Meet Toby (poem collected by Nat’l TRUTH Council Member, Ella)

Our National TRUTH Council works to uplift the stories and truths of trans young people throughout the US. In this project, Western member Ella uplifts the poetic work of Toby. Read Toby’s trans slam poem!

When I was 13, I asked my sister if I looked like a boy, and I didn’t understand why my heart shattered when she said no.

The day after I cut my hair off, the waiter said “sir” and when I realized he meant me I didn’t understand why it made my heart sing.

I didn’t understand why looking at myself in the mirror made me feel so sick, why when I saw my chest all I wanted to do was tear it off, why the sound of my voice and softness of my face made my soul ache.

My brain does not match my body, a hormonal mistake in the womb that cursed me to choose between living a lie and spending thousands of dollars to make my body right. And when I tried to live that lie, when I forced myself to wear dresses and makeup and plaster a smile on my face, when i trapped who I was underneath what everyone thought I was supposed to be, every night after the house finally slept I was left awake and alone with myself as I covered myself in scars. And I will never go back to that person I forced myself to be.

When 41% of those who share this experience have attempted suicide, when 31 states still do not have laws to protect me and people like me, when nearly 81% of us have been harassed and bullied and brought to tears in school, a place where we’re supposed to be safe, I refuse to give up.

I will not let down the ones who have come before me and the ones who will come after. I refuse to be the next Leelah Alcorn, buried by a society who didn’t love her, with the wrong name on her tombstone. I refuse to be part of the statistic and join the ranks of those killed by the world’s ignorance.

You may not understand why I would want surgery, why I would choose to have ugly scars lining my chest. You may not understand why I don’t want my body or my voice or my breasts, you don’t see the joy that comes to mind when I imagine looking down and seeing my chest has gone from 38D to flat. You don’t see me as I wish to be, as I’m supposed to be.

I want you to see me and without hesitation say “he” when you talk about me. I want the people on the street to see me and know to say “sir”.

You don’t understand why I have to do these things to be happy, why I will have to give myself a shot every other week for the rest of my life to be happy. But you will understand that the last scar I will ever give myself will be made of ink and declare me a self-made man.

-Toby S.