This manifesto is an excerpt from a longer three-part work. The title and intermittent quotes are borrowed from lyrics by Aaron Weiss. They can be heard on the album A-B Life by mewithoutYou.
I NEVER SAID THAT I WAS BRAVE
I never said I was a “real woman” nor did I adhere to your distinctions—the broken knotted world of your categories and gibbets—your essential primacy. Nor did I frivolously saunter here without being drenched in steaming tar—in alienations, agonies and abuses.
Nor did I attempt to rupture your spaces. Nor did I shepherd my body and thoughts into a singular character.
Nor did I assume the dialectic and character of your history. Oh, essential subject.
Nor did I claim the keys to the apparatus of an entirely dismantled ideology.
Nor did I sleep through the night, nor said I was fully awake – those were your claims – you inhabited them and threw them at my body, assumed my history. I did not say that I was brave but I did say that I was beaten in the Men’s Room, in the road, but I also said that I was afraid and I also dragged my feet and I also screamed for the deracination of established sex.
We were stockaded, doubled up and gagged then made to speak.
I was lucky and neither was I lucky. I did not ask to be taken into a medical examination, to be a pathologised subject, a piece of transferable data some kind of stabilised example.
Yes, perhaps there were moments of asking to drop out of the universe. There were pleas against the force of stabilised gender norms, but then there were still more pathologists and shitheads and explanations forced into our mouths and our eyes and people throwing around words like “toxic” and “drag” in the indistinct daylight there were mouths crying out against our ideologised bodies so we lurked in the toilets like the filth we were.
And yes, sometimes I do hide there waiting for silence before I can show my face and yes it is a weaponised generality that speaks inside it.
I never asked to join the U.S. Marine Corps. I was party to the mutiny by proxy of thought, there was a derangement of conflicted motions and love was taken out of us.
I did not give my consent to the idea of an opposite, to a world of stupefied duality: That under the Gender Recognition Act 2004 individuals may change their legal sex but require approval from the medical profession, a diagnosis of gender dysphoria and to live as a member of the opposite sex for two years, of who was to conduct this analysis – which upstanding professional with preordained certainty, and what great liberties might be achieved after the tests and cures, the prescriptions and siphons.
Ahead of you is a perfect sequence of rational and professionally state sanctioned grills, routers and sieves. Behind you is a repressed derangement of habitation. Inside you, a screaming barb of lyric, passion, expression and defiance. Now sit tight for the probe. “I never said that I was brave.”
Verity Spott is a poet, support worker, performer and musician from Hove, England. Books include The Mutiny Aboard the RV Felicity (Tipped Press), and the forthcoming Click Away Close Door Say (Contraband Books), We Will Bury You (Veer Books), and Gideon (Barque Press).
Selected by Sophie Robinson, our virtual poet in residence for the October / November Issue of The Believer.