letters to the editor

Gwen Benaway

today breaks open
                        in a sudden rain
on hot asphalt
            every drop distills into
            if only my skin was as easy to wash
                                    as quick to evaporate
                                                what strikes it.


                                                                        a man writes an editorial
                                                                                                that woman should be
                                    punished named sued and shamed

                                                                                    for making sexual assault

a few days later
                        the same newspaper
runs a story
                        about a ciswoman
                                                                        who thinks her human rights
                        are violated by sharing
                                                            a shelter room with a trans woman

                                    because our bodies
                                                are male
                                                                        and it’s a “trigger”

                                    to be so close
to what scares you.


            allegations are a code word
                        for lies

                                                            what is the truth
                                                                                                between bodies

            your cock inside me
                        as certain as
                                    my hands on the floor,

            my parted lips, uneven breath

            trying to say

                        was I male beneath you
            my penis still fixed in place

                                    hidden by the smallness of my hips
                                                            you were behind me
                        so maybe it didn’t matter

                                    but it always matters
                                                even when it doesn’t exist anymore

            disappeared by a surgeon in Montréal
                                    though still living in photos on your hard drive
                                                            the first time you saw it

            you looked so sad
                                    like someone died
                                                                                    and maybe it was your dream
                                                                                                            of me dying,
                                    or your desire, a funeral bed
                                                            of love evaporating
                        at the sight
                                                            of my dick.

            I wonder if the cis woman
                        or the man in the newspaper
                                                            know anything of what a tranny endures
                                    in the uncertain truth

                                                            of saying I exist
                                                                                                and I deserve better
                                    than this late afternoon rain
                                                            this dampness on my neck
                        my wet breasts
                                                                        a pussy filled with hurt
                                    in a city where every stranger’s glance
                                                                                                            is an allegation
I can’t answer.  

                                    I want to say a boy raped me
                                                            he called me a man
                                                with every sorrowful look
                                                                                    and I want to say

                        a trans woman is a woman
                                                            no matter what does
                                                                        or doesn’t

                                    live between her legs.

                                                                                    the only thing
                        I’m ashamed of is
                                                            how scared I am
                                                                                                of men.
                        if anyone deserves punishment
                                    and none of us do
                                                            broken creatures running from the rain
                                                                        through crosswalks
                                    it’s the boy
                                                                        who took everything
                                                                                    I am
                                                or the woman in public bathroom
                                                            with her accusing eyes
                        on me as I wash my hands
                                                                        and this infinite city skyline

                                    with its harsh truths like storm clouds
                                                            the greyness of the pavement
                                                                        as moisture
                                                                                                            like truth
                                                                                                                        like mercy
                                                                                                like love
                                                vanishes back
                                                                        into the bodies
                                                            it came from.


                        dear editor
                                                            i’m tired
                                                                                                i’m so tired
                        of being punished

                        and sued
                                                            for telling the truth
                                                                                    I have to bear
                                    like a drop of water down
                                                                        the back of my shirt,

                        a small constant suffering
                                                                        that no heat
                                                                                                can ever dissolve

                                    I am a woman
                                                            always was
                                                                                                            always will be
                                                never mind this pussy
                                                            or that cock
                                                                                                it never makes/made
                                                            much of a difference

            and he raped me
                                                            you know
                                    dear editor
                                                                                    i’m more tired
                                                            than you know
                                                                                                or will ever know

                                                so go ahead
                                                                                    and sue me
                                                I can’t get any wetter
                                                            than I already

Author's Statement:

I wrote a poem in response to a recent National Post editorial calling for #metoo survivors to be publicly named, shamed, punished, and sued as well as a National Post article about a cis woman claiming that sharing space in a shelter with a trans woman violated her human rights. Both were published last week. I've spent the weekend thinking about the editorial and the article. My poem in response, letters to the editor, focuses on the daily burdens of transphobia and being a survivor. If I wrote letters to the editor, it is what I would write.

Learn more about Turtle Island Responds

Gwen Benaway is a trans girl of Anishinaabe and Métis descent. She has published three collections of poetry, Ceremonies for the DeadPassage, and Holy Wild. Her fourth collection of poetry, Aperture, is forthcoming from book*hug in spring 2020. Her writing has been published in many national publications, including CBC Arts, Maclean's magazine, and the Globe and Mail. She is currently editing an anthology of fantasy short stories by trans feminine writers and working on a feminist queer polyamorous memoir titled trans girl in love. She lives in Toronto, Ontario and is a Ph.D student at the Women and Gender Studies Institute at the University of Toronto.  

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