He always looks as though he’s tasted something bitter,
so much so that i wonder if the cigarette he lifts to his lips tastes sweet to him.
He smiles at me like he’s holding back tears,
as if to show that-- despite all this--
he can still smile.
As the cashier calls him ma'am,
I see this smile again,
as if the bitter taste in his mouth had encompassed his expression entirely
and as he straightens his posture, and deepens his voice
I see a small part of him giving up.
He leans against the wall outside,
sucking hard at his cigarette,
then spits at the pavement as if it was the one that wronged him.
"It's ok." he says, as if it really is ok.
"It happens all the time."
But i see the flicker of fear in his eyes
as he chooses which bathroom is least likely to get him beaten up.
when his every move is calculated to broadcast his masculinity,
down to the swing of his hips.
Even now, there is fear in his eyes
as he finally pushes open the door to the men's room.
My cis gay acquaintance tells me,
"Well he doesn't have the right parts."
As if he is some mis-assembled Ikea shelf.
As if he is a children's toy that has lost some crucial bits over the years.
As if he has any less of a right to use the fucking bathroom without fear,
as if he deserves the crushing dysphoria he feels,
squeezing him tighter than the binder he wears,
hurting deeper than any needle.
he smiles just to prove he can.