gender identity: shapeshifting

a few weeks ago, i spoke of the book self organizing men, a collection of literary works promoted in jay sennet’s blog, around the theme of FtM’s – people who were born biologically female and transition towards male.

here is another work of art in it, a jewel of a poem. it weaves in and out and around the many levels of experience of its author, female-to-male queer activist eli clare who starts off the poem by noting the similarity between two different kinds of drug use:

I lay out syringe, alcohol pad, vial: a ritual
connecting me to junkies. Draw the
and push needle deep through skin into

all of this happens in (inside the temporal space of) spring, another moment of transition:

Open the windows, forsythia spilling its dense yellow.

but not much of this poem happens directly “inside”; much of it is in-between. eli is “a shapeshifter” – as a transgendered (transgendering?) person, as a person with cerebral palsy, as an activist, an anti-hierarchist. shapeshifters, it occurs to me, are, or at least can be, magicians: wise people, shamans, those who dare to travel across dangerous and forbidden boundaries, back and forth and back and forth, cross-pollinating worlds.

shapeshifting as a magician but also very concretely, very physically:

Voice cracks.
Stubble glints.

Body begins

and if there’s a lot of flying back and forth between worlds, it gets confusing, even for the magician:

Crip skin,
white skin:
which stories
do I tell
the best?

… and tiring:

… here at the confluence river and ocean collide”current rushing head long, waves pushing back”stones tumble one against another; logs drift and roll. Tell me: where in this hiss and froth might I lay myself down?

where? where could eli lay himself down? can he lay himself down before he lays his female identity down (to sleep? to rest?) can any magician ever lay himself down for long?

and while i understand that there needs to be rest for this body and mind, i am touched, tickled, by the poem’s freshness: all the almost haiku-like references to spring, the walking down the street with kids greeting him, rushing rivers, tumbling logs – there is so much fresh, breezy movement; while this need for rest is understandable – is rest really interesting to eli, or will he, after a short moment of catching his breath, spring up again to see what’s around yet another corner?

isabella mori
counselling in vancouver

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