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Transgender Bodies

December 22, 2011

My fiveonfive article on playing roller derby as a transgender woman is now available online as FiveOnFive Sneak Peek: Transgender Policies: My Story

Ever since the article came out in print, I’ve had an overwhelmingly positive response from both fellow rollergirls and my many friends in the LGBT community.  And when Derby Life made the article available online last weekend, encouraging comments starting pouring in through facebook, twitter, email, text messaging and on Derby Life itself from longtime friends, new friends, as well as acquaintances I hadn’t heard from in years.

The response has included the requisite “I had no idea [you were trans]!” from a few friends, which has generally been well-meaning but has also been a source of anxiety. The first DC Rollergirls practice I showed up after my article made it online was a rather stressful ordeal where I kept analyzing every glance from other rollergirls, wondering to myself what had changed–were my tiny hips now under more scrutiny than before?  What about my breasts? My butt? My ass?  What about my skating stance? How many people were having an “aha!” moment were they felt they had “figured out” why my skating stance was so unique–my hunched-over stance has been compared to a spider, a pterodactyl, and yes, men’s derby players on multiple occasions.

The anxiety continued at practice the next day, and really only broke this morning after I re-read a poem that my lover, a genderqueer individual like myself, had sent to me two months ago. After kissing her goodbye as she left to catch a plane to see her family for Christmas, I found the poem hanging near her stove, and read it out loud. The poem, How To Make Love to A Trans Person, by Gabe Moses, really captures what it’s been like to come to terms with my body as a post-operative transgender individual (who also identifies as genderqueer), and what it’s been like to find love and acceptance despite all the pain, anxiety, and misunderstanding.  I’m re-posting it here in part, although the full version is available at the blog Genderqueer Chicago:

When you peel layers of clothing from his skin
Do not act as though you are changing dressings on a trauma patient
Even though it’s highly likely that you are.
Do not ask if she’s “had the surgery.”
Do not tell him that the needlepoint bruises on his thighs look like they hurt
If you are being offered a body
That has already been laid upon an altar of surgical steel
A sacrifice to whatever gods govern bodies
That come with some assembly required
Whatever you do,
Do not say that the carefully sculpted landscape
Bordered by rocky ridges of scar tissue
Looks almost natural.


Realize that bodies are only a fraction of who we are
They’re just oddly-shaped vessels for hearts
And honestly, they can barely contain us
We strain at their seams with every breath we take
We are all pulse and sweat,
Tissue and nerve ending
We are programmed to grope and fumble until we get it right.
Bodies have been learning each other forever.
It’s what bodies do.
They are grab bags of parts
And half the fun is figuring out
All the different ways we can fit them together;
All the different uses for hipbones and hands,
Tongues and teeth;
All the ways to car-crash our bodies beautiful.
But we could never forget how to use our hearts
Even if we tried.
That’s the important part.
Don’t worry about the bodies.
They’ve got this.

  1. Pains permalink

    I did not have an “aha” moment, but rather an, “ohhh.. ok” moment and at practice I may have been one of those people who looked at you a little differently, but moreso because I was curious how you felt. Were you relieved? Happy? Scared?

    As someone who lives an alternative lifestyle (bi and poly), I can relate to feeling the need to hide parts of who I am – though obviously differently. Your story makes me happy and gives me a little more courage because the acceptance that you have found in the derby community parallels my own.

    I’m so lucky, proud, and happy to have you as a teammate and friend.

    • Definitely relieved, and more anxious than scared. I stopped being scared long ago. The anxiety is a good thing too; it’s a step in the process towards a feeling of fully being accepted for who I am, and it’s a step I’m ready to take. I’m very glad to be your friend and teammate too.

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