I want trans people to take up space. I want to take up space. When I was ten years old my parents sat me down to tell me my professional basketball dreams were not practical due to my size, and that was before transition. I am 5’5 and scrawny no matter what I eat or do. When my partner installed a latch near the top of the front door so our preschooler could not let himself out to go call for neighbors at all hours of the day and night, I had to stand on tiptoes to operate it. I do not stand out in crowds. I am often told I look like somebody else. Did I see you shopping in my neighborhood the other day? You look just like one of my friends from college. As a teen, I put my basketball down and started writing. It would seem, as a writer, that the best way to take up space would be to write big: huge books; long series; 14,000-word essays loudly announcing at the top of the web page: a 57-minute read. Give me your hour, a big cut of your bookshelf. But these are not the essays I write. On Twitter a few years back a writer looked for comrades who also sliced long books in half to make them easier to carry on a commute. Responses were mixed but mostly hateful. I think of my own tightly packed insulated backpack, my lunch and breast pump and office supplies and Motrin bottle and granola bars competing for space. I think of the app showing me bus delays—two minutes delayed, seven minutes delayed—and it makes sense to me, not wanting to stand there, world melting, August sun blazing, holding an epic at the bus stop. And once you sit down, all that heft on your lap. But listen, put down the scissors, the tape. Instead, might I suggest: brevity. It occurred to me as my own reading and teaching and editing and, especially, writing lives kept circling back to flash nonfiction that writing small is its own form of taking up space. How is it that the shortest essays embed themselves so strongly in our minds and classrooms? They look unassuming. A single page. A one-minute read. But they’re packed tight. There’s so much to say about the state of trans life in 2024, but also so little: they’re trying to kill us, they want to erase us, and yet we are so vast, so beautiful, and can’t be erased. Chop that in half and tape it back together. When I think of and read and teach essays like Madison Hoffman’s “Genderfuck” and Torrey Peters’ “Transgender Day of Remembrance: A Found Essay” and Eunice Tiptree’s “One Thing or the Other,” from Brevity’s previous special issue, Experiences of Gender, I see a clarity and distillation of pain and rage and joy and hope. I see how a skilled writer can dilate a moment or idea, can open our experiences up for someone else to move through, to sit with. Above all what makes a flash essay demanding of our time and space is its call for re-reading. It takes up space by needing to be looked at again and again, turned over, held close. The compression in the form means that one read is never enough to get everything. I like to write flash essays that weave ideas, that stack timelines one on top of the other. Reading the submissions for Brevity’s current Trans* Experience issue was like this. I read many of the submissions repeatedly, unpacking their deceptive heft. In his craft essay “Inside the Box: On Queering the Fragment,” Emilio Williams writes, “Condensing makes you hypervigilant. The less space you have, the less room you give to the obvious.” Queer and trans flash bares the unobvious, the fresh, for diverse audiences of both trans and cis readership. Trans writers are living and writing in an era of hypervigilance, of having to fiercely protect ourselves from the world and the state. But in flash nonfiction, we can be sly. We can take 750 words and run with it. We can take up so much space in so few words. We can be free.

Krys Malcolm Belc is the author of The Natural Mother of the Child: A Memoir of Nonbinary Parenthood (Counterpoint) and the flash nonfiction chapbook In Transit (The Cupboard Pamphlet)He is the memoir editor of Split Lip Magazine. Krys is the 2023-2025 Edelstein-Keller Writer in Residence at the University of Minnesota. He lives in St. Paul with his partner and their four young children.