I must have been a dope fiend in another life, boosting to fill the cooker or tricking to hit the pipe. I was taut skin on thin bones, running, quickened breath, heart pounding, piercing eagle eyes intent on finding the next deal, or something to steal, or some human weakness that would get me that next hit. I am keenly focused, darting in whithered frame, enslaved to a vision, a fantasy of comfort. My body trembles, adrenals maxed, my mechanical movements the only words I have to describe the want, the want, the want. I close my eyes and imagine the slow drip of nectar, liquid oil of serenity.
I dream of testosterone like the dope on the spoon, the magic elixir that will soothe away my troubles and make everything right. It is the curandera’s sweet remedy, the herbalist’s concoction, my only drug of choice. It has caught me in a hard stare.
I dream of testosterone coursing through my veins, building me up and thrusting me forward, announcing my maleness with utter certainty. Arms, thighs, back, I am euphoric. I am at peace. I am jumping through fire, the boy coming down from the mountain a man. I am drinking that long cool drink that quenches the desert-dry thirst of a lifetime. I finally have the chemical my body always knew it was meant to have.
I have dreamed of T like a dripping wet brush to my tired woes. Let this multicolored palette give way to one solid primary color, a deep dark blue, and after a while I could learn to forget the rich complexity of vivid hues. I dream of a place where the body becomes the soul, where my third-gendered existence finds a home, like the edge of mixed blood becoming a river understood. Wipe away all ambiguity, cleanse this mixture with a simplicity intelligible to all. Burn all the dictionaries, I have found my slot. Like the allure of a monoracial category, I can check one box only, as if to erase the visage of mixed heritage. For so long I wondered if my Chinese features were a scar on my face, or the charred remains of a good Chinese girl who tittered meekly, and was designed for winter colors. I dream of T to smother the mix with a brand new story, and take me to another land.
In this new kingdom I find prosperity and walk the streets with ease. I am the picture of vibrant health, my illness fallen away like loosened old clothes. I am transported from everything challenging and difficult. I get a break like the lottery. I feel myself the way I was meant to be—fiercely alive. I swagger, and I am not the lawbreaker, not someone who has defrauded the biological deal. My picture has been taken down from the wanted posters. No red flags wave, no neon signs flash. The world yawns as I walk by.
I am the straight guy, a new man caught in a seduction. Without a word men welcome me into their ranks, knowing nothing about me. I am invited to sit at their table and smoke their cigars and drink their liquor. In this new world I am smarter, more responsible, and more financially secure. I am confident. I overindulge. I walk down the street my own way; no rules guide me. I stop hearing the highs and the lows, and forget how to cry. I pull up the needle and firmly plant it into the upper right quadrant of my ass, and fall into a blinded sleep.
I am jarred awake by the shatter of glaciers melting and rivers overflowing. The tonic is a spilled mess on the floor. The image that I have tweaked like a pencil sketch on thin rice paper gets caught in the gush of flood. The world knows not who I am. The ease of my interactions with women has left me. There is no automatic trust. Even though my law-breaking record has been wiped clean, I am still suspect. People look at me quizzically. My history has been erased, my story written in another language. My past is lost to all except those who know the lost language. My voice announces me in another life. I find myself searching for parts of my soul. My spirit misplaced falls out of body, exhausted from trying to force itself back in. I awake from disorienting dreams not knowing which soil to step on, which food to eat, which language to speak, as if I have erased half of my chromosomes or a familiar scar.
The assumptions are different, but still wrong. No longer a manly woman, I had become a womanly man. Yet my masculinity is decidedly female, butch to the core. I am a gentleman of a different stripe. It’s the way I take my woman sweet and rough and worship her for the goddess she is. It’s the way I know women cuz I am one, the way I will fight for women to the end. It’s about being down cuz I’m there. I cannot take myself farther away from who I am and what I love.
Still, I crave relief from the punishment for gender variance, the shame, the assumptions, the people whose faces register horror as they pull their children away from me. I sink back and imagine what it would be like to go unnoticed, to live a life clearly one thing or the other, pre-defined by someone else. I want to live in a world beyond all the ma’aming and sir-ing, all the he-ing and the she-ing. But I cannot obliterate this queerness by injection. No stroke of the brush can mask it or change it or make it go away. Beyond the collage of images of ourselves reflected in the eyes of others, we are never truly seen. I am but a reflection in choppy waters, my dream but smoke and mirrors.
Excerpt from the new book Born on the Edge of Race and Gender: A Voice for Cultural Competency by Willy Wilkinson. Click here for more information. A book release party happens Saturday in Oakland.