Mother, mother

You were about to throw away Sister's old clothes

That pretty silky dress that she long outgrew but would perfectly fit a child my age

When I asked if I could try them on for a change, you looked at me strange

Like I grew another head

"Why, darling," you said, "Don't you know you're a boy?"

And you laughed and laughed

But I didn't know what was so funny


Mother, mother

A girl in my class called me a pervert,

When she caught me staring at her chest

She slammed her fist into my cheek and said that I was just like all the other boys

After class, I told her that I wasn't staring at her chest because I was a pervert,

I was staring at it because I was wondering what it would be like to have those on my chest as well,

That ever since other girls' chests are starting to grow, I felt that mine should too,

But mine remains flat as a plain

I told her that I think her body is beautiful not because it was something I wanted to touch,

It was something I wanted to mimic

Then she slammed her fist into my stomach,

And called me a freak


Mother, mother

When I visited Sister in her new apartment,

With its shiny new furniture and shiny new floors,

I helped her unpack all her clothes and makeup into her room,

The fabrics tickled against my fingers,

And I couldn't help but wonder what it would be like against my skin,

Even though her clothes are old and worn,

The thought of wearing them still makes my breath still,

I talked about how she used to use me as her personal "mannequin,"

For the nail polishes and eye shadows she constantly bought as a girl

And she giggled at the memories that stirred,

The memories of perfume bottles and shoe boxes all cluttered in her room,

The memories of her scolding me for laughing as she brushed lip gloss on my lips,

And calling me beautiful when she finished,

But when we returned to the present,

I held up a nail polish bottle in a pretty sapphire blue,

And asked her to teach me how to apply it to my nails,

She looked at me funny and asked if I was going to a costume party,

I reminded her of the days we spent,

Giving each other makeovers,

She frowned and told me,

"But you were a little kid back then."

"What's wrong with now?" I asked.

"Now, you're a boy," she answered,

Like it was obvious

Like I was stupid for not realizing it earlier


Mother, mother

I'm so sorry for buying something behind your back,

It was something you would've never approved of if I told you,

Smoothing the fabric against my skin,

I ignored the sagging at the chest,

Like there was something meant to be there

But was left empty because of me

The dress I bought looked beautiful on the mannequin,

The fabric stretched just right across the statue's curves and swoops,

Just like the way it was made to be,

On me, it doesn't stretch or accentuate,

It sagged and pooled around my nonexistent chest and hips,

It was like watching a child,

Try and play dress-up with clothes that didn't belong to them,

Don't worry, mother,

I returned the dress like I should've,

I swear I never saw it again


Mother, mother

The girls around me grow and change,

Their hips widen and their chests grow, sometimes overnight,

Mine never do at all

The boys change as well,

Their voices deepen and they brag about the hair that grows,

On their chests and jaws and . . . other areas,

I've noticed that that has happened to me too,

But I don't want to brag,

I hear girls complain about their bodies and how much the change bothers them,

They show off their legs, sleek and smooth,

And talk about how long it took for them to shave them,

I pull up the ankle of my barely comfortable jeans,

And wish for there to be silky smooth skin to be there as well


Mother, mother

You asked me why I no longer hang out with boys my age,

Said that I could tell you anything I wanted,

That I shouldn't be ashamed of anything I was going through,

I'm sorry that I didn't tell you how the boys in the locker room,

Cornered me and pointed at my shaved legs and painted toenails,

The same nails and legs I must've spent hours on,

And called me "gay,"

I know that I shouldn't be ashamed to tell you anything

You remind me every day, after all

But I remember how you laughed

When I asked to wear Sister's old dress

And the words I wanted to say

Died in my throat


Mother, mother

The clothes you buy me every day,

Simply don't seem to fit

It's not the size that bothers me,

My shirts don't suffocate me,

Nor do the ankles of my pants pool around my ankles,

The clothes are the perfect size,

But they don't seem to fit

Wearing them against my skin makes me itch,

And I swear there's nothing wrong with the fabric

When you force me to wear a tie,

It feels like you're tying a noose around my neck

And I see Sister wear her flowy dress,

And I imagine for a moment,

What is it like to have a skirt sweep around your legs,

And have shiny bangles adorn your wrist

And then your voice echoes in my head,

Even though I see that your lips aren't moving

You begin to talk to another man,

And yet I still hear you scold me in my head

Don't you know you're a boy?


Mother, mother

I knew I shouldn't have snuck out past curfew,

But I climbed out my bedroom window anyways

I wasn't going to a party,

Because I no longer get invited to those

I wasn't going to smoke in an alleyway with friends,

Because I don't want to call any of the people I talk to "friends,"

And they don't want to call me a "friend" either

I wasn't carrying any drugs or alcohol of any kind,

Because I wanted to be sober during this moment

I walked through a crowded street with my breath caught in my throat,

Even though I knew you and Sister couldn't see what I was doing

I still felt afraid of people's lingering stares,

Even though I knew them all to be strangers

Even if someone from school was walking through the streets,

They wouldn't even recognize me

They wouldn't laugh or point at all,

I was in no danger of being ridiculed,

And yet my heart still beat a thousand times a minute

Then I hear an old man's voice,

He turned around as he walked by,

Tipped his hat in a very gentlemanly manner,

"You look beautiful today, miss," was what he said

And the biggest smile breaks out across my face


Mother, mother

I thought I could try and hide it from you,

But I guess a mother knows her child better than that

You dragged me into a corner,

And ripped off the baseball cap I've been wearing,

For the last three weeks

My hair tumbles out from beneath that wretched hat,

And falls to my shoulders

You asked me if I was going through a phase,

Or if someone at school thought this would be a good look for me

You even laughed and asked if I was trying to impress a girl

No Mother, I don't want to impress a girl,

None of the girls at school even want to look my way

They raise their eyebrows when I ask where they buy their clothes,

And called me a creep when I walked into that lingerie shop once

You groan when I don't give you an answer to your questions,

And tell me that I'm going to the barber shop after school

"If your hair keeps growing out like that," you say, "You're going to end up looking like a girl."


Mother, mother

You don't know how much I cried,

After I climbed out of that barber's chair you forced me into

I thought mothers were supposed to know,

When their children cried on the inside

You told me that the hair you chose for me,

Was how boys my age were supposed to wear their hair

Clipped short and barely reaching the tips of my ears

You then laughed and asked how could I stand,

Having my hair curl around my collarbones like before

The barber joined in on laughing

I knew you were joking, Mother

I recognize that lighthearted chortle you have,

Whenever you make a joke

But this joke doesn't feel funny,

Your laugh no longer feels lighthearted

It feels like daggers,

Slicing across my back as I silently cry


Mother, mother

I remember that you wanted me to have a girlfriend,

That Sister was my age when she started bringing boys home

I knew that you were silently disappointed,

When I told you that I didn't plan to do that any time soon

You don't hear my silent tears but I can see through your fake smile,

I knew that you hoped I would bring you grandchildren

But I don't think I can, Mother

I met someone nice through a dating app though,

I overheard girls raving about the app in the halls and decided to try it myself

The name I put on the profile doesn't match mine, though

And neither does the photo

But everyone on the Internet has a persona they hide behind,

And mine took the form of a pretty long-haired girl

It didn't take long before the boy I met started to connect,

In ways I never thought was possible

He understood me in ways you and Sister never did,

And I spilled out everything I could never tell you, Mother

Because talking to him felt easier than talking to you

I even forgot that the name he called me wasn't the name you gave me

It didn't take long before he yearned to see me in person

It took hours to make myself look like the girl on my profile,

The wig I had to wear itched on my head,

But it was all worth to see his eyes light up the ways they did

We must've talked for hours on end, about absolutely nothing,

And yet bubbles still erupted in my stomach

I thought the whole date felt complete once we finished eating,

But apparently he didn't feel the same way

He took me to his house and was eager to push me across the threshold,

He looked at me like I was crazy when I asked if he was giving me a tour

"Let's go and relax in my room," he said,

And that was when I started to panic

I should've said no, I should've up and confessed the truth

But when his hands started crawling up my waist and neck,

It was suddenly hard to say no

His kisses felt warm against my neck and jaw

It became hard to keep my voice from dropping back to its usual octave

I didn't know what came over me, Mother, I just suddenly blanked out,

And it didn't take long before the wig slipped off my head


Mother, mother

I wanted to return home to you, even if it meant you seeing me in these clothes,

Because it was better than being in that boy's room,

And getting yelled at harder than anything else

"You're a fag, aren't you?" he shrieked, the wig that was once on my head,

Now clutched in between his fingers

I tried to answer him, but every word on my tongue immediately died when my mouth opened

"Well, aren't you?" he yelled again. "Why else would you wear these clothes?"

Because they feel right, I wanted to say

But I couldn't say those words,

Even after everything that happened,

I still wanted him to like me

"Why would you use a fake name on your profile and then lie?" he hissed.

Because I like the name I gave myself, I wanted to say

And yet, nothing slipped past my lips

He was growing more and more furious, I could see it in his eyes

"Why did you pretend to be a girl?" he roared, grabbing me by the shoulders and shaking me hard

"Because I am one!"

It took me forever to realize that I said those aloud

The laugh that spilled from his throat was the cruelest laugh I've ever heard

"You really are a fag, huh?" he guffawed. "A really sick one too."

"I'm a girl," I whispered,

I didn't intend for him to hear that though

He roared louder, so loud I swore I must've gone deaf

"Do you seriously think you can call yourself a girl when you have this?"

He grabbed a fistful of my skirt and pulled it up,

A breeze hits my upper thighs, making me feel naked

His laugh keeps ringing in my ears, I feel like I want to throw up

But nothing came out of my mouth

Not even when he shoved me in the chest, knocking all the breath out of me

My back slams against his mattress and his arms leave me pinned down

The embrace feels so cruel

"If you want to be a girl so badly," he hissed against my ear, "I guess I'll let you play pretend a little longer."


Mother, mother

I remember that you once told me I should never hurt my own body,

That it's something precious that no one else can claim

But Mother, please tell me,

Why does it feel so good to slide the blade across my wrists?

Mother, your body is something beautiful

And Sister, I want to say the same about yours

And that is why neither of you can understand

Both of you have bodies you love,

Both of you can smile when you look into the mirror,

So neither of you can ever understand

I want to rip my body apart to shreds,

I want to watch this wretched thing bleed rivers of blood,

Because I hate this body, Mother

I hate the body I was born with,

The body that you gave me

The body you forced me to live with

It feels wrong, it never fit me

Every time I looked into the mirror,

I wanted to shatter it

And now,

My body is dirty

It

Feels

So

Damn

Dirty

And dirty things

Deserve to be torn apart


Mother, mother

I remember when I was little,

I swore to make sure I never let you cry

Because hearing you laugh,

Meant so much to me

But looks like I failed that promise

"It's not our fault," Sister whispers in your ear, "How were we supposed to know?"

But isn't it a mother's job to know?

Wasn't it your job to see me cry the tears,

That no one else could see?

Wasn't it your job to ask

Where the scars on my wrist came from?

Wasn't it your job to call me a girl,

When I told you I was a girl?

I might've failed to be the son you wanted,

But I think you failed to be the mother I needed

Because in the end,

The least you could do,

Was not let me get buried

Under the name of a boy

Born a boy . . . . forced to die a boy