by Robbie Dunning

Like it was my job
except better
because – I’m Not as Good at my Job
as I was at Leaving the House that day

I Left The House
Like I had been Professionally Trained
To Kick Past my Anxiety
Like I’d taken Seminars
in Stepping Around Overhanging Dread
Like I was a Certified Engineer
of Changing My Outfit Only 4
And a Half Times
before getting out the door

Like Agoraphobia had Never been a Question in my Mind

the Bar was Loud
my Senses were Getting Blended
But when She walked up to Me
Stranger in all this Noise
I was Ready to Make Friends
Lean In when
I couldn’t Hear Her
How Hospitable,
How Social, & Outgoing of Me
But then
the Hunger of her Words caught up
to the Eager in her Eyes
reaching out through the Slowly Closing Space BetweenUs
She said
“What was your name?”
She meant
“What is your real name?”
the name I gave her
wasn’t worth the muscles in her mouth

She said
“What was your name?”
like she was asking for her half of the cab fare
like she couldn’t Believe I hadn’t already Given it to her
like Why Don’t I give that out to Everyone?
like it Shouldn’t be such a Big Deal

That name I Pried from the Jaws of my Father
That name I Mined from the Mouths of Friends and Family
That name I spent Hundreds of Dollars
to change on forms
to strip it from my birth certificate
I spent Hundreds of Hours
on a therapist who could persuade the government
to pry Open their Gates to license me to My Own Body

“What was your name?”
And dammit if I didn’t just keep smiling
because growing up in the shape called “girl”
I learned to smile when I felt uncomfortable
When I wasn’t sure what to say:
because being Polite was Always more Important
than feeling Safe – right?
Smile! Because I can’t
run away from this question
from the bro at the bar or the woman at my job

Smile! because I can’t afford to
being that “Friendly,
Always Willing to Educate You”
Transgender Person

Because how Audacious of Me
to assume I could Hold this Name for Myself
Instead of placing it in your teeth
like a still beating organ
Because the Naming of me is a Tender Careful Gift
I have to Trust you won’t misuse
when Being an Ally stops being a
sweat free, entertaining,
feel good Lesson

and Why do you Need it Anyways?
Are you going to Do some kind of Magic
that Requires my Old Legal Name?
like Making my Student Loans Disappear?
Or are you just trying to Prove that I’m some sort of Spy?
Like my DeadName is how you Reveal
the (wo)man behind the curtain

well Guess What
my Gender
is the Prank
my Body
has Played
on Me
since Birth

I’m not going to Give you the Punchline

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