Kai Cheng Thom / what i’d really like

This piece originally appeared in Issue 3.31 (Winter 2017).



use the wrong pronouns

when you talk about me

say “he” and “him,” then correct

yourself belatedly, forget

the differences between


“transgender,” and “transsexual,” refer

to me as all three

interchangeable, blushing

as the words stumble

out of your clumsy mouth.

ask me what my “birth name”

was, retract the question

just a second too late, face burning

when you see me flinch.

ask me how

“it all works down there”

if i plan to get The Surgery, ask

with unabashed curiosity

how large my breasts

will grow on HRT.

tell me

that you don’t agree

with feminism

because while you believe

in women’s rights (your poor

single mama and three

older sisters who raised you right

saw to that), you also think that men

experience discrimination, especially

when it comes to child

custody arrangements, reporting

sexual assault,

and being allowed to talk

honestly about their emotions.

tell me that you think

that Social Justice Warriors are

mostly a bunch of well-intentioned yet

naïve college hipsters who

don’t have a clue how the Real World

works and undermine their cause

by alienating people unnecessarily.

argue furiously with me

about the concept of social welfare,

tell me stories

about how your mama worked

three jobs and still

tucked you into bed each night

and got you through school

and into college as an example

of how anyone can achieve anything

if only they work hard enough.

blink away the tears that come

unexpectedly when i ask you

if you think your mama deserved

better than that.

look away as i lean forward, resisting

the urge to run your fingers over

the cleft between my throat

and collarbone

and pull me in

for a kiss that’s long and deep

and bittersweet as the taste

of blood oranges.


a moment longer.

then do it.

fumble for a moment, afraid

of hurting me as your hands

close around my angle body.

come in too fast for the kiss

so that our teeth gently collide.

laugh with me. and try again

for this kiss

longer and more concentrated

than any you can remember.

this kiss


and slower

than any

you’ve had before.

pull me down

onto the bed with you, startle

when i ask you if it’s okay

to take your shirt off, say

of course, like i should

take it for granted

that you would want to be nude

with me, almost as if no one

had ever taught you that is was

your right to not be into sex

at all time. say, of course

again, more solemnly this time.

lose track of your thoughts

as my tongue glides its own path

over your chest, across your nipples.

flip my body over, lean over me

and search me with your lips.

say, can i take your clothes off

all in a rush, asking because you think

that this will please me, even though

this much verbal negotiation

is more than you are used to

and feels awkward on your tongue.

strip me bare

with shaking hands,

unsure of what you’ll find, unsure

if you will desire it

as much, or more

than you want to.

tell me

in a voice that you hate for its quaver

that you’ve never done this before

that you don’t want to hurt me

that you think i’m the prettiest,

most amazing girl

that you’ve ever touched and this

trans thing is still all new to you but you

want to explore but you don’t want

to exploit me and you’re sorry for

freaking out like this and you just need

a second and.







(let me tell you

about something:

there are whole worlds

you’ve never been to

so beautiful

and fragile

you know at once

you don’t

belong there)

and breathe with me



in the depths

of our throats and chests.

and fall with me, skin pressed

to skin, intertwined at the hip

my hand between your legs

and yours between mine,

and rise

and fall

and rise

and fall

as we fly into a place

where words don’t matter

and politics are meaningless

and anybody can be held

and forgiven and loved

no matter what they’ve said

or who they’ve been


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