By xoài phạm with art by Shea Coco.

Every day, trans femmes are told that we are unnatural. That we don’t belong in this world. Governments and people target us to tear down our bodies and spirits, to remove us from this world.

What we know is that trans femmes are nature itself. We have always been here, whether we’ve called ourselves trans or not. We’ve gone by many names and have played sacred roles in our communities across the world and throughout time. We are everyday heroes because we are still here. We are stewarding the movements that transform our world. Our resilience, imagination, love, and compassion is that of the natural world. We are in the trees, the wind, the stars.

Remember when she drifted along the surface
of the ocean, hair like kelp
reflecting the surface of the sun.
The whales extending their foreheads
to graze her shoulder.
Her gaze rests on the gray cloud miles away, inching
towards her Sāmoa. A few moments later,
the sky opens with a hot downpour.
She submerges her brown head
into the Pacific, becomes ocean.
Gives baby whales wet kisses.
Peels back layers of coastline
to reveal the volcanic rock
that whispers a secret:
I'm not going anywhere.


She is alive. Lights flash bright red.
Then blue. What did she know
about saving lives? She was someone's
baby girl, pumpkin, angel,
love dumpling, little one.
Here she is on Atlantic Ave.,
at the house with the fig tree
that reminds her of Cameroon. The police car
that she hijacked sits idly outside,
the sirens no longer work.
She packs her powder pink duffel
with playing cards, rope, a teddy bear
named Raven, sour patch kids,
castor oil, and a red canvas notebook.
She walks past the painting on the wall
of a full-circle rainbow glittering
around a white sun. Outside the door,
is a family of maybe five hundred.
Their bellies so accustomed
to the pain of uncontrollable laughter.


The best part about being a trans girl
is keeping the world’s secret in your chest.
We are shards of seaglass.
You see yourself in us:
Big and wide. Spines
long enough to play with purple clouds.
In the beginning there was us.
In the end, here we are. Here I am,
made of the same stuff
as my grandmother. And her grandmother.
And the mushrooms that sprouted before her.
Lift your head, close your eyes,
do you hear yourself

About the Poet:

xoài phạm is a Vietnamese trans person who has a complicated relationship with womanhood. She comes from a long legacy of warriors, healers, fishers, and swimmers. Her family arrived in California as refugees after the U.S. destroyed Southeast Asian land and communities. She is a writer, thinker, and collaborative educator on issues of gender, imperialism, sex work, and intimacy. Above all, she enjoys eating fruits on the beach with her loved ones.

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