by Finn Menzies
Earlier this week, the Trump administration told the Centers of Disease Control to avoid using a menu of words including, “vulnerable,” “entitlement,” “diversity,” “transgender,” “fetus,” “evidence-based” and “science-based.”
As a man of trans experience, I already knew that my country wanted me to stop talking about and writing about being trans. The difference now is the silencing has become Washington-Official. But, I will never stop speaking and writing about my experience. After-all, all writing is about the human experience, and being transgender is just another story in the great river of human stories.
Earlier this year my first book of poems was published by Fog Machine. Brilliant Odyssey Don’t Yearn is not explicitly about being trans, but it is explicitly about being in a body. For me, being in a body is a story of coming out as transgender.
Just before Thanksgiving this year, I spoke with Paul Nelson, the founder of the Cascadia Poetry Festival and the Seattle Poetics LAB, about my new book and about my experiences as being a trans writer and teacher. We met at his home which has an amazing view of Lake Washington and Mount Rainer. He made me chicory coffee, which I had never had before. We sat with our handmade mugs, surrounded by books, printed papers of my poems, and the gray day in his window.
I have only done an interview once before, so I didn’t know what to expect. What ensued was a very candid and sincere question-answer about what it’s like to come out as trans at age 30 and writing about it. The interview was first published here as a transcription of our recording, but I felt strongly that the feeling of our conversation was not reflected in the written version. So, SSE, Paul, and I decided to upload the audio version along with this introduction.
What you cannot read, but maybe are able to hear, is the trust between Paul and me. I trusted him to see my budding manhood with generosity and respect. He trusts me as he learns about the trans experience. There is a mutual understanding that the masculinity we were both brought up with is fraught, and often harmful.
There is also a mutual understanding that we want to do better than that. This trust is important context here because we talk frankly about expressing anger as a man, about how my experience of my body has changed since taking testosterone. I want to be clear that these changes are not just because my body is running on a different hormone system, but also because the dissociation that I had long endured in a female body had begun to dissolve.
We talk about what it’s like to learn to be a man, but more, I am speaking about what it is like to learn to really inhabit my body for the first time in my life. At times our talk could be heard as too casual, but I promise you, the intent was that we hear each other’s stories.
I hope you get something out of our conversation—the topics of transition and poetry are very important to me. Poetry is healing for all of us. Poetry is also information and a way for us to learn about something we didn’t even think about before. Transition has taught me so much about myself and how gender works in our country. Transition has taught me how important writing is for our health.
But, most importantly, transition has taught me that no matter how you identify, what hormone system your body is working with, it’s your job to learn how to be respectful of others and how to listen well to each other.