Tuesday, 7 June 2011

My revolution...

With Gil Scott-Heron having died recently, I think it's inevitable that most poets will have had their thoughts turning to ripping off one of his poems doing a tribute to his effect on poetry. I considered it for about two minutes or so, then rejected the idea on the grounds that, while I love The Revolution will not be Televised, I Think I'll Call It Morning and Lady Day and John Coltrane, doing a 'tribute poem' would be, well, kind of a wanky, sophomore thing to do. So there I left it.

And then...

Browsing through a dating site (because I am, ah, I may have pointed this out on occassion, available), I came across a woman with one of the most bile-filled dating profiles I've ever seen. A profile which - on a site supposedly known for open-mindedness etc - she waxed at great length about how she would not date, and I quote, 'TGs, TS's, CDs and TV's' because she only dated women and 'no matter what you do to your body you weren't born a woman etc etc'. Because nothing will endear you more to prospective dates than a rant about how you hate a minority group.

Same old same old, really. Trans people are used to this kind of attitude. But what got me was the sheer dehumanising effect of that parade of initials. TS. TV. CD. TG. Not trans people. Trans labels. Trans categories. Externally imposed. The stuff of porn-mag back-page adverts; the brand of the oppressor used to differentiate each particular category of untermenschen from the real people. And it hurt, and it got me angry, and so I found myself ranting away to myself in the shower and started repeating the phrase 'I am not a TV, I am not a TV, I am not a TV...' and some associative faculty was triggered and I began exploring that metaphor of not *being* a TV and so, well...that's how we got here:

My revolution will not be trivialised

I am not a TV:
I am not available in flat-screen
Sony Widescreen hi-definition 3D
I am not something for you to gawp at
from the comfort
of your cisnormative settee
I do not pour forth bile at
people like me nightly
I am not a TV

I am getting ready for a
but it may not be
in 2012
and it will not be digital
at least not initiall-y:
I am not a TV.

I am not a CD:
I am not exactly
long enough to hold
Beethoven’s 9th Symphony;
I contain so much more.

I am not a CD
though I am allowing a lady
with a laser to unlock me
firing her beams into my pits and grooves
re-editing my data
remixing me
into what I want to be

but I am not a DAT
a Minidisc, an MP3,
a DVD, a PS3 or Nintendo Wii
and I am not a CD.

I am not a TS:
my life is not a waste land
waiting for the touch of fisher kings,
though I have seen death undo so many:
Andrea, Brenda, Mariah, Estrella,
Myra, Faith, Amanda and all those with no ID,
sweet ladies who were never bade goodnight
and had time called in spite of how they hurried;
but who were more, in their time, than Eliot’s tired seer,
more than his reingold borrowings and Sosophistries,
alive, undoing death with every step
across the bridge from one state to another.

I may wind up measuring my life
by each dose of HRT
but TS is not a label
that you’re gonna pin on me.

I am not a TG:
I am not a droid, a replicant, a Nexus-3,
I am not a minor character from ST:TNG,
I am not a space oddity:
there is nothing futuristic about me.

Those who lived like me
are found throughout your history:
Herculine Barbin, the Chevalier D’Eon,
The Priests of Attis, Elogabalus, the Amazons,
Moll Cutpurse, Jan Morris, Lili Elbe, Christine J,
Nong Thoom, Wendy Carlos, Lea T,
Lynn Conway without whom I couldn’t type on this PC,
but there’s nothing futuristic about me.

I am not a label,
I am not a category,
my only initials are AJ
and you will respect that about me,
but if you come for me
with labels intended to dehumanise,
to delegitimize my trajectory,
project your own lack of humanity on me:
I will change your channel,
make your tracks skip,
rewrite your past, and your future
the way you want to edit me:

so, if you please, respectfully,
hear and acknowledge me:
I am not a TV, CD, TS or even TG:
I am me.


  1. I love this. I'm sorry that the dehumanising happened in order to trigger it, but what you have written is so powerful. Thank you.

  2. AJ, this is fantastic writing. Thankyou.