Don’t Ask Me What a Transwoman Is

Ask me how my day was.
Ask me what dreams I’ve had.
Ask me how I slept last night.
If you find my cheeks streaked with mascara, ask me
what happened, what is wrong, what broke through my eyeballs.
Ask me what it was like to enter the women’s restroom for the first time.
Ask me what I fear?
Ask me what I would have if I could have anything.
Ask me who I have lost and how I’ve survived.
Ask me what life means to me.
Ask me what death means.
Ask me if I want cremation or burial? Or something else?
Ask me how or if I have loved?
Ask me who has loved me? Ask me how love feels?

My experience is different from yours.
But we are not our experiences.
My body is different from yours.
But we are not our bodies.

Can we agree to stop staring at each other
as if we were aliens from different planets?
Can we stop defining each other as if there were a drawer
where you belong and a closet
with a hanger waiting for me?

Don’t ask me what it means,
what it’s like,
how I know
I’m a transgender woman.
Don’t ask me how I dare to call myself a woman.
Just a woman.

Ask me what baseball team I care about.
None of them.
Ask me about the birds I’ve known.
Thousands. The kingfisher is my sister.
Ask me if the seasons matter.
Yes. Last winter nearly killed me.
Ask me why I chose Ellee as my new name rather than Rose or Rhianna.
It’s the name of a woman in a movie who went looking
for alien worlds, where she believed
her dead mother and father had gone.
Ask me if I think of death.
Yes. Every day.
Ask me what I believe. Ask me what matters.

Kindness and quiet and touch and getting out of bed
even when, sometimes, I feel the urge
to empty every prescription bottle on my writing desk,
then roll up into the blankets and sleep forever.

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