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Poem: "Everyday Lies and Heroic Revelations" - The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
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Poem: "Everyday Lies and Heroic Revelations"

This poem came out of the March 18, 2014 Poetry Fishbowl.  It was inspired by a prompt from ellenmillion.  It also fills the "taking a chance" square in my 3-6-14 card for the Origfic Bingo fest. This poem has been sponsored by janetmiles.  It belongs to the series Polychrome Heroics.




Everyday Lies and Heroic Revelations


It was never about secrecy,
or rather, the secrecy was already there,
and the costume was about telling the truth
for the first time ever.

Calvin was (said to be) a man,
but Calliope was (in truth) a woman.

Calvin was (determined to be)
content to live a lie,
but the tornado changed everything.

Like Dorothy, he got sucked up
into a whirlwind, but instead of
landing in Oz he was dumped
back into his own life instead,

only everything was changed forever.

The wind had gotten under his skin
like a million splinters of who-knows-what
and now it was in him, always murmuring
just under the surface.

He could fly, summon and control the wind,
phase through anything that wasn't airtight,
make a devastating sonic blast like a steamwhistle,
turn loose objects into deadly projectiles,
send or hear whispers on the wind.

He could even touch people's emotions,
feeling them like a subtle breeze
or blowing them around like bits of chaff.

But the strangest thing of all
was that the tornado
picked him up as a man
and put him down as a woman --
just like that, Calvin had become Calliope.

He'd heard of shapeshifting,
of course, but so far
all that he managed to figure out
was how to switch between
his male and female forms.

A lot of soups hid themselves
behind a mask and a codename
to protect their secret identity,
and he couldn't blame them,
because society could be cruel
to people who were different.

For him, though,
Calvin was the mask,
a role that he played to perfection;
and Calliope was the secret identity,
the truth to be protected.

He wasn't afraid of
being harassed for his superpowers,
but of being harassed for his gender.

Now that he had the opportunity,
he couldn't resist taking a chance,
no matter how high the risk;
his abilities gave him a better way
to stand up to the bigots.

He had lived a lie for so long
that the mask had grown onto his face,
until the tornado tore it free.

He didn't know how to be a woman,
how to shift from "he" to "she"
the way his skin danced and slithered
from one shape to the other

but he was determined to learn.

* * *

Notes:

Calliope (Calvin Sanna) -- Calliope comes from Oklahoma; the father's family is Greek-American, while the mother's family is American.  Calliope has fair light olive skin with gray eyes and short hair in shades of lighter and darker blond.
Origin: Sucked into a tornado.
Uniform: Feminine-styled costume of dexflan and capery in dusty shades of pink, blue, lavender, and cream.
Powers: Expert Air Powers (meta-power including Flight, Phasing, Sonic Blast, Tornado Straws, Whirlwind, Windtalking), Average Empathy, Average Shapeshifting
Vulnerability: Air Powers are opposed by Earth Powers.  Some Air abilities do not work on an Earth-powered opponent, and vice versa, typically those meant to affect a person directly.  Others gain an upshift on damage, typically attacks.
Limitation: So far the Shapeshifting only works to switch between Calvin and Calliope.  As the power improves, additional shapes may be gained.

* * *
Calliope refers both to the muse and the musical instrument.

A tornado is a powerful windstorm notorious for turning debris into dangerous projectiles.  They are particularly common in a broad swath through the middle of America known as Tornado Alley.

The Wizard of Oz is a famous movie based on a novel, in which a tornado carries Dorothy from Kansas to Oz.

Transgender people experience dissonance between their gender identity and the shape of their body.  Understand how to respect a transgender person.

Secret identity is a common trope for superheroes.  They practice it with varying degrees of success.  In this case, however, the dynamic is reversed, with the earlier public persona being the false one, and the later superhero persona revealing the truth.

The issue of secrecy is fraught and deadly for transfolk.  Some cisgender people believe that transfolk are living a lie by presenting as their gender of identity rather than the one assigned based on their physical appearance. (It is almost always appearance, as people rarely bother to test an infant's sex chromosomes which reveals many types of sex variance that often coincide with gender variance.)  Conversely most transfolk feel that they are living a lie by presenting as their assigned gender rather than expressing their own gender identity.  The truth isn't always simple.

Cisgender girls are typically taught feminine skills as they grow up.  Not everyone is that lucky.  Transgender people have to learn those things later.  There are many different aspects of passing as a woman, which include communication and motion.  At this stage, Calvin/Calliope is very uncertain about how to feel, what to do, or even what pronouns to use.  But there is no going back.


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Comments
siege From: siege Date: March 22nd, 2014 04:23 am (UTC) (Link)

Reflections

I like this a lot, though I feel that as Calliope's feelings about gender are uncertain, the poem could be stronger if it reflected that somehow, such as swapping the pronoun in a few places. As I understand it, many trans folk find that once they understand that they aren't what they were born as and begin making peace (and/or attempting to transition), all the wrong things begin to feel right again.

I know my gender is... interesting, but I haven't found that place for myself yet because so many other things are making me uncomfortable with myself and my place in this world. But I know what is mine, and what is not, and I've been clinging to it internally for a while now.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: March 22nd, 2014 04:35 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Reflections

>> I like this a lot, <<

Yay!

>> though I feel that as Calliope's feelings about gender are uncertain, the poem could be stronger if it reflected that somehow, such as swapping the pronoun in a few places. <<

Calliope isn't there quite yet. One thing that differs from typical trans experience (if such a thing exists) is that this transition was sudden and unexpected. In our world, people usually engage an emotional shift before they turn that outward in presentation. That way, the pronouns have time to catch up with the evolving self-image. In this case, the physical manifestation leaps ahead, destabilizing the psychological adaptation. Calvin has spent years training himself to act and think like a man (which is not rare for transfolk to do) and it's hard to shake off quickly, even recognizing Calliope as the reality.

>> As I understand it, many trans folk find that once they understand that they aren't what they were born as and begin making peace (and/or attempting to transition), all the wrong things begin to feel right again. <<

If I get more ideas or requests for this character, it's something I'd like to explore. In time, the pronouns are likely to adapt into Calvin/masculine and Calliope/feminine, the way transvestites often distinguish between their en homme and en femme modalities. Being Calvin is safe and familiar, even if it also feels wrong. Being Calliope feels right, but unfamiliar and therefore kind of scary. It will take a while to adjust.

>> I know my gender is... interesting, but I haven't found that place for myself yet because so many other things are making me uncomfortable with myself and my place in this world. But I know what is mine, and what is not, and I've been clinging to it internally for a while now. <<

I'm glad that you're making discoveries. Try to be patient with yourself working through things. It's hard to focus on something as subtle as gender while juggling more obtrusive challenges elsewhere. I hope it works out for you.
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