Unity, They Say

They say they voted
for all women,
and I wonder
if they did their homework

because Amy Coney Barrett

because 2 women who won locally
wrote anti-trans bills
making national headlines.

They keep calling for
Unity.

They keep asking me
to take my oppressors’ hands.
Every election
they hurry the cameras past
those marching for justice
and take pictures of themselves
squeezing another chair in
at their table,
a chair that won’t hold
my weight.
They pass gold-rimmed plates
and rehearsed laughs
and targeted compliments
over my pinched body.
When those squeezed in speak
they pretend they can’t hear us,
but when we march, they complain
we’re shouting. The centerpiece
on their table says
Unity.

No one wanted to listen
when I said the girl bullies
were meaner than the boys
and harder to escape.
I was forced into girls’ spaces,
and girls punished me
for being there,
while everyone in charge
said their behavior
was my fault.
But at the school board meeting
where I spoke up against
the proposed anti-trans policy
I was the one labelled a threat.
My sister was the only other person there
who spoke up for trans rights.
Afterwards, one of the board members
who voted against my existence
thanked me,
and told me I was brave for speaking,
as if this will keep me from reporting her
to her god if given the chance.
Every time I point out the silence
of those claiming to be my ally
the blues hiss SHHHHHHH,
you’ll make us look bad.
The reds threaten my existence
with violence.
The blues threaten my existence
with silence
but believe their weapon is more humane.

Once girls I thought were friends
invited me to a sleepover.
When I fell asleep they covered my face,
poorly, in makeup. When I looked
in the mirror the next morning, I saw a clown.
I scrubbed and scrubbed
but couldn’t get all the makeup off.
Someone might say they were just having fun.
Girls will be girls.
I didn’t have fun.
It didn’t feel funny or innocent to me.
It felt like what it was, a violation,
and I wondered what else they did to me
while I slept. I could never understand
their rules, and so I could never understand
their excuses.

JKR throws a dagger, and all the “peacemakers”
throw up their hands and tell people like me
to step back, to calm down, to bleed quietly.
They urge me to continue to feel the same way
about her books, her characters.
Because Unity.
Because, they say, we need
every powerful woman.
I watch JKR step across the line
to join her villains, a smirk on her face.
Some actors follow her, wormtails wagging.
I remain on the battered
but soon-to-be-victorious side.
We stare her and her followers in the eye
until they understand they don’t have a clue
what bravery is.

In 2016 people told me I had a duty
to vote for HRC because of the sex
I was assigned at birth.
Even as they rejected my gender,
they demanded I accept their candidate.
I was supposed to forget her history, her platform.
Steinem and Albright stepped forward
to get the girls in line, using all the usual tactics.

They defined the Ideal Feminist

and held that label up like a crown worth fighting over.
When HRC lost, they didn’t blame MAGA.
They blamed people like me.
They declared us deserving of the hell
DT would bring down on us.
This year, they came knocking again.
They told me my vote suddenly had value again,
that I have a duty again
to their white-haired male candidate.
They keep telling me to forget 2016.
They keep telling me to forget the history
of their candidates, their platforms
that reach a hand over my body
to take the hand of my enemy.
I survived long enough to vote
for…this, but they tell me
that’s not enough. My seat isn’t free.
I’m supposed to wave a little blue flag
because, after all, he said “transgender”
in a speech. Apparently, this
is their Revolution.
Before DT’s nightmare of a presidency
is cold in the ground, they blame
people like me for their lost seats,
the close results. They raise their stick
and strike the margins.
They throw stones that hit the voters
that gave them the white house.
Because this isn’t a big enough return
on their investment.

People celebrate the end of DT in the streets
where people are still demanding justice, and blues think
the cheering is for them, for their centrism.

I get up from their table and push away
my empty plate. I see several others do the same.
We nod to each other. We move away together
into spaces we made for ourselves.

A hush falls over their table
as those still seated pass
around confused and lonely looks.
Already their future, its edge sharp,
bears down upon them.

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