Rare as Hen’s Teeth
all of the women in the room have my mother’s face.
they cluck the chatter of battery hens turned loose
onto grass, uncertain of their habits,
each spitting out hen’s teeth.
we strip them, bind them in cotton to keep.
we flinch with each as though
scratched at the gums, the dentist makes us
speak, our mouths filled with water
and clattering instruments.
the image of my mother refuses
to join us.
I am the Barbie doll from the boot sale
with children’s scissors taken to its hair,
shorter and shorter. I think I got called A Queer
for the first time yesterday.
I don’t know what to tell them.
I’m jealous of Barbie. look under her dress.
I spent the evening in the mirror,
where my collar bones
slope to nothing.
on forms people ask my gender,
I want to tell them “No Thank You.”
in warm rooms, women mill like cats and
talk about their wombs. they speak in unison.
my mouth is waiting for me to say that
I am not a woman. I wonder if my silence gives me
There are no reliable figures, but at least 0.4% of the UK population identifies as nonbinary/gender nonconforming. I am one of them.
I was sat in one of our student accommodation flat-pack bedrooms when my housemate asked me my name and I couldn’t tell her. That night the moon had swallowed it. I waxed and waned in silver. The moon tried to hold me in her luminous gaze, she reminded me I make tides like her. Reminded me I was like her and like all the others like her. I am not, but my mouth had been glued shut with moon dust.
The rain broke a week later, and I couldn’t bear it. I sat on a window ledge and my housemate and I were bathed in yellow from her bedside lamp. When it was my turn to speak I told her I wasn’t a girl. The trees outside shook. I said, I have another name. I said listen– listen to the sound of it.
She said my name sounds like the rain at evening. Listen, she said, listen how the earth is calling you home.
I was caught in this moment, a sort of temporary madness. I wandered restless through the house, paused in doorways. I’d met something strange on my first day there, sat by the bay window in the sunshine and meditated. I liked to think it was the spirit of the place, I could feel it like a snatch of lavender in the air. I could feel it that day too and I entertained the daydream a moment longer.
I said, “Teach me something.” I stepped between the basement and the rest of the house. In the doorway I’m dizzy, like it was a house in a snow globe and some creature has just shaken it.
I felt like I’d seen her once, laid along the tarmac like a snake. There were shifting faces all down her back. I drew her on the whiteboard in the kitchen and it took a whole month before my flatmates erased it.
I moved to the kitchen and the light was grey and sharply angled, trying not to be there at all. I felt as though I was underwater. I saw the kitchen, I saw the ocean, choppy, and as grey as the light from the windows.
I swam to an island. I was standing in my kitchen. On the island was a fire, and beside it, a woman with dark hair and a shawl made of black wings. She whispered. I was startled back to the cupboards, but first I caught something that was almost like a deer—a pair of eyes watching from above all of this.
When I walked downstairs again, after almost half an hour, I was so dazed I missed the last three steps on the stairs and fell crumpled to the floor.
I realised later that the woman had whispered her name to me.
Titman, N. 2014/12/16. “How Many People in the UK are Nonbinary?”. Practical Androgyny. https://practicalandrogyny.com/2014/12/16/how-many-people-in-the-uk-are-nonbinary/Accessed: 2018/07/02.