2:33 Unsolicited Advice for Trans Femmes Named After Their Grandfathers
(after Kevin Kantor, after Tonya Ingram after Jeanann Verlee) The first time your mother asks if you’re changing your name, Say of course not. You were named after your dying grandfather, a birth and a funeral in the same month. Your name is a bouquet of fresh lilies on your grandfather’s grave. How cruel would it be for her child to give her father a 2nd death?
When the boys at school call you faggot, they will throw you to the ground, they will shove grass in your mouth. It will taste like a cemetery plot, or your grandmother’s flower garden. Your siblings will watch and do nothing. You will reach out for their hands to help you up, and they will walk away, silent. They will dig you a hole in the backyard to bury your femme as deep as you can until it suffocates.
When your family is watching a football game on the TV, try on your sister’s skirt, the one with carnations, or, maybe, the green dress that skims the top of your knees. Don’t leave the closet until no one is around. Don’t leave the closet wearing her clothes. Don’t leave the closet until you also leave home.
Ten years later, when you tell your family you’re transgender, they will say they saw all the signs, the way you always wore the bridal gown while playing dress-up, the way you shook pom-poms to memorize all fifty states, the way you let your younger sister always paint your nails.
And now, when your sister puts eyeliner on you for the first time, you cry. You apologize for ruining the outline she has made for you. She says it’s fine and tells you to look up at the clouds. She calls you Brother with so much love it hurts. She tries to outline you again and still hurts you. Your sister fails over and over and over, but she does not stop trying. The second time your mother asks about your name, tell her the truth.
Tell her you scroll down lists of baby names and cry, you are no less her child because you change your name, you are no less trans because you keep your name, your name is not a dead name if you can still give it new life, you are not spitting on your grandfather’s grave, you are not the casket your grandfather was buried in. You are all the carnations wrapping around your thighs. You will wear a dress and be called goddess. You will forget the taste of dirt. You will unbury your femme. You will be an example to those around you. You are not death, you are a bringer of so much life.
E.J. Schoenborn is a white queer and nonbinary trans performance poet currently in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Their poetry has been published in or by Fearsome Critters, Runestone Literary Journal, Rising Phoenix Review, FreezeRay Poetry, Voicemail Poems, Button Poetry, and more. To find more of their work and see if they'll be visiting your neck of the woods soon, you can follow them on Instagram (@ejschoenborn) or Facebook (E.J. Schoenborn Poetry). Send them a message any time you want to learn more about opossums, poetry, or coffee.