Growing Pains

By Lee Mokobe

In the four years of being openly trans
I have formed a whole new language on grief
And how to let dying things go
Or how living things die suddenly
And the first to go was my name
It went quietly
It did not put up a fight
The people around me did not let themselves mourn it
They were in denial
So they kept it, sometimes
Letting a name that is not mine sit in their mouths
And frowned when I was filled with acceptance
As if to say “why can’t you hold this dead
Name for us, so we may live”
The second to go was the title
A silly little thing it was
For it, I was apologetic
Said a thousand ‘I’m sorry’s”
For every time the word “he”
Revived me
That it was not everyday that
Titles just find homes in bodies like mine
And so they would have to teach their teeth
How to chew on this
Like it was bark and I was not worthy of
Any roots that were of manhood
And I am realizing there is no vocabulary
Wide enough to hold me
So let me reintroduce myself
My name is Lee
I am a transboy
And I am still afraid
To be the grim reaper’s favorite guest to inhabit
To perpetually wait to die at the hand of a country,
A person or myself
That I have avoided eye contact with my country
For quite some time now
Because I know what kind of kindle
My bones would make
How flammable this body is
In the hands of men
Like my uncle
Who use the word “she” like an inside joke
Who ask you to pass the folk
In between suggesting that you
Find a man or a boy who will
Teach you how to be woman
And how everyone laughs and draws a crowd
Them pointing just to say
Look how this abomination has given itself a voice
But sometimes I forget
That I am an orphan in a foreign land
I forget to get sea sick on my ocean of tears
And instead dive into my transness
Like it is a glass of water in the middle of the desert
I am stronger
With every hair strand that finds its way
On to my face
And how i am thankful for it’s arrival
No matter how long it took for it to claim me as its own
And every week
A wednesday of a night
I dread the coming of a needle to my thigh
Or ass
And how sometimes growing can be painful
And that this puberty is the one I needed
Sometimes I forget that I am even trans
Because sometimes
Becoming a man is uneventful.
It just an act of endurance.
Of how much pain you can take
There is no act of initiation.
Just choice.
Just today I cannot give in to this body.
I will shape it.
Make it what I most fear on any other day.
To become a man is to hate every single moment of change.
Of effort.
Of why did it take this long to come to this conclusion.
It wasted breathe on proving I’m worthy of a masculine pronoun.
That I am he.
Who learnt how to be boy from street soccer.
To not score a goal is to be loser.
Is to have your boyhood in question.
So I became MVP.
Most valuable player.
Chase the ball or balls as hard as I can.
Disregard the the pace of the game.
Pay attention to my speed. How fast I can keep up with the other players.
Becoming a man is keeping up with cis men.
And choosing to lie about it
And saying my identity is unique
That it pushes the boundaries
That it is not box.
But me also, I want the same box.
The same body. Walk. Speech. Mind.
To be man, no prefix.
And in unlearning this I have found
Not being to scared to speak
To not look at my life with sadness
But with hope
Because there are people who see me
And name my breath a triumph
Who have abandoned their prejudice To make room for my kind of beautiful
And I owe it to myself to take up space
To make noise
To shatter boundaries
I owe it to my home
To make it better
This does not make me activist
It makes me human
To want my rights without clauses or fineprint
I am refusing to die quietly.
I am a transgender south african. And I

This Poem Features In: