Our National TRUTH Council works to uplift the stories and truths of trans young people throughout the US. In this project, Southern member James supported kyne peer, Nick. Meet Nick!
I fashioned myself blades, whittled
away at my body, convinced I
could never love something so wrong.
My body deserved to be hated; it
was a pathetic empty shell,
not my home.
I cultivated bent, black wings,
with which I could not fly.
I thought myself more palatable in misery,
the hatred told others I meant it; they could
pity me for the creature they took me to be.
In some twisted way, their sick approval
got me what I wanted-
diagnosis, binders, hormones, name,
but left me emptier than ever.
There was no revolution, no pride
in this cruel cycle of disgust. I tore
the wicked feathers from my back,
invited flowers in their wake.
Blades turned to blooms, the buds
took gentle root in my soul.
I still do not live here,
this garden is but a transient place,
where I may now find comfort.
The thorns still prick, awfully sometimes,
but it pales in comparison to the bladed Hell
that is total rejection of the self.
There will come a day when one by one,
each flower is clipped, gently and skillfully,
a bouquet grown of my own love,
with which I may part happily.
And maybe then,
my home will be made.
What is your name? Your pronouns? How would you describe yourself?
Nick/Quinn, he/him or they/them. Really dorky. First off, I’m really big into environmentalism, plants, and pretty much everything that goes with that (conservation, volunteering at botanical gardens, etc). That’s what I like to write and read about; stuff that touches on the nature of existing alongside plants, life, and the connections that we all have. Plants are really cool and I feel like they are almost more like people than people. In terms of things I actually do, I really enjoy writing, reading, and hiking.
What motivated you to write this poem specifically? What is something you want transgender folks to take away? Cisgender folks?
Dysphoria and the process of loving yourself have been a really big part of my life. Especially recently as more positive space and also been able to get on hormones. The self-hatred that came with dysphoria was a big part of life in high school. I wanted to write about how it pushed me down a cycle of hating myself because it was what got my mom and teachers and doctors to believe me about [being trans]. Something I think a lot of trans people struggle with is that in order to be seen as valid, we have to hate ourselves for that. And I don’t like that. I feel that learning to love yourself is very important. You can still love yourself without being fully transitioned, it’s hard to do, but loving yourself without transitioning or whatever stage you are at is important.
For trans people, I want them to take away the self-love concept, especially with starting to do so at any stage. You don’t have to be at your end goal to start loving yourself. Actually, it makes it a lot easier moving forward for people to start earlier. Even if you can find the smallest thing to love about yourself before, it smoothes out the whole process. Medical transitioning, like surgeries, can be really really hard to access. That’s what I was trying to get at with the gardening metaphor that image of cultivating self-love by growing yourself. You are going to be giving up parts of yourself when it comes to surgeries, but it’s not giving up parts that you hated. It’s giving parts up to feel more whole, more at peace. Listening to older trans folks, I heard that they definitely were happier with their bodies after surgeries, but it was really hard for them to have that love for their bodies afterward because they had never done it before.
In terms of what I want cis people to take away from the poem, they need to learn that trans people can love themselves. That it isn’t a mark of being a trender or fake. Self-love does not mean that you aren’t’ trans. Cis people are often focused on that self-hatred, they want to hear the story of how you’ve hated yourself since the day you were born. I think that is really ridiculous and pushes so many of us into a negative headspace.
How do you practice body positivity and body neutrality as a trans person?
It takes a lot and, with my dysphoria, it meant struggling with a lot of depression. That led to a cycle of not getting out bed, not doing things to take care of myself, and that led to me hating my body more. So it was small things like getting up and getting dressed. Putting on clothes that made me feel comfortable, scents that make me feel comfortable. Outward things that helped me express myself better. Something it meant going out on a limb a little, like painting my nails or putting in earrings. Being able to do things that aren’t considered super masculine, but that I really enjoyed. Just going out and doing it was a way of radically accepting that this is part of me and these things make me happy even if cis folks see it as being ‘nonmasculine’.
It’s also surrounding yourself with people you know see you as you. Who use your right pronouns, your name, and how you want to be addressing. Having those kind of spaces are important to cultivating self-love too. If you don’t have access to those kinds of spaces, reading self-inserts stories were you can put yourself into it can be helpful. Online networks over Tumblr and over Skype were my first positive communities.
Your poem speaks about your relationship with your body being in a transient state. How would your poem have been different if written several years back? How do you hope it will change if rewritten in your future?
I honestly don’t think I could have written something like this in the past. I had no self-love what so ever. I think it would have been about destroying myself in the poem in the end. It would never have culminated to developing and loving myself. It would not have had the same message.
In the future, I hope I would be able to extend it through continuing to love your body as you get old. Being a trans adult and still loving yourself with all the things that come with getting older.
Is there anything we haven’t touched on?
A lot of the first half of the poem was shaped by the movie Black Swan which itself is based on Dostoevsky’s “The Double”. It is about a ballerina who wants to be the best and she shapes herself into someone she hates herself and finds that everything that she does is wrong. I grew up a ballerina and my mom taught ballet. It was a big part of my life and that’s why I included that symbolism.
What does trans/queer liberation mean to you?
This topic has a lot to do with my beliefs around capitalism. I personally don’t think that queer liberation can exist under capitalism. I think that queer liberation goes hand and hand with political and finical liberation as well. Obviously, there would be no longer having to pay for surgeries, hormones, and medical transition, but also not having to live under oppressive corporations using us for profit ignoring our rights. In particular, when we think about our liberation in the west versus the rest of the world, I think we forget that a lot of our pride merch is made that have really oppressive laws against queer people. Those are the hands making our pride attire. So, I don’t think we will ever be liberated without bringing liberation globally. What it looks like is heading global movements and getting involved in communities and working for liberation for immigrants and people in other countries. Getting involved in fighting for communities that aren’t the white middle-class queers, because those are the people who are benefiting the most from the current state of queer rights when we don’t have an overarching policy that fights for our housing and employment.
(Interview edited for length and clarity)