Poetry by Kay Ulanday Barrett
Right to release
For the longest time, I dreaded bathrooms,
the bleach singing nostrils, I pictured my brown mama
in every white person’s house, scrubbing tile
making what other people took
for granted, shine.
In airports, I clench my bladder.
in public anywhere, I hold it until a 3rd floor walk up can turn bloody.
There’s a story every trans person mouths when they have to pee.
it’s not in the bladder but gutteral, it goes like this:
I am real. I am real. I am real. Shit, I really gotta go!
If what they say is true,
that bathrooms are where we are all most human,
than I am a dilapidated national geographic,
barely mammal, told to leave in the dirtiest if places.
brown girl lowers her register like it’s of cobwebs & steel, slouches in a baggy
shirt, goes beeline for the stall. doesn’t want to wash her hands, because he’ll
have to scrape off the stares in daydreams the next day and the next, til their
girlfriend’s hands make pillows because in your dreams, even your pronouns
can be wrong.
they are told, as a boi that they are in the wrong place.
to drink a cup of water is a hazard in waiting.
Honestly, I wish we could
just shit on every curse, on every time,
some Tgirl turns threat when she just wants
a mirror to see herself in full length glory.
Once a month, I want to announce shark week & build a
structure of blood that would make repunzel shiver and
take the crimson to write
I am real. I am real. I am real.
You do not have to punch it out of me,
a bruised eye like a swollen gourd.
a kicked rib the density of a smashed plum.
do you know how long it takes for me to accept a hug?
Here is my blood.
Its sacrilege ascends the repellent stares.
For hormones or not, I am no waste of time dumping ground
to let your terrors that haunt
you in a whisper:
guess what, YOU aren’t normal, or real either.
The locker room hush,
the roadtrip bus stop stink,
the fast food restaurant stain,
Forgive me, we know how this story ends.
But do we?
Is it so wrong to want to clench your jaw in the light,
praise any shape of chest in the fluorescents,
catalogue an altar from my hips to the new hair on the chin
sit alone on the throne in leisure,
not hash tag,
Though I am never clean, I’m not ever going to be,
your colonization that forced my family here
made sure of that,
but what I do know is this:
a brown woman & child
cannot grow in your shit.
Can I just feel the water from the tap
on my knuckles like baptism?
because we as humans are 60% water
and though I am never clean, let me tell you,
The tide of ocean beats inside me,
have you ever tried to contain a wave?
No matter what,
can take away
its right to release.
A Campus Pride Hot List artist, Trans Justice Funding Project Panelist, and Trans 100 Honoree, Kay Ulanday Barrett aka @brownroundboi, is a poet, performer, and educator, navigating life as a disabled pilipinx-amerikan transgender queer in the U.S. with struggle, resistance, and laughter. K. has featured on colleges & stages globally; Princeton University, UC Berkeley, Columbia University, Musee Pour Rire in Montreal, Queens Museum, and The Chicago Historical Society. Their bold work continues to excite and challenge audiences. K. has facilitated workshops, presented keynotes, and contributed to panels with various social justice communities. Honors include: 18 Million Rising Filipino American History Month Hero, Chicago’s LGBTQ 30 under 30 awards, Finalist for The Gwendolyn Brooks Open-Mic Award, Windy City Times Pride Literary Poetry Prize, and a current fellow at The HomeSchool for Poetry. Their contributions are found in PBS News Hour, Race/Forward, Poor Magazine, Fusion.net, Trans Bodies/Trans Selves, Windy City Queer: Dispatches from the Third Coast, Make/Shift, Filipino American Psychology, Third Woman Press, Asian Americans For Progress, The Advocate, and Bitch Magazine. Kay’s ideas have featured in PBS News Hour, Colorlines, Buzzfeed, Huffington Post, KPFA Radio, and WBAI Radio. K. turns art into action and is dedicated to remixing recipes. Recent publications include contributions in the upcoming anthologies, Outside the XY: Queer Black & Brown Masculinity (Magnus Books) and Writing the Walls Down: A Convergence of LGBTQ Voices (Trans-genre Press). Their first book of poetry, When The Chant Comes, is due out from Topside Press in summer 2016. Check out their work at kaybarrett.net