Once upon a time, there was a little girl who was raised as a boy. She was told she was a boy, told to act like a boy, and was teased and bullied when she acted like a girl. As the girl grew up she came to realize she was a girl, not a boy, but didn’t know how to live as a girl. This made her very sad.
One day the girl, now a young woman, discovered there was a path to living as a woman and started down it even though she was very afraid to follow it. She walked and walked until her feet were tired. She had to stop and rest many times but she stayed on the path.
Sometimes she would pass people and they would tell her things. They would say things like, ‘You’re on the wrong path. That path is for women, not men,’ or, ‘You’re not a woman, get off of that path!’ This also made her very sad and she wondered if she was on the wrong path. But she kept going.
After many years on the path she began to pass people who would just wave and smile at her or talk about the weather. She realized fewer and fewer people were telling her she was on the wrong path. This made her feel like she was on the right path and going in the right direction. This made her feel happy.
She met more people as she walked and most everyone was friendly. Most of the time this made her happy. But sometimes it made her wonder if they were just being polite and not telling her she was on the wrong path. She was thinking about this as she came to a corner.
On the corner were street signs and a building with mirrors for windows. The signs said Impostor Syndrome and Internalized Transphobia.
‘Uh oh,’ she thought. ‘Am I on the right path? I should stop and ask for directions to be sure.’
As she approached the building she saw her reflection. From a distance, she was happy with how she looked. She thought she looked like any other woman out for a walk. As she drew closer to the door she examined herself in more detail.
She didn’t like how broad her shoulders were, or how she walked, or her forehead. She hated her forehead. And her voice, now that she thought about it. By the time she reached the door she felt like an imposter and almost turned around when she saw a sign that said ‘Women’s Entrance’.
She was afraid someone would see her and kick her out by saying, ‘This place is for women only! Why are you in here? Get out!’ Trembling with the fear of being discovered, she took a deep breath and entered.
At first glance, the lobby looked full of people. But to her surprise, she realized the lobby was a maze of mirrors and half-mirrors, and the people she saw were either her reflection or her reflection blended with the reflections of different women from other places in the building.
Some of the women were so beautiful it made her heart ache. They also made her feel envious and like she didn’t belong. Some of the women looked more like men than women and they made her feel self-conscious.
‘I look like that, too,’ she thought. ‘I don’t belong here.’
She tried asking the half reflections she saw in the mirror the way out. While she could see her superimposed lips move over their mouths to ask the question, there was never any answer. They just stared at her like she had never spoken. She gave up trying to talk to them and started to look for an exit, but the mirrors made one hard to find. She walked and walked.
Eventually she tired and sat down to rest. She didn’t mean to, but she fell asleep. When she awoke it was dusk and she was surprised to find she was outside on the corner and leaning against the street signpost. Where the building had been was a small grove of trees. Their leaves murmured in a gentle, evening breeze and lightning bugs traced streaks underneath the branches.
‘What a queer dream!’ she thought as she stood up. ‘I must have dreamt there was a building.’
She began walking on the path again. It was starting to get darker and she realized she was hungry. She saw some lights up ahead and was pleased to see it was a restaurant, so she decided to go in and get some food.
As she entered she caught her reflection in the glass door and was startled to see that the surface of her face was mirrored. Before she could step back to take another look the greeter asked, ‘How many, ma’am?’
Not knowing what to say because she was confused why the greeter didn’t say something about her mirrored face she replied, ‘It’s just me.’
‘Right this way, please,’ the greeter said with a smile as she grabbed a menu and then led her to the table.
‘Thank you. Where’s the bathroom?’
The greeter pointed to a nearby alcove, ‘Right that way.’
Before sitting at her table, she went to the bathroom so she could look in the mirror. Once in front of the mirror, she was shocked to see the face of a beautiful woman. It looked like one of the faces from inside the mirrored building in her dream.
‘That’s not me,’ she thought, and as the thought completed her faced changed to one that looked more like a man. Horrified, she thought, ‘That’s not me either!’ and her face changed to an even more masculine-looking one.
Just then another women entered and she turned her head to look at her. She was afraid she was going to be told to get out of the women’s room. To her surprise, the other woman just nodded at her before entering a stall. She looked back at the mirror and saw her own face had returned. This made her happy.
‘Maybe the face I see is different than the face other people see?’
She decided to test this and set about refreshing her makeup while imagining she looked more like a man. As she expected, her face changed. The other woman came out of the stall and made small talk with her about the food at the restaurant while she washed her hands like nothing was amiss. The woman dried her hands, wished her a good evening, and left.
‘How about that?’ she thought as her face shifted back to her own.
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2016: Poems from a Year of Change
Uncertain: Poems About Gender Transition