It’s true that I’m im-
patient under affliction. So?
Most of what the dead can

do is difficult to carry. As for
gender I can’t explain it
any more than a poem: there

was an instinct, I followed
it. A song. A bell. I saw
deer tracks in the snow. Little

split hearts beckoned me
across the lawn. My body
bucked me, fond of me.

Here is how you bear this flourish.
Bud, I’m buckling to blossoms now.


Copyright © 2020 by Oliver Baez Bendorf. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 8, 2020, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem

“I have long been disturbed by the notion that one’s trans-ness must be measured, validated and even gate-kept by how legible our gender-related suffering is made to a cisgender majority. That notion is operationalized at every turn, for example by denying access to transition-related health care unless an individual has undergone psychiatric screening to obtain a clinical diagnosis. The word dysphoria, as in ‘Gender Dysphoria’ (which is billable medical code 302.85 in the current Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) means ‘pain that is difficult to bear.’ Yet my anguish, my dysphoria, does not come from my gender. It comes from transphobia and trans-antagonism. Capitalism and colonization. The overlapping systems of violence that create unacceptable conditions of living and dying for trans women of color especially. I will no longer help carry those burdens. In spite of them, we are blessed to live in an age of flourishing transgender and non-binary art and imagination. This poem is dedicated to private pleasures and forgotten possibilities. The euphoria of instinct without explanation (he says, as he explains his poem).”
Oliver Baez Bendorf