Content warning: The following poem contains references to transitioning genders, which may be triggering for some readers.
"Shape-shifting (a poem)," Tommy Claire
How do you know your nature?
When nurture distorts…
What thoughts creep in and out?
What do you hold or set free?
When you know this isn’t your story, your vibration, frequency
What does it matter?
Survival is about acceptance.
I’ve had to accept situations and circumstances that I would not have chosen since I was born.
Gender was a part of that.
I’ve enjoyed shape-shifting, culture-crossing, dancing with ambiguity.
There has also been a nagging.
It’s like an itch you just cannot scratch.
Or a cactus thorn invisible to the eye, but easily provoked to agitation and discomfort.
Just accept it. This fly by the sun… this is the body I got.
Put it to rest.
But rest never came.
I searched wide and far for another answer.
Just don’t let it be gender… and it always was.
Finally, I decided to baby step in curiosity.
What would it reveal to look behind that door?
What if I could acknowledge this part of me?
How far would I go to live in alignment of self?
No matter what anyone says, no one really understands this.
How could we?
We are all bathed in distortions- roles, bodies, rightness, wrongness… righteousness.
I do have my own compass to guide me.
I know when I feel lighter, more free.
And when I feel tighter, smaller, confined.
Taking testosterone? Lighter.
Taking a little more? Lighter.
Using they/them pronouns? Lighter.
Having top surgery? Lighter.
“Transition” is a word that somehow became the talking point.
A reference point.
To medicalize the supernatural.
Just because you can describe something does not mean you understand it.
We are all transitioning all of the time.
It’s called aliveness.
I feel more alive than ever before in my life.
Alive in the joy, freedom, hope.
Alive in the grief, pain, despair.
My senses have come alive- to meet the world.
I decided to join the planet.
To touch down on earth, in this form of my creation and choosing.
I decided to forgive myself in order to love myself whole again.
About the art:
Tommy is one of my most favorite human beings. They were my first supervisor in grad school and from our first interaction in a hallway, in passing, I knew we would connect immediately as our work moved forward.
Over the last three years, I've been able to learn and grow alongside Tommy, being with them at various points in their transition, and their developing agency over their shape-shifting body and identities.
In making this painting, I knew that Tommy is from the Southwest, loves a good hike, and the outdoors. So I wanted to make a bright piece that could remind them of being out in the sun, kick in some of the earthy tones with light browns, and a white splatter.
The quote is taken from this brilliant poem that Tommy wrote to express the various emotions, phases, and experiences of transitioning. It's a quote that stood out to me because I can tell Tommy needed to write this poem to get a lot of these experiences out. And I'm so glad they did because it has given us a great look into their life.
I hope it inspires more folx to share their experiences as well!