intensate

I pretended to be a criminal, which no one expected.

To me, it was a natural evolution.
I take comfort in hidden corners,
shoplifting pieces of conversation
stuffing them into pockets
and later placing them on my mantle.

I saw the gumshoe
and made off with his magnifying glass,
securing it within my garter.
Ensconced there,
its weight felt appropriate.

This wildcat racket,
more senseless than scandalous…
Wiping my prints as I went,
I left no trace,
not even a smoking gun.

I pretended to be a criminal, which no one expected.

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The Circus-less Clown

I.

I’d like to propose a toast
to the boys in high school
who agreed to me applying
their eyeliner before our plays.

I loved every one of you dearly.
I wanted to wrap myself in
each of your costumes
after curtain call.

II.

Here’s to the liquor store
clerk who pretends to look
at my ID when in fact she
just glances. She knows
that bourbon is my vice
and just smiles and nods,
slides the receipt over
the counter for me to sign.

III.

Hedwig—
you were the first piece
of art that helped me
come home to myself.
To this day, I let
my eyeliner linger
in the corners of my eyes
at the end of a long day.

A badge of honor.

A profound reminder
that no one can

tear
me
down.

Someday, Someone

My parents were married at a courthouse.
I’m not sure if there was even a dress,
or a suit, I don’t think any family
attended. By all accounts, it was a
perfunctory affair. They never talked
to me about dating. Or sex.

No one has
ever taught me about these aspects of
relating to other humans in a romantic
way, so my knowledge base is primarily
middle school sex ed delivered in a
Midwestern classroom, paired with tropes
from all the PG and PG-13 rom coms
I borrowed on VHS at my local library.

I
feel
damaged,
like a bird
with a broken wing:
I can still hop around,
but I can’t fly.

The thing I want most in this world
is for someone to see the full brilliance
of my entire being, to see the brilliance
and the scars, and the parts that scare me,
to see all of that and say,
“That’s my person.
That’s who I want to wake up to every morning.
That’s who I want to whisper all my hopes and
fears to, that’s who I want to pack a lunch for
and hold hands with and tell them,

‘You are exactly who you were meant to be
and I will love you just as you are
until my lungs can no longer take
another breath.’”

I clutch this dream of my someone tightly,
hiding it under my pillow at night.

Someday, I keep telling myself.

Someday, they will find me.

Cigarettes & Candy

When we were kids
we used to have contests
to see who could keep a
candy cigarette going
the longest.

We’d puff
elegantly, pretending
to be James Dean or
Marlene Dietrich. We
wanted to be more
sinister and cunning
than we actually were.

In the aisles of the
Ben Franklin arts
and crafts store, we
reigned like bloated
tyrants with our
allowance money.

(In those days, dignity only cost 75 cents.)

We were never more ourselves
then when were were seven:

listening to the cellophane
crinkle as we rolled the
package of candy cigarettes
into the sleeves of our
thrift store t-shirts.

Ellis Bell

I saw you standing there,
six foot two
glorious sideburns
swagger that you
didn’t know you had.

And I couldn’t decide
if I wanted to fuck you
or be you.

I turned the question
over and over
perpetual motion:
two sides of a slick coin
hidden in my corduroy pocket.

You are a wicked saint.

One to which I would gladly
bow down and pay obeisance.
I would wash your feet
with my hair,
if it were only
long enough.

I imagine you whispering
things sacred and profane
as my lips quiver,
yearning to crunch
the wafer of your body
drink the wine of your blood.

Instead,
I will keep you
at arm’s length,
praying to you
intermittently.

It is unwise to touch a saint.

Diagnostic Tool for Trans Allyship

Allyship is not an identity—it is a lifelong process of building relationships based on trust, consistency, and accountability with marginalized individuals and/or groups of people. Allyship is not self-defined—our work and our efforts must be recognized by the people we seek to ally ourselves with. https://theantioppressionnetwork.com/allyship

In preparing for an upcoming restorative justice conversation, I came up with this framework that can be used as a diagnostic tool for trans allyship. Please use if it’s helpful to you and feel free to share widely. -Woodzick

Tier One: The True Ally

When folks are working at Level One, they are demonstrating committed allyship on a daily basis. They are jumping in to correct pronouns when others slip up, but they also have a mindfulness of performing routine safety checks with you to see if certain situations that are more or less safe to make these corrections and know to adjust quickly and accordingly. They will escort you to the restroom, to your car, to your apartment and know to stay close in public situations, if needed. They will work with teachers or people in positions of power to reframe problematic language and can be called upon at a moment’s notice to speak for you so you don’t have to, or if you find yourself in a situation where you are dissociating and in a place beyond words.

Real-world example: I taking a class and the professor was having a difficult time wrapping his mind around they/them/their pronouns. I was quite triggered, crying and mentally checking out of the room. I found my classmate during a break and asked her to stay with me after class and walk with me to my car in case he tried to have a private conversation with me after class. She did so, and physically put herself in between me and him. Not because he was going to hurt me in anyway, but because she wanted to physically act as a barrier to protect my emotional and mental health. She talked to him about it so I didn’t have to. This same classmate volunteered to work with teachers to make changes to texts or find texts that are more inclusive of gender diversity (often without me even asking her!)

Best uses for Tier One folks: Bring them in to do your heavy lifting! Have them labeled as ICE on your phone, call them/text them when you need an ally assist ranging from “I need a ride home now, I don’t feel safe” to “I’m feeling super dysphoric today, can you send me some silly GIFs?” Sometimes they are more effective in navigating challenging situations with organizations, plus you shouldn’t have to do the emotional labor of educating folks all the time.

 

Tier Two: The Casual Ally

When folks are working at Level Two, it means that they are operating with 90% or greater accuracy with pronouns–they are happy to facilitate pronoun introductions and are open to feedback and have the capacity to grow. However, they often need to be prompted and may say careless things without thinking. (i.e. “Ladies and Gentlemen” instead of the more inclusive “Honored guests.”) They are good folks to have in your corner, but you may want to keep them at arm’s length.

Real-world example: I have a teacher who I respect greatly. She brought in a text from the 1940s to class that was linking the work we were doing to Jung’s concepts of anima and animus. The text itself were deeply enmeshed in the gender binary, and with each “man or woman” or “male or female” phrase that was read, I felt increasingly dysphoric and my sense of fight or flight started to kick in. We were passing the book in a circle and when it came back to me I said “I find this text very alienating and will listen to it, but I will not read it out loud any more.” We took a break and stopped reading the text, and she apologized, gave me the space to sit in a corner for the rest of class and make a verbal committment to be more mindful about the texts she brought into class. All good actions, but ones that came after the triggering incident had already happened. Now she knows that had she framed the chapter as a historical document with dated language, but the only one available to connect the dots between these two specific concepts PRIOR to reading it out loud in class, it would have made all the difference.

Best uses for Tier Two Folks: Should you want to spend your time and emotional labor this way, these are the folks that you can really challenge to do better. You can cultivate a relationship and push them to have some Level One moments. It’s up to you how much effort you to dedicate to this endeavor. These folks will want/need more specific direction and resources offered to them than Level One folks who intrinsically know to seek it out for themselves.

 

Tier Three: The Explainer

When folks are working at Level Three, they have a rudimentary knowledge of trans identified folks. These are the people who will casually drop transphobic jokes into conversation for a cheap laugh. They will make excuses about pronouns like “I’m just too X (old, much of grammar nerd, etc…), it’s going to take a while for me, thanks for your patience” or “I’m just never going to get it.” (Which, if you’re reading this–neither of these sentiments are appropriate to share with a trans person. You may think you’re helping, but you’re actually putting the trans person in a position where you are assuming that they will accept your mistakes and missteps, which they DO NOT HAVE TO DO.) They may also use “biology is destiny” language, and are unlikely the remember or practice the proper steps to self-correcting when they misgender someone (1. acknowledge the mistake 2. apologize, 3. correct the mistake and 4. move on.) These folks need to de-center their own discomfort and work on making trans folks feel safe, seen and heard. Regardless of their intentions, their actions are consistently perceived by trans folks to be marginalizing and disrespectful.

Real-world example: My friend had posted on Facebook about the trans military ban. One person commented “Well, since transgenders are more likely to kill themselves anyway, why shouldn’t we let them do it for our country?” Many folks jumped on the thread to call out the behavior and several of us reported the comment to Facebook, who later responded that upon reviewing the comment, they didn’t feel they needed to take any further action.

Best uses for Tier Three folks: Honestly, I’d steer clear of them, unless it’s someone with whom you have a long term relationship personally or professionally. If they are someone you cannot avoid, enlist the help of a Tier One ally (or a promising Tier Two who needs a practical experience in one-on-one allyship) to educate them.

 

Tier Four: The Hateful Instigator

Folks who are working at Level Four are hateful, transphobic jerks, simply put. They are actively seeking to harm trans folks on verbal, emotional or physical levels (and sometimes all three at the same time.) These are folks who will use words like “tranny” as a slur, purposefully misgender folks, police restrooms or at the very worst, demand that trans folks “prove” what genitals they have with a threat of physical violence.

Real-world example: I have a friend who was filling their car with gas. A couple of guys told them that now that Trump had been elected, people like my friend needed to watch their backs because no one was going to protect them any more. My friend was so terrified, they threw the gas pump to the ground, spilling gasoline all over their pants, jumped in their car and drove away.

Best uses for Tier Four folks: AVOID THEM AT ALL COSTS. Unfortunately, sometimes they may come and find you, trying to engage you in conversation. If there are allies with you, let them step in on your behalf. Deescalate when possible, call the authorities or find a relatively safer space (a business or public space nearby.)

 

I hope you’ve found this piece helpful! If you have any suggestions for edits, please leave them in the comments below. If you’d prefer to email me privately, please use this contact form: http://katiewoodzick.squarespace.com/contact

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