Caroline Turco (they/them)
A skirt and blouse seem to hover in the mirror
The body they rest upon has disappeared, shrunk, shriveled into oblivion
I don’t see myself anywhere
That is not me…at least not today.
I rip the clothes away from my body
I rifle through my drawer
There it is.
I slip it over my head
It embraces me
I am pulled back into a memory of the first time I bound my chest:
I try on his binder
He turns to me
“How do you feel?”
I cannot breathe.
The air in my lungs is gone
The compression is not the culprit
Instead it’s my fear
It feels too right.
For the longest time I denied who I was, and finally, they found me
They were staring me right in the eye
I could no longer deny
The call of “she…she…she” began to fade
I know who I am… it isn’t her.
I layer a sweater on top
I turn back to the mirror and there I am
Not shrunken or shriveled, but rooted in my identity
The binary is not my home
I belong to the abyss in between
Ever shifting, ever-changing, always myself.
I step out into the piercing fall air
A flood of students accost me
They see me as “her”
My stomach is hollow
The dysphoric voices clang in my head
Like cars backfiring
Like crushing metal in a garbage disposal
Like shattering glass
I can’t hear anything else
I try to breathe, yet I am reminded of the mechanism constricting my chest
It comforts yet torments me
It reminds me of who I am, but also of who I will never be.
My heart whispers, “You are real, you are real.”
The voices of society counter, “You are a fraud.”
I breathe in deeply
My chest presses against the compressing panel
I know who I am.
This garment, a manifestation of dysphoria, provides me euphoria.
On days when my gender shifts, I invent who I am.
I run my hands down my chest
I am flat and I am free.