I want to grow up and be good. I wake up, go to the gym, and eat breakfast, just like I’m supposed to. But I question things more than I should. I count the dresses mother has bought me, their number adding up to the number of things I can’t wait to throw away. I ache; I expect someone to tend to my ache. Once, I ran too quickly out of my middle school’s auditorium and gashed open my thigh. It stitched itself back together, like the other scars scribbled down my legs.

I was raised to be a good girl, but I can’t cook anything more than pancakes, bacon, and eggs. Even then, an ex-girlfriend couldn’t get through it. I saw her plate downturned in the trash and felt somehow worse than I’d already been. Me: ex-lesbian. Me: current chaotic pansexual. I don’t like men like THAT, but I do like them like that. If you’re like me, that makes sense. I picture the Second Coming as a girl without a face walking on earth and saying “I’m tired.” She keeps secrets about everything that raised her.

I wanted to grow up and be what my parents wanted: after two boys, finally, a girl. After the filth-filled chaos that comes with any age of boy, they needed a sea of cleanliness to wash it all away. A daughter. A vessel meant to open only for god and husband. Instead, I played in the dirt during recess; all of my barbies had short hair and humped each other. They spilled secrets about their homo-sexcapades to Kens. Instead, I kissed girls in the parking lot of the church that was supposed to cure me. I was a bad girl when forced to change and involuntarily changing back to myself. Instead I came back home, years after disowning my parents, with a beard, deep voice, and flat chest. Bad is my genetic condition.

My parents avoid the truth inside showing outside. My parents look in my eyes and see the prayers that went unanswered by whatever they call god. We’ve been looking at each other the wrong way for years. I had to grow into the idea of abandonment.

I guess I am a girl; I mean, I guess I am resentful of how much I can’t force people to change. The past still haunts my body. I dip my fingers in chocolate and lick them clean enough to stick inside myself. I love this gender, now. I love it after I know it’s always been good. Sometimes bad girls aren’t girls at all. We are those who went back into the burning building to save ourselves.
KB Brookins is a writer, cultural worker, and artist from Texas. They are the author of How To Identify Yourself with a Wound (Kallisto Gaia Press 2022), Freedom House (Deep Vellum 2023), and Pretty (Alfred A. Knopf 2024). KB is a 2023 National Endowment of the Arts fellow. Follow them online at @earthtokb.