Secret Lady

This is a spoken word piece about my experiences growing up transmasculine. There are mentions of suicidality, sexual harassment, and rape culture.

When I grow up, I want to be a woman. I know I’ll be one someday. The older ladies told me that being a tomboy is just a phase, so don’t worry about not feeling like a “real girl,” because the girly stuff will come naturally someday. I am waiting for her to arise, the natural woman in me. The one who will throw away my comic books, sweep away my desire to be a boy with a delicately manicured hand, demolish my personality with a perfectly made-up smile. I am waiting to stop existing, to burst into flames and allow a beautiful, secret lady to rise from my ashes, like Jean Grey.

When I grow up, I want to be a woman. I want to be the impossible white female beauty ideal, the skinny blonde with no body hair who somehow enjoys it when boys drool over her like a piece of meat. I want sunkissed skin with a bronze glow, not my pasty white skin that the sun sets on fire when I dare to linger in its rays. I want to turn away from Gerard Way’s siren song and stop looking at him as though he’s my reflection, with his pale skin and long dark hair that matches mine, and his androgynous face that’s so close and yet so far from what I see in the mirror. I want to stop looking at Billy and Teddy holding hands in my Young Avengers comic as though I might fall into the pages and become one of them if I just stare hard enough. I want the secret lady in me to smile, and take my hand, and lead me into a peaceful slumber away from these thoughts.

When I grow up, I want to be a woman. I know she has to be in me somewhere. That’s what that twenty-something guy saw in me when he said “hey baby” to an eleven-year-old with D-cups, right? That’s what guys saw in me when they stared at my D-cups (that eventually ballooned to DD-cups and then DDD-cups) instead of looking at my face, right? That’s what teachers saw in me when they told me to cover up my body so I wouldn’t tempt boys into not paying attention in class, right? Where is this secret lady? Where is this beautiful, confident, dangerous slut? She’s free to come out whenever she likes!

When I grow up, I want to be a woman. I am learning about feminism now, and women are badass! I want to be like Joan Jett and inspire countless girls to pick up an instrument and express themselves! I want to be like Helen Keller and educate the world about just what the human mind is capable of! I want to cuss out every single guy who dares treat me badly, with confidence and style! Boys, you better watch out. You’ll never know what hit you when this badass chick takes over my body and shows you a thing or two about treating people with the respect they deserve.

When I grow up, I want to be a woman. Men have so much to learn from women. The thought of being a man hasn’t even crossed my mind, because at best, men are my father calling me his “beautiful daughter” and giving me an uneasy feeling of mismatching, like a left shoe on a right foot, that neither of us can explain. At worst, men are the grown-up, violent versions of the boys who followed me around my middle school gym, inquiring if I wore thongs or masturbated, and who refused to leave me alone until I hit one of them. If the choice is between being an insensitive potential predator or a badass, battle-scarred, beautiful, banner-waving superheroine of the feminist movement, of course I’ll pick the latter! Where are you, my secret internal lady? Snatch control of my body and help me hold this banner high, because my arms are failing me, and the banner keeps slipping from my fingers as though it never belonged to me in the first place.

When I grow up, I want to be a woman! I thought I’d be one someday. But I’m a legal adult now, and I haven’t found a trace of womanhood or femaleness in me. I cracked my heart open, and all I found inside was a scared little boy covered in the ashes of his dreams, trying on a skirt and then burning it because no one realized he was crossdressing. All I found was a thin stack of comic books about a bumbling male feminist superhero, whose secret identity was a large-chested teenage girl wrapped in thick, bitchy armor so no guy would ever try to smack her ass again. All I found was me. And I was so disappointed. They lied to me about you, secret lady. They lied to me, and they lied to themselves without even realizing it. And one day, someone might ask me, “So what made you want to be a man?” 

And all I will have to say is, “Nothing. I didn’t want to be a man.”

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