Alysia Harris & Aysha El Shamayleh at the 2008 Brave New Voices National Youth Poetry Grand Slam

Moving performed poem about identity and gender…..

‘Melissa sits in the back of the classroom afraid to speak up,
She pulls awkwardly at her extra loose khaki cargo pants,
She doesn’t want the boys to notice her.

James finds himself at the back of a classroom,
His baseball cap casts a shadow on his pimple stained forehead,
A wide shirt hangs from his broad shoulders,
But no one ever noticed him.

The teacher asks,
And she says nothing because she is not here,
And Melissa has never been here,
Because Melissa is just some abstract jumble of syllables that doesn’t fit her position,
She is not what she seems,
She doesn’t want to have to explain to her mother for the 232nd time why she doesn’t want to wear a dress to prom,
Doesn’t paint her face it’s cause her whole body is painted on.

Melissa, Melissa

James doesn’t want to have to explain where he came from,
Cause with the exception of Melissa he has been deemed an abstract reality by everyone,
All he wishes for is to get to wear a tuxedo to prom.

And Melissa has been tucking in breasts that will be growing for three years now,
Been using duct tape to press them down and mould them more into pecs,
She just wishes that people would understand that at birth her genitals didn’t know which way to grow,
Mad at God who couldn’t relay a message directly to her hormones that they should produce more testosterone,
The only person who understands her is James,
And they have been playmates since the age of four,
Around the time girls notice boys and boys notice girls,
See James’ family wanted daughters instead of sons,
And Melissa was always like that male beetle that everyone called a ladybug,

Melissa, Melissa where is she?
Sometimes she wishes she could rip the skin off her back,
Every moment of everyday feels trapped in the flesh of a stranger,
As she stands to her feet wanting to say
“I’m here, I’ve been here since I was born, so quit asking me if I’m a him or a her, Cause when you combine the two pronouns you get H.I.R,
And God combined the two genders and put me in this body transgendered,
I’m here so quit talking about me like I’m not here.”

James falls back into Melissa’s skin,
And the two comfort each other in a syncopated heartbeats,
Waiting for the day when Melissa can finally scrub off this made up genetic make up,
When the teacher asks for James and he can say “I’m here.”

Palace Gate Counselling Service, Exeter

This entry was posted in Gender & culture, human condition, identity, internal locus of evaluation, physical being and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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