Après le Feu

I am safe in our home with my husband, living the life—
all new appliances. There’s that clip from Paris Is Burning 
when Venus Xtravaganza equates prostitution to what 
women in the suburbs do to get a washer and dryer. I 
was not trans like her or Anji but we did what we had to do 
to make our coins. I get to still be here today, too old to hustle, 
shoplift or risk getting killed. The only mopping I do these 
days is occasionally on the kitchen floor. In those days, 
everyone was afraid of dying of AIDS or simply dying. We 
belonged to Houses because most of us were homeless. Our 
fathers abandoned us because they already had families and 
our mothers cast us out as demons or something similar. We 
all had stories, many forgotten. Our parents were never wrong.
It was our fault if we came home bloodied from school or 
found dead in a cheap hotel room. No one felt bad for us—
the family, the cops, the government. We deserved it. That’s all.
But now children can choose their gender, be celebrated for 
coming out, live in fluidity. I survived at the expense of my sisters
being sacrificed. I remember the chicken hawks we fought off, 
the closet cases “On the DL!,” dark alleys, married men with 
wives at home cooking dinner, being a dirty little secret. And
now I only worry about paying Con Edison, ordering DoorDash, 
Amazon deliveries. We were criminals, prostitutes, destined for 
prison or hell. Now I Google my dead friends to see what is said
about them, make reservations to go out for “ouchie” dinners, 
plan our next vacations. I pay tribute with poems I read to high 
school students, inmates, nostalgic Nuyoricans. New generations
get crowned and walk away with Anastasia Beverly Hills cosmetics 
for being the best at what our girls were once eliminated for. If 
they were alive today, would they be celebrated? Or murdered in a 
world that’s still violent towards queer and trans people. There are 
essays and articles about how we lived. I tell my spouse stories as 
we dine somewhere safe and welcoming. I sleep like the child I 
never really got to be, dream for all our angels who never had this 

Copyright © 2023 by Emanuel Xavier. Originally published in Love(ly) Child, by Rebel Satori Press.