Draw Blood
Draw Blood is a 56 page chapbook containing 16 of Julia's spoken word pieces, published November 2004, Hot Tranny Action press (Oakland, CA).
Note: Many of the spoken word/slam poems from Draw Blood, as well from Julia's previous chapbook Either/Or, are now collected in her third book Outspoken: A Decade of Transgender Activism and Trans Feminism.

Table of Contents:
sleeping sickness
mix and match
opening analogy
submissive streak
calling a spade a spade
on being a woman
period piece
draw blood
deconstructive surgery
open letter to lisa vogel
fighting words

copyright 2003, 2004 julia serano, all rights reserved


we are often told that we are living in a man’s world
and in this culture
no image represents power
more than the phallic symbol
and if the penis equals power
then i am illegally armed
and my body
full of freckles and feminine curves
is like a stealth bomber
i fly just under everyone’s radar
but only because they choose not to see me
only because nobody wants to believe
that a sweet, petite green-eyed girl like me
could ever possibly be packing heat

they say that it’s not the size of the wand
but the magic that it does
well after many months on estrogen
my penis is pretty darn small
but she has supernatural powers
she’s like some pissed off ancient greek goddess
my penis changes the meanings of everything
and because of her
every single one of my heterosexual ex-girlfriends
has slept with a lesbian
and every guy who hits on me these days
could be accused of being gay
because my penis bends everyone who's straight
and she can make the most entitled cat callers and womanizers
scurry away with their tails between their legs
all because of six small words
“i use to be a man”

and being a transsexual
i realize that most people see my femaleness
as a facade
an elaborate hoax
but i am more real
than any of them could ever hope to be
i am real because unlike them
my gender is not based upon what other people think of me
and that may make me an object of ridicule
but i am not the butt of anyone's jokes
because i know that people make fun of trannies
because we are the one thing that they fear the most
i am more bad-ass than any gangster
more dangerous than an entire marine corps
my penis is more powerful
than the cocks of a million alpha males all put together
because when a man is defined as that which is not female
and a woman is defined as that which is not male
then i am the loose thread
that unravels the gender of everyone around me

they say its not the size of the boat
but the motion of the ocean
well my penis gives most people sea sickness
she makes them dizzy
because most people are not secure enough
with their own masculinity or femininity
to survive a night in the sack with me
my penis turns simple sexual pleasures into political acts
she turns biological impossibilities into cold hard facts
my penis is the curiosity
that you’ve been told will kill your cat
see my penis can be deadly
especially to me

and i’ve heard almost every true crime story
about what frightened macho boys do to trannies
every bludgeoning and mutilation
bodies beaten beyond recognition
and i’ve imagined it all happening to me in first person
and every time i get up in front of a crowd
to perform one of my out-spoken word pieces
i can feel myself morph into a slow moving target
and at the end of the night
when i walk back to my car
i'll be holding my breath
half-expecting that inevitable blow to the back of the head
and sometimes i wonder why it hasn’t happened yet
and sometimes i wonder why they don’t just get it over with
and sometimes i just wish i was dead

see i never wanted to be dangerous
and i spent most of my life
wishing that i didn’t have a penis
and i used to hate my body
for not making any sense to me
and these days i often hate it
for being so in between
and some mornings i can barely get up out of bed
because my body is so weighed down
with ugly meanings
that my culture has dumped all over me
see i've been made to feel shame and self-loathing
so that everyone else can take comfort
in what their bodies mean
and if i seem a bit cocky
well that's because i refuse
to make apologies for my body anymore
i am through being the human sacrifice
offered up to appease other people’s gender issues
some women have a penis
some men don’t
and the rest of the world
is just going to have to get the fuck over it
and if i am destined to be the loose thread
that unravels the gender of everyone around me
then i am going to pull
and pull
and pull
until everyone is exposed
until they all finally see that all along
they were merely wearing the emperor’s new clothes

and i know that people don’t like it
when i turn the tables on them
but what the hell else am i supposed to do?
play a hand that was dealt
from a deck of cards
that's been stacked against me?

and if i seem a bit cocky
that’s because i've spent my entire life
being backed into a corner
and like a frightened animal
pumped full of adrenaline
and sick of hunger and hiding
i am finally desperate enough
to come out fighting.

sleeping sickness
in the name of the father
the son
and the holy spirit
that’s how it begins
my nights are spent
composing insomniac open letters to you
two hour long monologues
that end in exhaustion
and sometimes in the middle of my day
i’ll remember that i fell asleep
before ending my previous night’s prayer
with a proper amen
and i'll wonder whether my channel to you is still open
my every word an invocation
the sounds of my atari games
little league practice
and eighth grade history class
becoming the annoying background noise of heaven

and maybe forgetting to say amen
makes my life one long continuous prayer
and if so, then you were there that afternoon
when i tucked my penis tightly behind my legs
just to see what i’d look like without it
when i wrapped bedroom curtains around my body
like a prom dress
turned tattered shoe laces
into necklaces and bracelets
and you were there later that same night
when i began another prayer within a prayer
to once again beg for your forgiveness

wanting to be a girl
never came up in CCD or sunday mass
and it’s not covered in the ten commandments
but from everything the nuns and priests taught me about you
i know that you do not approve
and when i turn to your holy words
to look for anything that might shed some light
onto whatever this is that i’m going through
i keep returning to the same story
the one about abraham
and how you commanded him to sacrifice his son to you
stopping the blade only seconds before
he actually went through with it
and forgive me father
for i can’t help but think
that that was a fucked up thing to do

and maybe i'm like abraham
and this is just another one of your tests
maybe you put girl thoughts
into the heads of twelve year old boys
just to see how they'll react
maybe i'm an experiment
and you're up in heaven looking down on me
taking notes as i tear myself apart in self-hatred
tossing and turning in bed
as if acting out my inevitable burning in hell

and at first
my sins made me even more devout
i’d lie awake each night
clutching the glow-in-the-dark rosary beads
that my grandmother gave me
repeating the words that i once heard her say
“blessed are those who have not seen yet believe”
and i want to believe
but more and more it just feels
like you're torturing me
and i’m doing the best that i can
to plug up all the holes
in this disintegrating dam
as my brain bleeds rivers of bad thoughts
that pour out of my mouth and hands
like wounds that won’t clot
and i can’t understand
why you won’t help
when i’ve asked you over and over again
to please either turn me into a girl
or else make these thoughts stop

the nuns say that you answer all prayers
it’s just that sometimes the answer is no
well, i'm tired of praying to a god
who only offers me
thou shalt not's
i'm tired from lack of sleep
from keeping secrets
that burn so much that they hollow me out
i am tired of hurting so much
that sometimes i pray
that i don't wake up
so forgive me father for i have sinned
i have dared to share
all of myself with you
forcing you to watch
one long sacrilegious prayer
within a prayer
within a prayer
within a prayer
like a serpent swallowing its own soul
like a serpent swallowing itself whole
and maybe tonight
i'll finally be cured of this sleeping sickness
because the last few years
of living in absolute shame
and unbelievable pain
has made me fearless enough to finally say

mix and match
we are quite a pair
a year and a half ago
we were pronounced husband and wife
and you're still my wife
only now i'm your was-band
and when we first met five years ago
i was a pre-transition transsexual
and you were calling yourself bisexual
and we gallivanted around berkeley and oakland
disguised as a straight couple
we had so much fun
with the roles of boy and girl
we gave oscar winning performances
i wore the condoms
and you wore the diaphragm
and we’d ham it up in the sack
no one else has ever made me laugh so much during sex

and afterwards
we’d lay in that cliché post-coital pose
you'd curl your body up along my side
and i'd wrap my arm around you
as if i was protecting you from something
and these days when we strike the same pose
your head rests on my developing breasts
and when i cradle you in my arms
i feel almost maternal

and if sometimes
it’s like i’m your mother
then other times
you’re my obnoxious younger brother
who knew that you
a radical feminist dyke
could get such eighth grader amusement
out of snapping the backs of my bra straps
or giving my breasts a quick squeeze
the way harpo marx honks his horn
and forgive the pun
but it really does make me horny

and if sometimes
you’re my younger brother
then other times
you're my big sister
guiding me with advice
sharing all of the things that you learned
having reached womanhood before me
and if anyone were to ask this ex-boy
what it's like to be in a lesbian relationship
i would say that it feels kind of like
being sisters
best friends
and lovers

and i know that when most people
see a same-sexed couple
they always try to figure out
who's the butch
and who's the femme
as if all queer people were latent heterosexuals
more often than not
they base their impressions on hairstyle
but we keep them second-guessing
your short hair is dyed a fabulous bright red
and often accessorized with barrettes
too cute for most pre-schoolers
and i often wear my long curly hair
tied back in a practical ponytail
i guess i’m the femme tomboy
and you’re the butch girlie-girl

and i know that when most people
think about lesbian sex
they imagine lots and lots
of cuddling
and we do some of that
in between the wrestling
and the tickling
and the biting
and the coming
and let’s not forget
all of the musical numbers
comedy routines
and sex toys
and sometimes i wrap a strap-on
over my real mccoy
and i fuck you
with all of the sweetness of a girl
and the aggression of a boy
and sometimes
you like it when you’re on top
and sometimes
you ask me to tie you up
and i'll never forget the time
that you turned bondage into a magic act
while i stepped out of the room for a minute
you un-did your knots
and sprung to your feet like houdini
shouting “ta-da!”
like i said, when we have sex
you crack me up

our love
is like one long list
of seemingly contradictory anecdotes
before i transitioned
our apartment doorbell
was labeled with our names
“tom serano and dani eurynome”
but our landlord misspelled your name
and we joked
that we were secretly two gay boys

our love
all categories
all orientations
and all identities
our love
is not about me being this
and you being that
we are not merely each other's better half
no, we are everything to each another

some people insist that opposites attract
but i’m not so sure about that
i’m no longer impressed with
boy versus girl
butch versus femme
i’ve found that i can be any of those things
it just depends on what mood i’m in
and i used to be really into the idea
of tops and bottoms
dominants and submissives
but these days
i get off on the fact
that we’re both such perfect switches
and no matter how you serve it
our love
is always delicious
because we mix and match.

deconstructive surgery
being an out trans-woman
there is one question
that follows me around where ever i go
inquiring minds want to know
have i "gone all the way"
you know, have i had “the surgery”

and to me, it feels like a no-win inquisition
if i tell the truth: “no, not yet”
then i get to deal
with everybody else's emotional baggage
because nothing makes people more paranoid
than a real life female with a phallus
straight men shake in their boots
at the possibility
that they might accidentally
become attracted to me
and those who patrol
the gates of women-only spaces
are often dead-set on discriminating against me
driven by the ridiculous belief
that my girly little estrogenized penis
is somehow still pulsating
with hyper-masculine energy

on the other hand
having the operation
has its own stigma attached to it
no medical methodology
induces as much fear and anxiety as SRS
sex reassignment surgery
a friend told me that he once saw SRS
on the video "faces of death"
sandwiched in between
real life shark attacks and murder attempts
some people go so far
as to call SRS a form of self-mutilation
conveniently ignoring the fact
that more common procedures
such as nose jobs and liposuction
also involve the removal
of a small amount
of non-essential tissue

most people are surprised when i tell them
that the surgeons don't really cut the penis off
they just turn it inside out
and move the nerve endings around
to make a functional and realistic looking
clitoris and vagina
at that point, i am invariably asked if i want SRS
so that i can have sex with a man
and you should see the blank stares i get
when i reply: "no, but i’m really looking forward
to having my wife fuck me
with a strap-on dildo"

see, we live in a phallic-obsessed culture
where we're all trained to believe
that everything having to do
with gender and sexuality
somehow revolves around the penis
that's why so many clueless straight guys
come on to dykes
with pick-up lines like
"once you've had the real thing baby
you won't ever go back"
they actually buy into that crap
and it is also why most people can't even talk
about transsexual women or SRS
without centering the discussion
around "the penis"

but the thing that nobody seems to get
is that my desire to have SRS
has absolutely nothing to do with my penis
this is about me wanting to have
a clitoris and vagina
but we don’t even have the language
to describe this desire
it's the ultimate freudian slipwe naturally assume
that all young girls suffer from penis envy
but we can’t imagine that any boy
could possibly have its polar opposite
it’s all in the words we use
when someone is bold or brave
we say they have “balls”
while words like "pussy" and "cunt"
are only ever spoken as insults
and while everyone seems to understand
how the penis works
we treat female genitalia
like they’re a mysterious black box
most young women aren't even taught
the names of all their body parts
many people are unaware
that the clitoris even exists
and as for the vagina
well aren’t we all taught
to see that as simply the hole
where the penis is supposed to go?

so it’s no wonder that most people assume
that i must be mentally ill
because in this culture
wanting to be a woman
is something most people find literally unimaginable
and when i do have SRS
my surgically deconstructed genitals
will no doubt be seen by some
to be an abomination or blasphemy
because my cunt
will be the ultimate question mark
asking how powerful can the penis really be
if a sane and smart person like me
decides that she can do without it?

and if the world supposedly revolves around the penis
then my SRS will knock it off its axis
and phallic symbols everywhere
will come crashing down
like nothing more than a house of cards
after all, a cigar is always just a cigar
and i am simply me
and i refuse to let anyone project
their penis obsessions onto my body
as far as i’m concerned
if they can't fathom
why i might want to trade in my penis
for a clitoris and vagina
then they're the ones
who have the gender disorder.

fighting words
transsexual, transsexual, transsexual
transsexual, transsexual, transsexual

i can say it over and over again
but i can't change how that word sounds
transsexual is the most maligned word in the dictionary
it’s the ten-thousand ton ugly assumption
that the world has dropped on top of me
because as far as most people are concerned
that transsexual is just a triple X spam email
advertising the one type of porn
that no one they know will admit to wacking off to
transsexual is a sure-fire one-liner
in a jay leno monologue
it's howard stern's second favorite word
after lesbian
i even heard that transsexual women
will be coming out to their boyfriends
yet again on this week's jerry springer
even psycho-babble hacks
like doctor laura and doctor phil
want in on the tranny action

well fuck all of them!
i want my fucking word back!
it's mine and you can't have it!

like the vast majority of transsexuals
i grew up closeted
but not by choice
i was intimidated into silence
as a child, i took every dumb ass joke
and ignorant hateful comment
that i heard about transsexuals
and turned them all in on myself
it felt like death by a million cuts
my developing brain bathed in self-hatred
as i learned at a young age
that the only way i'd be allowed to survive
was if i buried myself alive
i kept a twenty-seven year long secret
and for most of my life
i honestly would have killed myself
if i thought there was any chance
of having my family and friends find out

and that's exactly how the world wanted me to feel
because most people
are like powder kegs
so full of insecurities
about their own gender and sexualities
that they've become scared to death of me
for simply being a spark
that they're afraid might set them off
so instead, they engage in an unspoken strategy
redirecting their fear back at me
because they realize
that if they can bully me into keeping quiet
then they will be free
to appropriate my identity
and say whatever the fuck they want about me
thus turning their worst nightmare
into a laughing stock
but that's all about to stop
because i'm out now
and i'm ready to go toe-to-toe
with every non-transgendered person
who is arrogant enough to assume
that they have even the slightest clue
of what i'm all about
i am calling the whole fucking world out

i'm calling out
every person who thinks
they’ve never met a transsexual before
because chances are you've met scores of us
you're just stupid enough to believe
that we’d be so different from you
that you would be able to notice us

i'm calling out
every person who assumes
that transsexuals must be delusional
because we don't conform to common sense
well fuck that
common sense is what tells us the world is flat

i'm calling out
every paranoid straight boy who assumes
that transsexual women
are out to deceive him
the fact that you are homophobic and conceited
doesn't give you the right
to take your fears of inadequacy
out on me!

i'm calling out
every woman who believes
that being born female
makes her more of a woman than me
fuck, after spending most of your life
never quite measuring up
to our society's unrealistic expectations
about what a "real woman" should be
you have the nerve to turn around
and use that same bullshit on me?

i'm calling out
every person who has ever complained
about how difficult it is
to use the right pronouns with me
here's a helpful hint
why not try thinking before you speak

i'm calling out
every person who has ever called me courageous
because after hearing that a hundred times
it just sounds
like the nicest possible way of saying
"i'm glad i'm not in your shoes"

i'm calling out
every person who has offered me
back-handed compliments
like "wow, i never would have guessed"
or "you're so lucky you're able to pass"
oh, so i should be grateful
that i don’t look like a transsexual?
well fuck that, i am a transsexual!

and while i'm at it
i'm calling myself out
for every time i pretended
that being a transsexual was no big deal
every time i played it down
so that somebody else wouldn't feel
so uncomfortable around me

fuck everyone
who has ever felt
uncomfortable around me!

and fuck me
for every time i tried
to make the best
of the role of circus freak
jumping through everyone's hoops
and juggling their false impressions of me
fuck me
for not having the guts
to just be a bull dozer
and run all their expectations
right the fuck over

fuck me
for every time i worried
about what others might think
when all along i should have been shouting out
"shut the fuck up!"
at the top of my lungs
because the whole fucking world
doesn't know what the fuck they're talking about
everyone needs to stop
talking about transsexuals
and listen to what we have to say for once
so shut the fuck up!
because transsexual is our word
and you can't have it anymore.

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