I am Autumn (she/her) and it feels like I have been living a lie for the past 24 years and I never even realized it because of all the gender roles, biases, privileges, societal norms, enforced and reinforced upon me throughout my childhood, be it by my highly conservative family members or friends in school. Blinding me from seeing my true identity in this world. I never even knew about the spectrum of sexuality until late in college. And even then I had never seen people around me exploring their sexuality. I always thought it is “normal” to always identify with the sex of the body you were born with. Never questioned my gender identity because never knew how to. Even though I always knew I was different than other boys in my grade. Which made me feel bad about myself and I always would be someone others wanted me to become, to fit into society. And hence I never recognized my individuality. Never gave me that time to to learn to find and love my self. During the lockdown, I started noticing small things, experiences, and personality traits in my life which didn’t exactly align with the sex I was assigned at birth. And the male gender roles would always hold me back from living the life I wanted and bring on numerous anxieties on a daily basis. Felt trapped in my body, both psychologically and physically, without knowing it. I finally pieced all these experiences together and started my journey to explore my hidden femininity! And now that I am slowly embracing my identity of a transgender woman, I feel like I am liberated from this society’s restrictions, and can finally try to be my self in this world.

A poem I wrote about it:

I am sorry
I let this happen to you
You did not deserve this
I never knew how to
Cherish your individuality

You have been trapped
Maimed and hurt
Choked in the depths
Of the pollution to protect
Me in this cruel world

You were denied
A chance to bloom
To light up these skies
And be the beautiful
Girl you were

You have cared too long
Hidden in your shell
Fuck the watchers
They never cared about you
They never will

I will get you out
These spikes will crumble
You are divine my love
A powerful woman who
Can take care of her own


Reply to Autumn by Ragi Gupta 

Dear Sandy,

My name’s P (they/them), thank you so much for putting your words out into this collective wisdom — I’m glad they reached me!

I’m so excited to hear that you’re exploring and unpacking femininity, and embracing your identity as a transgender woman! I hope the journey has been, and continues to be liberating, euphoric, and empowering.

As a 22-year-old trans masc non-binary being who didn’t fully realize or accept their gender until a year ago, I really resonate with your introduction. I didn’t really have the language or awareness to understand myself till I started my undergrad in Seattle. And even then, it took a while till I was able to come out to myself as trans. This past year, I’ve been recognizing how having the words to name dysphoria, allows me to feel slightly in control, as compared to the confusing mess I felt before.

I really appreciate reading your poem. As someone who has an awkward relationship with themself, I find it heartwarming to see how the speaker cares and empowers (what I interpret as) themself and the layers of their being. The ending, “A powerful woman who / Can take care of her own,” made me smile and gave me second-hand euphoria.

It’s always so comforting to connect with someone in the community, and I’m grateful that I’m ending this year by reading and responding to your message and poetry.

I hope that you find yourself surrounded in spaces of love, comfort and safety — especially within yourself.

Take care,

P


Reply to Autumn by Sanjana Mishra

Dear Sandy,

I’m not sure words can begin to express how powerful your poem was for me to read, but I am going to attempt to string some together. I’ve reread it multiple times since receiving it, and I want to thank you for writing something so fierce and so moving and for giving me the privilege to bear witness to your story. 

“I never knew how to / Cherish your individuality” – I resonated with this line so much. It felt like you were apologizing to yourself in the deepest of ways. I felt the apology lead to not only acceptance but also a sense of conviction that you are who you are. You are “a powerful woman who can take care of her own”. There’s a part in The Bell Jar where Sylvia Plath writes “I took a deep breath and listened to the old brag of my heart. I am, I am, I am.”. Your words and the conviction in them reminded me of that. 

Reading through your poem as well as your description, I was left with this image of a phoenix rising from the ashes (or rather, depths of pollution as you said). More than acknowledging the ashes themselves—the expectations and shackles of society that you so beautifully captured—I felt as though your poem was more about the rebirth, and becoming the woman you have always been. You pointed out that you “never recognised your individuality”. This really drove home the idea that gender and gender identity are such a large part of our own individuality, and they are a part we aren’t really expected to acknowledge or think about. There’s another really beautiful quote by Andrea Gibson that comes to my mind here, “Forests may be gorgeous but there is nothing more alive than a tree that learns how to grow in a cemetery” (from their poem Gospel Salt). I’m imagining this cemetery (so to speak) being made up of the oppressive gender norms and expectations of our society, and Sandy being the tree and the phoenix emerging, living and thriving.

I want to thank you again for allowing me to witness a small part of your journey. It has been wonderful to read and deconstruct and think about your poem.

In solidarity,
Sanjana


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