either/or
Either/Or is a 33 page chapbook that comes with a complementary 13 track CD! It features eleven spoken word pieces and two Bitesize songs. Published by Switch Hitter Press (Oakland, CA), copyright 2002 (except for the Bitesize songs which are copyright 1999, 2001).

Note: Many of the spoken word/slam poems from Either/Or, as well from Julia's subsequent chapbook Draw Blood, are now collected in her third book Outspoken: A Decade of Transgender Activism and Trans Feminism.

Contents:
introduction
barrette manifesto
ophelia revisited
either or
small blue thing
vice versa
class dismissed
super hero
book worm
scared to death
GIDdy
butch girlie-girl
switch hitter
understudy

excerpts:

barrette manifesto
hey girls, did you hear the news?
it’s just been scientifically proven
that barrettes are dangerous!
so are bracelets and bric-a-brac
it’s a fact
and don’t be fooled by thick-necked macho men
who pretend that girl stuff is boring or frivolous
because that’s just an act
as soon as you ask that guy to hold your purse for a minute
he will start to squirm
like your hand bag was full of worms
holding it as far away from his rugged body as possible
because girl stuff is made with the gender equivalent of kryptonite

that’s right
just watch fathers in san rio stores
standing like petrified trees
like deer caught in hello kitty’s headlights
or teenage boys
buying their girlfriends flowers
acting as disinterested as possible
as they asks the florist for a dozen “whatevers”
that’s why they always buy roses
that’s why engagement rings are always diamonds
these things are not romantic
they are just cliches
the only types of flowers and jewelry
that most men will admit to knowing the name of

and god forbid
you ask your hubby to pick you up a box of tampons
(and men, it’s true
the cashier really does think
that you are buying them for you)

because girl stuff is dangerous
and i should know because i’m a secret double agent
see, i lived most my life as a boy
and i have insider information
straight out of men’s locker rooms and college dorms
hell, i even went to a bachelor party once
so i know this stuff first hand
and i have a battle plan for absolute sexual equality
but you have to trust me on this
see, feminists made it okay
for girls to explore what use to be
an exclusively boy world
but true equality won’t come
until boys learn to embrace girl stuff as well

so here’s the deal
if you want your boyfriend to treat you with respect
then tell him that you won’t sleep with him again
until he starts putting barrettes in his hair
and i’m not talking about no secret bedroom kinky shit
make him wear them to work!
next time he buys a pair of shoes
make sure they are mary janes
and don’t forget the white lacy anklets to go with
because once he realizes the pure bliss
of wearing a frilly pink poofy party dress
he will start to relax
and loosen up that uptight male swagger
and once he lets his guard down
he may even look around
and notice that the world doesn’t revolve around him

you may think this piece is funny
but this is no joke
girl stuff is dangerous
let’s use it to our advantage
we can truly change the world!
because if construction workers
were man enough to wear skirts and heels
they wouldn’t whistle at the women who walk by
and if misogynistic rockers and rappers
were man enough to cry while watching tear-jerkers
they wouldn’t need to masturbate all over the mic
and if presidents and generals
were man enough to wear lip gloss and mascara
they wouldn’t have to prove their penis size
by going to war all the time

because male pride
is not about pride
it’s about fear
the fear of being seen as feminine
that’s why girl stuff is so dangerous
and as long as most men are deathly afraid of it
they will continue to take it out
on the rest of us

ophelia revisited
we were more than just neighbors
we were practically best friends
and we'd spend endless summer days together
exploring the nearby woods
finding secret paths
that led to landmarks only we knew about
and in the late afternoons
we'd hijack the playground two blocks away
and we turned
seesaws into pirate planks
and swings into trapezes
and monkey bars into towering infernos

and on some days
we'd both be wearing baseball caps
and adults would joke
that they couldn't tell us apart
except for your ponytail
that was the only way to tell
that i was the boy
and you the girl
that was when we were ten

three years later
we were avoiding one another in junior high school hallways
our friendship shut off like a faucet
as we sought the approval of different cliques
and i saw you kiss your boyfriend hello
at his locker each day
no longer sporting baseball caps
you wore capri pants
and spaghetti strap tops
and i watched you speak “i love you” to him
in secret codes
made up of hair twirls
and perfectly timed eye blinks
and i got the distinct impression
that he didn't speak your language

but i did
i knew too much for my own good
and i never told anyone this then
but i spent many sleepless nights
wishing i was you
but junior high was no place
for this transgendered tomboy
to try to find herself
what with everyone acting out
scenes from “lord of the flies”
and unwritten rules
like boys hold their notebooks at their side
while girls cradle theirs against their chests
and i learned to settle for something less
like simply making it through the day
without having anyone figure me out

so i wore
oversized flannel shirts
to distort my slender body
practiced making
stone-cold “don’t fuck with me” faces
that convinced even the biggest pricks
to leave the small kid alone
and in school
i excelled at science and math
because i knew that numbers and facts
could never betray me
the way my own emotions could
i used logic as a shield
wielding opinions
like battle axes
at anyone who dared to get close me
in other words
i turned into the cocky teenage boy
that i was suppose to be
but i would have traded it all
to spend one day
in your shoes

and now
years later
i wonder if you felt the same way
about me back then
not that you wished you were a boy
per se
but did you miss the part of yourself
that would have liked
to play stick ball
or taken your rage out
on my drum kit?

and i’m starting to think
that the same thing happened to both of us
at the age of twelve
we split ourselves down the middle
allowed only to take half into adolescence
you took the feminine
i the masculine
but we both sacrificed half a human being
to the gods of fitting in
we learned to say all the right things
while biting our tongues
swallowed our pride
trying not to vomit up disgust
and we both hated our bodies
for choosing our fates for us

it took me twenty years
to put the pieces of myself back together
and i’m still learning how to be both
the giggling girl
and the scientist
and i’m not sure what came of you
but i like to imagine
that you’ve managed
to put yourself
back together too

either or

it should have been no big deal really
just another saturday night in some bar
some guy flirting with some girl
and she wasn’t even interested in him
and it should have been no big deal

except that i was the girl
and the guy was the first straight boy
who ever took an interest in me
in the past
other men had hit on me
but only the ones who like their girls
to be boy underneath
but months of hormone replacement therapy
erased away most traces of my maleness
so much so that this straight boy
didn’t think twice before flirting with me

and it took me by surprise
we talked for a while
before he gently touched the side of my arm
and smiled
and my brain went wild
with a million thoughts
set off like fireworks
like my life flashing before my eyes
years of potions and spells
crossdressing rituals
designed to conjure up the girl in me
just so i could catch a glimpse of her reflection
in a bathroom mirror
or store front window

and i wasn't even into this boy
but he made me blush
his flirts felt like hard won accomplishments
years of suffering and sacrifice all paid off
all because some random guy saw a real girl
when he looked into my eyes
our language doesn’t have the words to describe it
this is the sort of thing that ordinarily gets taken for granted
from the moment the doctor announces
“it’s a girl” or “it’s a boy”
most people’s gender is written in granite
but my gender
is more like a carrot on a stick
it’s always dangling right in front of me

because i may pass as a woman
but i have a male past
that runs thirty-some years deep
and it’s full
of memories that i don’t regret
secrets that i shouldn’t have to keep
and every time i meet
a stranger who turns into a friend
it’s only a matter of time
before i find myself telling them
and i’ve seen that look hundred of times
when what i am changes in someone else’s eyes
and they always act nonchalant and polite
but from that point on
they can’t help but see the boy in me
and i’m no longer quite the girl i use to be

my gender
is a boulder that i roll up a hill each day
only to have it come crashing back down on me

that’s why it’s so tempting for me
to just lose myself
in those rare moments
of absolute authenticity
like when that straight boy flirted with me
because a part of me wants so desperately
to be one hundred percent female
yet somehow
the burden of a million sins of omission
seems like too high of a price to pay
for the privilege of merely blending in

i know what the real problem is
gender is exclusive
it’s always either or
and i guess that makes my gender
none of the above
because my gender
is the answer to a trick question
it’s like that optical illusion where you see
either a vase
or two faces
but you can’t see them both at once
my gender
is more than the sum of my anatomical parts
and you can insist on seeing me
as either female or male
that’s up to you to decide
and if you still don’t get what i’m trying to say
well that’s okay
my gender
takes more than three minutes to describe

vice versa

i almost forgot about her
buried alive in the back of my mind
at the time
i was a twenty-six year old closet case
self-described occasional crossdresser
and she was just like me
only vice versa

i met her in kansas city
at my first transgender support group meeting
the chairs were set up in a circle
and most of the seats were filled
with transvestites in their 40s and 50s
painstakingly dressed
wearing sunday's best
floral prints
and muted pinks
with just a hint of five o'clock shadow
looking strangely sweet
almost equal parts aunt and uncle
and she seemed so out of place there
the only one in t-shirt and jeans
and genetically speaking
she was the only girl in the room
and chronologically
we were the only two in our twenties

after the meetings minutes
and a guest speaker from mary kaye
offering make-up tips
she introduced herself to me
she told me her name was joan
i told her mine was tom
and after a bit of random chit chat
she asked if i wanted to hang out some time
and i said sure
and a week later we did

i drove to topeka where she lived
and i remember
the two of us sitting on her bed
listening to tom lehrer
on her portable cassette player
when i asked her what her deal was
she said she wasn’t sure what to call herself exactly
she was attracted to men
but when she masturbated
she imagined herself with a penis topping them
and i could tell she was embarrassed
until i told her
that i knew exactly what she meant
because i was just like her
only lesbian

so i told her
the first time i told anyone
about when i was in the seventh grade
and had the biggest crush on kathy patterson
and every pre-teen fantasy i had about her
began with me being turned into a girl somehow
and only afterwards
would we run away together

then joan told me
about her high school boyfriend
who told her he was gay
and she replied
that she wasn't surprised
and that she liked him that way

and we told our gender histories
like we were swapping war stories
experiences we couldn't share
with our families or friends
because they were never there
and they would never understand
but that night
sitting on joan's bed
for the first time in my life
i didn't feel
quite so much like an alien

and the last time i saw her
was a saturday evening we spent
watching a star trek next generation re-run
the episode where beverly crusher
falls in love with a trill
and we both sat still on her couch
next to one another
and when our bodies touched
we knew that it was the first human contact
that either of us had in a while
and at one point
i put my arm around her
and she leaned into me
and it felt like we were pretending
that i was the he
and she was the she

and for a moment
i thought one thing might lead to another
maybe we'd make out on her sofa
and wake up naked next to one another
and somehow it almost made sense
like we were each other's long lost complement
the way two odd numbers add up
to make an even
but the problem was
we weren't really a perfect match
we were more like exact replicas
the same only vice versa
and while there was definitely some mutual attraction
nothing ever happened
because after all
i wasn't a gay man
and she wasn't a lesbian

now it's eight years later
and i'm not in kansas anymore
i'm a woman living in oakland
and that bedroom in topeka
literally feels like a lifetime ago
and every now and again
when i find myself feeling alone
i think about joan
and i wonder how he's doing

super hero
when i was a young boy
i played with dolls
no, i’m not talking about barbie
although my sister had one of those
but i wouldn’t touch that doll’s sorry ass
with a ten foot pole
and my uncle once gave me a g.i.joe
but that doll never saw a day of service
he just rested in peace
in his unopened box
like he came toe-tags included
no, when i was a young boy
i played with super hero dolls!

and my parents didn’t mind
after all super heros are practically perfect
boyhood role models
sure their outfits are a bit flamboyant
capes and tights and masks
in color schemes
that would make even a drag queen
green with envy
and they were sensitive enough
to rescue cats out of trees
or help elderly ladies cross streets
but they were man enough
to kick their arch enemies asses
and send them packing back
to the radioactive planets they came from
and when you are a young boy
you’re taught that
that's what’s really important

and some of my boyhood friends
were also into super heroes
but only because they dreamt of being
faster than a speeding bullet
more powerful than a locomotive
but what they failed to notice
was that all super powers come
with a built-in achilles heels
like kryptonite, if you will
and all super heroes are vulnerable in ways
that mere mortals can’t comprehend
and if you twist a super hero’s arm
a little too much
you might snap their rubber band spines
and their limbs would go limp in their body suits
i would accidentally do this from time to time
i didn't know my own strength back then

and unlike my friends
i didn’t play with super heroes
because i was jealous of their super-human powers
i played with super heroes
because i felt sorry for them
because i understood
that super heroes are not just admired
but also despised
that they have to spend most of their lives in disguise
and as a young transgendered child
i didn’t dream about becoming a super hero someday
instead i identified with them
because i knew what it was like to pretend
to hide my true identity
and special powers
behind pseudonyms
and mild manners

and even at the age of seven
i understood why superman chose
to love lois lane from afar
that’s just the sick sort of thing that you do
when you don’t want anyone to find out
who you are

that’s why i always imagined the hall of justice
as one big support group meeting
where super heroes could console one another
and talk about how all the super powers in the world
couldn’t give them the one thing
they wanted most of all
to be a normal
and that’s why i made sure
to play with my super heroes every single day
so that they knew they were loved
and when i wasn’t around
i put them all in one big shoebox
that way they could look out for one another

and sometimes
i still imagine myself as a super hero
but these days
i refuse to be mild mannered
because i’ve lived in the closet
long enough to know
that phone booths
are few and far in between
and after spending most of my life feeling helpless
i’ve learned that every single minute
is an emergency

scared to death
[author’s note: I specifically wrote this piece for, and first performed it on, the fourth annual Transgender Day of Remembrance (November 20, 2003). I dedicated it to the twenty-five people who were murdered that year for being transgendered]

few people make it through high school
without having at least one classmate commit suicide
for me, it was tony newman
in eleventh grade
he locked himself in the garage
with the car running
the act seemed so unlike him
he was one of the few popular kids
who everyone genuinely liked
and every time i saw him
he was either laughing
or making someone else laugh
apparently, he never spoke about being depressed
and he didn’t leave a note
so the reason he took his own life
remained a mystery
it lingered like a lump in people’s throats

i had a theory
that i never shared with anyone
i wondered whether tony felt like i did
i was transgendered
although at the time
i didn’t have a word for it
but i was good enough at math
to know that statistically
there had to be at least a few other people
keeping the same secret
and i don’t know if tony was transgendered
but i put two and two together
because i knew
that suicide had crossed my mind
a few hundred times
and i knew
that i’d rather be dead
than be caught dressed as a girl
and i knew
how much it hurt
to have thoughts that you don’t want
but you can’t turn off

and now i know
that this is nothing new
there are statistics that suggest
that up to 50 percent of transgendered people
try to end their life
if not by suicide, then indirectly through substance abuse
and everyday i consider myself lucky
to have made it this far

although sometimes
i still feel like i’m only one step away from the grave
because once every two weeks
someone like me is murdered
for being transgendered
and these are no unfortunate accidents
no victims of circumstance
these victims
are almost always beating beyond recognition
these are attempts at total obliteration
and i can’t help but wonder whether i am next
because at least once a week
i get up on stage and out myself
in songs and spoken word pieces
and i worry that this makes me a target
because all it takes is one asshole in the audience
who feels that his manhood
is threatened by my mere existence

but i remind myself
that there are many ways to die
and the slowest
most torturous one of all
is being scared to death
because being intimidated into silence
is like being suffocated
in both cases
someone else is taking your last breath

so tonight i speak
on behalf of an entire endangered species
because i know
that silence really does equal death
and i know
that the only thing that stops injustice is protest
and my words are a tribute
to every transgendered voice that has been silenced
whether by suicide
or homicide
or those who are still alive
but frightened into keeping quiet
and i hope
that this piece will be
one of a million small acts
that together
add up
to fighting back



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