On coming out | Lee Mokobe

the first time i uttered a prayer
was in glass stained cathedral.
i was kneeling long after the congregation was on its feet.
i dipped both hands in holy water.
traced the trinity across my chest.
my tiny body drooping like a question mark
all over the wooden pew.
i asked jesus to fix me.
when he did not answer.
i befriended silence in the hope
that my sin would burn inside my mouth.
would dissolve like sugar on tongue.
but shame lingered as an aftertaste.
and in an attempt to reintroduce me to sanctity
my mother reminded me of the miracle i was.
that i could grow up to be anything i want.
i decided to be a boy.
it was cute.
had a snapback, toothless grin.
used skinned knees as streetcred.
played hide and seek with what was left of my girl.
i was it.
the winner of a game that other kids couldn’t play.
i was the mystery of an anatomy.
a question asked but not answered.
tightroping between awkward boy and apologetic girl.
and when I turned 12.
the boy phase wasn’t deemed cute anymore.
it was met with nostalgic aunts who missed seeing
my legs in the shadow of skirts.
who always reminded me that with my kinda attitude
would never bring a husband home.
That I exist for hetersexual marriage and childbearing.
i swallowed their slurs along with the insults.
naturally I did not come out of the closet.
the kids at my school opened it without my permission.
they called me by a name i did not recognize.
said “lesbian.”
but I was more boy than girl.
more ken than barbie.
it had nothing to do with hating my body.
i just love it enough to let it go.
i treat it like a house.
and when your house is falling apart.
you do not evacuate.
you make it comfortable enough to house all your insides.
you make it pretty enough to invite guests over.
you make the floorboards strong enough for you to stand on.
my mother fears I have named myself after fading things.
as she counts the echos left behind by
Mya Hall. Leelah Alcorn. Blake Brockington.
worries that I will die without a whisper.
that I will turn into “what a shame” conversations at the bus stops.
she claims I have turned myself into a mausoleum.
that I am a walking casket.
news coverage has turned my identity into a spectacle.
Caitlyn Jenner on everyone’s lips.
while the brutality of living in this body becomes
an asterisk at the bottom of equality pages.
no one ever thinks of us as human.
because we are more ghost than flesh.
people are afraid that my gender expression is a trick.
that it only exists to be perverse.
that it ensnares them without their consent.
that my body is a feast for their eyes and hands.
and when they have fed off my queer.
they will regurgitate all the parts they did not like.
they will put me back in the closet.
hang me with their other skeletons.
i will be the best attraction.
you see how easy it is, to talk people into coffins.
how easy it is to misspell their names on gravestones.
people wonder why there are still boys rotting
their girl away in high school hallways.
they are afraid of becoming another hashtag in a second.
afraid of classroom discussions becoming like judgement day.
and now oncoming traffic is embracing more
transgender children than parents.
i wonder how much time it will take before
the trans suicide notes start to feel redundant.
how fast we will see that our bodies become lessons
about sin way before we learn how to love them.
like God didn’t save all this breathe in mercy.
like my blood is not the wine that washed over jesus’s feet.
my prayers are now getting stuck in my teeth.
maybe i am finally fixed or maybe.
finally God has listened to my prayers.

In his impressive performances slam poet Lee Mokobe (b. 1995 in Cape Town, South Africa) deals with social and political subjects and with his experiences as a black, transqueer member of the LGBT* community.

He is the founder and artistic director of the Vocal Revolutionaries, an organisation dedicated to nurturing new literary talent in Africa, and has won both an Adobe Creative Catalyst Prize and a fellowship from the Awesome Foundation.

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