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Poem: "Recycled Identities" - The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
Poem: "Recycled Identities"
This poem came out of the April 1, 2014 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by prompts from [personal profile] dialecticdreamer and LiveJournal user Westrider. It also fills the "Recycle / recycling" square on the Spring and Autumn Bingo public card over in [community profile] allbingo. This poem has been sponsored by Anthony & Shirley Barrette. It belongs to the series Walking the Beat.

"Recycled Identities"

Claire loves Jamaica Plain,
feels grateful that she decided
to move here to celebrate
her new womanhood.

She has a body
to match her spirit now,
but ...

There is always a but.

Claire has a lovely home,
but doesn't always feel welcome here.

Claire can tell people about transitioning,
but they aren't always polite about it
so sometimes she just keeps her mouth shut.

Claire has a wonderful girlfriend,
but people say that Josephine
isn't a real lesbian because
Claire is a transwoman
(and thus "really" a man,
but Claire isn't Clark anymore,
she has the paperwork
and the scars to prove it).

They have friends, of course,
close ones and casual ones,
people who don't know or don't care
about Claire's gender history.

They have hobbies,
and that helps too, from gardening
to volunteering around the community.

In spring, Claire and Josephine
go around picking up litter.
There isn't as much of it
as there used to be,
because Jamaica Plain has
single-stream recycling now.
They hand out flyers for that, too.

Sometimes they cross paths
with other people who like
to walk around the neighborhood,
such as the retired cop
and her girlfriend.

It's nice to see other lesbians
out in the open like this.
They smile and wave,
exchange names,
gossip a bit about
the local queer community.

Early in April, it comes to a head --
the other dykes are being downright bitchy
about wimminspase or whateverthehell
and Josephine slinks away to cry in private,
leaving Claire holding the bag.

"Something wrong?" a voice asks,
and there's Dale the policevet
with her own bag of picked-up litter
and her lovely wife on the other arm.

Claire is sick to death of hiding.
"I'm a transwoman," she says quietly.

"Okay," Dale says,
"and ...?"

And that's it.
No "oh my God,"
no "So you're not really,"
no look of shock.

Not but,

Claire thinks that
she could fall in love with and.

"And," she says, testing out
the flavor of it on her tongue,
"some of the local lesbians
are pretty hostile about it,
and they made my girlfriend cry,
and I don't know what to do."

"We so don't need
a spike in hate crimes,"
Dale mutters, and then
she signs something to Kelly
that Claire can't follow.

"They haven't done more than talk,"
Claire says, not wanting
to get anyone in trouble.

"Hate speech causes problems too,"
Dale says. "Surely there must be
nicer people you could be hanging out with,
and meanwhile I'll have a little chat
with the ones who are harassing you."

Dale evidently has no difficulty
picking them out of the crowd of people
who are out tidying up the neighborhood.
She strides away, her progress marred
by the faint hitch and limp that make
the silvery cane a necessity.

Claire can't overhear
what Dale says to Eleanor,
but the other woman's sudden cringe
is as clear as a shout.

Kelly nudges Claire,
showing the smartphone
with a list of local resources --
The Network La Red and SpeakOUT and Keshet --
all aimed at different aspects of
safety and awareness for transfolk.

Claire smiles and thanks her.
Dale is right; they need
to make some better friends.

Dale comes back with Josephine in tow,
who is no longer crying,
which makes Claire feel better.
A quick kiss and they're back together,
side by side against the world.

"What people were thinking,
I just don't know," Dale says,
shaking her head. "So what
if you had to recycle your body a bit
to make it fit you properly?
You're not the only one
who ever needed spare parts."

Claire thinks about
Dale and her limp
and her secondhand cane
and Kelly who is Deaf.

"I think," she says, "that some people
just find it easier to throw away
whatever isn't perfect,
and if you do too much of that,
then you end up with a very empty life."

* * *


Jamaica Plain is very pro-recycling.

"Wimmin" is an alternate, feminist respelling of "women."  Wimminspace, a place or event restricted to women only, is  notoriously hostile to women who were not lucky enough to be born with a vagina and XX chromosomes.

Jamaica Plain is pretty tolerant of alternative sex/gender dynamics, but alas, there are assholes everywhere so some extra attention to protecting queer and transfolk is needed. The Network La Red, SpeakOUT, and Keshet are three organizations that support transfolk among others.

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5 comments or Leave a comment
siliconshaman From: siliconshaman Date: April 7th, 2014 11:28 am (UTC) (Link)
Huh.. never thought of it as recycling or 'after-market modding' but that's a really good analogy.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: April 7th, 2014 04:56 pm (UTC) (Link)


I think the closest term would actually be "upcycling" -- taking an object meant for one purpose and retooling it for another, without remaking it altogether -- but that's a more refined term. Most people will say "recycling" as a generic term for a whole cluster of activities.
cmcmck From: cmcmck Date: April 7th, 2014 05:07 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Well...

This brings back some amusing memories (if anything about almost ten hours of surgery back then could be seen as amusing) and yes, there was some discussion as to what could be done with the (few) 'spare parts'. Shame they couldn't be donated to the guys, really. :o)

Edited at 2014-04-07 05:07 pm (UTC)
lb_lee From: lb_lee Date: April 8th, 2014 02:36 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Well...

I used to joke about this with a friend of mine. She joked that she would love to trade her shoulders for my boobs (now dearly departed).

cmcmck From: cmcmck Date: April 8th, 2014 07:38 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Well...

The girls, like Topsy, just growed. :o)

There's definitely something to be said for being able to do swops though. I regret the lack of reproductive bits, for example.
5 comments or Leave a comment