It By Martina Dominique Dansereau


“Are you a boy or a girl?”
When I tell my mother to call my friend ‘they’,
she says, “Why not it?” and I am wondering, if she refuses
to use gender-neutral terms for my friend because it is
“too hard and takes so much conscious effort”,
if she considers them                 to be an it,
then what would she consider
“You have to accept me the way I am, too,” she insists
and I want to tear myself         out of my body
to sever the ties
between our DNA because                 I know
that she wouldn’t accept me as anything other than her daughter,
wouldn’t believe that I could be something else
and still be her child.

“Are you a boy or a girl?”
“Transgender, don’t you mean trans-confused?”
my father jokes at dinner when I’m trying to explain gender
to him, passion kindling my eyes with a fire that he smothers
with words that fill my ears with ash—
“Genderfluid? What is that, a slut?”—and he tells me
that maybe I should find new friends
who will talk about ‘normal things’, before he dares
to meet my eyes and ask,
“What about you, what           are you? Are you
a real girl?” and I laugh it off, caging my storm of fear inside
as if he isn’t a predator that can scent it
crackling in the air between us.

“Are you a boy or a girl?”
When I tell a counselor that I’m agender, she says,
“I don’t understand how that’s possible. You have to fall
somewhere on the spectrum, right? You can’t really
be genderless,”
and I feel like folding myself into smaller and smaller pieces
until even the crawl spaces between my vertebrae are
to non-existence
like that fundamental part of my identity, crushed down to bone
and carved away to water that slips through fingers
and evaporates without anyone seeing; I want to make origami
out of the remains of my flesh because a paper crane
would be more seen          and more beautiful than me.

“Are you a boy or a girl?”
As soon as my teacher mentions a game, a streak of dread
like lightning                 splits                   me in two,
a current that electrifies my nerve-endings with panic
as he says,        “Boys versus girls!”
and I root to my chair as if embedding myself in its stability
could keep me from falling apart. My friend tells me
to pretend to be a girl
and imagine that I am keeping the balance, but all I can think about
is how my axis is spinning out of control because
I don’t belong here, I don’t even
exist to them; the teacher calls me to the front as a girl and
nobody walks up the aisle between seats because I
am Nobody, I am not a person anymore.

“Are you a boy or a girl?”
I say, “Neither, and sometimes both;
occasionally, I am a combination of a little more one
than the other,” and most days their faces are blank,
my voice catching in the filters in their minds that don’t process person
and only hear freak, and I remember
that sticks and stones may break my bones,
but          words are killing me softly,
words leave deeper scars,
words bleed me from the inside out and silence me,
words are grinding me into something
thinner than the air so that one day when they
finally ask, “What are your pronouns?”
I answer, “It”               as if by reclaiming my skin stamped
with their brand, I can somehow make it
almost human again.

By Martina Dominique Dansereau


Martina Dominique Dansereau is a disabled, non-binary lesbian writer and artist whose work centres on trauma and marginalisation, particularly through personal experiences with violence, disability, mental illness, gender, and LGBT issues. When not entrenched in academia or creating art, xe enjoys reading books with xyr snakes, who often fall asleep between the pages. You can find xem on Twitter and Instagram @herpetologics.

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