Carrie Buck* and I compare surgery scars
because they are both the kind
that marks someone named a woman
at their birth less than or not a real
or full woman after the knife recedes
shyly from its meal. my chest some
rotted tree gnarled from environment.
Carrie’s pelvis a gong left singing in a
dark room. of course, she wants
to know why. why risk my body
worse-off. why bludgeon a future
until it forgets. because i am not
a woman. but how do you know?
because i’ve lived in my body
my whole life and it has never said
any different. what if it just didn’t
have the words? then i’d feel
it. a bee-sting or a flipped-train or
some other normal magic.
but what if you want children?
i don’t. but if i do, i will just hold
them differently. but i don’t and i don’t
think i can. how do you know if you
haven’t tried? because once i tried
not to. oh? once i was thirteen and
gave a blowjob to a boy in a forest.
once i was thirteen and read some-
where that condoms make it not as
real. once i was thirteen and i tried
so hard to be enough. and what
happened? nothing. i didn’t bleed
on time but it still came. i lay on
my back in my bedroom and sucked
my stomach in until i couldn’t
imagine it round. Carrie is
unconvinced. Carrie grabs my wrist
and moves my hand toward where
once a surgery bit off a future with
small heartbeats blooming under all
this skin and muscle. she asks me if
her inability to have children makes her
more or less of a woman than me if
she still wants them. neither. woman
is a comparison you make only against
yourself. so what makes a woman?
her own definition. so what are you?
an etymology. my partners’ partner.
a good fuck. automatic lights triggered
by accidental dancing. whatever i can
fit into a backpack. Carrie asks if we
can trade our tubes. open me up
and give her the woman of me. once
i joked that if i could i would give every
trans-femme friend of mine a handful
of breast. i would tell my top surgeon
to divvy up the meat accordingly. all the
drifting tectonic plates of me claimed
for new bodies. but it does not work
like this. we cannot swap out parts
until a God or a Surgeon or a Judge
decides our autonomy and after that
hope we will not crawl into our lovers’
beds as strangers. Carrie shows me where
once a person emerged out of her
like smoke. i tell her that a river
flows between where the surgeon
sculpted me even and sometimes i am
kissed there and my skin oroboroses
until it is time to go home. Carrie says
home is mostly just memories
but she still thinks something can
stagger newborn into it. so a woman is
a woman if she says so. a person is not
a woman if she disagrees. a body is just
a place to put yourself until something
better comes along.
* In 1927, Buck v. Bell decided that anyone deemed “unfit” by the state was subject to compulsory sterilization, in an effort to improve the human race by eliminating “defectives” from the gene pool. Carrie Buck, the key defendant, was not made aware of the outcome of the procedure that was then forcibly performed on her until it happened. At the time, this was seen as a great triumph for the eugenics movement in the United States; after World War II, Nazi doctors cited this case in their defense at the Nuremberg Trials. The Supreme Court has never expressly overturned Buck v. Bell.
Linette Reeman (they/them pronouns) has work published or forthcoming in Blueshift Journal, Maps for Teeth, FreezeRay, Public Pool, and others. A multiple Pushcart Prize and Bettering American Poetry nominee, Linette is on the executive board of the Philadelphia Fuze Poetry Slam and is sort of trying to complete a bachelor's degree, but is mostly just trying to survive in small-town America.