Janani Balasubramanian – “trans/national”
When I tell my mother
how long I’ve been sitting
in the shiftiness of a female body,
a million different kinds of monsoon tears.
She tells me about
the white men who colonized her country,
her mother’s sari soaked in saltwater,
the traumas she screams about
this is what I remember
when I talk to white trans men
and witness the million different ways
they take up space
in my community,
and speak for trans women of color,
and treat femmes as arm candy,
and do not own their position as white men.
what I mean is
did you think the M in FTM stood for misogyny?
What I mean is
what about your female socialization
do you think affords you a free pass to patriarchy?
What I mean is
I understand your bodies have not always been yours
but they have always been beautiful,
you have always had words for them.
My testosterone is made by Israel’s largest company.
There is colonization running through my bloodstream
Every time I take a shot
my muscles feel out of place for several days.
But there is some perverse satisfaction in this,
that even in my body
masculinity takes up too much space.
Mom, you’re right.
this is a painful process.
It is violence.
It is scarring.
But I’m trying to believe in something greater:
that there are ways of being a man
that do not involve being a white man.
When I tell my grandmother
that I’m ready to be honest with my body,
ok, make sure to call me more often,
and I’m sending you a drum set.
For days I have no idea what she means
but then I realize
in India only boys ever play the drums,
and what my grandmother means is
there are ways of being a man
that do not involve being an American man,
that you can still play your music with us,
that I do not have words for this process of your becoming
but I will work around it with art and love.
there is a way to do this ethically.
I will build some other, new-old kind of masculinity.
I will not worry about the words for it in English.
I will honor the mothers in my history,
the goddess in my name,
I will play the drums for you.