Strange and Colorful Birds: Fifteen Minutes in the Life of a Trans Woman

You're a trans woman

and there's this party.

You don't know what that's like at all probably.

But that's fine. We're playing make believe.

There aren't any balloons. It's a big party. There are lots of Christmas lights.  At least half of them seem to work which means the other half are dead and pinned to the walls like colored glass insects. Christmas is around a month away. Probably these were also summer decorations.

There aren't any presents. There's a boy from your high school. He doesn't recognize you because of your hormones and you choose to not tell him.

There is nothing significant about this particular night or this particular party. Nothing life changing is going to happen to you. You are just a trans woman and you're at this party. Someone is getting yelled at for smoking inside. It smells a little like stale beer. Something like that.

It's around 1:30 a.m.

The clock over the stove is stuck on 7:25. Beneath it, a strand of one of the more colorful sets of Christmas lights have been packed down into an amber beer bottle.

Mostly straight people are here. The beer bottle still glows amber even with all that color. It's not really a queer party. You don't know but a few people, and you're not sure where they are. They might have left. Most of them stare at you oddly or talk to you in a patronizing way. They ask you questions about being trans. Their necks stiffen when it is your turn to talk. They don't look directly at you, but they don't look away either.

They remind you of strange birds. Strange birds that look really colorful when they talk to each other or look at each other, and that just look grey and navy and uncomfortable when it’s you that's talking to them. Like the stitching on their wings is loose or something.

You've been listening to these two guys talking while waiting on the bathroom. You're almost finished with the vodka you brought along in a water bottle. The two guys can't see you because they're right around the corner in the hall. Alkaline Trio is playing and someone in the living room is drunk and trying to remember the words and sing them at the same time.

The boys are talking animatedly. One of them is named Jason. You were wondering if he would ever kiss a girl like you when you talked to him in the kitchen.

Jason kind of mumbles something. You hear the word 'tranny.' You move closer to the edge of the wall and press your back against it. Your breath catches a little. One of them mutters something about fucking. They're talking about porn, maybe.

"Her voice though..."

"Her? Uhhh..."

They laugh.

"What even do you say?"

"It."

"Seriously the voice is what gets me."

"Yeah. Gross."

There's a whole back and forth about this. You're not stupid unless you want to be, so you know they're talking about you.

"Fucking that would definitely make you gay. I'm sorry. It would."

He would not kiss a girl like you.

You reach up and twist a single bulb in a strand of purple lights. It does not go out and it makes you feel stupid. A group of cis girls are dancing in the living room. You can see them through the end of the hall. One of them laughs hysterically. Alkaline Trio isn't playing anymore. It's a Solange song now. You know because your roommate plays it all the time.

He would not kiss a girl like you.

He is disgusted by the same things about your body that you are.

An animal digs itself into your chest cavity and starts clawing everything up in there all fast and slow at the same time. It makes your eyes water. No one ever remembers that there's a heart in there until it acts real fearsome.

Like flowers.

People don't even know they exist unless they're looking at them or someone reminds them by chance.

He would never kiss a girl like you.

Some people don't even see flowers at all. They can, but they don't.

He would never kiss a girl like you.

When they look where they should see them, the colors bleed into the grass and dirt and rocks. It's just one blurred mess of color. The sky too. And the clouds and the moon.

You turn the corner.

Jason looks you dead in the eye. Blink. Un-blink. His eyes get big.

He knows you heard because you can't really hide it or anything else.

He is giving you this pleading look. He is looking at you like he's just differentiated flowers from grass for the first time and he can tell that you are alive like he is.

You want to say something, but it feels like you're in a hot shower. If you could say anything you would apologize to him. You feel guilty. If you weren't there, this moment wouldn't be so uncomfortable. A girl opens her mouth, "You're such a fucking transphobe, Jason."  

She really lays into him and gives you this look that you don't really understand. You mostly tune out because your nerves burn real bad. You're paying intensely close attention to the pattern on her shirt and it almost seems to crawl.

Fifteen seconds into being berated and all that guilt has disappeared from Jason's face. He just looks defensive now. Angry. Unreproachable. He's pretty positive he is a good person. He stares at you and the girl angrily.

Your mind is fluttering with thoughts and trying to cling to one, but they're yelling really loud so it's all scattered. You remember learning to draw a five pointed star without picking up your pencil from the paper in elementary school.

"...around looking for shit to be offended at. Didn't you ever stop to think that..."

You step into the bathroom and close the door because it doesn't look like anyone else is paying attention, and a crowd is beginning to gather. It feels safe and quiet. 

You can still see his face. From before that girl started yelling at him. In that second when he could see.

She had really gone after him.

This irritates you.

Of course he deserved it.

But he was going to apologize. It would have been burned in his brain. That he had been cruel and had hurt someone innocent.

You would have told him it was ok. That it happened a lot and it didn't hurt that much anymore. It would have changed him. You can feel it.

They are still yelling when you leave the bathroom. They don't notice you. It's not even about you anymore.

You push down the hallway and into the living room.

Through the living room and out the back door. Your phone is buzzing.

"GRRRRL? WHERE ARE YOU BEAUTIFUL?"

You smile real, real big. "The backyard. Um, on the—"

"HANG ON—CAN YOU TWO PLEASE COOL IT FOR TEN SECONDS? —SORRY GIRL! WHAT'S UP?"

"I'm on the back stairs."

"WELL RUN AROUND FRONT, WE'RE MOVING. THESE PEOPLE ARE NASTY! THIS IS NO PLACE FOR GIRLS LIKE US, GOT IT?!"

You smile again. Real, real big. "Ok. I'm coming now."

A little shiver crawls off your lips. Several dozen people are standing around smoking and drinking. Someone is spinning a staff that is lit on fire. Some of them turn to stare for just a moment.

They remind you of strange birds.

Strange birds that look really colorful when they talk to each other or look at each other, and that just look grey and navy and uncomfortable when it’s you that's talking to them.

Like the stitching on their wings is loose or something.


Farrah Awry Irises is a faraway gendered trans grrl whose fingers flick almost continuously through her hair. When she is not writing poetry or painting, she busies herself with splitting the veins of the holy western masculine wide the fuck open, amen.