinity
How the seams of my boyhood
Quickly began to unravel in my process of “becoming a man”
How eventually i started to outgrow its limits
How I started feeling trapped in its lack of vulnerability
Isolated in its fear of deep emotions or connection
I found myself tired of being shamed
Every time i stepped outside of its expected codes of behavior
(like that one time I was out drinking with my boys and I ordered a fruity drink cocktail and they all laughed at me for some reason, “oh im sorry, I didnt realize your masculinity was so fragile your drinks had to be manly enough to keep the glass from breaking”)
Slowly I began to notice
How masculinity no longer fit my body right
The way it was so fragile but needed to be worn unbreakable
I began looking for something else to wear altogether
Searching for something maybe less fragile
Or not so afraid to be broken
Something able to rise into the swell of a tide my emotions had become
It didnt happen suddenly
I still havent woken up one morning
To find the skin of my masculinity shed away overnight
Rather i think of my transition as something more fluid
Like an ocean in all its majesty always in flux
With no destination in place other than simply existing
And the pull of the moon Embracing the impact with beautiful force
The shore never the same look twice
I like to think of my femme expression
As little seeds planted at my birth
Nearest the roots of my fullest potential
My most authentic expression in bloom
Free from the thorns and weeds of toxic masculinity assigned to me at birth
Then scattered throughout my garden
I like to think of these femme seeds
Rising to the surface my whole life
How the shedding skin of my masculinity
Becomes compost meant to prepare my soil for the spring
I like to think of myself flowering
A beautiful collection of petals
Peeling its way open ever so slowly
Each reveal much more beautiful than the last
Ive come to discover myself as a resplendent garden
Finally seeing its beauty nearing full bloom
And how foolish of me it would be, passing up an opportunity
To spend the rest of my life, tending to its care
I can tell you this much
As if to let you in on a little secret
Trans Femmes are magic
If you don't believe it
Come find me
And watch with the gentle stroke of midnight
How I can be both
and the witch
at the same time
Tell me then,
After the clock strikes 12
That you still do not believe in magic
FOR MY SDTQPOC* SIBLINGS
*SICK AND DISABLED TRANS AND QUEER PEOPLE OF COLOR
They will tell you that you are broken
With words laced in remorse and guilt as if being broken
were somehow a fate to be undesired
I cannot point blame when believe them,
If you understand the state of brokenness to only mean suffering
But what can we say
Of those that can no longer hold up under the oppression of the patriarchy
Those that are fragile enough to break
While being forced into industrial machines of labor
designed to conform all matter into products
for mass consumption
Those that instead shatter into pieces,
Or bend in unintended places
When categorized into neat boxes and check marks
Those whose parts no longer fit the outdated design
What can we say of those thrown and discarded off the production line
Then gathered and shipped to be recycled
Sent out into the ocean, in the middle of nowhere
On an island
With all the others
deemed broken or defective
The unfinished products never able to comply
with those that bend in ways they were never meant to bend
With those whose parts have been labeled
and deemed unfit for mass consumption
What are we to say of a world
where machines, doctors, psychiatrists or parents
Are constantly trying to repair us all back into standard production and put us back on the shelves
Maybe, the point isn’t always to avoid being broken
Maybe, there is no shame in being discarded by a system that never had our best interests in mind
Maybe its better out here.
Together, alone on this island
Existing and surviving as resiliently scientific proof
It is the machine that is broken
And Not us.
On Sunday March 6th, I participated in The Sunday Jump's Women Herstory Month as one of the 5 featured artists of the evening along with the wonderful Jumakae as Guest MC! It was such a lovely evening to be amongst community and creativity and have an opportunity to share my work along side some amazingly talented women writers and performers.
The Sunday Jump is a monthly open mic held in LA's Historic Filipino Town at The Kaphistahan Grill off Temple Ave. It is run and organized by LA based Filipino American activist/poets/organizers Eddy Gana and Stephanie Sajor. Every first sunday of the month the community of artists gathers under their two guidelines "express not impress and free speech not hate speech." to share their stories with each other, to bear witness and celebrate.
It was an honor to be asked as a featured poet for their March celebration of women's herstory month! It was a great opportunity to be invited to share not only with other women, but also amongst a community of predominantly filipino-american artists/activist living in the Los Angeles area. As a writer and poet of almost 10 years, I found it odd that I never got around to writing/completing a performance piece centered on my Filipinx-American Identity. Of course as many things are, It was a complicated,very hard, piece to write and that in itself a direct result of my own colonization and desire/need to assimilate.
One of my favorite parts of the writing as performance, for me is in its ability to push us through our evolution as we go through the evolution itself. For instance, knowing that when I booked this feature, it presented me the opportunity to finally explore this piece ive been wanting to write for so long, knowing I was going to share with a crowd of folks at a very similar intersection as me being first generation Filipinx-American. Because of this unique opportunity, I was extra motivated and inspired to gather all I had been working on and reflecting about at this intersection of my identity and began piecing things together. Finally The day of my feature at the Sunday Jump was when I finally got the pieces of it together into a somewhat coherent picture if not a complete one.
I shared it for the first time at The Sunday Jump and got a lot of good response and feedback, and have since gone on to do some edits. But here is some footage of my first draft and performance.
I have since edited the piece down to be more concise and to the point, but am still a work in progress. Overall I am excited for where this one is going! I am also grateful that "The Sunday Jump" exists as a space for other artists (filipinx or not) to come together and share! It is a lovely venue (The food is amazing) and the people are dope, so if you find yourself free on the first sunday of the month and want to get some good food and poetry for your soul and body, I would definitely recommend stopping by The Sunday Jump, you will most likely find me there again, with this poem edited and mastered! (Cause you know, life always goes so simply, and Filipino identity can be all wrapped up in just this one poem!)
Last weekend I had the honor and privilege of sharing my work with around 600 participants at the Asterisk Trans conference at UC Riverside. It was a magical and beautiful experience to be surrounded by so many wonderful and beautiful people of such diverse gender, color, ability, and ways of being human.
I had the honor of opening the conference the first evening along with the lovely Jennicet Gutierrez and Kay Ulanday Barrett. Kay and I have been connected through social media and common SDQTPOC community for about a year or so, but this was the first time we had got to meet in person and experience each others work. We both immediately noted how unique it was for us as both SDQT Pinay/Pinoy/Pinx poets to come together and feature on the same evening! It was such a blessing and gift to get to spend the weekend with an artist that has been traveling and getting paid for their work and is someone I came away from the weekend feeling a closer bond and connection of kindred spirit.
This was also my first gig since completing my new chap book "The Ashes I've Risen From" and the support that folks at the conference showed up with was amazing! I sold out of all the copies i had brought with me and wished I had printed more! I was taken back in awe of how much my community showed up and honored the work I put into my craft. It gave me a deeper confidence in my work and its worth, value, and importance in our current social and political climate. In a world that is often telling trans women they are disposable, and that our labor is not legitimate or valued, this weekend showed me how those lies are simply lies, there is community out there that is willing to support, to protect, to value trans women of color, sick and disabled queers, and in the lovely words of Kay "The Apocalypse"
I also did a workshop entitled "Creating Spaces; performance art as healing tool for resistance and liberation" In this workshop, I shared some of my origin stories as a writer, my connection to performance poetry and healing of my trauma, and practical tools for a personal practice and collective communal practice. Then we even got to make our very own performance healing space together as an asterisk trans community!! It was such a lovely time together and I hope that folks in the workshop will be inspired and motivated to take knowledge from this workshop and create such spaces in their own communities!!!
Overall I had an amazingly trans formative weekend connecting with new friends, making new connections, sharing my work, my art and my story! I look forward to continuing to build with the community that I shared and that this isn't the last time I get to see all the wonderful folks that I met!!
If we met this weekend and you are an educator, an organizer, or administrator for your LGBTQ or pride centers on campus and would like to bring me out to your school, please contact me for booking!! I would love the opportunity to continue sharing my work and building with our communities all across the nation.
Last night I slammed at Da Poetry Lounge for the Women of The World Poetry Qualifier. Da poetry Lounge has never been a "home" venue for me per se, but I've been going here on and off for the better part of 10 years, and all the times (just a handful probably) I was able to step on its stage, I always felt a huge presence around me, a sort of power that helped me touch the presence of my own performance in a way I never could in any other venue (200+ people watching you will do that I'm sure) I always felt there were a lot of people in that room that respect the art form and the craft, and feel the labor of many people that have worked hard to make the venue a beautiful community space for a diversity of voices to be heard.
I had all kinds of feels leading up to deciding on whether or not I should slam. I was nervous about stepping into a space that wasn't specifically queer, and for me as a trans woman competing against established cis women writers, who are all fucking amazing in each of their own voices, and are rooted in the community made me really nervous. I was also afraid of the ways that I've been conditioned to fear or be weary of patriarchy, or how I've come to assume that non-queer spaces weren't going to be welcoming to me.
But things came together really quickly and with the encouragement of two friends who are also part of the DPL family (Fisseha W. Moges and Yesika Salgado thanks y'all!) and an old friend Philip De Guzman visiting from out of town and driving me there and supporting me) I decided I would go for it.
I put my name in the proverbial hat and let the chips fall were they may. Then My name got called, and all the demons in my head came to the forefront, the voices telling me that my gender was gonna be policed or that transmisogyny and patriarchy was going to somehow rear its ugly head on me in the middle of that stage, but I quieted them for a minute, I stepped up, knowing I was going to deliver a powerful message of how transphobia has killed so many of our siblings in the last year, and as I started in on the piece, I could feel the energy of the crowd joining me, snaps, and cheers and applause, immediately I felt at home in the piece and felt enough support to finish it strong. I did. My scores didn't really reflect how powerful that moment felt for me, but I don't do this work for the scores. I didn't make it to the next round but that's mostly because the other women competing (as I mentioned earlier) were all exceptional and seasoned poets who have mastery of their craft in a way that demands respect, and perfect scores. (Im working to get there)
The rest of the slam unfolded and I was inspired by the amazing work shared on that stage and just grateful to have been able to share that stage with amazing artists, and grateful that I was able to make it trough this first time experience not only unscathed by any feelings of gender policing or unwelcoming vibes, but actually with some high fives and smiles on my way back to my seat, and more inspired and energized to continue along the path.
As the night concluded and as I was on my way out, the host and one of the founding members of DPL chased me down to let me know that I killed it, and that he appreciated my work. I was taken back big time because it really affirmed above my fears how welcoming a space DPL is for a trans poet such as I. Instead of my fear of being policed by organizers of the event, I was appreciated and welcomed. I know my fears weren't founded on anything tangible other than the fact that I assume most spaces aren't welcome to trans people (cause they aren't) but I forgot that some places, even if they aren't explicitly queer are still committed to making safe spaces for all artists to say their truth and tell their story without judgement, no matter what story you are telling.
I've spent the last two+ years and the beginning of my transition insulating myself in queer community only, and rightly so because I've needed (and still do) that safety to explore my identity, and to forge who I am and who I am becoming. But last night has given me a new sense of ability and confidence to step out boldly from the safety of exclusively queer spaces (which I will still need), I have been feeling stronger in my own self and what I want to do, that the outside world, though sometimes unwelcoming, does not scare me to the point of Hiding away. I feel empowered to bring my work into mainstream circles and know that I can hold my own in these spaces and spread the word of what liberation and acceptance looks for trans folks like me. I went to sleep last night grateful, and excited. I'll be back for more DPL, and the poetry world in general, I've big things in store for myself in 2016, and I'm ready to take my art and passion for it to another level.
A good way to end 2015, and a good jumping point for 2016.
She told me that she loved me,
but only in subtle tones
Knowing that the water in which we've been swimming
is shallow and chaotic
And we know that finding depth in the distance
is still our destination
Besides, she tells me right now
that she is a wave of emotions
rippling under feet
unaccustomed to being cautiously steady.
So I told her that I thought her to be lucky
How I have always loved the Ocean
Nor have I seldom feared the deep
Nor have I ever been known
To lack the Patience it requires to get there
And though the abyss might swallow some whole
It beckons my name in longing
And I tell her that swimming in my water
Might Feel a lot like baptism
A Washing away the impurities of fear
In the way we scorpios know to Love;
Selfish and reckless
With no boundaries we can set
to limit that which we can explore
It is no surprise then
We might find ourselves
Drowning in the pool of infinite possibility.
So She tells me that instead she likes the rain
Especially in the spring time
when it is warm and we least expect it
When the water washes the skies
Till the clouds fall into graves
eager to be resurrected
She tells me of how she loves their reflections
Beginning to emerge as Flowers
In soil that sprouts
Her eyes fixated on the earth
Till its colors notify of how
They have been awakened.
And I tell her that we can never hold raindrops in our hands
But still let them wash us clean.
Till they tell us their stories of redemption
Like how we learn to become beautiful goodbyes
evaporating upon impact
Or how letting go of jealousy
releases our fears
into Mathematic equations lost in the storms
that reveal to us
how Love never divides through the depths
How it only multiplies in our becoming
And how numbers
much like love,
Can be something more than we ever believed it to be
Something more like infinite