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Bornstein’s Theory of Relativity

Bornstein’s Theory of Relativity

It was His Holiness, the XIV Dalai Lama, who put gender into a universal perspective for me. I attended a public teaching with him, last fall in New York. And now I’ve got me a whole new way to look at gender. The three-day teaching I attended bore the mesmerizing title, “Profound Wisdom and Vast...
Who’s Buried in Grant’s Tomb?  Everybody.

Who’s Buried in Grant’s Tomb?  Everybody.

The snow was falling as I climbed the long stairs. There, beneath the spectacular dome of America’s largest mausoleum, I found— nobody. No one except a single ranger from the U.S. Park Service, that is, whom I found quietly reading a novel.  He looked up at me with an expression similar to that of the Knight in Indiana...
One Thing or the Other

One Thing or the Other

They look at us as one thing or the other.  We are eight transsexuals seated at a long table in the middle of a busy Outback Steakhouse carving up our steaks, a dinner group that gathers every Friday, the cast and location varying week to week. Get a group of transsexuals together and we stand...
Recesses

Recesses

Some girls wrap a jump rope around my neck and drag me across the asphalt of the St. Bruno’s School parking lot. Jackie has been pinning me to the ground with the stones of her knees so she could kiss me… and now this. “They were trying to kiss me!” I tell the nun, as...
Mother’s Tongue

Mother’s Tongue

As the teenager stepped through the first set of automatic doors at Target, I was entering from the parking lot. For a few seconds we stood in the foyer area between the sets of double doors. “Aren’t you? Aren’t you?” he asked, his lips quivering with joyful anticipation. In the mid 1990s, the sight of...
Seven Women Hold a Man’s Brain in Their Hands

Seven Women Hold a Man’s Brain in Their Hands

In poetry class a student writes: “The heart is symmetrical.” “No it isn’t,” I say, too harshly.  I know what she means, a few days past Valentine’s, but I’m trying to demonstrate how to be more careful with one’s words, or perhaps how to be more careful with one’s heart.  I vow to set her...
Genderfuck

Genderfuck

In the fifth grade, all the teachers divide you boy from girl and take you into separate classrooms. With the girls, you learn about periods and cramps and tampons, and everyone giggles. Afterwards, you all rejoin the boys, who are holding complimentary sticks of deodorant and laughing among themselves. You wonder what they learned, and...
Heathen, Slave, Woman

Heathen, Slave, Woman

There was a time I hoped my prayers would travel from the Hebrew Academy’s makeshift synagogue in a Hartford basement to the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem. First, though, I wanted them to move just a few feet, out of the dingy cramped section where the girls sat and into the bright, sacred space I could glimpse...
Mea Culpa

Mea Culpa

I laughed at gay people. I did. I snickered at their crewcuts and sashay and flagrancy. I snickered at the way they bristled about their rights. I did. I accused them of inventing disco. I laughed at their thing for feathers and glitter and fragrance and form-fitting uniforms. I grinned at the epic extravagance of...
When You Knock on the Door at the Suburban Inn

When You Knock on the Door at the Suburban Inn

You don’t want any surprises. Say, “Housekeeping!” Say it again. Louder. A man with a watermelon belly opens the door, and another sitting on the bed says, “Hello, little lady.” He stares at the box TV. A toilet flushes, and a third comes out of the bathroom, pulling up his zipper. “Want some help?” the...
Milk for Free

Milk for Free

Item: “Did anybody touch you down there?” Down there, I understood, referred to the mystery below my waist, between my legs. A place where my mother  said no one should ever, ever touch me. My mother asks me this question, nightly, as she undresses me for my bath, until I learn to bathe myself. What...
Transgender Day of Remembrance: A Found Essay

Transgender Day of Remembrance: A Found Essay

Compiled and arranged from the “Remarks” section of Transphobia vs. Transrespect research project (2014) “Trans Murder Monitoring results: TMM TDOR 2014 Update.” Brunete was beaten to death with a stick. The victim was shot by two men on a motorcycle in front of a motel. The victim was shot in the head. The suspected murderer...
Sex Objects

Sex Objects

The skirt was a Home Economics class project.  The hem ended up uneven, the waistband was a joke, and the pattern of green and black checks stretched into fun house mirror waves over my hips.  It was too tight.  But I liked that.  I liked the press along my belly.  I liked how I had...
In the Company of Others

In the Company of Others

They drag us raped girls up here in front of the freshman class, we have been taught to regurgitate our stories and so we do that now, our penetration, I said no, but, he kept going, spilling out of our mouths and onto the stage. It is their fourth day of college orientation. One year...
The Heart as a Torn Muscle

The Heart as a Torn Muscle

Overview Your heart was already full, but then you saw him and your heart beat code, not Morse but a more insistent pulse: Oh yes. That’s him. That one. Not The One (The One you already have – and deeply love) but of all the people in that large room far from home, he was...
Fun for Everyone Involved

Fun for Everyone Involved

I lived with my father in a pink duplex. I slept in a brown velour recliner on a jalousie-windowed porch. My father, Fred, slept in a king-size bed that filled the bedroom, and I never went in that room, it was all mattress. The pink duplex was on a dirt road, MacCleod. Interstate Highway 4...
One Hundred Days in India

One Hundred Days in India

In India, a dog, a monkey, and a cow attacked me. My husband would say the cow nudged me, but he didn’t feel the horn in his hip. The monkey left marks. As we exited the airport, we watched the slums of Mumbai unroll for miles in all directions. Each home, constructed from cardboard, tarps,...
Home Bodily Repair Kit

Home Bodily Repair Kit

I Hair Painting The cuticle of the hair must be opened so that dye can reach the cortex. Open-heart surgery used to require breaking the whole chest apart. All spiritual traditions say you have to lose your life to find it. My body is losing itself, my hair is losing its pigment. More than 75...