after the daylong trans institute after 300 people crammed in a room that seats 90 after the listening panel feedback session where folks hurl love & rage & are talked over & disrespected after the trans & disabled caucus asks the lesbian caucus to keep it down so we can hear each other & they tell us to move after $10 bottles of water after the weeklong chorus of we need space we need air we need money we need healthcare that doesn’t kill us we need the boot off our necks after chanting I am I am somebody somebody I deserve I deserve full liberation full liberation right here right now

I leave the hostel 9:30 pm and start driving san francisco home to los angeles I leave the city where I was supposed to belong big rainbow flags over streets where the girlfriend who was supposed to save me from queer isolation raped me where I stood bleeding into drains after complications from surgery where now I get to come back for $600 conferences where they tell us to take a deep cleansing breath after 300 anti-trans bills have been introduced in 2 months where I’m here on the curb shoving bags into the car running red lights streets walled in

the I-5 a ribbon in the night empty truck stops weaving in and out liminal spaces churning cherry freeze thrumming lights grid of floor tiles locked bathrooms 24hr coffee I live in the neither/nor in a town called lost hills I pick up a stray cat in the motel 6 parking lot and it scratches me stigmata deep in my palm get inside the room ice cold hands bleeding brush my teeth hair is thinning highway is roaring and now nearly 40 autistic trans out here I have no parents I have no children I have no people I belong nowhere I am a cold red comet loose in the universe


Katherine Scott Nelson (Scott, they/them) writes fiction and creative nonfiction. Scott’s novella, Have You Seen Me, was published by the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography and was a finalist for the Lambda Literary Awards. They have an MFA in creative writing from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and their short stories and essays have been featured in Catapult, Ninth Letter, Confrontation, Whiskey Island, and elsewhere. They are working on a novel about being gay and doing crime.

Artwork by Kah Yangni