I can’t remember my dad calling me a sissy,
but he definitely told me not to be a sissy.
I secretly (or not so secretly) liked all the sissy
things. We had a hunting dog named Sissy.
Really: Sissy. My father nicknamed my sister: Sissy.
Still, he says, “How’s Sissy?” and calls her Sissy
when she goes home to visit him. Belinda (Sissy)
is one of the toughest people I know. My sissy
(sister) has kicked someone’s ass, which isn’t sissy-
ish, I guess, though I want to redefine sissy
into something fabulous, tough, tender, “sissy-
tough.” Drag queens are damn tough and sissies.
I’m pretty fucking tough and a big, big sissy,
too. And kind. Tough and kind and happy: a sissy.


Copyright © 2023 by Aaron Smith. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 15, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem

“As a queer person, I’ve had the word ‘sissy’ leveled against me as an insult. In this sonnet, I challenged myself to use the word ‘sissy’ as the ending word for each line in an attempt to reclaim the word, celebrate it, redefine it—as I say in the poem—as something ‘fabulous, tough, tender.’ I also wanted to celebrate drag queens. RuPaul [Andre Charles] is a national treasure.”
—Aaron Smith