[Personal fiction] Tracheal burn



Image credit: Fuck You by Kathe Burkhart (1984)

The jagged looks get stuck in your throat after a while. It’s the passive degradation as you’re walking down the street, keeping your head high and trying to hang on to the warm feelings you earned in the mirror that morning. Four different outfits and a thirty minute debate between two indistinguishable sweaters until finally you could see yourself and smile.

It’s not even about ‘passing’ anymore, that nebulous, fucked-up dream-mare of people looking at you and ticking enough gender checkboxes that they’re at least confused rather than outraged about you. Forget about hiding that strong jawline they love praising when you’re in your man-mode, the bland grey disguise you use to ward off judgement for a day, become just another invisible denim ghost wandering the street and fading into the background.

Wow! You’re telling me I can get this button-up shirt in three different shades of dark blue? I’m overwhelmed with the choice. Please, this is too much for my rational man-mind, leave the risque fashion choices to the women. It’s all too hard for me. Remember to avert your eyes as you pass the lingerie shop in case people catch you looking and draw the wrong or right conclusions. What kind of pervert are you?

You’ve got to capture what self-confidence you can, because it drains away constantly, like water through the old ratty rubber plug in your bath. Constant attrition on the street, from your social media feeds, from the voices echoing in your head when you’re at your lowest. Throw your sliding scale out the window – there’s good days and bad days, divided not by a drifting moon but insensitive comments that follow no discernible pattern. You are always vulnerable: you are only safe cuddled up with your best friend in their little upstairs living room, taking refuge from a world outside that’s voted against your identity.

The jagged looks get stuck in your throat, and they hurt. They rip you up, but inside, where nobody can see it and your smile can stay on your face. It’s tracheal burn of the worst variety, like choking on an olive pit. You are too big for yourself, and you bulge at the seams.

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