You Look Like a Girl
She looked down at my ID, and said,
“You sound, look, and act like a girl
and this ID shows a man, therefore I’m
not giving you a laptop.”
It looks just like me. I identify with
my ID. I wasn’t there dressed up.
I didn’t have on a dress. I wasn’t
Dressed in character.
Yes I sometimes wear feminine clothes,
But on this day I wore shorts and a
hoodie and had my hair pulled back
I’m a gay man but this is prejudice
based on how others see me so that
shows you how discrimination
laws are crucial for all different groups.
Finally I got to use a laptop
for my studies, but only after
I asked three. Different. librarians.
Freedom of speech, ladies
(and gentlemen) I’d like to
check out the U.S. Constitution
for a couple of weeks so run my
copy under your electronic checkout
gizmo Check out one for yourselves
oh guardians of language and reality
it’s a good read full of suspense
The three of us page through Xeroxes of Brinne’s story. Max, who introduced Brinne and me, sits on the spare twin bed in my room at my senior residence. Brinne’s very femmy, femmier than I, in her black corduroy jeans, white shirt with cuffs, and black leather jacket. Knee boots, three bangles, a purple ring and dangly copper earrings. Flawless eye makeup and a nice shade of red lipstick for a black-haired girl. Sits with legs crossed and leans back in my only chair, clicking and unclicking a pen. I suppose I look like the wise bi that I am, all in black with my silvery long hair and rebellious poetry.
Max had sent me a story of hers in which a transgender woman answers a match.com email from a straight man who has no clue that she’s a man, technically speaking. They meet up. Match.com man likes her immediately and invites her to come up to his place for dinner. They’re about to go up – the sparks are flying – when she decides to come out to him as transgender, and does so. For once he’s relied on his instincts, and they have tricked him. In the shocked silence that follows this admission, he angrily lets go of his attraction, then clings to it. Rarely has he felt such passion for anyone, and, his bitterness getting hold of him, he shudders and holds his head in his hands.
That’s her story, and, feeling very foolish to inquire, I ask whether the reader needs to know about the transgender woman’s decision to reveal herself. Everyone’s experienced romantic rejection, but the pain of this one is even greater. I notice I’m attracted to Brinne through my bi “lesbian” side. A brunette – the same dark beauty as my first girlfriend in the sixth grade. Brinne says she doesn’t think the story needs any changes.
I feel clueless – the same as when I was straight, learning about lesbians. As lesbian, learning about bis. As bi, learning about transgender people. About Brinne, by the way, who sees no need to make physical changes. As she slides the story into her neat leather satchel, I thank her for allowing me to read it. Brinne doesn’t say more than a few polite words of leave-taking. Here is a woman who thinks that you can stand on a ledge and jump off, believing the risk is worth it.
I dreamed last night that I’d grown a penis I felt rather clever but the men – I was now hanging out with men – thought this was almost impossible I asked why they said because you were a beautiful girl but now they were straight and I seemed so different they got to laughing nervously with one another and said so where’s your beard and of course my voice went lower and lower I asked Does size count and they said The chicks seem to think so I said can we say women chicks is so pre-feminist they said whatever can you hand wrestle us so we found a table the proper height and I smashed down the arm of three or four of them then they said Forgive us because you’re really a lady and ladies don’t wrestle and when they went into the men’s room to take a pee I went in behind them and in front of this bowl right by me I went to take my penis out like I’d seen my brothers do when they were just kids and instead I had a vagina I was so relieved so… and then the guys started hitting on me
Jane Barnes has finished a poetry manuscript covering 25 years in 250 poems called “The Inbetween: Poems 1982-2007.” A short story of Jane’s (too big to hug) is carved on a granite pillar at Copley Plaza in Back Bay, Boston.