Adventures of a Forced Migrant Contact Me
I was at an airport. I couldn’t find my ticket. I didn’t know my airline, let alone my confirmation code. I frantically looked at my clock but couldn’t make out the time. And I seemed to have misplaced my iPhone so I couldn’t look up any flight information.
The TSA officer shot me a puzzled look. “Where are you trying to go?”
“I don’t know.” I whispered. I had forgotten. I couldn’t remember how I got to the airport and where I was going. I just knew I had to be somewhere important and that I had to get there soon.
I picked up the scent of fresh linen. And then, it happened. I could hear her hushed, whispered tones in my ear telling me not to be late for our wedding.
“I’ve never missed a flight before. I’m not going to start now,” I replied.
Then, she asked me to travel safely. I had forgotten everything else.
“Wedding. I have to go to a wedding. My wedding.” I muttered, at no one in particular. And it was in a different country. I frowned. It made no sense for so many reasons.
I tried to recall how she looked. Maybe that would give me some clue as to where I needed to be. My mind drew a blank.
“You are getting married and you don’t know where it is?” His tone was incredulous.
Next, I found myself on a bed. In a sleepy haze, I only needed to ask myself one question. And it wasn’t the one asked by the TSA officer.
“You are still undocumented,” I said out loud to myself. That would mean I couldn’t fly out of the country. So there really wasn’t any wedding to attend.
I turned around and went back to sleep, satisfied and reassured. I didn’t need to be anywhere else but in my bed underneath the covers, sleeping soundly.
“Stop being a monk and tell her. Nothing changes if you don’t tell her.”
“No, if I do that, I lose a friend. And she loses a friend. I can’t do that to her.”
I take a long swig of the beer bottle. I hate alcohol. I don’t even know why I was drinking.
“Or she may feel the same way and like you back.”
I laugh. “That’s unlikely but even more scary. What am I supposed to do if that happens?”
“You’ll know if that is the case.”
“I’m not ready for this. I wasn’t ready for this to happen. We are not ready for this.” It played like a mantra in my head.
“I don’t think you get to pick when, where and with whom you fall in love. You just need to be open to it.”
“I am. I love her. But that doesn’t mean I have to do anything. No one gets hurt as long as I stay silent.”
“Not true. Not telling her is killing you inside. It will slowly eat you alive. You need to do this. You have to act on your feelings. You can’t keep them inside.”
I stay silent.
“Besides, she deserves to know the truth. That’s the least you can do. Offer her the truth.”
“If she even remotely felt the same way, she would know precisely how I feel. You can’t look into my eyes and not know how I feel. I’m terrible at hiding my feelings.”
“You cannot know that. She’s not a mind-reader. Besides, how much time do you spend with her?”
“Not much. I think she likes me. But not like that.”
“And you’ll keep wondering till you ask her out. I love everything you do but you are such a chickenshit.”
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When we allow women/queer organizers to leave activist spaces and protect people whose violence provoked their departure, we are saying we value these de facto state agents who disrupt the work more than we value people whose labor builds and sustains movements.
– Why Misogynists Make Great Informants
“What is your gender?”
0 to 100 in a second. I stared at her, shocked at the question. I didn’t know how to respond. I never really know how to respond to such questions. I just don’t know the answer.
“What is your gender?”
I recovered enough to blurt out, “It’s on my state ID.” I bit back the “Why does that matter?” retort on the tip of my tongue. I didn’t understand what relevance my gender had to donating blood. If I chose to leave the gender box unchecked, what calamity would it do to her and the American Red Cross?
“Excuse me?” She looked closely at my id and disregarded what I had said. She wanted to hear it from me. That slow pounding headache was steadily making a comeback.
I looked down at my appearance. I was at the law school in what my lovely Dean of Students calls my “student attire” (as opposed to a suit or anything revolutionary): Plaid shirt, blue jeans, special running shoes for my feet. It wasn’t stereotypically feminine like the “F” on my state identification card but then again, what does feminine mean?
Some transgender activists tell us that gender is not socially constructed; gender roles are socially constructed. To say that gender is socially constructed is to deny and dismiss the realities that transgender persons face in their everyday negotiations with society and themselves. Claiming that gender is controlled by society isn’t subversive. It is actually cis-normative.
I agree. There has to be a gender that I feel innately. I search myself.
That didn’t feel right. But “male” would not have felt right either. I was just angry at her, angry about the question, angry that I had to put myself in a box. Does anger have a gender?
She shook her head, which aggravated me further, and then took my wrist to get a reading of my pulse.
“Your heart-rate is way too high. 104 beats a minute. Do you work-out?”
I frowned. “Yes.” I have never had this problem.
She waiting a few minutes and tried again. It was 104 again.
“We can’t take blood from you today. We need your heart-rate below 100. But we do have a coupon for a Subway sandwich just for stopping by.”
“What? I don’t want to eat Subway. I want to give blood.”
“We can’t take blood from you. Your heart rate is too high. You should work out more. Come back next time.”
I opened my mouth to protest. Then I thought better of it. I looked at her, searchingly. She avoided my gaze. I came to an understanding. I walked out.
If someone doesn’t want me to donate blood, it isn’t my loss. But society does lose as a whole when queer and transgender people of color choose to walk out of spaces we have built, spaces that could benefit from our presence and spaces that need us desperately but don’t know how to sustain us.
Alienation never happens in a vacuum.
- US Blood Donor Denied For Looking too Gay! (therainbowpost.com)
“Hi, do you have credentials to live here?”
I looked up at him. Average-size, middle-aged, white male. Probably straight.
Now women usually say “excuse me” not because we didn’t hear you correctly the first time. We say “excuse me” generally to give you a chance to correct what you just said so we can un-hear it and go about our day.
“Yes.” He shows me a piece of paper that means nothing to me. “Do you have the right to be here right now?”
I stared at him incredulously. I was standing in the lobby of my brand new apartment, waiting for the receptionist to come back from lunch so I could borrow a dolly to finish moving some packages.
“Don’t look offended. It’s just a question,” he pressed on.
I made no effort to show him my keys or reveal my identity. My mind hunted for a response. Should I punch him? Should I walk away? Should I engage in a conversation? Did I really have credentials to live here? Only time would answer that.
“Yes, I have credentials to live here. Now, if you will excuse me…”
She sat there almost tranquilized fearing the consequences of her forthcoming actions, the path she had chosen to embark on. No doubt it was the road less traveled, it was harsh, an embattled life full of challenges, a thorny ride with no sure prospects of bearing any economical fruit.
Blink. Deep breath.
She opened her eyes and looked into the mirror. Unshed tears but also unswerving conviction stared back at her, beckoning her, challenging her to go through with her life-altering act.
She narrowed her eyes and bit her lower lip as she stared at herself, not out of indecision, but resolve. Jaws tightened and clenched together, moving to one side.
“So what should I give you?” The unfamiliar voice interrupted her stream of thoughts, if only for a second.
She sought the questioning eyes of the other woman in the mirror and spoke with sheer determination and will.
“Chop it off, all of it.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes,” her voice unwavering, her confidence growing.
With that the woman began to slice through the long locks of oppression. They were without nerves and yet the pain of their coming separation visible in those unshed tears. The pain of the life left behind. But with that pain, a relief, waves of liberation rose as the chains fell all around the chair. In less than 20 minutes, the deed was done.
He looked at herself in the mirror. And smiled.
He was 17 when he was born.